So, imagine you are speaking to a new coworker:
You: Hey John, I’m going to email you instructions on the project we are starting tomorrow.
John: Um, yeah, about that. Can you just call me and explain it instead?
You: I’ve already got it typed out. Let me just send it to you.
John: Yeah...that’s a problem. I can’t read. Please call me whenever you need to communicate.
Woah, that would be a problem. Right?
What about this. You’re a coach for a bunch of musicians playing basketball:
You: Alright John, next time out, I want you to set a pick for Dirk.
John: Cool, coach. First...what’s a pick?
You: John! You just set one. You know, when you...I tell you what, never mind.
This is crazy. You agree?
A common vocabulary and understanding is vital for any endeavor. For instance, I can tell you a road runs parallel or perpendicular, and you immediately visualize what I’m referring to – the shared vocabulary makes us efficient.
I believe there is a baseline in music theory we all should achieve to be effective in our bands. The idea of music theory can be scary to some of us.
If you study classical theory, you’ll learn about
- Bach chorales
- Sonata form
If you study jazz theory, you’ll learn about
- ii-V-I progressions
- Minor modes
- Tritone substitutions
These topics can make some of us feel as if we were sent to outer space. This is not the music theory that forms the baseline I’m referring to.
The baseline for modern worship bands is simple things:
- Half steps and whole steps
- Quarter notes, eighth notes, and sixteenth notes
- The dotted sixteenth note
- The number system
These are fundamentals of music – the ABCs, if you will. You can get by without them, but you will never reach your full potential.
I will be publishing Theory Thursday posts over the next few months. I have outlined twelve posts so far.
All of this will follow a strategic path. For example, I can tell you that a sentence must have a subject and a verb, but first you need to know what a subject is. In the same way, I can tell you that the chords of a major scale are made up of three major chords and three minor chords, but you first must understand what a major chord and a minor chord is.
The goal is to achieve three major objectives:
- Common vocabulary
- Understanding the rhythmic grid down to every sixteenth note
- Understanding the number system for chords
To get there, we will look at the following topics:
- Pitches / Frequencies
- Whole Steps & Half Steps
- Note Durations (Whole, Half, Quarter, Eighth, Sixteenth)
- Measures and Bars
- Time Signatures
- Dots, Rests, and Ties
- Major and Minor Scales
- Chord Basics (Triads, Major & Minor)
- The Number System
- Chords Intermediate (Diminished, Augmented, Suspensions)
- Seventh Chords
- Basic Musical Vocabulary
I can’t wait to get started on this journey, so let's begin Thursday.
Question: What theory topics do you think are essential for worship musicians? How has theory helped you?
[Image via: 123rf]