Grand Theory Of Everything

Music theory from simple wavelengths to the chord progressions. Basically showing how Western music isn't just a random pile of notes some guy chose hundreds of years ago.

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Here's my grand unifying "theory" of wavelengths, scales, modes, and chord changes based on what I learned in college and my own private study. Alright so this is going to get complex, so were going to start off small. Let's go with the most basic of all things. A single guitar string hitting an open note. Now one would assume that the string would simply vibrate back and forth creating the note we hear, but it's actually a very complex vibration, which hides many other notes as well. If we were to play a string tuned to a "C" note, you don't hear all the other waves that are vibrating on that string because they're all hidden behind the dominant "C" note. You may be thinking: "How the heck does this help me Brad?" Well we can single out the notes hidden inside the string by dividing the string up and singling out the other pitches via "harmonics"(You can do this by gently touching the strings at certain points). For example let's take an imaginary open string tuned to "C" and pluck it. C |-----------------| The actual note "C" vibrates with a 1:1 (One to One) ratio, which means one wave over the one string. It looks kind of like this:
(Top of String)
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(Bottom of String)
In order to get a 2:1 ratio we need to use a harmonic in the middle of the wave above, which would be directly above the twelfth fret on a guitar with correct intonation. This "divides" the wavelength in half and doubles its frequency, singling out an octave. It looks like this:
(Top of String)
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(Bottom of String)
If you keep dividing the wave/string into exponents of 2 (ie 2:1, 4:1, 8:1, 16:1 ect. ect.) you always get a higher octave note. But if you divide it into other ratios interesting things start to happen. The first interesting thing happens as soon as you make a 3:1 ratio, in other words the harmonic on the 7th fret. The note you end up with is a perfect Fifth above the second Octave, which on a "C" string would be a "G". These to notes together make up a "C" Power Chord, or a "C5" chord. After the 4:1 octave, at the ratio of 5:1 (Around the fourth, or ninth frets), you get a Major Third a couple octaves up, which on a "C" string would be an "E". This makes the first three notes we have "C", "G", and "E", or in another form "CEG" which is the 1-3-5 major triad. If you keep moving up in this fashion, you end up getting more notes on a major scale, and then eventually chromaticism, and microtonality. (Yeah. blah, blah, blah. Let's keep going.) Now we know where major chords and scales come from, let's talk about modes. (If you don't know what modes are, look into that before moving on. I don't want to lose you.) Diatonic modes (On a major scale) can be discribed by their level of "Flatness" or "Sharpness", The "Sharpest" being Lydian (1 2 3 #4 5 6 7) and the "Flattest" being Locrian (1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7). Let's see this in order: Lydian(1 2 3 #4 5 6 7) Ionian(1 2 3 4 5 6 7) Mixolydian(1 2 3 4 5 6 b7) Dorian(1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7) Aeolean(1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7) Phrygian(1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7) Locrian(1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7) All the "major" modes, "minor" modes, and the half diminished mode are all in perfect little groups. Also, every mode in this order is a fifth away from the next if they were all derived from the same major scale. Also notice the order the intervals are becoming flat: 4,7,3,6,2,5. The next logical interval would be 1, but if you flatten the 1 you get another Lydian mode, but a semi-tone down (1 fret). Alright lets talk about chord progressions for a second. You'll see alot of chord progressions that move in fourths (ie: I-IV, or V-I). Let's explore why. As you may have noticed, on our chart of the modes above, the most tense mode, Locrian, is the most flat. It is also the farthest in terms of Fifths. So thus, moving up in Fifths adds alot of tension. Therefore, if we move through the inverse interval of a Fifth, the Fourth (In "C" Major, instead of going up five intervals to the fifth note "G", you go down five intervals to the fourth note "F") we can move very smoothly through all the chords, in the order 1 4 7 3 6 2 5 1. If you remember the order the notes become flat on our mode chart, you also see the same pattern (4 7 3 6 2 5) As you can see, it's not just some randomly chosen pile notes and harmonies, it's all nature and math. Thanks for reading.

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    ThatDarnDavid
    ThatDarnDavid wrote: I love this. I am always making claims like. Music is a form of science and math. People just look at me like I am crazy.
    I love this. I am always making claims like "Music is a form of science and math." People just look at me like I am crazy. _____ Fixed
    ThatDarnDavid
    I love this. I am always making claims like. Music is a form of science and math. People just look at me like I am crazy.
    mikeconde
    Youre not crazy David.. music IS science and math..more importantly its frequency. I agree this is sort of a teaser and could get very deep even philosophical ..google sacred geometry and or the golden mean if you wanna really get lost . lol much love
    Brad204
    Yeah looking bacck on this now I should've divided this up into different lessons. I also left out some important things about ratios, and how that relates to equal temerament, but maybe I'll re-write this in 3 articles and go over it more in depth. This article was mostly meant to highlight the patterns that appear, and show that it also occurs in a more scientific way.
    Vypor
    Brad204 wrote: As you can see, it's not just some randomly chosen pile notes and harmonies, it's all nature and math. Thanks for reading.
    How awesome. This is a pretty interesting article, this has never been quite so apparent to me. Maybe it'll help me understand music on a bigger scale somewhere in the future.
    rockingamer2
    I think that you're trying to cover too much ground in one article. This is way too much information to spew out at all at once.
    hildesaw
    Its a cool idea of going behind the science of everything, but this should be way more in depth than what you've done here. Going over 3 fairly abstract concepts in one article, even if they follow a logical progression, isn't a great idea. Its a safe bet that a lot of people reading this are going to be lost.
    master2sexy
    Great article, want more, this definitely could be more in depth, if some people are lost then maybe you should just say at the beginning that this is for more advanced people
    leenux5030
    I am a beginner, and I lost my way after reading the List of different scale Modes
    loinmute
    Kudos to the lesson. It's great to have a contribution to U.G. that is outside the box. Very informative.