Music theory - basic, ground floor, absolute beginner

Plonky-tonk

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I wanted to get down to the very basics and moseyed around the App Store looking for a children’s level teaching app. Then did some googling. After some frustration I found https://www.musictheory.net/ which was exactly what I wanted. The site is free and there are two apps containing the same material to purchase that you can use offline. (I bought both of them, they are a few dollars each.)

The free sample of the “Waay” app by Ten Kettle was delicious, but at $100 it was beyond my budget.
 
I highly recommend the book "Music Theory for Ukulele" by David Shipway.
 
Working through the Shipway book. “Chapter 6: Building the Chord Family” just fizzed and sparked though my brain. It makes sense! I get it! I’m so excited, I want to share it with somebody!

You guys!!!! This is SOOOOOOO cool!!!!
 
“Ukulele From Scratch” by Bruce Emery

More music theory for beginners. I’ve had this book for a while, and worked on it for a couple years. For some reason, it just didn’t stick in my brain. I hauled this one out again, to compare it to the Shipway book I’m working on. The Emery seems a bit cluttered (if that’s the right word)? The Shipway is very straightforward, with laser-like focus (which I need). While the Emery is full of musical examples and song snippets to illustrate each bit of theory. Lots of examples and lots of tongue-in-cheek and absurd humor.

I think I will get more out of “Ukulele From Scratch” if I finish “Music Theory for Ukulele” first. I’ll use the Emery to illustrate what I learn from the Shipway.
 
The Shipway book hit a sweet spot for me too. I think he introduces things in a reasonable way. I already read music, but I found his chapters on building chords and progressions to be fantastic. He manages to do things at a high enough level that you don't drown in the details, and he does that maintaining the ukulele-centric view. The main thing I got from the book was enough vocabulary and basic understanding of chord types/qualities so that I could formulate questions enough to look things up in other sources.

I thought that Gracie Terzian did a good job with theory on YouTube, but she is teaching a much broader theory course. I also got the book, Edly's Music Theory for Proactical People by Ed Roseman. This book tries hard to be accessible, but it is intended for someone who wants to study music theory. I thought that was me, but I actually retain more when I have questions about a chord or progresion as I learn a song or do a little arranging. I use Edly more as a reference book where I can look things up to unconfuse myself.
 
Yay, Plonky-tonk, I got that book a few days ago! I'm glad it's working for you! It is for me too, but it's a really different method of teaching than my university courses back in the 70's. I'm still pushing through. There nothing wrong with a new and different way to learn. 😃
 
I'm just starting chapter 5. It's strange. The book is so good that even though I knew everything in the first four chapters, it still helped me somehow in ways I can't even explain! I guess that even though I have played about five years, I haven't fully embraced it until now. I need to relearn everything as it applies to the uke to really get it done.
 
Pawing through my various books now that I’ve finished Shipway - dang, but I have a lot of theory books! I’ve been wanting to understand music for a long time. Why does this work, why doesn’t that work, why do these sound good together, etc.

I think I’ll hold off on revisiting the Emery (his humor is grating after a while). “Understanding Ukulele Chords” by Robbert van Renesse is next. Now that I’ve got the Shipway fresh in my mind, maybe this one will be easier to understand. It goes much more into understanding the fretboard, moveable shapes, and a bit more hard-core theory in Clif Notes form.

Mattie K, you might like this one too. It’s a lot more visual and uses more of the fretboard, but goes a LOT faster with no mercy! I got a few pages in before becoming utterly lost the first time I worked on it. Now I’m having a lot more fun (thanks to Shipway). This time I got all the way to page 10 before I got lost…
 
Pawing through my various books now that I’ve finished Shipway - dang, but I have a lot of theory books! I’ve been wanting to understand music for a long time. Why does this work, why doesn’t that work, why do these sound good together, etc.

I think I’ll hold off on revisiting the Emery (his humor is grating after a while). “Understanding Ukulele Chords” by Robbert van Renesse is next. Now that I’ve got the Shipway fresh in my mind, maybe this one will be easier to understand. It goes much more into understanding the fretboard, moveable shapes, and a bit more hard-core theory in Clif Notes form.

Mattie K, you might like this one too. It’s a lot more visual and uses more of the fretboard, but goes a LOT faster with no mercy! I got a few pages in before becoming utterly lost the first time I worked on it. Now I’m having a lot more fun (thanks to Shipway). This time I got all the way to page 10 before I got lost…
Thanks so much! Onward and upward. That sounds like a good pick for me. I've got to get the cello out of my head. I'll look it up now. Thanks again.
 
Has anyone compared Ukulele Fretboard Roadmaps with Understanding Ukulele Chords? Are they at all similar?

Thanks,
Alan
 
In another thread ksiegel was talking about how he prefers to play A7 as 2130 (rather than 0100)

So I thought I’d exercise my new Shipway book-learning and work it out. (Can you hear my brain creaking with the effort?)

A7 is a dominant 7th. It’s a four note chord made by putting together the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th notes of the major scale, counting from A natural.

ok, I got that. But how do I know which major scale? Which key?

(crash and burn)

So now I’m gonna cheat. An inversion is playing the same notes somewhere else on the fretboard. (I understand inversion, at least!)

0 - open G
1 - C plus one fret = C#
0 - open E
0 - open A, and the root note of the chord

G, C#, E, A

2 - G plus 2 frets = A, and the root note of the chord
1 - C plus one fret = C#
3 - E plus three frets = G
0 - open A and the root of the chord again

A, C#, G, A

Wait! Where did the E go?

Now I’m really lost. How many notes are in a dominant 7th? Three or four? How do we know what major scale to count through to harvest our notes? Why is 2130 an inversion if it’s missing the E? Is this like the Hawaiian D7 that has a note “implied”?

Shipway has 0100 and 2130 as A7 on the chord shapes chart in the back of the book, but doesn’t explain why.

I need coffee….

Edit: oh nooooooooooooo! There are three different 7 chords: dominant, major, and minor. Now I need a beer…

Edit 2: Shipway lost me, Emery doesn’t even discuss it, but van Renesse came to my rescue! It’s the FLATTENED 7th note of the scale to get the dominant 7. So I started right off the bat with an error. 1, 3, 5, and flatted 7, not 1, 3, 5, 7. (Still lost on how to know which scale/key I’m deriving the chord from, and where did the E go.)
 
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