39. Dominant Motion

In this lesson we are going to be talking about dominant motion. I'm going to give you some great examples (plus 2 exercise) showing you how to utilize dominant motion in your arrangements to fill out the harmony. You'll also learn about your diatonic seventh chords and how to create diatonic seventh chords in ANY […]

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1. Endless Improvisation Lines

In this episode, you'll learn how to create endless improvisation lines over a steady accompaniment. In This Episode You'll Discover: The different parts of improvisation (1:18) Improvisation ingredients (2:47) Rhythm improvisation (4:20) Endless improvisation lines (7:48) Putting it all together (9:50) Improvisation combinations (11:54) Three elements of improvisation (16:40)

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Rhythm Exercises, Free Advanced Tips for Piano Power

In this article, our third in the "Rhythm Exercises" series, we'll be looking at some advanced and challenging rhythms. These are really meant to test your rhythmic understanding and execution, so if they're too difficult, don't worry. Start off with our Part 1 and Part 2 rhythmic exercises, master those, and then build up to […]

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Secondary Dominant Chords - What Are They?

In this article we are going to demystify secondary dominant chords and the confusion that often accompanies this music theory topic. Even if you've never heard the term "secondary dominant chords" before, you've probably encountered them regardless of what kind of music you like to play. That's because secondary dominant chords are present in all […]

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Understanding Meter in Music

Understanding meter in music might seem like a fairly simple concept. When discussing meter we usually discuss the time signature, which indicates how many beats will occur in each measure and which subdivision will be counted as the underlying beat. These concepts seem quite simple when looking at examples such as 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 […]

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Jazz Theory - The Major Bebop Scale

Jazz theory is not a separate subject area from music theory, although many people think that music theory and jazz theory require separate forms of study. Take it from someone who has attended many music theory and jazz theory classes at the university level - it's all the same stuff. So why, then, is jazz […]

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Chord Tones, Guide Tones, Passing Tones

Chord tones, guide tones, passing tones... so many TONES! What are they? How do I make sense of all of them? Is it really going to help me better understand music? Although the names can start to blend together and get confusing, chord tones, guide tones, and passing tones are a big part of music […]

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Harmonic Analysis: A Step-By-Step Approach

Harmonic analysis is an incredibly important key in unlocking the mysteries of music. By understanding and using harmonic analysis we can answer questions such as "what was the composer thinking about (musically) when he/she wrote this music?" Or, "what chords are being used to make this song sound so good?" Or, "what role are each […]

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Polychords: What Are They?

Polychords are everywhere in music - all kinds of music. And yet polychords are often not fully understood, or even worse, are viewed as "scary" and "difficult," leaving students to dismiss them as too advanced for their own understanding. Well, polychords are not too scary, difficult, or advanced. In fact, they are sometimes used to […]

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Diminished Scale Theory

Diminished scale theory is usually seen as a dense and confusing topic that is reserved for advanced theory and harmony classes at the university level. Many advanced masterclasses have featured some of the world's greatest musicians talking about how to apply the diminished scale to improvisation and composition. And while diminished scale theory can be […]

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How to Use Upper Extensions - Part 2 of 2

In Part 1 of our "Upper Extensions" article we discussed the terminology and theory that students often find confusing when studying this concept. Here in Part 2 we will discuss how and when to use upper extensions by examining a few specific examples: Available upper extensions; left hand chords for comping (specific to piano comping); […]

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Natural, Harmonic, and Melodic Minor

In our article "Relative and Parallel Minor," we explained the often confusing terms that are associated with the minor scale. in this article, we will learn the differences, as well as how to construct, the natural, harmonic, and melodic minor scales. Many students find it easiest to begin with a major scale and use that […]

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What Are "Upper Extensions" in Jazz? Part 1 of 2

The term "upper extensions" has a very important meaning to musicians, particularly to jazz players. This is because "upper extensions" refers to a jazz theory concept that is critical to jazz improvisation and (for piano players) jazz comping. Sometimes it's not the concept of upper extensions that is confusing but rather the terminology. It might […]

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Rhythm Exercises - Part 2 (Intermediate)

Building off of our previous article (Rhythm Exercises Part 1 - Easy) this article features the next level up in our rhythm exercises. But let's get some important points out of the way before jumping in. First, you really need to be using a metronome for these exercises. Many students think "oh, I have a […]

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Rhythm Exercises - Part 1 (Easy)

In this article we're going to highlight some specific rhythm exercises that all musicians can use to improve their rhythmic understanding. The really great part about these rhythm exercises is that you can practice some of them away from your instrument, meaning that you can work on rhythmic training while you're at the gym, in […]

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What Are Intervals?

What are intervals? "Interval" is simply the term we use in music when we want to measure the distance between two notes.  There are two components to identifying intervals. The first is the quality, whether the interval is major, minor, perfect, augmented, or diminished. The second is the number, whether the interval is a distance of a […]

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Diminished Chords: Dominant Chords in Disguise? Part 2 of 2

Now that we've examined the specifics of what makes dominant chords special in Part 1 of this article, lets continue by taking a look at a diminished chord and noting some particular observations. What do you notice about this diminished chord? Well, we could call this a "C# diminished 7th" chord. A diminished 7th chord is […]

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Diminished Chords: Dominant Chords in Disguise? Part 1 of 2

Diminished chords can certainly have a spooky and nefarious sound, but they also have a lot of functionality. So much functionality, in fact, that besides simply being a diminished chord it can also function as one of four different dominant chords. That’s right, those diminished chords you thought you knew so well have in all […]

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How To Play Chords on the Piano

There are lots of different things to practice when learning to play the piano. But learning how to play chords on the piano is perhaps some of the single-most powerful information that a student can master. Being able to accurately and quickly find and play all of your major, minor, and dominant chords will tremendously […]

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What Does the Term "Enharmonic" Mean?

Have you ever been in a musical environment, perhaps a class, lesson, rehearsal, or jam session, and heard someone use the term "enharmonic"? What does the term "enharmonic" mean? "Enharmonic" is a fancy word that means something quite simple - an alternate musical spelling. We use the term "enharmonic" in music when we want to […]

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Modes and Chord Scales (Part 2)

Now that we have learned to identify the various modes of the major scale, let's turn our attention to how we would use this information in a real-life musical situation. Take a look at the chord progression below: What information can you deduce simply by looking at these two measures of music? A few things, […]

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MUSIC THEORY QUIZ

Wouldn’t it be fun to go back to school? Recess, lunch with friends, quizzes… Yeah, quizzes. Sounds like fun, right? I was recently putting together a music theory quiz for a new lesson and thought to myself, “I should share this with all of our students out there who are music theory fans.” (I don’t […]

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Modes and Chord Scales (Part 1)

Probably the most common question I get regarding theory comes from students who want to understand modes and chord scales. This information is very important to jazz players because of the nature of improvisation, a central aspect of jazz playing. Most beginner (and even intermediate and advanced) jazz players are accustomed to asking themselves "What scale […]

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Trick For Reading Key Signatures

Learning all of your key signatures is important if you want to master all of your major and minor scales, or if you're someone who enjoys improvising and wants to know about chord scales. Understanding which key you are in is a crucial first-step when learning to play any new piece of music, largely because you […]

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Relative and Parallel Minor

There are a lot of descriptive terms that are associated with minor scales. For example, you've probably hear the terms "relative" minor, "parallel" minor, "natural" minor, "harmonic" minor, and "melodic" minor. What does it all mean? What are the differences between each? Do I really have to memorize all of them? Students generally get confused because […]

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Learn Major Triads At The Piano

Playing music without understanding how major triads work is like building Ferraris without caring what's under the hood - you're missing an opportunity to understand one of the most important building blocks of ALL of Western music...major triads! Thankfully, you've discovered this blog post so that you can now fully comprehend the intrinsic POWER of this little […]

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The Confusing Lingo Of Music Theory

We recently got an excellent music theory-related question from a student which reflected a misunderstanding of terms that confuse many students and wanted to share it with everyone (because as we all know, if one student has a question, others do, too!) [From the student]: I noticed the [theory] course does not cover any understanding […]

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