Music Theory – 0012

We’re going to play with the C Major Chord today and also with the C Major Scale. It helps to know that your melody stays strictly with the notes of the scale of the key you are in unless you are intentionally doing something fancy. Finding the right note is easier if your search is limited to some instead of all the notes. Your ear will take you there if there are not too many options.

I’m going to make a base melody only using notes of the C Major Chord. This is not going to be great art but it should be instructive. I’m going to show a number of changes to the original but you should only have to make one file and then edit it. I’ll explain how as we go. The idea here is to map out a general idea and then fudge around with it until something worthwhile is produced. Normally this is done with two or three chords to build an idea but for the moment I want to stick with one chord for simplicity. Here is my initial stupid idea:


You need a 4-measure project with the piano. In the Bass Clef I just have a C Major Chord. You can make that chord with whole notes in the first measure and copy and paste it to the other three. C – E – G. In the melody I have that chord spread out over four measures just going up and down. C – E – G – C – G – E – C. This is a really arbitrary and orderly frame to build a melody from, no thought involved.

Let’s alter that melody by changing some of the notes in the Treble Clef to quarter notes. I selected the quarter note tool and then clicked over a half note to make it a quarter note and then added another note between it and the next note. I will repeat the original and the new modified file:



What I did was to add more notes of the C Major Chord on the Treble Clef. The base melody is still there. You should listen to the original file and then modify it to match what I did and listen again. The modified version is much better but it is still just playing notes of the C Major Chord. You should already know that all these notes are part of the C Major Scale. Now let’s change it more. I will repeat the first modification and make another from that one:



This time I added some Eighth Notes. Like you changed some Half Notes into Quarter Notes you can also change some Quarter Notes into Eighth Notes with the Eighth Note Tool. Select the Eighth Note Tool and click on a quarter note to make it an Eighth Note and then add the extra note right after it. Not a lot to do there but there is a big change to the feel of the melody. That is enough for the melody, now we are going to change the bass. I will repeat the last modification and then show what I did to the bass:



All I did here was change the notes in the Bass Clef. I deleted the first three Measures by selecting them using the Arrow Tool and then hitting the backspace (delete) key on my computer keyboard. Then I selected the Quarter Note Tool and entered the first measure which has the exact same notes only spread out one at a time. Once you enter the first measure you can copy and past it over the next two. One more modification to give it more animation. We are going to alter the bass again:



That makes a big difference. It might be easiest to delete the first Bass Clef Measure and add those notes using the Eighth Note Tool. Then you can copy and paste that into the second measure and then manually input the third. You could paste into the third Measure as well and use the Eraser Tool to delete the last note and then change the E into a Quarter Note.

Now, if you want that to sound a lot better, open a new project and instead of Piano, select Harpsichord. Select the entire finished piece and paste it into the new project. Play that and it sounds a lot more fun than with the piano sound.

If you want to make it sound extra good, go back one version and only enter the Eighth Notes in the Bass Clef when the notes above it are not Eighth Notes and otherwise leave them as Quarter notes. That sounds confusing, let me make that for you and we’ll end there:


OK, I have one more idea. Put the melody from the Treble Clef in the Bass Clef, but make it an Octave Lower and start it two beats later, like a round or a Bach Two-Part Invention:


Hmmm, I wonder if it would work starting it again adding a third voice two beats later, like with the trumpet sound . . .

5 thoughts on “Music Theory – 0012

  1. This was a really good lesson. What I did was copy and paste my way down the page so in the end all the versions were on the one score and I could listen to the evolution.

    I think I underestimated the amount of gut feeling to this. You did a lot of work on the base line and then it turns out that the best one was the same as the treble clef but time-shifted!

    Anyway, I’m still waiting for Notion to download the Harpsichord so I can try THAT out.

    Thanks again for the lesson.

    • I learned something myself here. While staying in one chord, if the main beats play notes of the chord even though the melody moves about in a scale-like pattern, having a round or invention is rather easy. I’m wondering about going to another chord after a few measures and then doing the same thing, there would need to be a little fudging while one chord is going to the next chord while one melody changes with the chord change and the other one hasn’t quite gotten there yet. I need to examine the potential for this myself because a much longer piece going through a chord progression could work this same way.

    • I’ve done a lot of thinking about providing audio of what I’m doing. In one way I want people to have to enter the music just to get their fingernails dirty, and on the other hand more casual passersby might be curious to hear what is going on. I’m not sure what I think about that. Space is a concern going forward, I know that.

  2. Hmm, that’s an interesting question. I’m getting a lot out of just entering the music but that’s what works for me. Others may find having to do it a turn-off.

    I think that offering a sound file and maybe a midi file may work for some. The danger is that some people may never enter the music into a program, not keep up in touch with what they are doing and so drop out.

    One more thing to consider is that adding to your workload is not something to be taken on lightly.

  3. I’m not sure where I’m headed but I’m sure I’ll have fun doing it. Some things I have in mind won’t have anything to do with entering notes, like showing how to take things to the next level by using real music production equipment, or at least software. I was thinking of playing a phrase of violin from NotePad, then Garage Band, and then Logic Studio with an expensive add-on violin. Quite a difference there, and the difference is firstly money and secondly time in figuring out how to use stuff like that. Expect some “how I do it” presentations where you’re not necessarily supposed to learn but to understand what it takes to bring it up a few notches.

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