Garnish Music Production School

Music theory practice, chord progressions, keys and scales

Music theory practice, chord progressions, keys and scales:

A music production college I worked at in London a while back asked me to teach a Music Theory and Music Composition course with chord progressions, keys & scales. I know my way around a fretboard of a guitar and used to play in jazz bands before I discovered turntables, so I thought I give it a whirl!

I looked on the internet for ages for good simple rules for chords, scales and extended chords but couldn’t find anything that I thought would be easy for the students to understand, so I wrote my own. These are recap notes written so students can refer to them after my lecture so you probably need to have some knowledge to begin with or you could always book workshop 4 of my Logic 9 Music Production course.

Working out basic chords quickly using semitones:

Major:             Root + 4 (3rd) + 3 ( 5th)

Minor:             Root + 3 (3rd) + 4 (5th)

Dim:                Root + 3 (3rd) + 3 (5th)

Augmented            Root + 4 (3rd) + 4 (5th)

To flatten a note you go down one semitone and to sharpen you go up a semitone.


–                  Semitones are always the next key up or down on the keyboard; black notes AND white notes included. COUNT THEM ALL! We use semitones in the example above.

–                  Tones are two semitones (really?!) or two steps on the keys so a tone up from the note of C is D. A tone up from an E is an F sharp.

–                  When I say notes, I am referring to notes in a scale so you only count those. You will need to skip notes that are not in the scale. You will probably need to refer to a major scale chart or the first url in this work sheet to figure out which notes to count while working out more complex (extended) chords explained in the example below.

–                  Start off working out extended chords which are C. ie C11 or Cmaj7 etc.

A brief rule which you can use without the need for a chart is:

Root, +tone, +tone, +semitone, +tone, +tone, +tone (and +semitone to resolve back to the root up one octave)

For ‘Sound of Music’ fans, the notes should sound like:

Doh, ray, me, far, so, la, ti, doh!

Note that the “Doh” and the “doh” are the same note but one octave apart.

Okay, that’s enough of Music Theory for now. I will do extended chords next time…

Comments: 2
  • Chris
    August 14, 2010 11:53 pm

    Thanks for the information, I’ll add a link on my site.

    • Garnish
      August 19, 2010 12:11 am

      Thanks Chris.

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