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Music Theory & Aural Skills

This packet is designed to help prepare you to SUCCEED in a college music theory program! If you are one of the fortunate few who have extensive background in music theory, be very grateful! For many music majors, theory and aural skills are some of the biggest challenges of their freshman year. These are a few things you can study or review over the summer to make your theory experience smoother and more enjoyable.

Theory:
N. B. All exercises should be practiced in treble, alto, and bass clefs . You will be required to use all of these clefs in your theory coursework, and it will be much easier if you begin now. 1. Major and Minor Scales

It is crucial that you know how to construct and identify any major or minor scale beginning on any pitch. The major and minor scales with the following whole step/half step patterns: Major:

W W H W W W H Natural Minor:

W W H W W W H

W W H W W W H

W H W W H W W

W H W W H W W

W H W W H W W

Harmonic Minor: (A = augmented second = whole step + half step)

W H W W H A H Melodic Minor (Ascending):

W H W W H A H

W W H W W A H

W H W W H W W

W H W W H W W

W W H W W W H

Melodic Minor (Descending): same as natural minor

In addition, any major or minor scale is only spelled correctly if it uses every letter of the musical alphabet once, with the starting pitch used twice. For example, an Ab major scale must be spelled Ab, Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab. Although the pitches are enharmonically the same, it cannot be spelled Ab, A#, C, C#, D#, F, G, Ab because this spelling contains two types of A and two types of C, but no types of B or E. Consider the notation of this example:

Correct

Incorrect

For the purpose of this rule, ascending melodic minor and descending melodic minor may be considered two different scales. 2. Key Signatures and Relationships

Each of the scales major and minor scales is associated with a key signature, which designates which pitches should be raised or lowered by one half step in order to correctly complete that scale. This makes musical notation much cleaner, as it drastically reduces the number of accidentals necessary in any given piece. Just as you and your family members likely share a last name, each key signature is shared by one major and one minor key, called relatives. For example, A minor is the relative minor of C Major. The following chart shows all of the key signatures, correctly notated. When notating key signatures, the sharps or flats must be placed in the specific order and on the specific line or space given below:

C Maj A min

G Maj E min

D Maj B min

A Maj F# min

E Maj C# min

B Maj F# Maj G# min D# min

Gb Maj Eb min

Db Maj Bb min

Ab Maj F min

Eb Maj Bb Maj F Maj C min G min D min

3.

Intervals

An interval is the distance in pitches between two notes. The smallest interval used in Western music is the half step (HS). A chromatic scale is made up entirely of half steps and uses every pitch in Western music. Intervals come in different sizes and qualities. An intervals size is determined by the number of scale steps it includes, as shown below. Their quality may be described as major (M), minor

(m), perfect (P), augmented (A), or diminished (d). Seconds, thirds, sixths, and sevenths may be major or minor, with the major interval always being the larger. Unisons, fourths, fifths, and octaves are perfect. Any interval may be diminished (decreased by a half step) or augmented (increased by a half step), but you do not need to worry about that now, except for one interval. The augmented fourth (see below) is known as the tritone. Throughout history, it has been the main interval of dissonance in Western music. Today, it may also be written as a diminished fifth (e. g. C to Gb), as the two intervals contain the same number of half steps and therefore sound the same.

Name: P Unison m 2nd # of HS: 0 1

M 2nd 2

m 3rd 3

M 3rd 4

P 4th 5

A 4th 6

P 5th 7

m 6th 8

M 6th 9

m 7th 10

M 7th 11

P Octave 12

4.

Triads

All triads are three-note chords made up of a stack of two thirds. There are four qualities of triad: major (M), minor (m), augmented (A), and diminished (d). A major triad, comprised of scale degrees 1, 3, and 5 from any major scale, contains a major 3rd between the bottom and middle notes and a minor 3rd between the middle and top notes. A minor triad, comprised of scale degrees 1, 3, and 5 from any minor scale, contains a minor 3rd between the bottom and middle notes and a major 3rd between the middle and top notes. An augmented triad contains two major thirds and a diminished triad contains two minor thirds.

M 3rd

m 3rd

m 3rd

M 3rd

M 3rd

M 3rd

m 3rd

m 3rd

Aural Skills:
Introduction to Solfge Whether you know it or not, you probably already have exposure to solfge! Maria uses solfge to begin teaching music to the Von Trap children in The Sound of Music. Do, re, mi, and so on really are valuable tools in your musical toolbox! The solfge system is originally based on the diatonic major scale. Many colleges use the movable do system of solfge, which means that each solfge syllable is assigned to a specific scale degree. Others use the fixed do system, in which C is always do. Because solfge originates from the major scale, the most basic solfge consists of the following syllables:

Syllable: Do Degree: 1

Re 2

Mi 3

Fa 4

Sol 5

La 6

Ti 7

Do 1

Of course, in movable do, this may be applied to any major scale. C is simply the easiest to show. Solfge becomes more complicated with the addition of chromatic syllables to allow for minor scales and accidentals, but if you become familiar with diatonic major solfge, you will be setting yourself up for success. Practically, the best way to become familiar with solfge is to practice applying it to familiar tunes. Hymns or childhood songs are also generally good for this purpose. Your goal is to think in scale degrees/solfge syllables instead of note names. Two examples follow:
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Amazing Grace

Additional Resources:
www.musictheory.net This free site contains a variety of useful lessons and exercises in all the material mentioned above, and then some! www.emusictheory.com/practice.html This is the free section of the site that gives a variety of practice drills. www.teoria.com This free site provides useful information and exercises, as well as valuable articles and a section on the history of music theory. Packet prepared by Christiana R. W ismer