Here’s the most basic music theory material I consider to be the very basic music theory knowledge. In fact, most of those concepts should be familiar, but I believe they are truly only the basic vocabulary of music on top of which the study of counterpoint and harmony will be the grammar. Knowing the words is a great start, but a much greater and deep understanding of music can be reached through the study of counterpoint and harmony.
This is just a quick guide to help you get started in your studies of music.
Basic Music Theory Vocabulary:
- Major and minor scales (includes: major, minor natural, minor harmonic, minor melodic)
- Knowing key signatures for Major and minor scales up to 5 sharps & flats
- Relative scales and keys
- Chords: Major, minor, diminished, augmented, dominant 7th, minor 7ths
- All Intervals
I think those concepts should be mastered in writing, reading and also ideally in playing to be really acquired.
Question I could ask in a written test:
- What is the key signature of ___?
- What major/minor key has x amount of flat or sharps?
- Finding the relative minor or major key
- Writing chords (major, minor, diminished & augmented)
Understanding the Basics of Tonal Music
This section is an introduction to the basic elements of musical grammar of musical grammar without diving deep into harmony
- What are the 2 most important degrees in tonal music?
- I and V
- Tonal music is based on tension and movements around “poles”. All notes and all degrees are not equal.
- What degree should a song start and end with?
- We start and end with 1, because it’s the most stable
- V-I cadenza at the end
- Why? Affirming the key
- What is particular about the Vth degree in minor?
- In minor, the “natural” chord is minor, but in tonal music, we want to raise the third (lead-tone) so the chord becomes major.
- What are the 2 compulsory movements when you resolve your Vth degree?
- How many voices do we write for in scholastic harmony? (what we usually write)
- What is the minor harmonic scale for?
- What is the minor melodic scale for?