#1
Hi all:

I'm a beginner. I hope you will all exercise your patience as I ask the many questions I have.

I'm looking for a good music theory book. I mean basic. I want to know how chords are arranged and why -- for example, why the key of A includes A, D and E chords and not F and G -- what an octive is -- really elementary stuff. Does anyone have any suggestions? Or can I learn those things here?

Thanks for any help you can give me.    
#2
susanrand
The A major scale is
A B C# D E F# G#
therefore the key of A (= A major, we don't need to specify major, it's understood to be major if we just say A), doesn't have an F or G note to build a chord from.
However there can be exceptions, there is no rule that says you have to only use the particular notes/chords in a key, but that's probably something to look at a bit later on.
An octave is the interval (distance) between two notes of the same name, where one is higher than the other, like if you go up a scale
C D E F G A B C , the second C is an octave above the first C.
Or on a guitar play the low E string open, then play the E string at the 12th fret - that note is an octave above the low E.

If this thread is moved to Musician Talk ( Dreadnought ?) you can probably get a fuller answer and recommendations for a music theory book.
#3
NSpen1 Thank you very much. In your layout of the A major scale, what does the # stand for?

So chords are built from the notes on the fretboard, is that right?

2nd question: what is a scale?

Told you I didn't know anything. I can sing alto and tenor by ear in natural harmony, but I can't get my mind around theory. 
Last edited by susanrand at May 25, 2017,
#4
susanrand
# is the symbol for sharp
b is the symbol for flat (it's not exactly a lower case b but close enough, everyone writes it like that in text).

so writing out in full :
A, B, C sharp, D, E, F sharp, G sharp

If I can try this without hopefully confusing you too much, these are all the notes that we normally use in Western music :
C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B
12 notes only, each note is a semi-tone apart from the next, a semi-tone = one fret on the guitar.
They can be written with flats instead of sharps also.
#5
ah, you edited your post.
Honestly, the guys on the Musician Talk forum will be better to answer your questions (at least at this late hour where I am ), but yes, you'll need to learn about scales and intervals first before you learn how chords are built.
#6
NSpen1 Thanks again. That makes things a lot clearer for me. I guess I can go over there and repost my question. I'll try that.
#7
Thread was moved to forum: Musician Talk

Thanks for the heads up, NSpen1
My God, it's full of stars!
#8
Instead of starting with A major, I would suggest learning the key of C major first because that has only natural notes in it, so there are no sharps/flats to confuse you. Sharps and flats start to make sense once you understand half and whole steps and how the major scale is built.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#9
Quote by susanrand
NSpen1 Thank you very much. In your layout of the A major scale, what does the # stand for?

So chords are built from the notes on the fretboard, is that right?

2nd question: what is a scale?

Told you I didn't know anything. I can sing alto and tenor by ear in natural harmony, but I can't get my mind around theory. 
Here's how to understand scales, using a guitar string...

1. Take the A string. Just because it's called "A". Play it. It vibrates at 110 times per second. That's the Law.

2. Divide the string in half. This is easy because 12th fret marks the spot. This note is another "A". Weird, huh? This A vibrates twice as fast (220x), because the string is half-length. That's physics. But although it's a different note it has the same name. Get your head around that, if you can...

3. We call the distance from fret 0 to fret 12 an "octave". "Octave" comes from the Latin for "8th". Yup, 12 frets and the 12th is called the 8th. What's that all about? It's because, since way back in Greek/Latin times, scales have had 7 different notes. That's the Law. The 8th one is a repeat of the first one, where the ABCDEFG cycle starts all over again. The issue is - how does 7 go into 12? That's the question!

4. We started by dividing the string in half. Next step is to divide by the next simplest number: 3. (The whole string, that is). Again, the fretboard helps us out, because frets 7 and 19 mark the 2/3 and 1/3 points (measured from the bridge). Fret 7 is the most important division of the octave, marking the "perfect 5h". Uh-huh, 7 = 5, just like 12 = 8....
You'll notice we're not doing anything obvious like dividing 12 neatly by 2, 3, 4 or 6. That's not how it works. The 12 is split into 7+5 - because when we divide the string in fractions, we get good sounds.

5. Next string division is by 4. This lands us on fret 5 and (if you've got one) 24. Now we have the 12-fret octave divided 5-2-5. So now we have some cute symmetry.

6. So what do we do now with those 5 fret spaces? Answer: anything we like! But the first thing to know is that a specific pattern was established way back in history. You don't need to know when or why, but the pattern settled on for placing the notes ABCDEFGA was (in frets) 0-2-3-5-7-8-10-12. That's another Law, if you like. It's fixed. B and C are always 1 fret apart, as are E and F, and all the others are 2 frets apart.

7. This pattern was established before the idea of a "major scale" was invented. Even before the idea of a "minor scale". What they had then were "modes" (don't ask. No, really, don't ask....).

8. But eventually it was decided that those notes sounded kind of cool if you started and ended on C. The sound of CDEFGABC became known as "do re mi fa so la ti do", and we call it the "major scale". (Not because it's important, btw, but because of the distances between some of its notes.)

9. This major scale became the most important scale (OK, not because it was called "major"...) in western music, mainly because of how much fun you can have with "chords" (which had only just been invented too). It has a fixed formula,W-W-H-W-W-W-H (Look at frets 3-5-7-8-9-10-12-14-15 on your A string).

10. Then some folk spotted that you could move that formula and start it on a different note. That meant you had to include some of the un-named frets. In stead of giving these new notes different letters, they got named after the note below or above. The fret between C and D could be called C sharp or D flat.
The law was that any scale needed one of each letter, which also meant it could only have sharps or flats, and not a mixture.
So the A major scale (eg) had to be A B C# D E F# G# A (frets 0-2-4-5-7-9-11-12 on the A string.

End of lesson 1. Class dismissed.
#10
susanrand 

So here's some real basic stuff:

In western music theory, we have 12 notes. 7 of these notes are what we usually call "natural". These are:

C-D-E-F-G-A-B

or if you want them in alphabetical order:

A-B-C-D-E-F-G

But as I said, here's only 7 notes. I mentioned 12. The remaining 5 notes fall between these natural notes, and are named after them like Jonriley mentioned. So there's a note between C and D, that's called either a C sharp or a D flat (C#/Db), there's a note between D and E as well (D#/Eb), and we also have F#/Gb, G#/Ab and A#/Bb. Note that there isn't a note between E and F or B and C.

So, all of the 12 notes would look like this:

C - C#/Db - D - D#/Eb - E - F - F#/Gb - G - G#/Ab - A - A#/Bb - B

This is known as the chromatic scale, and it includes all of the notes we use in 99% of western classical and popular music. If you play the third fret on the A string, that's a C, and you play every single fret all the way up to fret 14, you're playing this scale. At fret 15, the note C repeats: this is called an octave. An octave is two notes that sound the same but have different "height", they're in perfect harmony but still sound different because of the register. You can try playing fret 3 on the low E string and fret 5 on the D string at the same time: if your guitar is in tune, the notes should sound very clean and harmonious together, because that's an octave. Both notes are G, but they're an octave apart.

Now, everything in music is based around the relationships between these notes. They all sound more or less the same on their own, but they make music when you use them together, in context. This is why we have concepts like the major scale for example; the major scale is a collection of notes that sound good together, in relationship to each other. The reason A major does not have F or G, but instead F# G#, is because F and G don't fit the major scale in relation to the root note A.

As Mags said, start with C major, because it only has natural notes and you don't have to worry about sharps or flats. Learn to play it, and learn how to harmonise it when you're that far. You'll start to notice that all major scales have a similar "formula", when you start on a certain note in the chromatic scale, you can skip some notes and keep others to make up a major scale. If we start with C, we pick the third note D, the fifth and the sixth notes E and F, the eighth note G, the tenth note A and the twelfth note B. The distance of one note in the chromatic scale (or one fret on the fretboard) is a half step - and the distance of two notes/two frets is a whole step. So, you might notice that to form a major scale, you pick a note, and go forward a whole step, then an another whole step, then a half step, then whole, then whole, and finally a whole again. So, the "formula" would be W-W-H-W-W-W (and finally a H when we arrive back at C, look at point 9 at Jons post for more). You can apply this to any root note, and form any major scale.

Last thing I want to mention right now is intervals. Intervals are distance between notes, and they're everything in music theory. Intervals are used to build scales, melodies, chords, chord progression and much more, and are essential for theoretical understanding of music. So look up the word "interval" and read up a bit. Also, if you'd like, I can explain more about them here. But don't try to absorb too much information at once.
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

Quote by Hail
*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
#11
jonriley64 Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is exactly the kind of information I was looking for. Really basic! Now I need to study this for a while in order to absorb it fully. I suppose I could have learned this thru guitar lessons, but can't afford them. Are you a teacher? You should be!
#12
Thank you also, Kev. (BTW, what do the small dots over the "a" in your name mean?) This information also is what I was looking for. As with Jon's post, I will need to study this for a while. I am endlessly grateful to both of you, you are princes all. I'll be back with more questions later no doubt!
#14
Quote by susanrand
(BTW, what do the small dots over the "a" in your name mean?)!

It's a different letter. It's used in languages like Finnish (Kevätuhri and I are both Finns), Swedish and German. In Finnish you pronounce it like the a in "cat". The normal a is pronounced like the a in "car". And this is always the case - we always pronounce the same letter in the same way (which makes our language superior to others ).
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#15
MaggaraMarine Thank you for that. I have had a love affair going with Scandanavia for years, based on my love for the Scandavian mystrey writers. From read them I feel I know Malmo and other cities well. This is terribly off-topic so we'll probably get cut off but thanks!