Musical Colors Tutorials (In Development)

1. Introduction - Hearing and Seeing Music

What we “hear” in music are tones. Tones are the basic building material of music. We do not hear music as much as we hear a combination of particular tones in a specific order of appearance or sounding. A tone is a sound that is indicated by four qualities that designate it from just any other noise. Four tone qualities V I S U A L

1. Pitch (High-Low Frequency)
2. Duration (Short-Long Pulse)
3. Intensity (Soft-Loud Volume)
4. Timbre (Heavy-Light Character)

First, a tone is a sound of well-defined pitch, as distinct from a noise as the sounds produced from a drum. Pitch is the frequency or the specific number of vibrations per second that a tone makes when played upon a musical instrument. The higher the number of vibrations for any given note (i.e. cycles per second or frequency of pitch), the higher the pitch of any musical tone.

Sign waves coming from low and high instruments V I S U A L

Second, a tone has a duration of sounding. Duration is the time, short or long, within which tones pulse as sound. They can pulse for a short time in relation to each other (staccato) or they can pulse for longer periods of time (legato).

Staccato and legato tone pulses V I S U A L

Next, a tone has intensity. Intensity refers to the volume, soft or loud, at which a tone is expressed. It can be a soft and gentle sound (pianissimo) or it can be a very loud sound (fortissimo). It can begin soft and then build (crescendo) or it can start off strong and then die down (decrescendo). These (examples) define the dynamic of a tone.

Dynamics V I S U A L

The last definitive quality of tone is timbre, pronounced “tamber”. Timbre refers to the quality of the source from which a tone is sounded. For example, a tone sounded from a tuba is much different in timbre than a tone, based on the same pitch, sounded from a cello. Both instruments can play the same pitch but their individual sound characteristics are very different. This is known as the tone color of a musical instrument.

Characters for Instruments V I S U A L

It is important to point out that our modern day tonal system of music is based upon twelve specific frequencies of pitch that never change. In order for any tone to be considered a member of this tonal system, it must be tuned to one of these twelve specific frequencies. Musical sounds then, once accepted as tones having correctly tuned frequencies, are assigned a verbal identity or pitch name that varies depending upon pitch. A pitch name is initially based on only one of the seven letters that can represent a tone (“A, B, C, D, E, F and G”). These initial seven pitch names are known as the naturals. The naturals can be found on the white keys of a piano.

Naturals V I S U A L

The seven naturals can be altered or changed to form five more pitch names by saying “sharp” (#) or “flat” (b) after their corresponding letter names. The five altered pitch names are called the accidentals. The accidentals can be found on the black keys of a piano. They can each be represented by either a sharp or a flat (“A# or Bb, C# or Db, D# or Eb ,F# or Gb and G# or Ab”). Notice that each accidental can have one of two pitch names that still represent the same note. This is called enharmonic spelling.

Accidental and enharmonic spelling V I S U A L

To build musical configurations with these tones, there is still much to understand. Now that we know what defines a tone we must see how these qualifications are used to create music. So let’s get down to business! What we “see” in music is a language of symbols. We have already seen that musical tones have a pitch name. When written on paper or displayed, the pitch name of a tone is called a note. Therefore, a note is a visual representation of a musical tone.

Notes V I S U A L

It is important to understand that tone; pitch name and note are commonly synonymous with one another. This means that even though we “hear” tones, “say” pitch names and “see” notes, the need to constantly differentiate between the three terms is not necessary. Notes can be written as pitch names and also played by musical instruments. Notes are commonly displayed through a modern symbol language called music notation.

Music notation V I S U A L

Musical Colors is designed to initially bypass this standard music notation and present written music information in a colorful and innovative format. So let’s see how it works! Take some time to read through this material. You can learn how music is made. Obviously, music is not just one sounding tone but a combination of various musical tones arranged in seemingly sympathetic ways. When tones sound at the same time or one after another, relationships are formed between these tones, which are called intervals. An interval is both the distance and the quality of the relationship between any two notes.

Interval distance and relationship V I S U A L

To determine the distance between two notes, only the letters of the pitch names are counted. This means that notes with the same letters are grouped as one count.

Determining interval distance V I S U A L

For example, C to D, Db or D# would all be an interval of a second.

In music there is a fundamental interval called the octave. An octave is an interval in which both tones are in phase with one another. This means that the higher pitched tone, of the two, is exactly twice the frequency or pitch of the lower tone. The distance between two notes, an octave apart, including each, is eight pitch name letters away (8th).

Octave interval V I S U A L

When you hear two tones together you can tell whether their relationship is happy, sad or just perfect as in the relationship between two tones an octave apart. The octave is the most perfect consonance, meaning that to hear this interval is easy on the ear, as opposed to dissonance, which is not necessarily a pleasant sound to hear.

The octave is so perfect that it gives the impression of being a mere duplication of the first or lower tone.

Playing octaves V I S U A L

For example, try playing two tones with the same color code.

Our present-day tonal system of tuning in music is called Equal Temperament. It is based on the division of the octave into twelve equal parts. Each part is represented by the smallest possible interval, a semitone or halftone, where two semitones or halftones equal one whole tone. The division of the octave into these twelve intervals is the basis of music and provides the foundation upon which all subsequent music theory is based.

Octaves showing semitones V I S U A L

Equal Temperament was conceived of in the late 16th century and brought into common practical use by J.S. Bach in the early 18th century. The best thing about this system over earlier methods is that it made and still makes playing music easier. Our complete tonal system falls within the span of an octave, with its seven naturals and five accidentals in their corresponding positions; each being arranged one semitone apart.

Zoom in octave division V I S U A L

All the twelve notes that are used in music today are listed above, along with their corresponding musical color-coding. The notes that are in parentheses are alternate note names and are rarely used being that they represent the same tone as a natural note. Keep in mind that the C on the left is lower in pitch than the C on the right yet they have the same pitch name being that they are an octave apart. The C on the right is twice the frequency of the C on the left. This would also apply to any other note and its corresponding higher octave, both being linked together by their common pitch name.

Twelve different tonal systems V I S U A L

When these twelve notes are arranged in an ascending order, starting from any one, they form a ladder or a chromatic scale. The chromatic scale, in fact, corresponds to our current tonal system of twelve notes. In addition to notes being represented by a color-coding; they are also assigned a number. These numbers never move or change and they always represent the same note. This is called set theory, which is the assigning of the numbers, one through twelve, to the twelve notes of a chromatic scale.

Chromatic scale V I S U A L

The chromatic scale contains every kind of interval. Remember, an interval is understood by the distance between its two notes and the quality of their relationship. There are five possible types of qualities of relationships between two notes. There is the quality that is called Perfect (P), as we have seen in the octave, the quality that is happy or Major (M), and the quality that is sad or minor (m).

Perfect, Major and minor V I S U A L

There are also two other qualities that serve as extensions to stitch all the intervals to one another. These two qualities do not define the relationship between two notes in as much as they represent alternate names for the Perfect, Major and minor intervals. These are the Augmented and diminished qualities of intervals. Augmented basically means an added semitone and diminished means just the opposite or one semitone less.

Augmented and diminished stitching V I S U A L

For example, an Augmented Unison is the same interval as a minor second yet it would be written as C to C# and not C to Db, which is a minor second. Intervals have a partner or inverse interval. When any interval and its inverse interval are added together they equal an octave. With the exception of one interval, the Tritone, which is an inverse of itself and therefore, when added to itself, both total an octave. The Tritone is the only interval that can only be expressed as Augmented or diminished (either an A4th or a d5th). All other interval qualities rarely need to be expressed with Augmented or diminished extensions being that they are P, M or m.

Intervals V I S U A L

Keep in mind that intervals can be measured from the bottom up or from the top down. This means that from any given note, the motion of where the next note is or will be, can be accomplished by going up or down a specific given interval.

Interval Motion V I S U A L

Tones can sound at the same time as a simultaneous occurrence, or tones can sound one after the other which is sequential. With these two concepts we can begin to talk of how tones are expressed as music through their two core elements, a horizontal element known as melody and a vertical element known as harmony. Melody and harmony are like two bricklayers that place notes like bricks, one building up and one building to the side.

Brick layers V I S U A L

Melody is a sequential sounding of tones one after the other with an individual musical meaning and expressive value. Although there are twelve possible notes in our tonal system, melody is commonly based upon a designated tonal language of only seven notes called a diatonic scale. This seven-note scale governs the flavor of music. Change the scale in music and you change the tonal language of the music.

Flavor of Music V I S U A L

The chromatic scale is built with twelve tones that are all a semitone apart. Chromatic means to use only semitones or halftones. It also implies playing outside the designated seven notes of a diatonic scale. The chromatic scale is the mother scale in music. It contains all musical notes and, therefore, all other seven-note diatonic scales are found residing within it. Diatonic means built with only seven notes and also implies the playing of only notes that are found in that diatonic scale.

Chromatic vs. Diatonic V I S U A L

Diatonic scales are constructed from six types of intervals with distances of 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths and 7ths. The quality of an interval in a given diatonic scale depends on one of the four basic types of diatonic scales. There are four traditional scales that are born from the chromatic scale. They are constructed as note ladders with seven steps each, using seven alternating semitones and whole tones in a designated order. They are the Major and the three forms of minor scales, Natural, Harmonic and Melodic.

Diatonic Scales V I S U A L

These scales can be constructed from any note or root. The root of a scale is the first step of seven, its foundation. The eighth step is its octave, which is implied by the root note of the scale, and therefore does not always need to be included visually.

Reference manual scale V I S U A L

Melody has two sub-elements, a vertical sub-element of motion and a horizontal sub-element of rhythm. Motion is when melody moves up and down using high and low tones that are certain intervals away from each other and belong to a specific scale. Melody also moves forward in time using short and long pulses, or rhythm. Rhythm is the pattern of the duration of notes in a sequential order. It is the artistic combining of these two sub- elements that makes a good sounding melody.

Melody V I S U A L

When three tones sound at the same time you get a chord. A chord is a simultaneous occurrence of three or more musical notes. Chords are built by stacking Major and minor 3rds, one on top of the other. By doing this, three notes are designated, being separated by two intervals of a 3rd. This chord structure is called a triad. A triad is one of the four basic chords that exist in any one of the four basic diatonic scales. The four triad chords are Major (M), minor (m), Augmented (+) and diminished (º). Like scales, they also have a root note on which they are built.

Chords V I S U A L

Chords, therefore, are built from any root note with the second tone being a 3rd and the last tone being a 5th. When the root of a chord is the lowest sounding tone, the chord is said to be in root position. When the 3rd of a chord is the lowest sounding tone, the chord is said to be in 1st inversion. When the 5th of a chord is the lowest sounding tone, the chord is said to be in 2nd inversion. The root, the 3rd and the 5th are all still present in any one of these three versions of chords but are stacked differently. All three versions sound very much alike yet each one has a subtle sounding difference from the other two.

Chord Inversions V I S U A L

Harmony can be represented by a sequence of chords in which the three notes that make up those chords are all taken only from a specific diatonic scale. Remember, a diatonic scale is a designated tonal language of seven tones. These chords belong to this diatonic scale and they each have one of seven specific duties in that scale. Their assignments are based on which tone, from that scale, the chord in question is built on.

Chords found in scales V I S U A L

Harmony has two sub-elements, a vertical sub-element of sonority and a horizontal sub-element of function. Sonority refers to the tonal structure of a given chord as well as to the names given to the intervals that form the chord. Sonority is understood from the bottom up. First comes the root tone, and then come the 3rd and finally the 5th.

Building sonority V I S U A L

Harmony moves forward in time using chords with function. These chords can have any duration of sounding, short or long. Function is a special chord language that assigns different tasks to these chords in relation to one another as well as to the scale in which they reside. The duty of a given chord in relation to another and their common scale is expressed in a progression. A progression is a sequence of chords within a diatonic scale. Each chord performs a service in relation to that scale so that the following chord may do likewise for the next and so on. This is known as chord progression (see Chapter 3 on Chord Progression).

Harmony V I S U A L Notice that Chords #1, #2, and #3 all reside within Scale #1 and Chords #6 and #7 reside within Scale #2 where they each have a different function in those given scales. What Chords #4 and #5 are doing is questionable.

The function of a chord in relation to its scale is also expressed through modulation. Modulation is when the task of a chord is not only to function in its current scale but also to provide a transition from that very scale to another. This means that the music would change from one tonal language to another. Chords can perform this service in pairs, being linked, whereby each chord has a function in its own scale and not in the other’s scale, as could be with Chords #4 and #5. Chord #4 would have function in Scale #1 and Chord #5 would have function in Scale #2. Both chords would have function toward each other like a bridge. The type of function they held with one another would be reflected in the several types of modulation that exist (see Chapter 4 on Chord Modulation).

Modulation V I S U A L

A chord may also perform the service all by itself, whereby it has a function in both scales as could be with just Chord #5. This would be called a pivot chord (Chapter 4). Chord #5 would have function in both Scale #1 and Scale #2 and therefore would serve as a bridge between the two scales all by itself. This is the most common form of modulation. Chord #4 would have function in Scale #1 and not be part of the transition.

Pivot Chord Modulation V I S U A L

When we talk about the foundation or root of a scale being C, we say that, “the scale is in C” or simply put, “in the key of C”. Since there are twelve possible notes that can serve as the root of any scale, there are numerous keys that can be played in music. These keys directly correlate to the tonal language of the music. There are a total of 30 keys in our traditional system of music. Half are Major scales and half are minor scales. They are arranged in ascending and descending intervals of a Perfect Fifth around a circle like a pad lock with twelve keyholes. This is known as the Circle of Fifths.

Circle of Fifths V I S U A L

All seven-note scales have what is called a key signature. A key signature is a designation of how many sharps (#) or flats (b) are in a given key or scale. In the key of C Major, there are no sharps and no flats being that the C Major scale is constructed only with the naturals (C, D, E, F, G, A and B).

Major Key Signatures V I S U A L

Likewise, the a: minor scale has no sharps or flats either, as it is also constructed with only the naturals (A, B, C, D, E, F, and G).

Minor Key Signatures V I S U A L

Key signatures are important because they indicate the structure of a given scale by counting the number of altered notes within that scale. The Circle of Fifths is laid out in the following manner. Outside the large circle, are the twelve color coded notes along with their specific key signatures. Inside the large circle are the Major keys. Major keys are represented by an upper case letter followed by a (:) which is synonymous with (key). Inside the smaller circle are the minor keys. Minor keys are represented by a lower case letter also followed by a (:) to mark the note as a key. Both Major and minor keys are listed in pairs. These pairs are called relative keys because they contain the same key signature or use the same notes to construct their scale.

Relative Keys V I S U A L

2. Reference - Color Coded Chords and Scales

How it all works together in the Cross Referencing Manual. An example of a Diatonic Pivot Chord modulation could be as follows: Let us say that the established key is C: (C Major) and a Harmonic Progression of (I - IV - V - I - iii - vi) is being played, and we wish to make the transition on the Six Chord (vi) chord of C: First we would find out the root of a Six Chord (vi) chord in C: by looking at the Musical Keys list under Key of C:, locate the (vi) and get the Root Note of the Scale. In this case it is A. We would then look at the list of all possible Triads under the Root of A. By looking under the “Functions as:” for the Quality of minor we would see that the chord (A-C-E), a vi in the key of C:, is also a iii in F:, a i in a: (Natural, Harmonic, Melodic), a ii in G: and g: (Melodic), a iv in e: (Natural, Harmonic), and a v in d: (Natural). If we wanted to modulate to the key of F:, we could continue with a Harmonic Progression of lets say, (iii - vii° - IV - V - I) in F: Thus we pivoted from C: to F: using an A minor chord which is both functional as a vi in C: and a iii in F:

3. Chord Progressions and Modulation

A. Diatonic vs. Chromatic

In order to change keys in a Harmonic Progression and make it sound musical, Modulation is recommended. There are six types of Modulation and they can be Diatonic as well as Chromatic, and can include a Pivot Chord or not. Diatonic means that all the notes in a chord or musical passage are in key. Chromatic means that at least one note in a chord or musical passage is out of key. A Pivot Chord would be a chord that two keys have in common although it would function differently in each key.


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