Berklee College of Music, Boston MA, home of one of the best-known chord-scale methods. Photo by Tim Pierce - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 The Jazz Harmony Cube makes connections between chords and scales. So this is the dreaded chord-scale theory? I guess so. But bear with me. The cube is based on the idea that… Continue reading Chord-scale theory for sceptics
https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/jazz-harmony-cube-b6ec7dbec569427f900a88803697ef72 Here's a 3D preview of the cube if you are not quite ready to assemble the paper version. The Jazz Harmony Cube is a map of the country, continent or dwarf planet that we may call Mixolydia. This is where we find the mixolydian scale and at least seven scales which share essential notes… Continue reading Looking square, sounding hip
In his Opticks (1704) Isaac Newton wrote up the experiments in which he proved that white light can be split into colours. A century later (1820) John Keats complained that by "unweaving" the rainbow, Newton had destroyed its poetry: "Do not all charms fly, at the touch of cold philosophy?" It was a popular view among… Continue reading Seven bands you don’t need to see
The punning album title they just can't resist (Spotify search results for 'Big Band Theory'). But what else is theory good for? Mark Levine's introduction to The Jazz Theory Book must be one of the best one-page explanations of why an aspiring jazz player should study theory. Hopefully you can take a peek at the… Continue reading What is theory for?
I was surprised when I discovered the extent of the visual and musical culture of the circle of fifths. It is like a huge tree with many branches and colourful fruit. There was a second surprise when I started investigating why the circle of fifths is so useful, and why it exists at all. The… Continue reading Circle of Fifths part 4: why does it exist and what is it trying to tell us?
Last time we covered some of the better-known uses of the circle of fifths. Our subject this time is one that you may not have met, unless you are an early music enthusiast or a member of that endangered profession, a keyboard tuner. This illustration comes from the website of Carey Beebe Harpsichords of Sydney,… Continue reading Circle of fifths part 3: tunings and temperaments
Last time we surveyed the rich culture that surrounds music's circle of fifths: the posters, gadgets, apps, clocks and t-shirts, and the almost endless variants of the iconic diagram. But apart from the human fondness for zodiacs, mandalas and other circular things, what are the secrets of its success? This time I'll be looking at… Continue reading Circle of fifths, part 2: Origins and uses
People love circles, especially 12-sector circles. So although the significance of music's circle of fifths can take a while to appreciate, the diagram itself seems disarmingly familiar. With a bit of imagination it can become a clock face, a zodiac, a colour wheel or a calendar of months. Whoa, are all those things really connected?… Continue reading Will it go round in circles?
Last year I made a diagram of the Sonny Rollins tune Oleo, using coloured rectangles to show the straightforward 'rhythm-changes' harmony, and overlaying them with a lattice of diagonal lines encoding the irregular rhythm. Another tune in the same vein is Straight, No Chaser. Here Thelonious Monk takes a well-known harmonic outline - the 12-bar… Continue reading Straight, No Chaser
It is very short. Musically it leaves a lot to be desired. But this is a historic recording. The players are two real heavyweights, and this was their last-ever appearance after a long-time partnership. https://youtu.be/wCWgl7OzvUk?t=28 That insignificant-sounding chirp, almost lost in noise, is the death spiral of two neutron stars, each the size of a… Continue reading Jazztrophysics