Fundamentals of music theory.


The lowness or highness of a tone; the frequency of a sound wave. The difference in pitch between two notes is called an interval. Two pitches that are either the double or the half the frequency of one another are called an octave.

Musical tuning systems, or temperaments determine the prceise size of intervals. They vary widely within and between world cultures. Internationally, a system known as equal temperament is most commonly used.


Western music theory generally divides the octave into a series of twelve pitches, called chromatic scale. The intervals between adjacent tones are called half steps. Selecting tones from this set and arranging them in patterns creates other scales, such as the heptatonic, or seven-steps major, harmonic and melodic minor and the natural minor. The pentatonic or five-tone scale is common in folk music and blues.

Music can be transposed from one scale to another for various purposes, such as accommodating the range of a vocalist. Transposition raises or lowers the overall pitch range, but preserves the intervallic relationships of the original scale.


A chord is a harmonic set of three or more notes heard as if sounding simultaneously. The most frequent chords are called triads, so called because they consist of three distinct notes. The main triads are major, minor, augmented and diminished triads.

A series of chords is called a chord progression.


A series of tones perceived as an entity sounding in succession that typically move toward a climax of tension and then resolve to a state of rest.

The basic elements of melody are pitch, duration, rhythm and tempo. It is the horizontal aspect of music.


The vertical aspect of music. Multiple melodic lines and separate, independent voices interweaving in polyphony.


The principal phenomenon that allows us to distinguish one instrument from another when both play at the same pitch and volume. Also called tone color.


The overall quality of a sound in a composition defined by the combination of the melodic, rhythmic and harmonic features. Often described in regard to density and range between the lowest and highest pitches or the number of voices.



Guitar fundamentals.