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I don't have a link, but I will try to scan it in the next couple of days.


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keystring #1890120 05/02/12 07:16 PM
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Hey, KeyString,

This d*a*m*n*e*d Forum! Communication is virtually impossible in this medium!
Before abandoning this thread, I absolutely want to discuss your points. But first, when I wrote:
Originally Posted by LoPresti
. . . . . s/he does not know the BASIC formula involved. At that level of understanding, my feeling is that it does little good to either [1] send the individual to the internet for her/his “learning”, or [2] bombard the individual with exceptions or complexities that s/he will never comprehend.

. . . I was referring specifically to these:
Originally Posted by JulianG123
I use a website called good-ear.com. . . . . . Can someone help me understand these or link to a website that explains them(?)

Originally Posted by chrisbell
Have a look here first, then get back with any questions:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_mode
Not excerpted!

. . . and definitely NOT criticizing your well-thought-out efforts to help here:
Originally Posted by keystring
. . . the Ricci Adams site has lessons teaching about the thing, and then practice of the things you have learned. R. A.'s Music Theory

. . . or here:
Originally Posted by keystring
A small disclaimer on the Ricci Adams site that I posted earlier. . . . A much more thorough site is Teoria: " Teoria


Now, to New Business –

Originally Posted by keystring
Ed, I am going to add a different element into the mix which I believe is essential, and is a different kind of basic. Let's call it "what is real" or "what is". I was reminded at the moment when you pulled out rules of physics (how things behave) and rules of theory (constructs trying to represent human constructs - an encoding system). . . . . . The thing that is real are the pitches and combination of pitches which we call notes and chords. . . . . These are the things that exist. We have also named them (imperfectly).

So far, I could not agree more. Please go on -

Originally Posted by keystring
We then have our symbolic system on paper. That system got its form during a particular historical period and it tends to fit the music of that period fairly well. The clefs accommodate C major, specifically, and the key signatures are a perfect fit for any other major key - it's designed for the Ionian mode. Anything else has to be tweaked with accidentals, and choices start getting ambivalent. It is an imperfect artificial construct.

I will grant you that our music notation system is imperfect in the self-same sense that any WRITTEN language is an imperfect representation of its spoken counterpart. As I have offered many times before, “The map is NOT the territory”. However, musical notation, just like written language, is not “stuck in time” - it evolves, and hopefully improves, to keep pace with that which it represents - that which “is real”, and also evolving.

Originally Posted by keystring
The best reference point to stay oriented and fall back on is what is real. . . . . . I decided to make the element that is "real" a part of the teaching - this being sound.

Absolutely agree - IF one has the opportunity to incorporate sound into the teaching, connecting it with the musical notation, and with the theory, and even with the physics, that is all the better. As you know, we do not always have that luxury here on the Forum, so we must rely on giving an inquiring individual the proper steps for BUILDING the sound her/himself. We do this through the imperfect and abstract media of notation and theory. As far as I can see, it works.

Going a step further, the “artificial” and abstract medium of theory does something that sound can not: it allows us to make generalizations about sound combinations, of which chords are a good example. If I am first learning triads, using sound alone, I will need to memorize the three-note combinations for each of the 12 major chords, the 12 minor chords, the 12 diminished chords, and the 12 augmented chords. That’s 48 three-note combinations, and we have not yet mentioned inversions! In contrast, if I learn a simple formula: root + third (major for starters) + fifth (perfect for starters), I can transfer that to any root and any major key on any musical instrument. It is sort of like verb classifications and conjugations in another abstract medium with which you and I are familiar. It is not necessary to remember the endings of thousands of verbs - just which classification a verb belongs to, and how to conjugate that classification

Originally Posted by keystring
Right now the discussion is staying within the abstract artificial symbolic world. Should a student be allowed to see spellings of a minor triad [[ THIRD? ]] that you see in a diminished chord as being CD# and not just CEb? Is the CEb spelling more basic?

Well, I was not at the meeting where music theory was invented, so I can only say that the interval C to Eb is called a minor third, and it is the correct starting interval for a C diminished chord. How it was decided, I can not say, but I do know that it has been the accepted way for several centuries, and is universally known by that nomenclature.

Originally Posted by keystring
Well, if you start with the CEb, or the idea of "stacked thirds" then as student you absorb that the CEb and stacked thirds are real, and the CD# is a scary complicated exception of what is real. How many people see theory as daunting and scary? The problem with this is that the CEb vs. CD# debate both reside within the abstract symbolic world, which is also a flawed one. If, however, you start with the sound of that "minor third" and also play it then you have the real thing. This can be the point of reference to fall back on.

I am not certain this makes any difference to our present discussion, but I have never subscribed to the so-called "stacked thirds" method of chord construction. In theory, chords are built by intervals above a common tone (a root). Stacking in thirds is simply a lazy convenience, whose severe limitations are discovered very quickly.

I do not believe I ever thought of the C to D# interval as particularly scary – neither in sound, nor on the page. I will agree that some individuals consider music theory “daunting and scary”, but this is probably because:
[1] They are consulting the MIS-information on the internet for their theory lessons, or
[2] They are not digesting basics, and getting a good, solid grounding, or
[3] They are attempting to reconcile the apparent differences between more than one “school” of learning, and are getting confused, or
[4] They are not using a single, structured approach, that logically builds upon prior learning, or
[5] They are reading a thread like this one, and attempting to figure out why
A. On a piano, the C to D# interval sounds exactly like the C to Eb interval, but
B. On your violin, the D# from C is going to be played a cents higher than your Eb from C, and
C. LoPresti is maintaining that the C to D# interval is theoretically different from the C to Eb interval, or
[6] Respected individuals, who should know better, overload beginners with unmanageable amounts of irrelevant information, and the novice is drowned.

In truth, “classic music theory” (covering the gamut of serious music, pop, rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, and avant garde) is a pretty comprehensive system for examining, analyzing, and even helping teach music. It is extremely consistent and logical within itself. Like any symbolic system, there are limitations in describing the real world, but they are surprisingly few and far between. In a very real sense, instead of being “daunting and scary”, classic music theory is a rock-solid, very safe place from which to venture out, and an excellent place to which to return when presented with new, or confusing information..

Originally Posted by keystring
So in the very beginning we start with the sound of this interval and you play it and hear it; the student must do so. That thing isn't a "minor third" anyway. It is called a minor third under particular circumstances when it is spelled that way, which puts us back into the artificial construct. It *is* a sound consisting of a distance between two pitches, and that distance can be seen on the piano by the visible distance between two keys. It has a particular quality to which the ear is sensitive even before the ear can consciously hear it. This is very important.

Again, agreed. I would comment that, while this is a Piano Forum, on most instruments that distance of which you write cannot be seen. It must be either felt, or artificially constructed in some way, and here again classic rudiments and theory can come to the rescue.

Originally Posted by keystring
If in the beginning you explore this sound and these distances, then you can fall back on it over and over again. Then you don't get in the situation of using the spelling as your reference point: "We've learned the interval CEb (minor third), and here is another version of it, CD# (aug 2nd)." where one is more real or true or "simple" than the other. No - "Here is one way this quality can be spelled. CEb. Here is another. CD#". On the piano you have the references points right in front of you since distance of pitches can be seen visibly as distance between piano keys.

Again, of course, many of the visual aspects of which you write here will not apply to your violin, and even less to my trombone. I would never assert that one interval, taken by itself, is simpler, or more true than the other. However, in the context of centuries of accepted rudiments, one of those two intervals forms the start of a C diminished triad, and the other absolutely does not. I cannot see why anyone, especially someone with your learning, would argue otherwise

Originally Posted by keystring
The "real" things are:
- the sound, pitches, quality or character of intervals that we hear, and distance between the pitches both in what we hear and how they are seen on the piano
-The fact that there is a difference between what a pitch is and what it is named. I think it is very important to get this in the very beginning. Otherwise you get the false idea that the interval "is" a "minor third", with maybe the idea that it "is" that because it involves three notes. Then later you have to undo that knowledge know that it also "is" an augmented 2nd, get the fancy name of "enharmonic equivalent" or "enharmonics" and started memorizing "exceptions" without ever really having the concept that you are naming one single thing. - - The sound you hear and the distance between the pitches is the simplest reality. It's your ultimate reference point and anchor to fall back on.

Yup! It is our simplest reality, our ultimate reference point, and an anchor to fall back upon UNTIL we have to transfer that knowledge to someone else without the benefit of the sound itself. In the later case, should we handle this transfer in a random and off-handed way, or in a manner that inundates the transferee with incomprehensible details and exceptions, or shall we rely upon centuries-old, tried-and-true, universally accepted methods?

Originally Posted by keystring
All this may or may not be self-evident. But in reality I don't think theory is taught that way. Mostly it is an abstract thing. Mostly it is taught within the symbolic artificial language with sound hardly touched. Meanwhile it seems the fundamentals or rudiments are glossed over because they are not important. Suddenly we're into fancy chords which contain intervals, and we never ever explored what an interval is.

I believe your references might be to archaic, Fux-like, rudimentary music theory, as it first was invented at that meeting I missed. Modern, classic music theory can be as interesting, if not quite as vital, as the music it attempts to describe.

And of course your criticism of the methods of teaching/learning are spot-on! In fact, your “fundamentals or rudiments” being glossed over, while “fancy chords” are trotted out, is precisely the point of 90% of my writing on this thread. It is the very heart of my writing on this precise post!


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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
Satie's First Serenade for piano is littered with double-flats, [...]

I misspoke. Sarabande, not Serenade. And while the First Sarabande (written in Ab major) has some double-flats, the Third Sarabande (written in Db major) has more.

Will still scan them in.


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keystring #1890174 05/02/12 10:04 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring

Have you had a chance to look at the Theoria site that I linked before? It explains it much better.


Yes thanks alot keystring, I don't know what happened to the thread LOL


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Originally Posted by JulianG123
Originally Posted by keystring

Have you had a chance to look at the Theoria site that I linked before? It explains it much better.


Yes thanks alot keystring, I don't know what happened to the thread LOL

Julian,

What happened to the thread was that you were not around enough. As I told you earlier, I can't possibly recommend to you what you should learn or play, but I would be glad to aanswer and questions you have about scales, chords, etc.

My long, involved back-and-forths with Ed are not related to whatever I have given to you. The original topic was scales. Is there anything you want to know about them that we can answer? smile

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Originally Posted by JulianG123
Originally Posted by keystring

Have you had a chance to look at the Theoria site that I linked before? It explains it much better.


Yes thanks alot keystring, I don't know what happened to the thread LOL

Yeah, threads get weird. Meanwhile I'd be interested in how you find the Theoria site after you've had a chance to explore.

LoPresti #1890324 05/03/12 07:01 AM
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It's nice to see your thoughts to this Ed. Well we have some common ground, as I expected, and then there are some questions and room for more exploration.

I think I should explain my thoughts further about written notation. That notation system came into being a few hundred years ago. Music itself evolved and at that period had a particular form, and of course they would try to get a written notation system that would best suit music of that time. At the same time the existence of notation allowed music to evolve. The conventions themselves changed over time as they tried to improve it and worked out flaws. The system did not appear one day, perfectly minted. And even after the Common Practice period which is the basis of what we study, it continued evolving, with composers experimenting and pushing the boundaries. The rules that worked for one era did not necessarily work well for other eras - here I'm thinking more about conventions.

How about the staff and key signatures themselves? These are actually built around the idea of major scales or the Ionian mode and in particular, C major. We need key signatures for the rest. It still works quite well for all major keys - you have to tweak minor ones with accidentals. That's the music system it was built for.

Already in rudiments study, when we were asked to build whole tone and octatonic scales it no longer worked smoothly. In the whole tone there are only 6 notes in the octave plus the repeated note so one needs to be left out, but it can be any note. One of your whole tones will be spelled as a diminished third. The octatonic, meanwhile, has 8 notes instead of 7 so one note name has to be used twice. Both of these scales have no tonal center: one has only diminished chords, the other only augmented. Neither fit our notation system which was designed for 7 notes in major and relative minor keys.
Originally Posted by LoPresti

Absolutely agree - IF one has the opportunity to incorporate sound into the teaching, connecting it with the musical notation, and with the theory, and even with the physics, that is all the better. As you know, we do not always have that luxury here on the Forum, so we must rely on giving an inquiring individual the proper steps for BUILDING the sound her/himself. We do this through the imperfect and abstract media of notation and theory. As far as I can see, it works.

Now I have a clearer insight into where your thoughts are: it involves what is happening in these fora. When I thought of teaching and learning, I was thinking of the actual work between teacher and student on an ongoing basis.

I don't think much teaching can happen in a forum. We can give some information and point in the right direction. But to truly teach you have to develop concepts and experiences which help create those concepts bit by bit over time. So when I wrote about teaching and learning, I did not consider these forum discussions. But this is where you are at, so now I understand better.

I'm thinking that even if we try to set out the basic principles in a series of paragraphs, the reader has to take each element in turn and begin to explore them one by one. Getting this to go right is hit and miss, maybe mostly miss. If real learning takes place, then it happens from activities, experiences, corrections, redirection by the teacher, interaction. A single concept like "interval" needs to be developed over time. I suspect that we are in the same place on this.

Originally Posted by LoPresti
Going a step further, the “artificial” and abstract medium of theory does something that sound can not: it allows us to make generalizations about sound combinations, of which chords are a good example. If I am first learning triads, using sound alone, I will need to memorize the three-note combinations for each of the 12 major chords, the 12 minor chords, the 12 diminished chords, and the 12 augmented chords. That’s 48 three-note combinations, and we have not yet mentioned inversions! In contrast, if I learn a simple formula: root + third (major for starters) + fifth (perfect for starters), I can transfer that to any root and any major key on any musical instrument. It is sort of like verb classifications and conjugations in another abstract medium with which you and I are familiar. It is not necessary to remember the endings of thousands of verbs - just which classification a verb belongs to, and how to conjugate that classification

I had to think about that one because we are both coming from a different starting place. It may be that at one time you were confronted with the idea of memorizing 48 combinations and then found the formula as its substitute. My initial experience was several decades of not having anything named and nothing to memorize, but being sensitive to those very patterns for which I knew no names.

So my first thought was that you don't need to know any formula (by name) even. The concept of a minor chord is a sound and distances. It starts with that exploration. Whether you play a C and D# and out of curiosity you stick a G on top, or whether you play a C and Eb and stick in that G, you will still get the same sound. and you can duplicate this "minor third sound + major third" all over the keyboard. You can move the middle note up one like a light switch, and produce major chords wherever you want. If you experience this first, then you have the "minor chord sound" without being handicapped by names. Then when you do have the names it's easy stuff. This is especially so when you get something like F# major which is also Gb major. Getting theory as an experience means that CD#G doesn't raise an eyebrow. (Ran into this in a Mozart last night).

I agree about the patterns in music including the conventions for it. But also that we have to be careful that we know they are conventions, and they are not absolute.

Quote
I believe your references might be to archaic, Fux-like, rudimentary music theory, as it first was invented at that meeting I missed. Modern, classic music theory can be as interesting, if not quite as vital, as the music it attempts to describe.

Actually I was thinking of rather modern books that are currently in use. I have four different publications in my home, and the most comprehensive least over-simplified is the oldest. In the other thread I described how one such publication tried to pull away from what they have to teach.

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Doctor Detail checking in . . . . .

Originally Posted by keystring
Already in rudiments study, when we were asked to build whole tone and octatonic scales it no longer worked smoothly. In the whole tone there are only 6 notes in the octave plus the repeated note so one needs to be left out, but it can be any note. One of your whole tones will be spelled as a diminished third. The octatonic, meanwhile, has 8 notes instead of 7 so one note name has to be used twice. Both of these scales have no tonal center: one has only diminished chords, the other only augmented. Neither fit our notation system which was designed for 7 notes in major and relative minor keys.

The term OCTAVE carries with it the limiting implication that it encompasses only 8 tones, but SCALE has no such limitation. Therefore, there could always have been any number of individual tones within a Scale - witness the ubiquitous chromatic scale.

In fact, the term SCALE carries the implication of ascending and descending steps, and if most staircases have equally-spaced steps, then either the chromatic scale (baby steps), or the whole-tone scale (adult steps) is better “engineered” than most - (No steps missing.) It actually works very smoothly!

I’ll digest the rest of what you wrote for a bit.


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Originally Posted by JulianG123
Originally Posted by keystring

Have you had a chance to look at the Theoria site that I linked before? It explains it much better.


Yes thanks alot keystring, I don't know what happened to the thread LOL


Julian,

Sorry for taking your thread into Far Left Field. Gary and I are working on this stuff in another thread now. I, too, will be very interested to hear your opinion on the Theroia web site. It would be very nice to have a place where we could SAFELY refer others to the internet, in confidence, without the danger of all the MIS-information floating around. A "place" that taught correctly.

Ed


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Ed:

Whole tone scale starting at C and ending at the next C, starting at G and ending at G = the span of an octave. When you write this out, what happens? Do you see the resulting diminished third somewhere in that scale? Do you see that there is no single answer in how that scale going from C to C will be written?

Octatonic scale going from C to C. What happens there? If you actually write it out, is there only one solution like there would be if you wanted to write out a C major scale from C to C?

Is what I meant more clear?

There is more than one solution to how either of these scales are written, while there are set conventions to chromatic scales (I learned two of them in rudiments). In writing this I am assuming that you are familiar with both types of scales and have run into the question yourself as to what to do with those notes. The general principal is clear, but the choice of notes is not.

My point was that our music system was created for music that is generally based on major keys and their tonic (parallel) minor keys and is less handy for music that deviates from those constructs.

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Finishing up on something I didn't get to:
Originally Posted by LoPresti

I do not believe I ever thought of the C to D# interval as particularly scary – neither in sound, nor on the page. I will agree that some individuals consider music theory “daunting and scary”, but this is probably because:
[1] They are consulting the MIS-information on the internet for their theory lessons, or
[2] They are not digesting basics, and getting a good, solid grounding, or
[3] They are attempting to reconcile the apparent differences between more than one “school” of learning, and are getting confused, or
[4] They are not using a single, structured approach, that logically builds upon prior learning, or
[5] They are reading a thread like this one, and attempting to figure out why....

No, when I was referring to people for whom theory is an unpleasant or daunting or divorced-from-music experience, I was not thinking of people trying to patch stuff together on the Internet, or going about haphazard sporadic learning. I was thinking of theory learning happening in formal settings. I can be relatively specific here:

Take some private lesson scenarios. The teacher's students take part in RCM or ABRSM or any of these systems. Over here when the student passes grade 4 practical (playing), the first theory exam must also be passed in order to get the certificate. There is so much to be taught just in playing that there is no time for theory. So some time before the exam there is a mad dash for theory. The student is able to answer the questions in the exam but a real understanding linked to music may not have been gained. If there was a mad dash, the info also won't be retained.

- Theory is taught toward passing exam questions. The exam questions themselves and the material geared toward them present a limited and somewhat unreal version of how music works. Most of the time music doesn't even come into the picture. You will see reference to the problem in some teaching works themselves. Oxford Harmony Theory written in the 1960's tries to address the problem and states this in the preamble. (A superb book, by the way!). Materials of Western Music, one of the books used for the RCM exams in the past, refers to the problem of its limitations and tries to overcome it. Even Sarnecki, which is "the" book used in exam preparation and study, warns that it has simplified things and invites teachers to go beyond what they present and essentially to put back in what has been taken out.

There is a split between music as it is experienced in playing and maybe improvising, and theoretical music which is taught on paper. And the way it is taught on paper is complex and looks like algebra - hence daunting or scary. If you add to this exam grades, passes and fails, then it is daunting or scary.

I don't know how it is at the university level, but I have read and been told about concerns.

In any case I often have gotten this impression of a split - where music theory does not mesh with music as a real thing. Or it is a pragmatic thing --- a half step and a step as being the way to get a student to play one piano key and the key above it or similar, where a concept is grabbed to solve an immediate need.

It may actually be that those who set out to study on their own and do so systematically with some decent resources, their ears, and in instrument, and can ask intelligent questions from time to time - that they are the winners. It may also be that such a thing can be a model for some kind of future way of studying with a teacher or prof., and I am certain that the world over there are teachers experimenting with how to bring theory into the picture in a more real way.

All in all, if we don't get hung up on details and names of things we may be on similar pages.

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LoPresti #1890580 05/03/12 04:10 PM
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To finish this up and tie up loose ends:

I wanted to give a picture (literally) of what I was talking about re: the whole tone scale. The main point is that when our notation system was invented, such a thing was not thought about, and it is a less than perfect fit. The top row comes from my theory rudiments book, 3rd level, where they explain that there will be a diminished third, but that it can be placed anywhere in that scale. So we don't have any solid rule for how the notes are written, as we do for major and minor scales within key signatures.

Any chord formed from this scale will be augmented. If you take measure 2 and form a chord from D, you will get the spelling DGbBb - we lose our "triad". That's the kind of thing I ran into early on. Meanwhile the last measure (4) is "wrong" because here there is an actual rule: the octave note must be spelled the same way: you cannot start with C and end with B#.

Row 2: is my own experimentation - the question being "Must we have that many accidentals"? So I considered a key signature with 3 sharps or flats. It reduces the accidentals, but do we now have a suggestion of a tonality that may not be there?

Finally I wondered - if you wanted to write a piece of music where for some reason you go on and on in whole tones, why not invent a key signature? Point being that the existing written system was not created for this kind of music. That is the only thing that I was trying to mention in one of my initial posts. This is meant to illustrate the idea. It is why I like the idea of theory having a base in the "real".

[Linked Image]

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Your experimentation is interesting. It suggests why this is often convenient:

C D E F# G# A# C

C D E Gb Ab Bb C

Quite obviously that is not always possible, and it quickly becomes obvious that working in the whole tone system is a bit messy because we are using a notational system set up for diatonic music when the music is no longer using that system.

Debussy Preludes Book I

I hope this link works. As always the file is viewed more conveniently if downloaded, where it can be sized better.

Go to Voiles, P3, prelude no. 2

It is like a tutorial on POSSIBLE solutions to writing in whole tone. smile

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This is also interesting in terms of teaching/learning choices which is one of the things under discussion, and in terms of "basics". I studied the material that I posted at the third level of rudiments which in RCM comes just before harmony theory.
- I got to write out all kinds of whole tone, octatonic, pentatonic and blues scales
- The exam threw out scales written in various intervals and said "identify the scale type"
- We got augmented and diminished seventh chords, but I don't recall any link between the scale types and chords. It was just another thing to recognize in and of itself
- There was next to no information on how and where these are used, or even why.

So Ed, in your idea of getting rudiments first, I got them. I am glad that I have them. But it was something that I learned to do on paper and I became an expert in shoving notes around on paper like algebra. Seeing it actually being used and the choices that composer make is the other side of the equation, whether Debussy or elsewhere. That makes it real. How do we link the two sides - music and theory? Right now we have people who get to one side before the other, either way, it would seem.

Last edited by keystring; 05/03/12 09:42 PM.
keystring #1890797 05/03/12 11:56 PM
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Hi KeyString,

I do not presume to critique what you learned, but I believe there is a song (or PIECE) whose lyrics, in part, warn, “. . . a littl’ learnin’ is a dang’rous thang.”

Originally Posted by keystring
. . . The main point is that when our notation system was invented, such a thing was not thought about, and it is a less than perfect fit. . . . there will be a diminished third, but that it can be placed anywhere in that scale. So we don't have any solid rule for how the notes are written, as we do for major and minor scales within key signatures.

First of all, since we are writing out scales, we are in the realm of theory. I have agreed with you, many times, that any representation of something real (maybe ESPECIALLY music!) falls short, but perhaps not “as short” as you portray.
Modern music theory has two ways they treat the apparent inconsistency about which you write:
[1] Someone, somewhere is making the assumption that, for the whole-tone scale to be “complete”, it must include the octave, but that is not the case. In your first written example, for instance, if one CHOOSES to include the “high” C, that is simply the start of the next whole-tone scale, which may ascend from that point, or descend.
[2] Someone, somewhere is making the assumption that the whole-tone scale must be assembled from major seconds, but in modern theory, there is nothing that indicates that.
Now, (solid rules) is it random? In the self-same way that a melodic minor scale has a certain prescription that applies, depending upon whether it is ascending or descending, the whole-tone scale follows a similar set of rules.
So, an ascending whole-tone scale, starting on C: C – D – E – F# - G# - A#
A descending whole-tone scale, starting on C: C – Bb – Ab – Gb – E - D

Originally Posted by keystring
Any chord formed from this scale will be augmented. If you take measure 2 and form a chord from D, you will get the spelling DGbBb - we lose our "triad". That's the kind of thing I ran into early on.

Well, here you are referring to two different things. I can agree that ANY TRIAD formed from the whole-tone scale will be augmented. And, naturally, any combination of notes that do not follow the rules of triad construction [[ All triads are constructed from a common root, a third, and a fifth. ]] will, BY DEFINITION , not be a triad. No surprises there.

Originally Posted by keystring
Finally I wondered - if you wanted to write a piece of music where for some reason you go on and on in whole tones, why not invent a key signature? Point being that the existing written system was not created for this kind of music.

Well, you are in very good company in this arena. Béla Bártok experimented with this concept, and if I recall correctly there may be traces of this in his simple piano MIKROKOSMOS compilations.


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I am changing my response because I wrote too soon before having time to think about what I read.
Originally Posted by LoPresti
[1] Someone, somewhere is making the assumption that, for the whole-tone scale to be “complete”, it must include the octave, but that is not the case.

No scale is forced to go from a note to its octave. In music scales are shorter or longer than that. Nonetheless there are conventions about scales: In general there is only one note name per scale, so that for example you would not have Gb G, but F# G, and if you go the octave, that note has the same note name. So IF you consider a scale spanning an octave, in theory that's what is said about it.

As you also say, though, whatever rules are given in theory, in music other things are going on which may induce composers to make other choices.
Quote
So, an ascending whole-tone scale, starting on C: C – D – E – F# - G# - A#
A descending whole-tone scale, starting on C: C – Bb – Ab – Gb – E - D

My first reaction was that this is something we see in general, with flats being chose for descending motion, because that is a natural inclination. We see this also in chromatic scales. But I suspected that other things happening in music might create exceptions.

And then tonight I happen upon Debussy's Voiles, which is almost totally whole tone, and the rule you cited is broken everywhere. I see:
descending: G# F# E D C
ascending: Ab Bb C
which do the opposite. Or mixed: ascending F# G# Bb C D.
There are other things at play.

About the triads: There is still some confusion because in some context you seemed to be insisting on chords and triads, but later also said chords don't need to be triads so what you were insisting on initially is unclear. The best that I recall is that maybe you said that diminished and augmented chords have only one type of spelling which is a triad. Some kind of message got messed up.

In any case, all of what I wrote was to illustrate a main idea that I had written previously, and that is the one thing that wasn't addressed. I wrote that our notation system was designed for music in major keys, and to some extent their relative minor. Other systems weren't thought of and fit less well, and the whole tone was one example. Whether the convention about note names at the octave is true, or whether there is only one way to write an ascending scale --- these are not the main idea.

Quote
“. . . a littl’ learnin’ is a dang’rous thang.”

I'm not sure how to understand this. If you are advocating formal studies in theory, what I quoted was such. These were official studies with exams and the works. On the other hand, if there are holes, then it illustrates what I have been saying, which is that these formal studies (any!), regardless of how carefully designed and in stages, have weaknesses.

Last edited by keystring; 05/04/12 03:13 AM.
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Last edited by keystring; 05/04/12 02:03 AM.
LoPresti #1890852 05/04/12 02:50 AM
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Originally Posted by keystring
. . . The main point is that when our notation system was invented, such a thing was not thought about, and it is a less than perfect fit. . . . there will be a diminished third, but that it can be placed anywhere in that scale. So we don't have any solid rule for how the notes are written, as we do for major and minor scales within key signatures.

You are absolutely correct.

It is pointless for me to comment on that. I posted a link to Debussy's "Sails" or "Voiles" in two places. The whole piece uses only one of the two whole tone scales, and Debussy's ideas show at a glance what a thorny problem this is. But since no one here has actually LOOKED at this, we continue to generalize about rules that have NOTHING to do with what people actually write. I will only say, at this time, that the idea of ascending with sharps and descending with flats has nothing to do with this piece.
Originally Posted by Ed

Modern music theory has two ways they treat the apparent inconsistency about which you write:
[1] Someone, somewhere is making the assumption that, for the whole-tone scale to be “complete”, it must include the octave, but that is not the case. In your first written example, for instance, if one CHOOSES to include the “high” C, that is simply the start of the next whole-tone scale, which may ascend from that point, or descend.
That is one possible view. The other is simply observing what happens, in REAL MUSIC, when a composer continues a string of notes that goes to the octave limit and beyond.
Originally Posted by Ed

[2] Someone, somewhere is making the assumption that the whole-tone scale must be assembled from major seconds, but in modern theory, there is nothing that indicates that.

No one is making that assumption. There was a simple point made that if the scale continues to the range of an octave or beyond, sooner or later there will be a "bump" as our notation system cannot visually show a smooth continuation.

This is very obvious in the Debussy.

In "Whole-tone Scale" from Bartok's Mikrokosmos, Book V, the composer uses a different strategy. He confines himself to five-finger positions, to the point of notating one position in the LH with Ebb Fb Gb Ab Bb. He has chosen to present these limited positions all in major 2nds. There is no bump because he artificially constructs his system to avoid bumps, possible because of the maxium range of an augmented 6th.

The nature of these two compositions demands different solutions. Neither composer chose sharps for ascending and flats for descending.
Originally Posted by Ed

Now, (solid rules) is it random? In the self-same way that a melodic minor scale has a certain prescription that applies, depending upon whether it is ascending or descending, the whole-tone scale follows a similar set of rules.
So, an ascending whole-tone scale, starting on C: C – D – E – F# - G# - A#
A descending whole-tone scale, starting on C: C – Bb – Ab – Gb – E - D

Find me a composition that follows those rules. I've just mentioned two that absolutely do NOT. You can see the Debussy and judge for yourself. I can't link to the Bartok, which I have next to me. Copyright makes it impossible.
Originally Posted by keystring
Any chord formed from this scale will be augmented. If you take measure 2 and form a chord from D, you will get the spelling DGbBb - we lose our "triad". That's the kind of thing I ran into early on.

Originally Posted by keystring
Finally I wondered - if you wanted to write a piece of music where for some reason you go on and on in whole tones, why not invent a key signature? Point being that the existing written system was not created for this kind of music.

Originally Posted by Ed

Well, you are in very good company in this arena. Béla Bártok experimented with this concept, and if I recall correctly there may be traces of this in his simple piano MIKROKOSMOS compilations.

In the Bartok piece I mentioned, there is no key signature. In Debussy's "Sails" there is no key signature. When a composer writes something that does not start and end in a whole-tone system but wanders into it and then leaves it, he is likely to keep the signature, perhaps reasoning that suddenly leaving it and then returning to it will be more confusing. In Debussy's Dead Leaves, which I linked to with an uploaded picture of, there is another whole tone section which keeps his four sharp key signature.

But in Sails, he starts with no key signature, flips to five flats for a brief pentatonic section, then returnes to no sharps.

I refuse to spend one more second talking about rudiments. It's far more useful to watch geniuses solve problems and learn from them, and if what they do does not follow rudiments, even a bit, I will continue to say that the rudiments themselves are artificial - and useless.

Last edited by Gary D.; 05/04/12 03:08 AM.
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Originally Posted by keystring

The student is able to answer the questions in the exam but a real understanding linked to music may not have been gained. If there was a mad dash, the info also won't be retained.

What you are describing is what is often referred to as "swallow and regurgitate". It is what drives "grading" a huge amount of the time in public school.
Quote

There is a split between music as it is experienced in playing and maybe improvising, and theoretical music which is taught on paper.

This happens when people do not compose, arrange or create.
Quote

I don't know how it is at the university level, but I have read and been told about concerns.

I aced every theory exam in college, and I did not do it by cramming. I understood what was taught. But everything put together only scratched the surface of what I needed to know, which is why I spent so much time educating myself. So there are two problems: first, even in college cramming is encouraged, and many students pass exams by doing it. That explains why we have teachers who got good grades in "theory" but don't really know much about it. The second problem is that traditional music schools tend to teach totally from the perspective of Common Practice and never get much beyond that.
Quote

All in all, if we don't get hung up on details and names of things we may be on similar pages.

There are two extreme positions:

1) Your answers are only correct if the ones you give are what are expected by the people asking the questions, and almost always those are the people who make the rules and the tests.
2) Your answers are correct if they lead you towards playing better, writing music better, creating something better.

I "subscribe" to the second. But people who insist that there is one and only one correct answer to any question will never listen to a different point of view. Being hung up on details and names is their world.

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Originally Posted by Gary D.
Debussy Preludes Book I

I hope this link works. As always the file is viewed more conveniently if downloaded, where it can be sized better.

Go to Voiles, P3, prelude no. 2

It is like a tutorial on POSSIBLE solutions to writing in whole tone. smile

I love it!

I notice that often Debussy seems to be choosing sharps or flats in order to make the music proceed smoothly on the staff. For example he mixes sharps and flats in the opening figure in order to show a descending sequence of thirds without any bumps. He makes a different choice in the fourth measure, perhaps in order to avoid writing both A sharp and A flat in the same measure. On page 6 he mixes sharps and flats in an ascending figure in order to show a smooth scale ascending stepwise.

This is eye analysis only. I look forward to taking this home and finding out what wholetone feels like under the fingers, and to the ear.

Last edited by PianoStudent88; 05/04/12 10:12 AM. Reason: corrected: A sharp, not A natural

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