Jimmy's Chord Theory TOC
One of the longest debates in history began
when musicians tried to agree on how music should be
recorded, and since there were no tape recorders in
those days the only means available was dialog, father to
son, mother to daughter, tribe to tribe, down through
the ages until that day when people began to write:
must play as the river, or the willow, or the hollow reed."
That's when the arguments
really started to heat up.
Symbols appeared from everywhere, pictures, dots, lines,
letters, numbers, even curvaceous diagrams with long
flowing designs were an attempt to record the often
inimitable musician. The quarrels went on for thousands
of years until about the time of the printing press
when a few published musicians decided that lines
and dots were enough as long as everyone could agree
which dot to start on and which dot to end on.
At last there could be recorded music, but as with all things
new, you would have to consult a hand book or manual so that
the new music could be deciphered and performed.
The great hand book of musical knowledge soon
evolved into a book of MUSICOLOGY, the ology of
music in which you will find the great pyramid of
'isms, 'oids, 'ologies, 'onomies, 'otomies and of course,
I am not just going to lay it
on you, as a
musician might say, because in this story you are still
with me on this amazing bus adventure trying with your
eyes closed to imagine yourself in that nearly empty
place wanting to piece together some reference point
or some design for all the music that comes to mind.
Out of the gray areas of some uneasy logic it
occurs to you that music is either a line in the
sand or a point on a circle that you always come
back to eventually and start over. The line in the
sand idea is OK because it fosters a belief that
music is infinite, without end. The circle,
however, is a symbol of something unending, even
though you may choose a starting place anywhere
on that circle and just jump in.
The universe itself may be an infinite circle
that sways you one way or the other,
like the gentle rocking of a bus.
Within the circle lies music, outside lies
noise, something gray, and beyond that, a vacuum.
There are an infinite number of points lying
on the rim of this magic circle and to establish as
few as three such points is to layout a triangle
which we' ll call a KEY.
You may want to have more than three points
to enrich your musical key, but the
laws of the universe say that you cannot have less.
Fewer points would give you a line in the sand
or a point, in which case you would be
ON the key,
but not IN it.
Hold this triangle idea in your mind for
awhile so that we can shift about in the aisle on the
uncomfortable suitcase and say, "What about the
"I'll get to that soon," said Wilson. The details will
at the proper time when you have seen
the elements that help to guide you around the
"I get it, THE CIRCLE OF FIFTHS!" I said, like
a monkey repeating something I had heard, but had no
idea what it was. "Hush", Wilson whispered,
"You don't know fifths until I tell you, OK?"
I was beginning to think this guy might talk
me to sleep if it weren't for a sudden lurching and
shifting of passengers as we came to a brake-slam-halt
on the snowbound interstate. I was awake, marooned on
a bus of fools, listening to a different drummer.