#1
I dont understand how a lot of music theory fits very neatly. For example the circle of fifths and chord progressions and chords in key were they all devised at the same time? Im confused about the modal system as well...i mean how did they take all the information from indigenous people around the world and fit it into the modal system which fits perfectly?
#4
Quote by icaneatcatfood
I'm not sure but the circle of fifths was made by Pythagorus I think..

He may have also made modes. Or a pope made them.

I don't know, that's what my music theory teacher said at least.


...Pythagoras died 500bc.
#5
icaneatcatfood is correct, Pythagoras is fabled in sparking the initial ideas that became our circle of fifths. The veracity of this claim is debatable as Pythagoras is credited with a lot of prehistoric discoveries (probably due to the fact that he created a cult around him who probably spread a lot of myths and stuff about him back in the day), nonetheless these observations began around or before Pythagoras' time. This explanation ties in with the TS' question so listen up .

The way the circle of fifths came about is rather interesting, Pythagoras apparently plucked a string and found its different node points, the first node point on a guitar string would be the 12th fret harmonic we all know that rings an octave higher than the string's pitch. The second node point is located at the 7th fret and is a perfect 12th above the string's pitch (so basically a perfect fifth).

Pythagoras went further and found the next few node points I think, the fourth overtone/ harmonic node point is located on the fifth fret of a guitar string and rings two octaves above the string's original pitch, and the fifth overtone/ harmonic is located somewhere around the fourth fret and sounds as a third against the original string's pitch.

So Pythagoras being the smart guy he was, took the perfect fifth and gave it its own string. Ringing that string he found the second node point and found that pitch's perfect fifth, and carried on this pattern a couple more times I think.

So say if the first string he used is arbitrarily retconned as the note we call "C," the second one would be G, the third would be D, A, E etc. It's said he only got to E, but that's basically how the circle of fifths came about, or how I was told it came about.

One problem with this though, if you tune strings in fifths to reach the pitch of "E," and then go back to your original "C" note and play the fourth overtone (the harmonic that sounds what should be an E note, or the third of the string's pitch), you will find these two pitches are out of tune, when really in our tonal system they should be the same. I'll let you guys ponder the implications of this one.

But to answer TS' original question, music theory fits so neatly because well...that's how sound works. Granted, not perfectly as I have just tried to lay out because pitches of what we call "thirds" and "fifths" cannot be in tune with each other in the ways that western music employs them (twelve keys). But the fifths and all the overtones all occur naturally in our environment, that is just how the strings vibrate and that is the sound they make, the fact that they are called "fifths" or "thirds" now is simply humanity's effort at analyzing the nature of these sounds and making music out of them (hence the name music theory, go figure right).

Apart from that, the western music system has not been around for very long at all, the modes and the "circle of fifths" have only been relatively recently employed, and if you take a global perspective, only employed by a relatively small amount of the world's musical producers. There are many people outside western music's sphere of awareness that absolutely do not adhere to all of our musical customs, one culture that comes to mind is African tribal music, they don't use written notation or the circle of fifths or even care if they're hitting the same note from performance to performance I think.

I'm a little confused by what you mean when you say, " mean how did they take all the information from indigenous people around the world and fit it into the modal system which fits perfectly?" The musical system that we know and employ everyday, with the circle of fifths and sharps and flats and 12 keys and all that stuff, that is far from a global system, it is not universally employed by everyone around the world.

Anyway, hope this answers your questions it's very long-winded, sorry.
#6
Quote by st.stephen
icaneatcatfood is correct, Pythagoras is fabled in sparking the initial ideas that became our circle of fifths. The veracity of this claim is debatable as Pythagoras is credited with a lot of prehistoric discoveries (probably due to the fact that he created a cult around him who probably spread a lot of myths and stuff about him back in the day), nonetheless these observations began around or before Pythagoras' time. This explanation ties in with the TS' question so listen up .

The way the circle of fifths came about is rather interesting, Pythagoras apparently plucked a string and found its different node points, the first node point on a guitar string would be the 12th fret harmonic we all know that rings an octave higher than the string's pitch. The second node point is located at the 7th fret and is a perfect 12th above the string's pitch (so basically a perfect fifth).

Pythagoras went further and found the next few node points I think, the fourth overtone/ harmonic node point is located on the fifth fret of a guitar string and rings two octaves above the string's original pitch, and the fifth overtone/ harmonic is located somewhere around the fourth fret and sounds as a third against the original string's pitch.

So Pythagoras being the smart guy he was, took the perfect fifth and gave it its own string. Ringing that string he found the second node point and found that pitch's perfect fifth, and carried on this pattern a couple more times I think.

So say if the first string he used is arbitrarily retconned as the note we call "C," the second one would be G, the third would be D, A, E etc. It's said he only got to E, but that's basically how the circle of fifths came about, or how I was told it came about.

One problem with this though, if you tune strings in fifths to reach the pitch of "E," and then go back to your original "C" note and play the fourth overtone (the harmonic that sounds what should be an E note, or the third of the string's pitch), you will find these two pitches are out of tune, when really in our tonal system they should be the same. I'll let you guys ponder the implications of this one.

But to answer TS' original question, music theory fits so neatly because well...that's how sound works. Granted, not perfectly as I have just tried to lay out because pitches of what we call "thirds" and "fifths" cannot be in tune with each other in the ways that western music employs them (twelve keys). But the fifths and all the overtones all occur naturally in our environment, that is just how the strings vibrate and that is the sound they make, the fact that they are called "fifths" or "thirds" now is simply humanity's effort at analyzing the nature of these sounds and making music out of them (hence the name music theory, go figure right).

Apart from that, the western music system has not been around for very long at all, the modes and the "circle of fifths" have only been relatively recently employed, and if you take a global perspective, only employed by a relatively small amount of the world's musical producers. There are many people outside western music's sphere of awareness that absolutely do not adhere to all of our musical customs, one culture that comes to mind is African tribal music, they don't use written notation or the circle of fifths or even care if they're hitting the same note from performance to performance I think.

I'm a little confused by what you mean when you say, " mean how did they take all the information from indigenous people around the world and fit it into the modal system which fits perfectly?" The musical system that we know and employ everyday, with the circle of fifths and sharps and flats and 12 keys and all that stuff, that is far from a global system, it is not universally employed by everyone around the world.

Anyway, hope this answers your questions it's very long-winded, sorry.



I meant e.g. phrygian Egyptian/middle eastern Dorian used in English monk chant.
#7
If you really want to learn this stuff buy this book

http://www.amazon.com/Howard-Goodalls-Big-Bangs-Goodall/dp/B0017HEY98

it was also a TV show but I've never seen it anywhere - Howard Goodall really knows his stuff though
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#8
Modes, like everything else in the day, were co-opted by the church under the rule of Pope Gregory. The church standardized them and used them extensively in church music, which was the only music that really got published for a long, long time, because the church controlled the publishing.

CT
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