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Thread: Not getting uke theory: help

  1. #1

    Default Not getting uke theory: help

    Was reading through the uke theory for noobs thread and trying to figure out chord structure. Found this:

    "now what is a chord? in layman's terms? its a group of notes that, when played togeter, sound nice. we figure this out by looking at the sequence of notes that you have memorized by now... right? so lets take a A Major chord... or just A. the A note is going to be your "root note". your origin of your chord, if you will. now starting from A, go up the sequence 4 "half tones" (ha, if you you forgot what that is, go back a lesson). now you are at the C# note. now from there, add 3 more half tones, and you will have an E.

    so recap: you have your root note: A. your middle note: C#. and your last note: E. these are the notes that make up an A chord! now pat yourself on the back for figuring it out.

    now, pick up your ukulele and find those notes, one string at a time:
    1st string. A. already part of the A chord, right? so dont touch it.
    2nd string. E. also part of the A chord. leave it alone.
    3rd string. C. need to turn this into either A, C#, or E. so which would be the easiest to do? C#, because it requires the string to be fretted at the 1st fret. keep your finger there!
    4th string. G. do the same thing. you will see that two halftones up from the G note will give you an A note. so fret this string on the 2nd fret. keep your other finger there!
    now strum your ukulele. you just figured out the fingering for an A chord and played it. "


    Question is: on this A chord example starting with open A makes sense, but why am I then counting up 4 half tones then 3 half tones to get the other notes? Why not 5 then 2? What's the reason between going 4 then 3? My guess is that the total of 7 is because you go from Major to 7th notes but even that I'm not sure about.
    Can anyone explain it that doesn't get too crazy technical because I'm a beginner, or know a place to look? Did some googling and didn't have any luck.
    Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
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    That is the whole point.

    Four half steps is called a Major Third, three half steps a Minor Third.

    By DEFINITION a Major chord (triad) is a Minor Third stacked on top of a Major Third whereas a Minor chord (triad) is a Major Third stacked on top of a Minor Third. As a consequence both Major and Minor chords have the same start note and end note and only differ by the middle note being one half step apart. That one half step leads to the different sound of Major and Minor.

    A Diminished chord (triad) is DEFINED as two Minor Thirds stacked on top of each other. Etc etc ....

    Chords and scales are DEFINED by their interval formulas. Apply the intervals and derive the chords ...

    Ofcourse one can ask Why ? But that is more physics than music.

    HTH

  3. #3
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    Aug 2017
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    Quote Originally Posted by captain-janeway View Post
    Was reading through the uke theory for noobs thread and trying to figure out chord structure. Found this:

    "now what is a chord? in layman's terms? its a group of notes that, when played togeter, sound nice. we figure this out by looking at the sequence of notes that you have memorized by now... right? so lets take a A Major chord... or just A. the A note is going to be your "root note". your origin of your chord, if you will. now starting from A, go up the sequence 4 "half tones" (ha, if you you forgot what that is, go back a lesson). now you are at the C# note. now from there, add 3 more half tones, and you will have an E.

    so recap: you have your root note: A. your middle note: C#. and your last note: E. these are the notes that make up an A chord! now pat yourself on the back for figuring it out.

    now, pick up your ukulele and find those notes, one string at a time:
    1st string. A. already part of the A chord, right? so dont touch it.
    2nd string. E. also part of the A chord. leave it alone.
    3rd string. C. need to turn this into either A, C#, or E. so which would be the easiest to do? C#, because it requires the string to be fretted at the 1st fret. keep your finger there!
    4th string. G. do the same thing. you will see that two halftones up from the G note will give you an A note. so fret this string on the 2nd fret. keep your other finger there!
    now strum your ukulele. you just figured out the fingering for an A chord and played it. "


    Question is: on this A chord example starting with open A makes sense, but why am I then counting up 4 half tones then 3 half tones to get the other notes? Why not 5 then 2? What's the reason between going 4 then 3? My guess is that the total of 7 is because you go from Major to 7th notes but even that I'm not sure about.
    Can anyone explain it that doesn't get too crazy technical because I'm a beginner, or know a place to look? Did some googling and didn't have any luck.
    Thanks
    Chords are made to notes in a scale. Skip every other note. Rather than think of the semitones.

    This I just searched for you and looked pretty ok to me besides the woman playing the guitar:
    https://www.guitarhabits.com/buildin...e-major-scale/

    There is also something about chords sequences

  4. #4
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    I’m probably going to get in trouble for what I’m about to say, but it is based on personal experience. Music theory isn’t easy (we lose 65%-75% of freshman music majors because of theory and related ear training/sight singing courses), and music theory teachers can be some of the meanest people on the planet. I have watched teachers celebrate the failure of students. It’s sick, but it is a difference between the fields of musicology and music education, as some musicologists want to preserve the art—while most music educators want everyone to succeed. I’ve watched this at the undergraduate and graduate levels and have spoken at music conferences around the country—this exists everywhere.

    You’re going to find similar attitudes when it comes to theory here on UU, just to warn you.

    If I may, let me address the subject. If you are a ukulele player who came into ukulele like most players, you picked up an instrument that plays chords with the intent to play songs while singing, often in groups. This is a unique aspect to the ukulele (and guitar) as most instruments follow a different route of introduction.

    When I have taught high school music theory classes (and this is also how I would teach college music theory classes), I start with broader issues about the philosophy of music, followed by notes, then scales, then intervals, then chords, then progressions (including cadences), and finally larger forms. In our diatonic system (major/minor music), it is easier to understand chords in relation to scale (Jarmo’s point above) versus as independent things built a number of half steps apart.

    You CAN talk about half steps, and eventually, as you introduce diminished, augmented, and seventh chords, you have to talk about half steps—but there is still more power in understanding how those chords function in relation to key...or how they appear unexpectedly out of a key and you try to define the chord.

    As a ukulele player, unless you are following the Chalmers/Hill method, you are going to skip the scale aspect (starting with chords), and then try to reverse engineer chords. This is just hard to do—you CAN do it, however.

    As I taught high school music theory, with the intent of preparing students for college theory (something I did not have in high school—and, by the way, my students went prepared and did well), I had three types of students. The first group were kids that signed up for the class thinking it would be an easy A and not have any work...most of these would transfer out after the first week, realizing that they were better off elsewhere. A second group were “traditional” music students preparing for college. The final group...and the group that surprised me every year...were guitarists who wanted to learn how to read and write music. We always rewarded the top students each year, and there were always members of both traditional and guitar players who were the top students. It is exciting to see what people can learn when they put their mind to it...and knowledge of theory CAN help you to write better music, and it can certainly help you to read music.

    At any rate, early on, I learned to modify my “classical” language for guitar players. They struggled with the idea of half steps and whole steps—and to be honest, those are pretty dumb names. When I referred to a half step as a fret...you could LITERALLY see the light bulb come on for guitarists, and that is when they seemed to even have an advantage over the “classical” musicians.

    As you build chords, such as A, think on one string (perhaps the 1st String), and the C# is four half steps above the A, and the E is three half steps above the C# (or seven above the A).

    All that said, after 22 years of teaching music and 3 music degrees, I don’t think of chords in terms of half steps and whole steps (other than diminished 7th chords)...I think of them in terms of intervals. A major chord has a Major third and then a minor third, or a Major third and a Perfect 5th from the root.

    Hopefully some of that made sense. I will recommend musictheory.net as a great resource to slowly work through to learn more about theory...feel free to use your ukulele instead of the piano. The piano is not always a great tool, because it doesn’t visually represent what is really happening with the notes like a fretboard does.
    Playing ukulele since January 2016.

    Have you participated in the thread, "How the Ukulele Found You?" If not, please consider adding your story--they are just fun to read.

    http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/...lele-found-you

  5. #5

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    [QUOTE=Choirguy;205043
    Hopefully some of that made sense. I will recommend musictheory.net as a great resource to slowly work through to learn more about theory...feel free to use your ukulele instead of the piano. The piano is not always a great tool, because it doesn’t visually represent what is really happening with the notes like a fretboard does.[/QUOTE]

    Thanks. I'm not a gutar player or any other kind of musician. I want to learn how to read sheet music well so I can put together tabs well and learn to do finger picking well. I'm a bluegrass fan.

    I figure I should learn the theory along with just learning chords. Want to make sense of circle of fives, etc. I'm thinking it would make the rest a little easier. I'm working Uncle Rod's boot camp to get transitioning down well.

  6. #6
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    I like this video on music theory


  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Choirguy View Post
    feel free to use your ukulele instead of the piano. The piano is not always a great tool, because it doesnÂ’t visually represent what is really happening with the notes like a fretboard does.
    Interesting. I've always thought the keyboard was easier because it is linear, although you do have to accept that there is no difference between a black key and a white key. I suppose a fretboard is also linear for each individual string, but having grown up playing violin, the intervals between the strings of a guitar or uke have always driven me a little crazy.

    BTW, thanks for your perspective on learning music theory. Personally, I find it stimulating, but I know others that completely shut down with the mention of a scale or an interval. I'm learning that it really doesn't matter as long as playing brings you joy....unless, of course, you choose to take a music theory class .

  8. #8
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    I often recommend this book

    http://www.edly.com/mtfpp.html

    It is very user friendly and not the typical dry theory text

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by EDW View Post
    I often recommend this book

    http://www.edly.com/mtfpp.html

    It is very user friendly and not the typical dry theory text
    Purchased, Thanks!

    I also found Music Theory for Dummies very good too.
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QQMVMD0...ng=UTF8&btkr=1

    I don't get everything about music theory, but I go back over it from time to time and find more and more of it makes sense.
    I found that have a good Circle of Fifths wheel helped me, apparently I like visuals.
    https://www.amazon.com/Chord-Wheel-U...f+fifths+wheel

    Music theory is fun, but don't beat yourself up if you don't get it all.
    Playing my Magic Fluke and grinning like a fool!

  10. #10
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    Jan 2010
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    Everything is built on foundations from the past. When Beethoven or Stravinsky or Coltrane broke the "rules" they had an understanding of what came before and how to take things in a new direction. It can be very helpful to get how all of this works (if one chooses to do so) before throwing it out the window.

    Some have no interest and just want to play some tunes, while others want to understand the form, structure and nuts and bolts of it all. Each player finds their sweet spot balancing the two. Choose what works best for you.

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