by Margaret Richer
Music theory, like any subject, consists of certain basic elements. The terms used for these elements include rhythm, pitch, melody and harmony. To understand the theory of music, various skills need to be developed in all of these areas.
Rhythm is broadly defined as anything associated with the duration or length of a sound. Notes of various shapes, held for different lengths, are joined together in patterns to form rhythm. It is first necessary to understand and learn the various note values. You must also learn to count evenly when performing rhythms, otherwise you won’t recognize your music and will confuse other musicians if playing in a group!
Pitch is used to indicate the lowness or highness of a sound. Musical pitches are given letter-names based on the first seven letters of the alphabet, and written on a musical staff. Learning to read the pitches takes patience and time, but is necessary if you want to progress further. Proper notation is also important in writing down your music.
A melody consists of an organized series of different pitches. The notes are given time values and arranged in a time
signature. A knowledge of intervals, both writing and hearing, plus the understanding of the construction of scales and key signatures are needed for working with melody.
The study of chords, a chord being three or more pitches played or sung together, is harmony. You will need to learn about the various types of chords, their construction and functions. Your understanding of chords should include both writing and aural recognition. Although not a required skill for understanding music theory, basic keyboard playing would be an asset, especially when working with chords.
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