Improvising Music:  a Summary Page

 

This page summarizes essential ideas from the main page that is much longer, with more ideas & details.  I recommend reading this page first, along with the main-page Introduction that is a “why-page” describing the benefits of playing a colorized keyboard.  This is a “how-page” that will help you learn how to improve your musical skills when you improvise melodies by playing a colorized keyboard.     { But it also will be useful if you play another instrument, because our basic melody-making strategies are similar for all instruments. }

 


 

learn strategies by doing experiments:  An important part of making music is making melodies.  Your melodies (and thus your music) will improve when you learn practical melody-making strategies (that are used by all musicians, are based on principles of harmony) in a process of learning-by-doing when you do musical experiments (you try new musical ideas) to produce new musical experiences so you can listen and learn.   /   an option:  If you want immediate action, you can skip ahead to doing experiments and/or learning strategies.   /   { more about strategies for making melodies and strategies for learning }

 

the benefits of playing a colorized keyboard:  The main-page Introduction describes benefits of electronic keyboards for playing melodies,  and colorizing adds many benefits (musical, educational, psychological, time-and-life) that include helping you play music (with instantly-intuitive recognizing of the chord notes you'll use for playing harmonious melodies) and learn music theory (with the musically-logical visual structure of the colors) and time-efficiency (because you can avoid the time-costly difficulty of learning how to play with two hands, and you can specialize in one key to explore it deeply instead of learning twelve keys) so you'll have more time to also enjoy other things in life, in addition to music.

 
 

the most important chords:  Most songs (in pop, rock, jazz, classical,...) have a harmonic structure — you can “hear the structure” in their systematic changing of harmonies during a progression of chords — that is built on the foundation of three main chordsThe notes of these chords are highlighted (with red, blue, and green) on my colorized keyboard, to help you play melodies with the notes of a red chord, blue chord, and green chord.  You will be able to use these chord-notes more effectively when you...

 

understand melody-making strategies:  You can play music better when you know music better, when you understand the melody-making strategies – based on principles of harmony – that you see on a colorized keyboard.  You can learn in two ways (   ), from your discoveries and my explanations.  To begin learning, first...

scales using black &• discover patterns in the colors:  Study this colorized keyboard — but temporarily ignore the upper Bars (until later when you'll see why they are musically useful), focus only on its two rows of lower Circles — and search for patterns in each of the colors.  Then compare the patterns – Are they the same for red and blue and green? (hint: try different “starting points” for the pattern of each color, and ask “what is the best way to compare?”)   After you have discovered the musical patterns, continue reading my explanations for...

• the patterns of three chords:  When you look at the lower Circles, you'll see patterns in the red notes (LOW high high), blue notes (LOW, high, high), and green notes (LOW high high).  All three patterns are the same.  Each is a chord pattern that is formed by the “every other note” spacing (1-3-5, LOW-high-high) of a red chord, or blue chord, or green chord, where each LOW is the chord's 1-note, is called the root (or root note) of that Chord.  All of the Red LOW's – they're special, with a white dot – are “The Home Notes” (the 1-Notes) of The Key that has a “red chord” and “blue chord” and “green chord”.  These chord patterns (for red, blue, green) form the foundations of music and music theory.

 

harmonious chords and harmonious melodies:  People enjoy harmony.  When the notes of a chord are played simultaneously, we hear a harmonious chord.  When the notes of a chord are played sequentially, we hear a harmonious melody.  Both harmonies – in chords and melodiesare combined in the “full music” of a chord progression.

 

scales using black &connecting chord-colors with letters and numbers:  Music theory describes notes and chords by using numbers & numbers.  This diagram shows how one fact — that “each 1-Note is a C” because my colorizing is designed for The Key of C lets us easily translate my colors (red-blue-green) into standard letters (for chord-notes CEG,FAC,GBD  &  chords C-F-G) and standard numbers (using ordinary cardinal numerals for scale-notes 1234567 that can be chord-notes 135,461,572  and using  roman numerals for chords I-IV-V), and to reverse-translate letters & numbers into colors.  By studying the diagram, you can see the logical ways that everything is connected.     { My colorizing uses the same logical connections – between letters & numbers for notes and chords – that are used in standard music theory.  Everything is the same, with or without colors.  Nothing changes, except that using colors can make learning-and-playing easier because you can SEE the chord patterns. }

 

the music-and-time benefits of specializing:  A colorized keyboard makes it easier to quickly develop skill in The Key of C.  You have a limited amount of time you're able (and willing) to invest in playing music, and this narrow specializing lets you do wide diversifying — because you can use your time to creatively do a wide range of diverse experimenting in this key, to explore it more widely & deeply — and you can develop your musical skills much more quickly because it's easier to play skillfully in one key, instead of many keys.   But even though you're “playing in 1 key (C Major)” you can “hear in 12 keys (all of the major keys)” by telling your electronic keyboard to transpose so it automatically raises (or lowers) every note by the same amount.  Of course, using your time well is important because (as Ben Franklin wisely advised) "do not squander time, for it's the stuff life is made of."

 

the benefits of music theory:  This page has minimal music theory, only what will be immediately useful when you're using a colorized keyboard to make harmonious melodies.  But other ideas-about-music will be eventually useful.  This page ends by explaining how "you can play music better when you know music better" so knowing music theory is beneficial and fun;  and why it's easy to learn due to its logical organization into a “shared language” that we use to think about music and share our ideas;  and how my unconventional colorizing leads to conventional music theory and mainstream music playing.

 

people hear two harmonies:  When red notes (or green notes, or blue notes) are played simultaneously – to form a chord – this produces harmony;  it will sound harmonious, with a pleasant sound.  And when red notes are played sequentially – to make a melody – this also produces harmony that sounds harmoniously pleasant.  Because of this, we can...

people enjoy two harmonies:  The foundation of music theory — for all music we commonly hear, for classical, jazz, blues, rock, pop, country, folk,... — is the fact that people enjoy harmony (due to interactions between musical physics and human physiology & memory) when Chord-Notes are played simultaneously (in a harmonious chord) and/or sequentially (in a harmonious melody).  We combine both harmonies simultaneous harmony (made in chords) and sequential harmony (made with melodies) to produce the satisfying “full music” of a chord progression.

our music uses chord progressions:  Most musicians think playing melodies during a Chord Progression – using the most common chords (the red & blue & green) plus others – is the best way to make music that is interesting (due to chord changes during the progression) and is enjoyable (due to hearing the two harmonies we enjoy), that combine simultaneous harmony (in chords) and sequential harmony (in melodies).     { it's "the best way" in our culture }    { four popular chord progressions }

keyboard colorizing is designed for chord progressions:  I teach (and play) with a colorized keyboard because it's extremely useful for improvising melodies during a chord progression that is "the best way to make music," that therefore is the goal of 1o-1m-2cp below.  The first two ways to play — 1o (using only chord notes from 1 kind of chord) and 1m (using mainly chord notes from 1 kind of chord) — are less interesting than the red-blue-green of a chord progression in 2cp with 2 (or more) kinds of chords.   /   a strategy for remembering:  You can use these logical connections — 1 for 1 chord,  2 for 2 chords (at least 2, usually more), and  o for only,  m for mainly,  cp for chord progression — to remember “the notes you're using” in each of these ways to play:

 

In related ways to make music – with the ultimate goal of playing a chord progression in 2cp – you can...

1o – play melodies with only chord notes.  First play melodies that are only-red (using only red notes, only the “LOW high high” notes of a red chord).  After awhile, play only-blue melodies (using only blue notes),  then only-green melodies (using only green notes).

When you use only chord notes, everything you play will sound good.  But even if you're playing creatively — by moving rightward & leftward (upward & downward in pitch), sometimes skipping red notes, trying different rhythms — while making melodies that are only-red (or only-blue or only-green), soon this will become boring.  To make your music less boring, you can...

1m – play melodies with mainly chord notes, but also some non-chord notes, so you'll have more options for choosing notes that can make your melodies more interesting.  Begin by playing melodies that are mainly-red with mainly red notes, but also some non-red notes.  After awhile shift to playing melodies that are mainly-blue, and then mainly-green.

But no matter how well you play 1o (with either red, or blue, or green) or 2m (with either red, or blue, or green), due to the “either-or” your music will be limited.  It will be MUCH more interesting-and-enjoyable when each "or" becomes "and", when you do...

2cp – play melodies (during a chord progression) that alternate between times of only-red and only-blue and only-green.  After awhile, play melodies that alternate between times of mainly-red and mainly-blue and mainly-green.

 

How?  Below you'll find strategies to improve your playing of harmonious melodies in 1o & 1m, and 2cp.

 

Strategies for Making Melodies and for Learning

As described earlier, you will improve your musical skills by "learning practical melody-making strategies... in a process of learning-by-doing" that combines melody-making Strategies with Strategies-learning Strategies.  In this page the main focus will be Strategies for Making Melodies, but you can learn these Strategies more effectively by using Strategies for Learning that in this musical context are Strategies for Learning Strategies.   /   In this page, learning music means understanding better and playing better, by improving your cognitive-and-functional knowledge that is cognitive (to understand music) and is functional (to play music).

 

Strategies for Reading:

Maybe you'll want to read-and-use all of the strategies (inside this blue-bordered box) during a short time, with “can't put it down” excitement.  More likely, you'll read for awhile and play for awhile — to actualize the strategies so you can hear them, to help you integrate them into your playing — and then read again.  Or shift your focus to another part of life.

Most of the subsections – all those inside this kind of box (with light-gray background) – are “optional reading” so feel free to browse thru the options and choose what you want to read-and-integrate now, or to delay until later.  You don't have to learn it all now, and "sometimes instead of thinking about strategies, it can be fun (and productive) to just relax and have fun."

 

This page is written for individual learners.  But I think it also will be useful for teachers who can decide what to teach and when, to adjust a student's pace of learning, to avoid overwhelming them with too many ideas & actions, too quickly.  If you are learning independently without a teacher, you will be making your own what-and-when decisions.

Although your learning will require time, I think it will be time-efficient.  This long set of sections (inside the blue-bordered box) contains MANY ideas, and a functional learning (so you can use the ideas for playing) will require slow stop-and-go reading when you stop to play the melody-examples, or you "play a strategy" and integrate it into your playing.   /   many ideas:  These sections summarize many core ideas from two large parts of the main page – in its  Parts 1A & 1B  – plus a few “process of learning” ideas from Part 2.  Learning how to skillfully use the melody-making strategies will take some time, but this learning will be time-efficient, will take less time than with most other ways to learn, whether it's from a web-page, video, or in person.  And your learning probably will become better if this page is combined with in-person coaching.


 

two general Melody-Making Strategies

An important general Music-Making Strategy is using a chord progression because "this is the best way to make music."  While you're using this strategy, two general Melody-Making Strategies are to match harmonies (so your melody-harmony matches each chord-harmony during a progression of chords, so you're cooperating with the harmony) and to make melodies artistically (so they're interesting and enjoyable).  Below you'll find practical strategies for improving each of these skills.   /   a disclaimer:  This combination (of the two Strategies) is the most common way to make melodies, but is not the only way.  You also can use other approaches to improvising.

 

improving your Harmony Matching

 

What will you do?  In a very important strategy for making melodies (symbolized by ), you...

⊙ make your melody match the harmony:  During a chord progression (in 2cp) there is a frequent changing of the chord's harmony — it can be a red chord or blue chord or green chord (or another chord) — and to “match the harmony” you make your melody-color match the chord-color, by playing a “red melody” during a red chord so you're cooperating with the harmony, and playing a “blue melody” during a blue chord, and a “green melody” during a green chord.

 

How can you learn?  Below are two strategies for learning (symbolized by ) that can help you learn how to play more skillfully by learning how to use strategies for making melodies more effectivelyYou can...

    ⊡ begin with simplicity:  It will be easiest – and best, I think – if you begin with the simplicity of using only chord notes so you play melodies with only-red & only-blue & only-green.     { Later you can play mainly-red & mainly-blue & mainly-green by also using non-chord notes in your melodies. }

    ⊡ play harmonious melodies in two ways:  What?  During a chord progression (in 2cp) you can “hear each chord” and also “hear the chord changes” in two ways, either while you're playing melodies (that have different “colors”) or while you're hearing chords (that are different “colors”), and of course while you're doing both.   How?  This is possible because people hear two kinds of harmony sequential harmony (during melodies when we remember the sequence of notes) and simultaneous harmony (in chords when we hear the notes being played together) — so we hear two kinds of harmony changes.  Therefore, during a chord progression you can make melodies while only you are playing melodies (it's convenient, is the simplest way to begin) or (in a fun way to continue because you're now hearing the “full music” of a chord progression, with a combining of both harmonies) while you're playing along with the chords being made by other musicians;  usually the easiest way to do this is by using a video.

 

kinds of knowledge and ways to learn:  I want to help you learn in ways that develop solid foundations of music understanding and music making, to improve your cognitive-and-functional knowledge of music with knowledge that is cognitive (to understand music) and is functional (to play music).  You can learn “both kinds of knowledge” by your discoveries and my explanations.  Although you can learn “each kind” by reading and playing, reading tends to be more useful for cognitive, and playing for functional, as in playing activities () that are inventing your own melodies or playing my melodies.

You can learn from your discoveriesTwo ways to learn – from your experience and my explanations – can be effective and fun, in different ways in different situations.  Each provides benefits, so this page includes both, with explanations you read (in a or ) or play () in a musical activity when you are making your own melody, or are playing my example-melody so you can hear it, and maybe “extend it beyond my ending” with your own improvisations.   /   Beginning early in the page and continuing below, first I'll encourage you to discover, before I explain melody-making Strategies (mostly) and (occasionally) Strategy-learning Strategies.  To begin your discovering,...

 

Do red-1o by playing only-red melodies that use only red notes;  after awhile do blue-1o with only-blue melodies,  then green-1o with only-green melodies.   After you've played each 1o for awhile, in 2cp you can “alternate the colors” by playing a melody for a time of 16 beats;  first play a red melody during 4 beats (at a comfortable tempo), then a blue melody for 4 beats, and a green melody during 4 beats, and return to a red melody in 4 beats.  Then do it again.

 

You also can do 2cp in a new way that sounds more like “full music” because you're combining two kinds of harmony, sequential and simultaneous.  To begin,* use this video and watch the screen while you are listening to the sounds, are learning to hear the progression-of-chords when the harmony changes from a red chord to blue chord to green chord to red chord, that (after you translate so you understand the video screen) is from C to F to G to C.  After awhile – when you “know the chord progression” – play harmonious color-melodies (red, blue, green, red) that match the changing chord-color (by playing a red melody during a red chord, a blue melody with a blue chord, a green melody with a green chord) so there is musical cooperation between the two harmonies, in your melodies and the video's chords.

* some tips for using videos:  While you're learning how to “hear the progression,” watch the on-screen chords;  when you know the progression, close your eyes and say each chord, then open your eyes to check your responses.  This video is short (1:48) so right-click it and then click "Loop".  During your process of learning how to use the progression, you probably will want to occasionally adjust the tempo (within a wide speed-range from .25 thru 1.00 to 2.00) by clicking the “gear” icon.   /   Find progressions you like.  I'm using this one (C-F-G-C) for teaching, and other chord progressions (blues, 50's, 1564, jazz) are commonly used by musicians.     { videos with other chord progressions }

translating colors into letters and numbers:  This is useful when you're using videos and (as explained earlier) it's easy.  In the paragraph above, for any chord or melody just replace the color (red, blue, or green) with the corresponding letter (C, F, or G).  For chords, you also can use Roman numerals;  e.g. a chord progression of red-blue-green (it's C-F-G) is I-IV-V in any key, not just in C Major, so the numerals aren't colorized.   /   Below, for melodies made from notes in the Scale of C Major you replace the note-number (1,2,3,4,5,6,7) with the note-letter (C,D,E,F,G,A,B).

 

The skill of “knowing the chord progression” — so you can match your melody-harmony with each chord-harmony — combines knowing what each chord is (for this it's useful when a video shows each chord on-screen while it's playing) and (with memory & aware experience) improving your ability to “hear the chord changes” and “internalize the harmonies” in your musical memory.   /   During in-person coaching, sometimes a person learns quickly, and if they do a mis-matching (e.g. by continuing to play a red melody after the harmony changes to a blue chord) they will recognize this and shift into a blue melody.  But for another person, I may think it will be helpful to provide verbal cues;  I begin to “softly say the color” slightly before the start of each new chord, and will “distinctly say it” when the chord does change;  i.e. I'll say “rr-red” or “bll-lue” or “grr-reen” with "-" at the instant of a chord change.

 

and learn from my examples:

scales using black & You probably have been discovering melodies like “135_468_579_851_” where each "_" shows that the final note (5_ or 8_ or 9_ or 1_) lasts two beats instead of the one beat used for other notes, to produce a rhythmic structure of four 4-beat bars and a 16-beat phrase.  Play this melody and listen.  Even though each 3-note melody is simple (with one color, as in 1o) the overall result is musically complex, producing beautiful music because 2cp (with a “changing of chords” during the progression) is inherently more complex than 1o (without any chord changes).  Two other examples, of the many possible, are “135_648_9752158_” and “5318648675978531”.  Do you see any melody-making strategies illustrated in these three melody-examples?  I'm asking because my melodies are intended to be...

examples for goal-directed education:  My goal is to help you learn practical strategies for making melodies.  My examples – those in this page, plus many others – are intended to be useful for teaching.  i.e., Instead of trying to compose “hit songs” my objective is educational, to show you how melody-making strategies can be used to make artistic melodies that are interesting-and-enjoyable.  Each melody is a goal-directed Aesop's Melody that (analogous to an Aesop's Fable) is designed to illustrate a strategy, ⊙ , that you can use to improvise your own melodies.  For example, the first melody (135_468_579_851_) illustrates one way to...

⊙ use repetitions with variations:  The first three mini-melodies (135_,468_,579_) are “the same melody” repeated, just beginning on different notes.  But the different starting points prevent it from being boring, like “135_135_135_” would be.  Or instead of changing the note-pitches the melodic variation could change the note-timings with a modified rhythm, as in 1355468_5799851_ .  This general strategy — by repeating a melody (usually with variations, but sometimes with no change) — is common in all types of music.  You also can...

⊙ design melodies for chord-changes:  The other examples show two strategies for making a transition from “the old chord” to “the new chord” during chord-changes in the chord progression.  Notice how the strategies differ — in 135_648_9752158_ and 5318648675978531 — yet each “works well” to produce artistic melodies.  What are the strategies?  If you want, try to discover them and then read my explanation.  Or you can just enjoy playing-and-hearing the melodies.

 

⊙ use “artistic mystery” in your melodies:  Usually, music that is artistic – is interesting and enjoyable – is semi-predictable, with some surprises.  Why?  Because when people hear music, we intuitively follow the flow of what has been happening, and “predict” what will happen.  If there is too much sameness, we become bored.  But we get frustrated if the music is too difficult to predict.  We tend to enjoy an in-between mix, with frequent confirmation of expectations along with some surprises, in a blend that is interesting rather than boring or frustrating.   /   How?  A common strategy is to include some non-chord tones in a melody so you'll have additional notes to choose from, to make melodies that are more interesting with more variety.  One result is that the non-chord notes convert a melody from being totally-consonant only red {or only blue or only green) into mainly-red that is mostly consonant but with some dissonant tension.  This strategy for making melodies — by using non-chord notes to produce artistic mystery, with some surprising unpredictability but not too much — is explored below.    { more about producing artistic mystery with cycles of producing tension and resolving tension and with rhythmic variations on a theme }


 

improving your Melody Making

As explained above, during a chord progression I think it's best to "begin with the simplicity of using only chord notes so you're playing melodies that are only-red & only-blue & only-green" and then move onward to "playing mainly-red & mainly-blue & mainly-green by also using non-chord notes in your melodies."

 

We'll begin with basics, when you...

⊙ use three kinds of melodies:  Usually you make melodies that are mainly red {or mainly blue, or mainly green} by mixing brief times of chord-melodies (with only red notes) and brief times of scale-melodies (initially with three or more consecutive white notes, and later by also including black notes), plus occasional brief times of skip-melodies (they're “something else” you play, are “anything else” that isn't a chord-melody or scale-melody).

 

my terms and our strategies:  Although my terms — like melodies that are mainly red & mainly blue & mainly green plus chord-melodies & scale-melodies & skip-melodies — are not used by other musicians to describe melodies,* we are using the same melody-making strategies (those described with my terms) when we improvise melodies.  In this way and others, although my “colorized keyboard” approach is innovative, the results – here it's using our strategies for making melodies – are traditional, are in the mainstream of music.    /   * In common musical language, my chord-melody is called an arpeggio, and a scale-melody is just a scale.  AFAIK the strategy of skip-melodies isn't explicitly-and-consciously recommended by other teachers, although I think it (along with other strategies) can be useful by stimulating explorations and is used by other musicians.

 

As usual, you can improve your skills with melody-making strategies by learning from your discoveries and my examples.

 

You can learn from your discoveries:

While you're playing red melodies, experiment by trying new ideas (in a variety of ways) so you can listen and learn.  But if you want to use a structured progression of explorations — so you can focus on exploring possibilities with each "kind of melody" and improve your skills with each — you can...  first play scale-melodies (with only red notes);   then play scale-melodies (with consecutive white notes) that feature red notes,  and mix chord-melodies with scale-melodies;   then play these two and add skip-melodies, trying to experiment in all ways, with no conscious restrictions.

⊡ improve your skills with red, blue, green:  You want to play skillfully during all parts of a chord progression, in your mainly-red melodies and mainly-blue melodies and mainly-green melodies.  How?  One useful Strategy for Learning is using Whole-Parts-Whole so you can improve your Whole (in 2cp) by improving its Parts in red-1m plus blue-1m and green-1m before “putting it all back together” in your next Whole (2cp) with cycles of Whole-Parts-Whole, maybe using single-chord videos.

 

and learn from my examples:

During a red chord, some ways to use this concept of “three melody-types” are to...

 

scales using black &△ play chord-melodies:  Earlier you heard 12 chord-melodies, played in the 4-beat bars of three 16-beat phrases.  Two new examples are 13553585 and 5315358_ , each making an 8-beat phrase.

△ play scale-melodies:  These include 567898765 and 345654321 and 345432101, and many others.     { more examples }

△ combine chord-melodies and scale-melodies:  Two simple examples are 1354321_ and 31358765.

△ improvise extensions of my melodies:  In 1354321_.... and 31358765.... each "...." invites you to extend the melody beyond the "...1_" or "...65" by improvising for 8 extra beats, or more.  Find your own ways-to-continue with exploring, by doing experiments that produce new experiences.  You will discover some of the many extension-melodies (....) that are possible, and you can creatively play many new melodies.     { Of course, you also can invent – with improvising and/or composing – extensions for every other melody-example in the page. }

△ ignore my range-limits:  I've limited the range of my melody-examples to 10 notes (0123456789) but your continuations (with "...." improvisations) probably have included lower notes and higher notes.  By playing even a few extra notes — e.g. (with translations of numbers & letters) using “FGA0123456789efg” aka “FGAB1234567cdefg” — your melodies can become much more enjoyably interesting.

 

⊡ enjoy playful playing:  Usually, simplicity is sufficient.  If you're matching harmonies during a chord progression, whatever you do probably will sound good, maybe very good.  Even if you're just playing chord-melodies, as in earlier examples.  And it will be even easier to “sound very good” if you fluently combine chord-melodies with scale-melodies.  Sometimes instead of thinking about strategies it can be fun (and productive) to just relax and have fun, playfully playing in any ways you want.     { This page describes many strategies.  You should decide when you want to look at new strategies. }

 

△ supplement chord-melodies with skip-melodies:  Two examples are 135875431.... and 135875423.... where the underlined notes form an 8-beat phrase, and "...." invites you to extend the melody.  Or you can begin earlier.  These two melodies differ only in their final two notes.  In a fun game of exploration-and-discovery, you can try many other ways (that are not 31 or 23) to play these two notes.  While you're doing this, you will think some combinations sound better than others.  These note-combos can be used as starting points for inventing other 8-beat melody extensions;  and they can become strategy-tools ('s) that you use for making melodies.  Take your time – don't try to play fast – and try many different combinations of notes (with many different intervals between notes) and listen to the different mini-melodies, to learn from your experiences.    /    What is a skip-melody?  In the second melody – 135875423.... – two brief segments (75 and 42) are not a chord-melody or scale-melody, so each is “something else” that I call a skip-melody.  Compared with my original precise definition, a simple definition as “everything else” is more useful for encouraging creativity when you are combining chord-melodies and scale-melodies and “something else” (anything else) while you're improvising, are being freely creative.

⊡ use melody-making strategies effectively:  How?  An effective “strategy for using strategies” can be different when you do free playing (without external rhythm) and playing along (with external rhythm).  But during both ways to play, melody-making strategies – from earlier (including “three kinds of melodies”) and later – can be heuristics (defined as ways of "helping to learn, guiding in discovery") that stimulate-and-guide your exploring of possibilities when you're wondering “what else can I do, to make my melodies more interesting and enjoyably artistic?”     { two kinds of heuristics }

△ combine three kinds of melodies:  A few examples, of the MANY possible, are 1354301_ and 1354201_ and 1354021_ (these all have the same beginning, 1354, but different variations of using neighbor-notes in the final 3 notes), and 1356423_ .   /   The first example contains a brief chord-melody (135), scale-melody (543), and skip-melody (30), plus the (01).  You can see the “overlap” that occurs whenever you shift from one melody-type to another, in 13543 (with 5 in both), 5430 (with 3), and 301 (with 0).  You can see that often a     -melody” is just a “melody fragment” that is very short.

 

Above, the melody examples illustrate practical melody-making strategies when you...

⊙ emphasize target-notes:  During a melody, often some notes — usually they're chord notes, including the home-note of 1 — are “musically emphasized” by using them as target notes, and in other ways.  For example, you can...

⊙ end (or begin) on a target-note:  In two common melody-making strategies, a target note can end a phrase or begin a phrase.  Above in the “teaching examples” I've designed & chosen, most phrases end with a chord note (1,8 or 3 or 5) that is a target note.  Soon you'll see how a common strategy – that uses target notes to begin phrases – can help you produce a smooth flow-of-melody during a chord progression.

⊙ use passing notes:  While playing a scale-melody (commonly called a scale), passing notes (aka passing tones) are used to move between chord notes that are target notes;  e.g. in 54321 the passing notes are 4 and 2.

⊙ use a neighbor note:  A common strategy is to approach a target note from either one-note-below or one-note-above.  Each of these is a “near neighbor” of the target note, is a neighbor note.  For example, you can approach 1 from its lower neighbor-note (...01) or its upper neighbor-note (...21);  or use both (...021 or ...201) to form an enclosure that can also include 1 (...01201 or ...02101).  Usually a target note is approached from one semitone below (as in ...01) or two semitones above (as in ...21) but not always, as with (...45) or (...43).  Another chord note (not 1) can be a target note, as in my examples with ...65 and ...23.  Or it could be any note in a blue chord (4,6,8) or green chord (5,7,9), as you'll see in the "chord changes" below, after you take advantage of...

Here is an opportunity for discovery:  if you want, re-examine two earlier examples – but now with more knowledge than you had earlier – and again try to discover the strategy(s).  And then read my explanation below.

⊙ use neighbor-notes for chord changes:  Earlier, two examples illustrate strategies for producing a smoother melodic flow between chords when changing from “the old chord” (at end of one bar) to “the new chord” (at start of next bar) during a chord progression.  Both examples use neighbor notes for the old-to-new transition, and the target-note is a chord note in the new chord.  For each chord change in 135_648_9752158_ the neighbor-to-target transition continues the previous directional flow, either upward in pitch (135_6 and 48_9) or downward in pitch (97521).  But in 5318648675978531 each neighbor-to-target transition reverses the previous flow (in 186 and 867 and 978), consistent with the quick up-and-down zigzag “shape” in the middle part of this melody.   /   I won't say much about melodic contour (aka melodic shape) here, will just invite you to examine both melodies and discover the up/down shapes within each.  Then look at my analyses for the first melody (overall it's up-down-up) and second melody (it's down-zigzag-down).   /   If you've also been experimenting with playing chords (in addition to playing melodies) you probably have discovered the value of chord inversions — like playing red-blue-green-red chords as 135-146-257-358 instead of 135-468-579-8 10 12 — to make smoother transitions between chords, with a nice directional flow in the top notes.

⊙ design melodies with unifying flow:  A worthy artistic goal is making melodies that flow smoothly through the chord changes of a progression.  This produces a unified melody that maintains melodic integrity when its red melody is followed by the blue melody and green melody and red melody.  The unifying could be due to “melodic flow” as in the two chord-change examples above.  Or due to a theme-with-variations, as in my first example-melody.

 

⊙ play some black notes:  When playing melodies with a “blues sound” – as in rhythm & blues, sometimes in jazz and rock – musicians typically use some “blues notes” that are black notes, especially the flatted notes of 3b (3-flat, below a chord's 3-note, it's in the Scale of C Minor) and 5b (below its 5-note) plus 7b (it's in Scale of C Minor, and in the 7th chords often used for a blues progression).

⊙ play different kinds of scales:  A scale-melody (with consecutive notes) can use only white notes, or use all notes – both white and black – as in 3-4-5b-5 and 3-3b-2-1 or 1-2-3b-3-5-5b-4-3.  Many musicians also use blues scales that include blues notes and are closely related to pentatonic scales.   /   One kind of musical imagery is “thinking ___” and filling the blank with classical, or blues, jazz, rock, or popular.  Sometimes I find it useful to “think classical” while playing white passing notes, and “think blues” while also mixing in black notes.  But there is a “thinking classical” feel in some melodies with black notes, as in a video by Chris Houston.     { more about using blues notes & blues scales }   { two meanings for scale and many kinds of scalesdiatonic, chromatic, pentatonic, blues – plus modes }

 
 

⊙ produce tension-and-resolution:  People tend to enjoy artistic mystery in music that "is semi-predictable with some surprises... but not too much... in a blend that is interesting rather than boring or frustrating."  To make this kind of music, "a common strategy is to include some non-chord tones in a melody."  These notes "convert a melody from being totally-consonant only red {or only blue or only green) into mainly-red that is mostly consonant but with some dissonant tension."  Typically a listener won't consciously interpret this music as being dissonant with tension, but they will subconsciously sense it with their musical intuitions.  Many melody-making strategies — including all that add variety by using non-chord notes with scale-melodies and/or skip-melodies, especially when also using black notes — produce some dissonant tension.  Usually this is pleasant for a listener IF the dissonance isn't too harsh and it doesn't continue for too long.

an example of producing tension:  During a red chord, for awhile there is dissonant tension in 135864201.... before it resolves to 1.  I like this melody.  One reason is because instead of being just mainly-red (with a long skip-melody) it “sneaks in” a short chord progression of 135864201 with “red-blue-green,red” chord-melodies, all played during a red chord.  Due to this, there is a time (4 beats) of harmony mis-matching with a blue melody and green melody during a red chord.  My recognition of this motivated me to...

⊡ do experiments with harmonic tension:  After playing this melody by itself on a keyboard, I “checked it for dissonance” by playing it along with this video that's a red-chord vamp.  I thought the melody still sounded good.  Then I began experimenting with different kinds of mismatches — by playing each non-chord note (0,2,4,6,7,9) with different lengths of time & rhythms — and confirmed some principles I already knew, had learned from personal experience and from other musicians in their videos & web-pages.  One principle is that when playing blue notes during a red chord, 4 produces more dissonance than 6.  Why?  It's because 4 is one semitone higher than 3 (a chord note), and when you play both together you will hear the dissonance.  This is the motivation for a common feeling in jazz, that 4 is an “avoid note” or (more accurately, according to expert musicians) it's a “use-with-caution note” because although it does produce dissonance, this can be acceptable (even enjoyable) when it's done well, with artistic taste in some musical contexts.  But we can hear some dissonant “harmonic tensionduring the playing of any non-chord note, and then the satisfaction of a consonant “harmonic resolutionwhen it's followed by a chord note, especially a nearby chord note.

 
options:  Below, you can read the sections – with a variety of topics – in any order.  Browse thru the sections, looking at titles, and make choices.

 

⊙ use other melody-making strategies:  In this page my overall strategy for improvising is to use a chord progression by matching harmonies and playing artistic melodies.  Why?  Because this is the most common way to make melodies, it's my favorite way to play, and my keyboard colorizing is designed for this way of playing.  But it isn't the only way.  For example, many useful melody-making strategies are in a reddit thread, Tips for Writing a Melody. [[ iou – in early June I'll describe a few key ideas from this thread, and will find other sources-of-ideas.]]   Also, musicians tend to play different musical melodies with different musical instruments, and we can use the differences.   We also can use different music-making strategies that have a broader scope than melody-making strategies.

Another useful strategy is to...

 

△⊙ play old melodies by ear:  Just play old (familiar, pre-composed) melodies that you already know, can remember.  This is fun, and it will help you improve the valuable skill of converting musical ideas into musical sounds.  While you're doing this you'll make mistakes, but your experiences will help you improve your skills.   /   If you're curious, later (iou) I'll describe some details about the process that converts your imagining of note-intervals into your playing of note-intervals and (with experience) you improve your ability to convert musical ideas into musical sounds.  But it's much more important just to do it (in your playing) than to understand it (in your thinking).

 

⊙ modify an old melody to make new melodies:  When you're playing a song with a familiar melody, you can alternate times when you...  A) play the old melody as-is;   B) modify it to form semi-new melodies that are slightly different (with some unfamiliar musical mystery) but not totally different, so your melodies can be recognized as variations of the old melody;   C) play a completely new melody that uses the same chord progression as the old melody.  In jazz, often the musicians will move from A thru B to C, then sometimes return to the familiarity of B and A.     {more}

 

⊡ sing melodies, both old and new:  You may find (as many people do) that this is an easy way to make music, because singing gives you an efficient connection between thinking and doing, with intuitive translating of your musical ideas — about an old melody (remembered by you) and/or a new melody (imagined by you) — into musical sounds (produced by you).  It may be easier to translate ideas-into-sounds when you sing without words.  But... if your singing doesn't give you "intuitive translating" now, after some practice it probably will.   /   And singing can help you discover new melodies that you can remember and then “play by ear” on the keyboard. 

 

⊡ play only black notes:  When you play an only-black melody, you cannot “make a melodic mistake” and (as with only-red) everything you do will sound fairly good, although you'll think some ways-to-play sound better than others.  Playing only-black can be done with five different home-notes, each producing a different 5-note pentatonic scale.  Try each, and listen.  The two most commonly-used are a Minor Pentatonic Scale & Major Pentatonic Scale, with home-notes of 3b & 5b.    { some tips for playing only-black }

⊙ play some black notes, Part 2:  When these two scales (Minor Pentatonic & Major Pentatonic) are used in the Key of C — by shifting each scale so its home-note is 1 — both scales can be slightly modified, and maybe combined, so they become three kinds of blues scales (minor, major, hybrid) that – similar to blues notes – are useful for playing “blues melodies” with some black notes.

 


 

△⊡ thoroughly explore within a limited range:  For example, play 153vwxyz where "vwxyz" is any notes you want to play, but... with the self-limitations that each note stays within the range of 1 to 5 (it must be 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5) and no notes are repeated (as in ...44...).  Even with these limitations, you'll have 1024 options (= 4x4x4x4x4) for melodies.  Wow.  And if you expand the range of notes to 0123456 (by including 0) or 0123456 (with 6) or 0123456 (with both) you can play melodies that are more numerous, and more musical.  Or try repeating notes, as in 15314465.  Of course you won't want to play all possibilities, but by systematically exploring your options — by asking “what can I do next?” (for v) and “then what?” (for w), and so on — you will discover some fascinating new melodies, using options (for 2-note intervals, 3-note combinations,...) that you've never tried, that you wouldn't find by “just playing” without a plan to intentionally explore.  How?  You probably will want to explore by playing freely.

 

⊡ increase creativity by decreasing limitations:  You can liberate yourself from some of the limitations that have been restricting you in your choices of notes & rhythms, and in other ways.  This is one application of a general strategy for increasing your ==== [[ iou – to be continued, using ideas from here ]]

 

iou – Other strategies (for making melodies and for effective learning) that will be here soon – in late June – are...

• how to use strategies as practical heuristics (short-term and long-term), to stimulate ideas for exploring-with-experimenting.

 

 

 

RHYTHM

You can make melodies by using two main kinds of strategies, with your note-choices (described in the 's above) and (in this section) with your rhythm-choices.  A common rhythmic strategy is when you...

⊙ use rhythmic adjustments to play more notes:  These five melodies — 1352431_ and 135243201_ and 13524320121 and 135243210123 and 13524321_ — all have the same beginning of 1352 but their endings differ in the number of notes.  By experimenting, find rhythmic adjustments that make each melody “fit into the available time” in the final 4-beat bar & total 8-beat phrase, and sound rhythmically musical.  {there are three ways to make 4321_ sound musical, and doing each is more complex than for the other melodies, but keep trying and you'll get it.}   Then continue reading.   /   For each melody, the basic rhythmic adjustment is to play the underlined notes faster so they are shorter, lasting half as long.  How?  This is shown below, with each character (either numeral or dash) being 1/2 beat, to make 8 total beats.  {in the language of music, each character – numeral or dash – occupies the space of an eighth note because each occupies 1/8 of a 4-beat bar}   In each beginning (135–2–) the font is un-bold and is smaller, because these notes are less important in your experimenting.  In fact, I recommend starting each “rhythmic experiment” with "4..." and later, after you've discovered a new rhythm and are comfortable with it, play the entire melody from the beginning, with "135–2–4...".   Here are seven melodies with different rhythms;  the first is familiar (you've played it many times) and the others are new.

     135–2–4–3–1- - -

     135–2–43201- - -

     135–2–4320121-

     135–2–43210123

     135–2–4–321- - -

     135–2–432–1- - -

     135–2–43–21- - -

     The final three melodies have two “fast notes” and a “slow note” that can be placed in three different positions.  The third example (...43–21- - -) has one syncopated note — the 2 that is played on the off-beat, on the second half of a beat — making it more difficult to play, but a valuable skill to learn because it lets you play with musically sophisticated rhythms.

     You also can make each melody “fit into 4 beats” using other rhythms, but my examples are the simplest ways.

 

⊙ sometimes play swing rhythms:  Musicians often do this because we like the way it sounds.  What?  Instead of playing eighth-notes with equal length, we “play one a little bit longer.”  How?  To understand the concept – and use it in your music – you'll learn better by hearing examples-and-explanations in videos from David - Scott - Mark - Nick - SaxComp.   /   When?  Many styles of music use a swing rhythm (or similar shuffle rhythm) sometimes, or even often;  an AI Overview says "swing rhythm is used throughout various styles, not just in swing jazz or blues music;  in musical styles such as jazz, rock, or country..." and Wikipedia says "swing is commonly used in swing jazz, ragtime, blues, jazz, western swing, new jack swing, big band jazz, swing revival, funk, funk blues, R&B, soul music, rockabilly, neo rockabilly, rock, and hip-hop."

 

⊙ sometimes play different rhythms:  Often, playing faster is better – e.g. it lets you play more notes – but not always.  Sometimes slower is better.  Playing with a consistent rhythm can be artistic, but so can playing with rhythmic variety.  When you read my waffle words — sometimes, often, but not always, sometimes, can be, so can — you'll probably think “there are no rules.”  This conclusion is correct.  But there are useful rhythmic principles, plus the general musical principle of using artistic mystery because people usually enjoy music that "is semi-predictable with some surprises... but not too much... in a blend that is interesting rather than boring or frustrating."

⊙ repeat a theme – with rhythmic variations:  [[ iou – I'll develop this strategy-paragraph based on repeating a theme including my comment that “135_135_135_” would be boring, but... it could be interesting if the repetition is used artistically, as in Beethoven's 3rd (an example used by Aimee Nolte in her video about "motif") or in other ways;  plus other related ideas. ]]

⊙ sometimes play nothing:  This can be an artistic way to produce rhythmic variety in your melodies.  Instead of constantly playing notes, adding brief silences (called rests) can be a nice “change of pace” in your rhythm, with a blending of notes and rests.

 

develop-and-use rhythmic skills:

What to use?  Some essential skills are using rhythmic adjustments to make your melodies “fit into the available time” (within a bar or phrase) in musical ways, with smoothness and continuity, with artistic cooperation between your note-choices and rhythm-choices;  playing with precision & accuracy.

How to develop?  The main way to develop these skills is with “disciplined playing” when there is external rhythmic accountability – as when playing along with a metronome or backing track video – so you are getting feedback about your rhythmic quality, re: fitting notes in, playing smoothly with precision & accuracy.  But it also can be useful to play slow-and-free so you can do experiments with rhythmic adjusting.  With experience you'll find ways to combine note-choices and rhythm-choices so they cooperate well, are working together to make your melodies be interesting and enjoyable.   /   * The external rhythm is a reminder, with feedback that motivates you to make quick decisions so your playing stays on-tempo and in-rhythm.  And to “play thru mistakes” and produce the rhythmic continuity that is especially important when you're playing with other musicians, who will appreciate how you're helping the group play well together.

 

 

⊡ free playing and playing along:  It's useful to sometimes “play freely” (without external rhythm or harmony) and sometimes “play along” (with external rhythm and/or harmony) because each way-to-play produces a distinctive kind of experience.  Each is useful in different ways, so learn in both ways by alternating between them.  When you are playing freely (with no external rhythm “pushing you to play faster”) it encourages you to use more time for being creative, for exploring new ways to play.*  When you are playing along (so there is external rhythm to provide rhythmic feedback, as with a backing track video), this is disciplined practice that helps you develop rhythmic skills.   You also can decrease the tempo of a video, for a “hybrid experience” that combines some benefits of both by giving you more time (for creativity) while you're getting rhythmic feedback.   /   * Your “free playing” can be creatively productive by helping you break out of familiar habit-ruts, because you have more time to intentionally try unfamiliar sequences-of-notes so you're using the notes in new ways, and this makes it more likely that you'll discover new ways to make music.    { increasing creativity by decreasing limitations 

 

two kinds of heuristics:  [[ iou – melody-making strategies can be used as heuristics (defined as ways of "helping to learn, guiding in discovery") to stimulate-and-guide your exploring of possibilities {useful especially for free playing but also while playing along} -- another definition for heuristics – "mental shortcuts that allow people to... make judgments [about which notes to play while making melodies] quickly and efficiently" – is mainly useful for improving your rhythmic continuity (melodic continuity) when playing along. ]]

 

⊡ use a Learning Objective and/or Performance Objective:  When you want your best possible performance now, you have a Performance Objective.  When you want your best possible learning now, so you can improve your best possible performance later, you have a Learning Objective.   For example, compare a basketball team's early-season practice (with a Learning Objective, wanting to learn NOW so they can perform better LATER) and late-season tournament game (with a Performance Objective, wanting to play their best NOW).   /   The title is "and/or" because your highest priority can be to maximize your learning now, or your performing now, or some combination of both.

[[ iou – Soon, maybe June 21-23, I'll revise this sub-section, will connect it with music - using free/along [[also, @single-chord vamp-drone]]

[[ You can "perform better later" in two ways.  First, if you have learned from experience your potential performing has improved, so you can do better.  Second, this potential must be actualized by converting “can do better” into “are doing better” with high-quality actual performing.   How?  The preparation & performance will be different in different contexts, e.g. for basketball vs music, or for pre-composed music (that often, for high quality performing, must be played "just right" in one way) vs improvised music (that can be performed in many ways with high quality).   How? 

[[ a general principle is to... practice in living room as if in concert hall (with quality), then play in concert hall as if in living room (with relaxed concentration, letting you play with the quality you have developed during practice) ----

[[ in late-season practice the team's main Learning Objective is to promote better performing in the near-future tournament game, by doing the learning (in practice now) that will improve performing (in the game).  You can use a strategy of “learning to perform” in any area of life, including your musical improvisations.     { more and more }

 

⊡ maybe connect improvising-and-composing:  In this page I've described the action of making melodies in many ways, as making, playing, inventing, creating, designing, composing, and improvising.  There are close connections between improvising and composing.  When we think flexibly about the timing of music making, we can view improvising as real-time composing, and composing as slow-motion improvising.  Also, with composing there is a preserving of musical results — as in my simple system of using note-numbers (0123456789) for melody examples — so the musical composition can be reproduced at later times.  The paragraph's title begins with "maybe" because you may never want to convert your improvisations into compositions.  But if you do, the conversions can be easier if you play freely, slowly;  and if you play faster, record your improvisations so afterward you can listen-and-preserve.     { hearing music and making musicpre-composed & self-composed }

 

 

 

⊡ improve 1m's to improve 2cp,

in cycles of Whole-Parts-Whole:

 

What?  Most musicians think "the best way to make music" is to use a chord progression, so my goal is to help you do this more skillfully.  An effective way to pursue this goal — of improving your skills when improvising melodies during a chord progression in 2cp — is to alternate times of doing the Whole (in 2cp) and its Parts (in 1m's).     { What are the ways to play in 1m and  2cp? }

How?  You will improve your skill during 2cp – when you are playing short mainly-red melodies and short mainly-blue melodies and short mainly-green melodiesby improving your skills with each color, by fully focusing on that color during a red-1m (playing long mainly-red melodies) or blue-1m (playing long mainly-blue melodies) or green-1m (playing long mainly-green melodies) or a minor-1m (playing a mainly-minor melody during the minor chord of many common progressions).

Why?  Focusing on each melody-color is useful because although the isolated chord-note patterns (with “every other white note”) are identical for all three colors, each overall pattern is slightly different due to the “visual context” provided by black notes, and some visual cues (used for choosing notes) are slightly different.   /   You can hear an important difference when you play a five-note major scale starting on 1 (it's 1-2-3-4-5) and then starting on 4, because to sound “the same” (i.e. to sound melodically analogous) you must play 4-5-6-7b-8 instead of 4-5-6-7-8, where 7b is called 7-flat.     {[ iou - photo with colorizing of Bb's ]}

Why?  Will playing 1m be boring?  Maybe.  Earlier I say "no matter how well you play [1m]... your music will be limited;  it will be MUCH more interesting-and-enjoyable... when you do 2cp" with the full music of chords plus melodies.  Or maybe not.  Even though 1m (red, blue, or green) has a pragmatic purpose – to pursue the goal of improving 2cp (it's the destination) – I also enjoy the journey with the simplicity of being able to fully focus on creatively improvising melodies during the single chord of each 1m.  You also can enjoy this musical experience.

 

How?  Because people hear two harmonies, you can do a red-1m (or blue-1m or green-1m) in two ways, by playing alone or by playing along with other musicians, either live (in a jam session) or recorded (with a backing track video or in other ways).

 

What?  After you have “taken it apart” so you can improve your skills with the separate 1m-Parts — with making melodies based on each of the main major chords (red, blue, green) and maybe also a minor chord — you can “put it back together” by combining the 1m-Parts into a 2cp-Whole in a chord progression, when you are making your melodies match the chords.   /   These actions (doing Parts-Whole) occur in the context of a continuing cycle (Whole-Parts-Whole-Parts-Whole-...) that will help you improve your musical skills.

How?  During each kind of 1m (red, blue, or green) you have increased the quality for that kind of melody (mainly red, or mainly blue, or mainly green) while you're playing long-melodies.  When you move from 1m's back to 2cp, you'll want to maintain this higher quality in the shorter-melodies (mainly red, or mainly blue, or mainly green) that you're now playing during each chord (red, blue, or green) in the chord progression of 2cp.   /   This strategy is analogous to practicing long tones with musical instruments, with brass (trombone, trumpet,...) and woodwinds (saxophone, flute,...) and strings (cello, violin,...).  A player first increases the quality of their tone (by focusing on this goal while practicing long-tones) and then tries to maintain this higher quality (during the short-tones of regular playing).

 

How?  You can use videos for Whole-Parts-Whole.

    videos for the Whole:  You can do whole-2cp in two ways, when only you are playing, and when you're playing with others.  There are several ways to “play along” (including jam sessions) but here I'll describe the convenience of using videos that are backing tracks – with rhythm and harmony but no melody – so you're free to improvise any new melody you want, rather than an old melody or variations of it.   For whole-2cp, use a multi-chord video and learn how to “internalize” the chord changes during chord progressions with chords that are only major {simple & blues} or are major-plus-minor {50's & 1564 & jazz} or in other progressions, at a tempo you choose.     { progressions with a minor chord }

    videos for the Parts:  You can do partial-2cp (it's a 1m) in two ways, with only you playing, and while playing with others by either playing along or playing free with two kinds of single-chord videos.  For 1m, usually you'll want to play along by using a video with rhythm, in a rhythmic single-chord vamp (for a red chord C or blue chord F or green chord G) at different tempos.  But for 1m with free playing you can use a video without rhythm, in a non-rhythmic single-chord drone (for a red chord or blue chord or green chord) so you'll have more freedom to creatively explore melodic possibilities.

    Because you probably have been playing major-chord melodies far more often than minor-chord melodies, you may find it especially useful to practice partial-2cp's (1m's) with...

    videos for minor chords:  These chords occur in the most common progressions for songs, using A Minor (in 50's & 1645) or D Minor (in jazz).  You can hear them in videos for whole-2cp (for 50s - 1564 - jazz);  and also for 2cp-parts (i.e. 1m's) in rhythmic vamps (for A Minor or D Minor) and non-rhythmic drones (for A Minor or D Minor).

 

scales using black &colorizing for Major and Minor:  On my colorized keyboard, the red-blue-green Circles (in two lower rows) are for notes of Major Chords, and red-blue-green Bars (in two upper rows) are for notes of Minor Chords.  As explained in "the patterns of three chords," all Circles with a white dot are home-notes in the Key of C Major.  Similarly, all Bars with a white dot are home-notes in the Key of A Minor.  On the keyboard below, the home-notes are 1 and 8 for C Major,  are A and 6 for A Minor.

scales using black &△ play major & minor melodies:  Play mainly-red melodies in C Major, using 1 and/or 8 as a home-note(s).  Then play mainly-redbar melodies using A and/or 6 as home-note(s).  For both keys, of course you can use notes lower than A and higher than X.   /   Of the many possible melodies for A Minor, four are 68X9876_ and 643121A_ and 6532123568756___ and A13687643120A___ .

△ compare major & minor chords:  Play chords of C Major (by simultaneously playing 1-3-5) and C Minor (with 1-3b-5) where 3b is 3-flat, listen and compare the difference in sounds.  Also compare the major & minor chords in two other inversions, 3-5-8 vs 3b-5-8, and 5-8-X vs 5-8-Xb.   /   Then play the chord of A Minor, with (A,1,3,6,8,X aka A,C,E,A,C,E) in different combinations and inversions, compared with (1,3,5,8,X aka C,E,G,C,E).

 


iou – There will be a few minor revisions in this final section, although it's mostly-finished now.

 

you can understand music theory:  You shouldn't be worried that basic “theory” will be complex or difficult, because it isn't.  It's just a way to describe musically-logical patterns by using a “language” that musicians understand, that we have found useful for thinking about music and communicating with each other, and for making music.  How can you learn?  The logical organization of Music Theory will help you understand music and play music.  My clear-and-thorough explanations for the Key of C Major and A Minor will help you construct a solid foundation with deep understanding of these keys, and then you can “use logical analogy” – plus The Circle of Fifths – to develop a deep knowledge of all keys.    /   * In case you're wondering, my unconventional colorizing (with red,blue,green) leads to conventional music theory and mainstream music playing.

music theory offers many benefits:  Knowing music theory isn't necessary, but it's useful.  Yes, “without theory” you could play skillfully by just “playing creatively with the colors” of red and blue and green because these are the main chord-notes of mainstream music.  But I encourage you to learn the logical language of music theory.  Why?  Because "you can play music better when you know music better," when you develop a cognitive-and-functional knowledge of music theory that is cognitive (to understand music) and is functional (to play music).  Playing a colorized keyboard "is an excellent way to improvise melodies" and is an effective way to learn music theory (partly due to its visual structure that is “simple yet significant”) and it offers many valuable benefits (for time-and-life and in other ways).

 

unconventional colorizing ➞ conventional music:  In case a traditionalist scoffs at the concept of “music by colors,” in the educational benefits of colorizing I explain why "although my approach (using a colorized keyboard) is innovative, the educational results are traditional, are conventional" so it will help keyboard-users "play music and learn theory that are in the mainstream of music."  And a colorized keyboard — with a visual structure that is simple (with pitches increasing from left to right) yet significant (with important “musical meanings” for the patterns in white & black notes, and in red & blue & green notes) — is an effective way to learn the logical patterns of music theory because a learner can SEE the musical patterns, helping them help them understand music theory and play musical melodies.

 


terms for timings – rhythm, beats & bars, tempo, and phrase:  The basic unit of rhythm is a beat – you “tap your foot” with each beat – and a bar (aka measure) typically has 4 beats;  but it's 3 beats-per-bar for a waltz.  The “speed” of a song – the tempo of its beats – can be slow or (with a higher rate of beats-per-minute) faster.   /   A phrase is "a series of notes that sounds complete, even when played apart from the main song" or "the smallest musical unit that conveys a more or less complete musical thought."  A phrase often lasts 16 beats (4 bars), but it can be shorter or longer.

 

pitches and intervals:  The pitch of a note is “how low (or high) it sounds.”  On a keyboard, pitches are lowest for notes on the left side, and the pitch steadily increases when moving rightward.   /   An interval is the difference in pitch between two notes.  The smallest interval – a semitone – is the interval between any two adjacent notes.  If the interval is two semitones, it's called a tone.    [[ iou – probably this ending (in small green) will be moved to another page ---- In a major chord (like 1-3-5-8) the main intervals are a major third (aka major 3rd, M3) of 4 semitones {1 to 3},  and minor third (minor 3rd, m3) of 3 semitones {3 to 5},  and fourth (4th) of 5 semitones {5 to 8};  but three other intervals are a fifth (5th) of 7 semitones {1 to 5},  an octave of 12 semitones {1 to 8},  and sharped fifth (flatted sixth) of 8 semitones {3 to 8}.  Other commonly used intervals are a second (it's 2 semitones, 1 tone), tritone (6 semitones, 3 tones), sixth (9 semitones), flatted 7th (10 semitones), and natural 7th (11 semitones) aka 7th.     { The intervals are 4,3,5 semitones in a major chord, and 3,4,5 in a minor chord, with a reversal in the sequence of two intervals. }

 

 

 

 
My three-color system for harmonious improvising – invented by me in the late 1970's – is Copyright ©1998 by Craig Rusbult, all rights reserved.
 
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