Friday, August 26, 2016

Makin' It Rhyme


1) Let's start by just reading. Take a look at Shakespeare's Sonnet 18, possibly the most famous poem of all time. A sonnet is traditionally three ABAB quatrains, followed by a couplet. (It's also supposed to be in iambic pentameter, meaning each line has five iambs, but that's a question of meter, not rhyme.) Try reading it out loud so you can really hear the rhymes!

2) Let's do some analysis. Here's an excerpt from Capital Punishment, by Big Pun. (There's some profanity in that song, so if that bothers you probably don't listen to it. There's none in the quoted excerpt, though.) How many examples of internal rhyme can you find?

I've seen child blossom to man,
some withered and turned to murderers
Led astray by the liars death glorifiers observin us
Watching us close, marketing host is here to purchase, purposely overtaxin the earnings

Nervous, burning down the churches

3) Write a poem! I'd recommend some kind of quatrain, but if you want to go longer that's great. Try to work in some internal rhymes too, if you can. And don't forget about your poetic meter! Writing poetry is really the best practice for writing lyrics. It takes all the same skills, but it lets you focus more on them 'cause you don't have to worry about the underlying music.

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Wrapping Things Up: How To End A Song


1) Let's talk color chords! We mentioned some common color chords in the video, but really any chord can be a color chord if it makes a cool sound. What are some other options? The progression we were using was D-A-Bmi-G, a pretty common, basic harmony. Play around with it, see if you can come up with more chords that sound good after that. If you can't play it, just think about it: What sorts of things would make sense?

2) Listening time! We talked about a lot of different endings in this video. Now, see if you can find examples in the music you listen to! You can look for color chords, Vegas endings, rhythmic figures, even Picardy Thirds if you want, although you probably won't find those... See what you can find!

3) While we're at it, let's talk lyrics and melody because we kind of brushed over those in the video. Listen to the ends of songs you like (with vocals) and see what they're doing with those. What trends do you notice? What different categories can you group them into? And, while you're thinking about them anyway, why do you think those techniques work?

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, August 12, 2016

32 Bars Unplanned: The Form Of The Great American Songbook


This time we're gonna do things a little differently! This is gonna be all listening exercises. Check them out and try to follow the forms. Not all of them are going to be AABA! You can start by listening to the lyrics: Those'll usually give you a good indication of where the sections are. After that, try following the melodies and, if you can, the harmony. You can even look up charts for them, although be careful, the chords and melodies in any given performance are going to vary from the "official" ones, often quite a bit! Also, check out the intros and outros for these versions: We talked a lot about the form itself, but how you get into and out of it is really important too!

1) Love Me Or Leave Me, performed by Sammy Davis Jr.

2) Old Country, performed by Dianne Reeves

3) Benny's From Heaven, performed by Eddie Jefferson

4) A Day In The Life Of A Fool (Black Orpheus), performed by Frank Sinatra

5) Lullaby of Birdland, performed by Sarah Vaughan

And that's it! We'll see you next week!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Too Many Tempos!

Hi! Let's talk tempo!

1) Let's try finding examples of these in the music you listen to! Ritardandos will probably be the easiest to find, since they're a pretty common way to end songs. Beyond that, try to think of songs you know that might have double time or half time switches in them, then listen to it and count along to see if it really is. If not, is it a different sort of metric modulation? See what you can find!

2) Now let's try playing metric modulations. You can do this on an instrument, or just tap a table. Find a comfortable tempo, then start tapping along. Once you're feeling it, try switching to double time. After that, try half time. Once you've got those down, maybe even try more advance modulations, like the triplet. It'll be tricky, but there's really no substitute for actually trying these things hands-on!

3) Let's get philosophical for a second. One thing I left out of the video was the observation that our perception of double time works kind of like our perception of the octave. Exactly doubling the pace seems to create a sort of equivalence, where we hear them as almost the same thing. Why do you think that is? Is that similarity even noteworthy? I'm not really sure, but I'd love to hear your thoughts!

And that's it! We'll see you next week!

Friday, July 29, 2016

How To Write A Song Without Playing A Single Note

Total Serialism, huh? That's certainly interesting. Let's dive in!

1) Let's start where serialism always starts: The row. Try writing a tone row, then try converting it into numbers. Once you're there, try making it into a rhythmic row, a dynamic row, or whatever else. Maybe even try putting it all together, see what your row sounds like when you serialize the heck out of it!

2) With that done, let's serialize more! What are some other aspects of music that you could make rows out of? How would you divide them up? On the other end of things, what are some ways to loosen the rules so that you can maintain some artistic control? Get creative!

3) Finally, let's have a discussion question. What do you think of total serialism. It's incredibly alien compared to normal music, but does it appeal to you? Could you see yourself using it? Or does it just seem crazy?

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Chords Without Thirds: A Whole New Harmonic World

Hey, thanks for checking out the exercises! This week we talked about chords built without thirds, or so-called Non-Tertian Harmony. Let's dive in!

1) One feature of standard harmony is that we have a name for pretty much every collection of notes already, so non-tertian harmony doesn't actually add anything new, just new ways to construct and interpret. So let's start by reinterpreting them back: Make some chords out of non-third intervals, then see if you can figure out what we'd call those chords in regular harmony. (If you value your sanity, though, you probably shouldn't try it with tone clusters...)

2) We mentioned that there are some good arguments for why we use thirds, but we kind of glossed over what those were, didn't we? Well, gloss no more! Why do you think we settled on thirds as our fundamental interval? How would you describe thirds, and which of those properties do you think make it such a good choice to build a harmonic system on top of?

3) And finally, the discussion question! What do you think of these? Which did you like the sounds of? Which could you see yourself working with? Or do they all just seem pointless to you? No wrong answers!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Why Don't All Instruments Sound The Same?

This week we got to talk about the harmonic series, or at least we got to start. There's plenty more to say about it, so let's dive in! As always, answers can go in the comments below or on the main video.

1) Let's start by just building the harmonic series again. Pick a starting note (Besides Bb!) and try to figure out the first couple octaves worth of harmonics for that note. Try not to just transpose the notes: Instead, look at the intervals we made with our various ratios and work it out that way.

2) As we mentioned, it's no coincidence that the ratios 2:1, 3:2, and 4:3 are three of the most consonant intervals in modern music. But let's take a look at other intervals that appear in the series. For instance, 5:3 is a major sixth, 5:4 is a major third, 6:5 is a minor third, and 7:5 is a tritone. What do you think that means? Look at the list again: What other intervals occur fairly low in the series?

3) While overtones are certainly an important part of why instruments sound different, they're not the only one. Can you think of others?

And that's that! See you next week!

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Brief Discussion Of Poetic Meter

Poems are fun! They're not always the most musically related things, but they help inform lyrics, and lyrics are a large part of how people engage with most songs. Let's dive in!

As always, you can put your answers in the comments below or on the main video.

1) Let's start simple. Find a poem. It can be one you already know and like, or you can find a new one. Go through it and try to identify the accents. Do they fall into a pattern? Which of the feet we described does it use? Or does it not seem to use any of them?

2) Continuing from that, we left out quite a few feet in the video. We covered 2- and 3-syllable feet with one accent, but there are names for every possible arrangement of accents, as well as names for 4-syllable feet. You can find a full list here. Can you think of some words that exemplify other accent patterns?

3) Finally, let's try writing some poetry in meter. Iambic Pentameter, where each line is five iambs, is a pretty popular form. Try writing a rhyming couplet, with two lines of iambic pentameter. Or try four. Or hey, if you want to get crazy, maybe try your hand at a whole sonnet! Just familiarize yourself with the idea of thinking in stress patterns.

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Polychords: Double Crossed

Polychords! Two chords for the price of one! Why not? Let's dive in!

As always, you can put your answers in the comments below or on the main video.

1) Take a look at each of the following polychords. Try to figure out how they overlap, looking especially for common tones and notes a half step apart. Try to guess how they sound. Do you think they'll sound pretty? Harsh? Take a guess, then listen to these recordings and see if you were right!

       F                    Eb                    A                     B
a)  ----            b)    ----           c)    ----           d)    ----
    F#mi                 D                   Ao7                 Emi

2) Now it's time to try some of your own! Pick two chords that you think might sound good together and give them a try! Did they work? Ok, now try two that you think will sound awful together and try those. How did they turn out? If you don't have access to a piano or music software, just post your polychords and I'll try to get you a sample audio!

3) Discussion time! What do you think of split chords? Do you think they should count as polychords? Do you think polychords even make sense at all when we can always describe them in other ways? Why or why not? Try not to let my views bias yours here: Music theory is a consensus-based field, so there's plenty of room for disagreement!

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Finding The Motif

Motifs! Little, recognizable chunks of music that add cohesion to compositions. Seems simple enough, let's dive in!

As always, you can put your answers in the comments below or on the main video.

1) I don't think there's ever been a topic that more called for a listening exercise. Listen to some of your favorite songs and try to identify motifs. Look for the different types: How many can you find? Remember that many motifs are multiple types at once!

2) Now that you've found them, why not try to write your own? try writing a melody that utilizes a motif. It doesn't have to be long: Four bars or so should be just fine. Or if you want to do more, that's great too! Longer pieces give you room for longer motifs as well: They don't all have to be 3-4 notes!

3) Let's look at leitmotifs. In addition to being catchy, they also have to capture their character's personality and presence in just a short musical idea. The Jaws theme is a great example of this. Why do you think it works so well? What is it about the theme that screams "Shark!"? Can you think of other leitmotifs? What is it about those, musically speaking, that makes them fit so well with their characters? Dig deep!

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Twelve Bar Blues Clues

This week we covered one of popular music's oldest and most prolific traditions, the 12-bar blues! Let's try some exercises! As always, you can put your answer in the comments below or on the main video.

1) First let's make sure you understand the idea. Try writing out the 12-bar pattern in, say, the key of E. First do the basic form, then try out the variations we covered. Try it with the turnaround, with a quick change, and try out the chord substitutions we discussed. Then why not try adding your own chord substitutions? Who says you have to stick with the ones I mentioned? Try to play them if you can, but if you can't then send me a transcription and I'll try to make you a demo of it.

2) Try to find some examples of 12-bar blues in songs you've listened to. See if you can find them with and without turnarounds, examples of quatrain form and quick-change blues, and other variations. And don't limit your search to blues songs: The 12-bar blues pattern has been adopted by rock, jazz, R&B, and pop musicians too!

3) Improvising is a big part of the 12-bar tradition, so let's give that a shot. There's lots of backing tracks out there for twelve-bar blues in various keys. Here's one with a quickchange and a turnaround, but feel free to find another if you don't like the way it sounds. Anyway, listen to it for a bit, then try singing or playing some lines over it. If you want to get really inventive, maybe even try making up some lyrics!

And that's that! See you next week!

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Many Modes Of Melodic Minor (And Harmonic Too)

This week we took a look at a bunch of variant scales. There's a lot to process, so let's dive in!

1) To start, let's make sure you have the scale forms down! Give me the notes in each of the following scales:

  • C lydian #2
  • B dorian #4
  • A locrian natural 2
  • D lydian augmented
  • F# altered diminished
  • A# locrian natural 6
2) Let's talk about the scales we heard today. Were there any that stood out to you? Any you thought sounded particularly interesting? Could you see yourself writing with any of these? I think I gave away which one was my favorite, but what's yours?

3) Some of the scales from this video were ones we'd seen before, but there's still plenty more scales out there! Can you think of any scales we've covered that didn't appear here? Try to find some of their modes! See what happens! Try to play it if you can, hearing scales really helps.

And that's it! As always you can put your answers in the comments or on the main video, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Polyrhythm of the Night

Polyrhythms! Multiple rhythms at once! Let's dive in!

1) An interesting feature of polyrhythms is how each part drifts in and out of sync with each other. For instance, look at the notation below. Notice how the second and third attacks in the top voice kind of flank the third attack in the middle one, each kind of reaching toward the next beat away but not quite making it. And as you get more and more complex numbers, you get even more intricate patterns. Take 7 against 8, for instance. How do the beats in each of those line up? Which ones are closest? Which ones are furthest away? Try to visualize and analyze the entire pattern if you can!

2) Which of the notation methods made the most sense to you? Could you see yourself using irrational meter? Also, as a bonus question, did you notice that weird clef we were using? Do you know what that clef is?

3) Let's try something new: A playing exercise. Try to tap out a polyrhythm. Start with the hemiola, that's simplest. If you can get that down, try 3:4, 4:5, whatever you want to do. The most important thing is to keep each part consistent. Don't let them get pulled into each other's rhythms or you lose the whole effect! If you can't do both parts at once, try listening to a song in 4/4 while tapping along three evenly spaced beats per bar. It's tricky!

Friday, May 20, 2016

What The Heck Is Neo-Riemannian Analysis?

Well that's... different. Let's do some exercises!

1) Let's start with transformation paths. For each of the following sets of chords, see if you can find the shortest set of transformations that will get you from one to the other:

  • G# minor to A major
  • Db major to G minor
  • F# major to F minor
  • C major to F major
  • B major to Bb minor
  • A minor to E major
2) Second... We broke down the compound transformations starting from a major triad, but what about minor? Try starting from A minor and build a tree like we did in the video. How does it compare to the major tree?

3) Discussion time! What do you think of this method? Does it make sense? Does it seem useful? If so, how would you use it? If not, does it at least seem interesting?

And that's Neo-Riemannian Analysis... For now. See you next week!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Augmented Triads: The Six Million Dollar Chord

Hey! This week we talked about augmented triads and some of their uses. Let's try some exercises!

1) Let's start at the end. I mentioned that any augmented triad could modulate to any key, but how? See if you can figure it out! Remember they're symmetrical, so you only need to find ways to four different groups of keys. Can you find more than one way to a key? What's the simplest?

2) Next, let's talk line cliches. What did you think of their sound? We covered a few of the most common types, but there are others. Can you think of any more examples? Maybe moving a different note? Or maybe the line doesn't go the same way the whole time? Come up with some ideas and try them out!

3) Finally, let's talk chord scales. Specifically, let's look at the Whole Tone scale. Whole Tone can be thought of as the notes of two augmented triads a whole step apart. What are some possible uses for that? We covered some basic places you might see it, but there's a lot of more creative options out there. Play around with it, see what you can come up with!

And that's that! As always you can put your answers in the comments below or on the main video, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Fire The Canons!

Canons! No, not cannons, those are totally different. Let's get started!

1) Let's begin with a bit of score study. Pachelbel's Canon in D is perhaps one of the best-known canons out there, and it's a great example of the style. Here's a copy of the score, and here's a recording. Listen to it for as long as you can and try to differentiate the various violin lines. It'll be tricky if you're not used to it, and you may get distracted by the cello and harpsichord (This is an accompanied canon.) but really try to listen to how the different independent voices interact.

2) Now let's try writing one! These get harder and harder to do the more rules you add on, so I don't want to overburden you. If you want to just write a simple canon, that's great! If you want to try one (or more) of the more advanced versions, give it a shot! Whatever you feel up to. Just share it here when you're done, and if you can't play it I'll try to get you a demo track of it. Have fun!

3) Last, let's have a discussion question. Had you heard of canons before? Did you know what they were? What do you think of them? Are there any variations that particularly stand out to you? Even better, can you think of any ways to play with them that we didn't cover? Any new variations? Let us know!

And that's it! As always, you can put answers in the comments below or on the main video, and we'll see you next time!

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Twelve Tone Matrix Reloaded

Hey! This week we talked about a really useful (And fun) tool, the twelve tone matrix! As always, put your answers in the comments below or on the main video. Let's get started!

1) Let's start with the new notation. Below is a twelve-tone row, with standard note names below it. How would we write this row with our new numbering system?

2) Now let's get to the main attraction. It's matrix time! Make a matrix, using any row you want. If you can't think of one, try using the one from exercise 1. Or create your own, whichever you want! And now that you have the matrix done, why not try writing something with it if you feel up to it?

3) Let's talk about composition techniques. We covered a bunch of these in the video. Did any stand out as interesting to you? Were there any that seemed like something you'd want to try? Or did you think of any other techniques or tricks that we didn't mention? Let us know!

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Scaling The Summit With Dominant Scales

Hey! This week we talked about the scales we use over dominant chords. There's a lot to cover, so let's jump right in!

1) First let's take a look at some examples. Below are some dominant resolutions. Which scale would you use over each dominant chord? Mind the key signatures. There are multiple right answers to some of these, so don't be afraid to get creative!

2) Can you think of any other dominant scales? We covered many of the more common ones, but there's plenty of other ways to construct them. All you need is a shell voicing: Everything else is wide open. Try to devise some of your own and, if you can, try to play them and see how they sound.

3) We mentioned that the Blues scale is often used over dominant chords, but that's really weird, isn't it? It doesn't even have the leading tone in it. So why does it work? What do you think? Or do you even think it does? It might help to do a little research on its history, if you really want to go deep here.

And that's it! We'll see you next week!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Talking Like A Musician: Solfege and Chord Functions

This week we went over some terminology so you can sound overly smart when talking about music. Let's dive in!

1) For the melody below, first identify each pitch in fixed do. Then, once you have that, try it in movable do. Remember the key signature!

2) Let's talk about fixed and movable do. I know I biased the answers by giving my opinions first, but what do you think of them? Which seems like a better system? What are some situations where fixed do is more useful? How about movable do?

3) Finally, let's talk chord functions. As the video mentioned, we've talked about the primary functions (Tonic, Dominant, and Subdominant) before. In fact, the function groups take their name from these: To be a tonic function chord means that you're similar to the primary Tonic chord, the I. So just to make sure you understand, let's sort our new names into our old function groups. We mentioned 8 names: Tonic, Supertonic, Mediant, Subdominant, Dominant, Submediant, Subtonic, and Leading Tone. For each of those, just identify whether it's a Tonic function, Dominant function, or Subdominant function chord.

And that's it! We'll see you next week!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Odd Meter Out

This week we looked at what happens when time signatures go rogue. Let's do some exercises! As always, answers in the comments below or on the video.

1) Below are some examples of rhythms in 7/8, 9/8, and 5/4. I've removed the time signatures: Can you put them back correctly?

2) Let's talk groupings. Take, say, 23/16. What are some ways we might break that up? Try to come up with a couple different ones and tap them out to see how they sound. Once you've done that, maybe pick another obscure meter and see what you can do with that one. Getting a handle on these groupings is fundamental to being able to write with them, so don't hold back!

3) Finally, try writing a melody with an odd meter. For this, probably stick to one of the basic ones, 5/4, 7/8, or 9/8. Or if you want, try writing melodies for all three! Send me some notation for them and I'll try to get you an example track.

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Scale For Every Chord

Hey folks! This week we talked about chord scales, a useful tool for melodies and improvisation. Let's get to the exercises!

1) For the progression below, I want you to do a couple things. First, I want you to figure out the "correct" chord scale for each chord in it, using relative modes. Try writing a melody using those scales! Then I want you to change one or more scales to different, also-appropriate ones and see if you can write a melody using those too. Get creative! Feel free to send me your melodies and I'll try to get you a demo track if you can't play it yourself.

2) Ok, that last one was a lot of work, so let's keep this next one simple. Near the end we talked about pivot modulations, and how a chord could have multiple scales associated with it at once. What do you think of that? Which answer makes the most sense to you? Absent surrounding context, what would you lean towards, theoretically?

3) Finally, let's grab a quick preview. We mentioned that dominant chords have a lot of available chord scales. Mixolydian is, of course, the most obvious, but there's so many others. Can you think of any other scales we've talked about that would fit over a dominant chord? How about ones we haven't talked about? Are there any scales you've encountered elsewhere that would fit over a dominant 7th chord?

And that's it! Put your answers in the comments below or on the main video, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, March 25, 2016

6/4, Good Buddy

This week we covered the 6/4 chord, or some ways to use second inversion rooted in classical composition. Let's dive in!

1) First let's see if you can identify the different types. Below are 6 examples of auxiliary, passing, and cadential 6/4s. But which are which? Some have chord symbols to help, others don't.

2) Let's try some voicings. Below are some set-ups for various types of 6/4 chords. For each, I want you to tell me what each voice should be doing on the 6/4 chord itself. The first should be an auxiliary 6/4, the second passing, and the third cadential.

3) Finally... let's go for broke. The 6/4 chord is a classic figured bass technique, so let's try a figured bass exercise. below is a figured bass example that contains all three types of 6/4 chord. Try realizing it in four parts. Remember our four-part writing rules!

Good luck! Post your answers in the comments below or on the main video, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Diminished 7th Modulations and the Swiss Army Pivot Chord

Not gonna lie, I've been waiting to make this video for about over a year now, and we finally got the chance to! Let's do some exercises to make sure you got it.

1) First we'll make sure you got the concept. Let's take a look at E diminished 7. For each of the 12 keys, what means do you have of pivoting through E diminished 7? Hint: Start by figuring out what the enharmonic chords are.

2) Now let's have a discussion question. Listening to the resolutions, were there any that didn't sound right? Any you think didn't really work? Or did they all sound good? Structurally speaking, does this make sense to you? Does it seem interesting? Surprising? How would you describe this phenomenon?

3) Finally, let's do a writing exercise. Taking what you've learned (including from previous episodes) try to write a progression that uses these to modulate. If you're feeling adventurous, maybe even modulate more than once. I'm not gonna tell you where to modulate to and from because part of the point is that you can go anywhere, so use whichever device feels right to you. I'd aim for 16 chords minimum, to let you establish both keys, but whatever works. If you can't play your progression, send it to me and I'll try to make you a demo.

And that's it! Put your answers in the comments below or on the main video, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Counterpoint: Round The World

Hey guys! Today we finally started talking counterpoint! Not the most advanced counterpoint, certainly, but that's ok, we've gotta start somewhere. Let's talk rounds!

1) Let's start by talking about counterpoint. Had you heard of it before? If so, in what context? If not, what do you think of the idea? Either way, can you think of some examples you've encountered before?

2) Let's look at other rounds. Pick another round you remember and look up the melody. Analyze it like we did with Frere Jacques and see if you can figure out what the underlying chord progression is. Some of them only have one chord, others have way more. See what you can find!

3) Finally, let's try writing your own! It's not as hard as it sounds. We actually made a video demonstrating this, which you can watch here if you haven't already:

Just pick a chord progression you like and see what you can do with it. If you can't come up with one on your own, try this one:

Or use one of your own. Up to you! Good luck! As always, you can put your answers in the comments below or on the main video. See you next week!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Diminished 7ths: Tritones Taped To Tritones

Hi! This week we talked about one of my favorite chord types, the diminished 7th. Let's dive in!

1) Let's start by looking at symmetry. This is one of the most important aspects of diminished 7ths. So for each of the chords below, give me three other enharmonic diminished 7th chords, chords that would sound exactly the same.

  1. D diminished 7
  2. G diminished 7
  3. A diminished 7
  4. E diminished 7
2) Now let's look at common tone resolutions. Each of the resolutions below is either a dominant or common tone resolution. All you have to do is tell me which one each is. Be careful! I used some enharmonic chords so it's not always obvious what the true root is.

3) Finally, let's talk about sound. It's easy to get lost in its structure, but the diminished 7th chord also just has a pretty unique sound. Go back and listen to it. How does it make you feel? How would you describe the sound? What emotions would you use it to convey?

Put your answers in the comments below or leave them on the video, and we'll see you next time!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Striking A Chord: Power Chords, Sus Chords, And Added Notes

Hey! This week we talked about some chord variants when we stop worrying about being quite so tertian. Let's try some exercises!

1) As we mentioned, one great use of power chords is in riffs. They don't carry as much harmonic weight as normal chords, so you can use them to create melodies with your supporting harmony. There's no better way to learn than by doing, so let's try writing a power chord riff! Use any of the rhythmic or scale tricks we've learned so far, just try to make something that sounds cool. As always, if you can't play it yourself, send me a transcription and I'll try to get you a sample recording.

2) Sus chords! Sus chords let you extract some extra movement and dynamics from static harmony. We talked about a bunch of different types of sus chords, so let's make sure you understand them all. Give me the notes in each of the following:

  • A sus 4
  • D sus 2
  • F# sus 2/4
  • Bb7 sus 4
3) And finally we get to added note chords. For this one, I want to examine something I said in the video a little closer. I mentioned that, no matter what quality the triad is, 6 chords always use a major 6th. But why is that? Why do you think that would be the case? Why wouldn't a minor 6 chord use a minor 6th? This might require you to use knowledge from some of our earlier videos.

And that's that! Put your answers in the comments below or on the main video, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Tensions: Somewhere Over The Chord Tones

Hey! Today we talked about chord extensions, best known by their nickname "tensions". They're not that complicated, but let's get some practice to make sure you got it! As always, you can put your answers in the comments below or on the main video!

1) Let's start with identification. For each chord listed below, tell me the listed tension, and whether or not it fits over that chord.

  1. What's the 9th or Ema7?
  2. What's the 11th of A7?
  3. What's the b13th of C#mi7?
  4. What's the #11 of Gmi7?
2) Now let's look a little harder at avoid notes. For each diatonic chord in the key of F major, tell me all its diatonic available tensions. An available tension is any tension that is not an avoid note for that chord. To get you started, the available tensions of Fma7 are G (the 9th) and D. (the 13th)

3) Below is a progression of 7th chords. Write a melody over it. Use at least one tension per bar. Remember: Tensions are used like chord tones, so you can sit on them for a while.

Here's an example of that progression being played a couple times. Try to play your melody along with it if you can. If you can't, send me notation of it and I'll try to get you audio of what it sounds like, hearing your compositions is really useful.

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Worth A Tritone Substitution

Hey! This week we covered a dominant variant called tritone substitutions.  Let's get practicing!

1) So we know that each dominant seventh chord shares its tritone with another one. Let's see that in practice: For each dominant seventh chord below, identify the tritone, then figure out which of the other dominant sevenths listed shares that tritone.

  • C7
  • F7
  • Ab7
  • F#7
  • B7
  • D7
2) Alright, now let's talk II-Vs! Below are four progressions: One is a regular II-V, one a chromatic II-V, and the other two are the other variants we discussed in the video. All you need to do is figure out which is which!

3) And finally, let's take a look at those augmented 6th chords. These can be a little complicated, but let's see if you got the idea. For each of the chords below, give me the notes it would contain:

  • German Augmented 6th, root: Eb
  • Italian Augmented 6th, root: A
  • French Augmented 6th, root: F
And that's it! Hopefully you were able to follow along fine, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Writing A Row

Since this week's episode was all about writing, we're gonna focus on that. Let's try writing rows in the various styles discussed! As always, put your answer in the comments below or on the main video.

1) Let's start with a random number generator. Go to and roll up a completely arbitrary row. Now take a look at the intervals: Do you see any patterns? Any emergent structures? Try playing it if you can: What do you hear? Does anything stand out to you?

2) Now let's try to write a row with intervals. pick an interval you like and try to write a row with about 5 to 7 of it. Play it: How does it sound?

3) Finally, let's look at derived rows. Pick a 3-note seed and try to figure out how to extrapolate it into a full derived row. (NOTE: You can build a derived row with any 3-note seed except for a diminished triad. Those don't fit.)

Post your results below, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Secondary Function And The Wonderful World Of II-Vs

This week we went over some really important concepts in modern harmony, so let's get started! As always, put your answers in the comments below or on the main video.

1) Let's start with a discussion question. At the start of the video, we mentioned how the V chord is special, getting most harmonic developments before other chords do. Why do you think that is? What makes the V chord, or dominant function in general, so special?

2) Let's move on to II-Vs, because those are the real meat of this episode. Let's try identifying them: Below are the basic chords for the jazz song I Love You, by Cole Porter. See how many II-Vs you can find! (HINT: There's a lot.)

3) Finally, let's talk about that last thing I said, about the voice-leading symmetries. I'm not gonna give you more work to do than that, but see if you can't go back and figure out what I was talking about there. It's not crucial, but it's an interesting concept and understanding it might give you some valuable insight into harmonic structure. Give it a try!

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, January 15, 2016

An Exploration Of Odd Accents

Well that was fun. Odd accents are a bit hard to do exercises for, since they're mostly just something to play around with, but let's see what we can come up with. As always, put your answers in the comments below or on the main video.

1) Let's start with a listening exercise. Go through your favorite songs and see if you can find any odd accent patterns. If you hear off-beat emphasis, try to figure out if it's really an odd accent or if it's just syncopation. If you're not sure, share it and I'll try to help you figure it out, although really it's kind of a judgment call anyway.

2) Let's look at the clave specifically. Go back and listen to it again: How would you describe the feel? What does it make you think of? Specific emotions? Specific songs? That rhythm has been used all over the place in a lot of different ways. Try tapping it out. How would you use it?

3) Try making up your own odd accent patterns. Remember, the sky's the limit! Use whatever rhythmic subdivisions you like. Try tapping out your rhythms, or if you play an instrument try playing it on there. Maybe even write a melody with it!

And that's odd accents! We'll see you next week!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Secondary Dominants: A Thing You Should Probably Know About

And we're back! We kicked off the new year with secondary dominants, an important but kind of complicated concept. But don't worry, we're here to help! As always, you can put your answers in the comment box below or on the main video: Either way, we'll get back to you. Let's get to the exercises!

1) Let's start by analyzing secondary dominants in isolation. For each chord below, use the key signature to identify what degree it's the secondary dominant of. The first two examples give you the chord and the key names, the next two just the chord, and the last two you'll have to figure out on your own. (All the keys are major.)

2) Now let's look at it another way. Let's start with the key of C major and identify every available secondary dominant. For each chord in C major, what secondary dominant would resolve to it? What non-diatonic notes are needed in order to make that secondary dominant? What about B diminished? Does a secondary dominant for that make sense to you?

3) Write something! Maybe try the interpolation method, finding a chord progression you like and inserting some secondary dominants to help guide the listener along. Or start with an interesting resolution and build around it. It's up to you! If you have a progression you think is interesting, send it to me and I'll try to get you a track of it so you can hear what it sounds like.

And that's secondary dominants! Welcome back, and we'll see you next week!