Jimmy's Chord Theory TOC                                  Lesson 2


"Scales! " he continued loudly, unperturbed

by the abrupt halt, "are ladders and laundry

chutes." Hang on. They go up and they slide down,

but they do not PROGRESS. You can go up a scale

and down a scale all day long, but you will not


A scale always ends feebly on the same note that

you began, whether you go up or down, even if

you start low and go high or vice versa. By

constantly changing to different scales you can

move around the circle and if you prefer,

stay inside the triangle called the KEY

or just dance around ON it.

Key3angl.jpg (3981 bytes)


NOTES (semitones) are the individual sounds you play,

that if you arrange them in CERTAIN ORDER you will

create a SCALE and every scale has a name and the name

of the scale is the same as the name of the NOTE or

semitone which begins and ends that scale.

Wilson began to sing there in the dark of the bus,

while normal folks tried to sleep through our absurd immobility,

and all because of little frozen FLAKES.

Music.wmf (4592 bytes)

"See dee ee ef gee ay bee seeeee."

"Those are the notes of a C scale you've played

one million times and didn't ask yourself why they

were not in alphabetical order or why note names

used letters of the alphabet, am I right?" he asked.

Staring in disbelief I nodded yes.

"GREEKS, Jim, GREEKS started the alphabet thing."

Only they had a five note scale called the PENTATONIC

 (five tone) scale and we use POLYTONIC (many tone)

scales. ITALIANS did all the research during the

renaissance and dug up all the forgotten music and

gave their own names to everything. That's why musical

instructions written on every piece of music is

in Italian, feenay, cah-poh, ak-sel-er-RON-doh.

Fa so la ti do, capeesh?

Da Capo al Fine

Remember, I said the notes had to be in a

CERTAIN ORDER so that you could create a SCALE.

Close your eyes and imagine the keyboard of a piano.

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 With Wilson's help constructing the imaginary

keyboard I saw that the white keys were interlaced

with alternating groups of black keys, always two

followed by three, then two, then three, repeating

until the keys ended with a final group of three.

For hundreds of years musicians ranted and

raved over which note to start on in order to make

a scale, after all there were twelve semitones between

every note that could be played together and still

sound like unison. Trouble was, only eight of the

notes sounded good together. What do you do with

the other FIVE notes ( remember one of the

eight good sounding notes is repeated)? OK, you

go up eight rungs of a ladder and you're still

on the same note, guess what, AN OCTAVE (eight)

above where you started. Furthermore, the eight

good notes didn't happen every other note or every

two, in fact they were jumbled into a pattern of


It's called the western ear phenomenon and there is

no believable explanation why Westerners heard

good notes or semitones in this particular order.

One idiot proposed that the Greeks were happy

with the first eight semi-tones and the Neareasterners preferred

the last eight semi-tones and the tourists put them together.

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There were seven great factions in the horrible

debate. There were hyper representatives of fictitious

places as well as ambassadors of ill will from:

the DORIAN camp and the HYPODORIANS

the PHRYGEAN camp    (the frigid Dorians)

the LYDIAN camp  (the HYPERLYDIANS came to flip their lids)

the MIXOLYDIAN camp  (a mixed bag)

the AEOLIAN camp  (wind bags)

and God forbid, that LOCRIAN underworld gang

thought to be in league with the devil.

Each wanted his or her scale to be the one with the

true starting place on the wonderful circle of endless notes.

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I'll skip the blow by blow and let it suffice that

its grand and glorious name became:


Sounds like a disease. And it spread over the known

world, pushing back the areas of gray.

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A small footnote here,

we still keep the original seven names of the proposed true scale, but we have

relegated them to the lowly status of MODES.

We will comeback to these early names again after all the loose ends

of the chord theory are chopped away like Alexander's solution for the Gordian knot.

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And so we are left with the one true scale which

reads like a formula, take (play) one half tone and skip the

next, take another half tone and skip the next, now,

take two more half tones without skipping, next, skip

over one more half tone and keep alternating until

you come to the note that has the same name as the one

you started with. Do this as you go up the scale and

do so in reverse as you go down the scale ever mind-

full to play the same notes backwards and forwards.

up: C D E F G A B C

down: C B A G F E D C

They were not happy in HYPOMIXOLYDIAN land and

soon there were rumblings, drive-by archeries, the

usual musician type scandals, kings and queens

outraged by way-out musicians, and finally the great

what-to-do about KEYS. Remember there are still

five other notes which appear to be useless according

to the new formula.



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