Jimmy's Chord Theory TOC                                          Lesson 1


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:

"You 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,

the chord theory.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 chord?"

"I'll get to that soon," said Wilson. The details will come together

at the proper time when you have seen

the elements that help to guide you around the

musical circle.

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"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.



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