Building a context

This is the first linear lesson in the intermediate lessons on chords/scales.

In this first lesson, I would like to start by going over the ideas and abstractions that will be used to discuss chords, scales, and progressions,etc.

We define an interval as the distance between two notes. We define an octave as the interval between a note and the next note (up or down) with the same name . We define a half-step (1/2) as the smallest interval we will discuss. It is the distance between any note on the fretboard and the next fret up or down on the same string. We call the interval of two half-steps, a whole-step (W). In relation to a particular note on the fretboard, it is two frets above or below on the same string.

We define a chord as a collection of notes (and their octaves) within a given octave to be played at the same time (though that need not be the case).
We define a scale as a collection of notes (and their octaves) within a given octave to be played one at a time(though you could play them in other ways).
We call a step pattern (of a scale) the particular pattern the notes of a scale create in a strictly ascending order.

We shall define the chromatic scale as all of the notes in the twelve tone system (the western system we are discussing). To clarify, the chromatic scale contains every note on the fretboard (assuming that you're in tune in standard tuning, and there are no bent notes). to further clarify, there are 12 distinct notes within an octave given the names : A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab. The chromatic step pattern is :

Out of tradition we analyze (take apart) chords, scales, progressions using the major scale as a reference.
The major scale (also called the ionian mode) is the collection of notes whose step pattern is : W-W-1/2-W-W-W-1/2. in the key of C, the notes are C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C.

Last abstraction today: we will represent notes and intervals by numbers. The numbers 1-13 will be used. Numbers above seven will be the notes that are an octave above the notes 1-7. so a 9 = 9 - 7 = 2. ( 8=1, 9=2, 10=3, 11=4, 12=5, 13=6). The numbers 1 - 7 refer to the notes and intervals of the major scale. So in the key of C: C=1=8, D=2=9, E=3=10, F=4=11, G=5=12, A=6=13, B=7.
This leaves five more notes in the chromatic scale not accounted for. We shall use #'s and b's to describe these notes. So in the key of C, C# = #1,Db=b2, etc. By using numbers rather than letters, we can discuss chords, scales, progressions outside of the limitations of a key.

We define chords and scales in the following way:
Major chord = 1, 3, 5
Minor chord (m) = 1, b3, 5
Power chord (5) = 1, 5, 8(1)
Major scale (ionian) = 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Minor scale (aeolian) = 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7
Major pentatonic scale = 1, 2, 3, 5, 6
Minor pentatonic scale = 1, b3, 4, 5, b7

Christopher Roberts

How do I change all those numbers to letters (for notes, chords, etc.)? Here's a transposition chart

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Last updated December 30, 2002.
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