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Offlinefreddurgan
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Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer
    #4134563 - 05/04/05 10:12 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

*Intro* Skip if you just want to answer my question
*****************************************************************
Alright, I was in band from 6th grade to 9th grade, but I was just "in" band. I didn't really care to learn. I didn't know my scales. I didn't know how to play the hard parts in most of our hard songs, etc. I wasn't musically oriented. For the amount of practice I put into it I wasn't terrible, but...NOW I care. 8 years later and I'm ready to care again. I haven't forgotten everything I learned, but I could never really, and still don't, grasp these concepts. Now I want to know.
****************************************************************

Let's take a sound wave. Doesn't matter what instrument because they all make the same notes.

Now..the PITCH of that soundwave describes how high or low it is, but PHYSICALLY what the pitch is referring to is the FREQUENCY of the note, correct? So you could just as easily say that you are playing at a higher FREQUENCY as you could say PITCH. A D is a higher frequency/pitch than a C.

Is this first statement correct?

** main question **
OK now. There are 7 "notes". A, B, C, D, E, F, G, along with 5 more combinations of sharps and flats and such. Now..what defines these notes? What is an 'A'. Why is an 'A' not a 'C'. Is there a certain pitch at which these notes occur EXACTLY? If you have a sound wave at 0 Hz and just start raising it's frequency, are you going to hear bullshit until you hit that 'A' mark, and then hear an A? Can you keep raising the frequency until you hit the 'B' mark? I'm reading something that makes mathematical sense to me, but not musically. They say they if you DOUBLE the frequency of a note, it goes up one more octave. That's fine. But what I DON'T understand is WHY they use the "Twelfth root of two" as the multiple for which to multiply the first note. Why 12? Why not 100? Why are there not 100 notes in each octave. Why not infinite notes? Why are there only 12 notes in each octave.


Also...sharps and flats. If you use the twelfth root of two to find all 12 notes, why are there only 7 major notes combined with sharps/flats. Why not have "A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L"?

Why are some notes always described by the lower-note#, and not the upper-noteb. For instance...G#? Or Ab? C#? Or Db? Does it matter?

And last..octaves. Are there a certain amount? Like..if the lowest audible A marks the bottom of the first octave, I would take it the highest audible G (or G#?) marks the top of the last octave? Is that right?

Thanks for reading this far! I'm getting a keyboard soon after I finish my finals and I'm looking for something to do over the summer and I'd like to dive back into music. I didn't hate it when I was in middle school, but my heart wasnt in it. I didn't even listen to music in middle school... =*(


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OfflineBlastrid
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: freddurgan]
    #4134743 - 05/04/05 10:44 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

What's up Fred

ok, to your first statement...
Try not to confuse the physics terminology with the musical notation terminology. It refers to the same thing, but it can get much more complicated if you throw in an additional set of names for everything... but yes you are correct. The frequency of a wave is the same as the pitch of a note.

OK, now for the meat and potatoes. It seems like your main question is 'why are there 12 notes in each octave?

Well, first you should notice at the top of the forum is a sticky of a TON of really useful links about music in general.  This one specifically correlates the frequency tuning (440Hz) to the musical pitch (A).
So that sorta answers the question that there is a certain frequency that pertains to each musical pitch. This was determined by a huge guild of western musicology scholars 100-200 years ago. Concert Pitch was to be A-440.

But why 12 notes between A4 and A5, or rather between an A and the octave above? It sorta came into being during late medieval music, when modes were beginning to take shape (Locrian, Dorian, Ionian...). This lead to the Major and Minor we know today. But I would assume with help from the "Overtone Series" (the naturally occuring overtones over any note played by an instrument), instruments were tuned to resonate, and to divide pitches into recognizable intervals. It'd be very difficult to tell the difference between a C and a C half-#... that would be called a 'quarter-tone', since the difference between C and C# is called a 'half-tone'. So 100 notes between an A and the A above it would be ridiculous, because your ear would have a hard time discerning that many individual pitches.

This isn't to say that it hasn't been done... In the early 20th century when contemporary composers were trying to free themselves of tonality and the 'rigid rules of keys and harmony', some experimented with smaller intervals and alternate tunings.

what it all boils down to is this: that's what has been decided in history through centuries of composition, and millions of ears listening. Sure it's based off of science and physics, but there are Eastern musical traditions that have totally different scales and tunings (Balinese music, for example).


OK, next: I wonder if anyone really knows why A was called A, except for ease. I suppose B could equal A#/Bb, and then C would be B, etc etc. But this is just how it is.

As for why say, in a piece, a D# is called a D# and not an Eb? well it all has to do with the Key, and the key signature. Every scale and key has a certain number of sharps OR flats. Don't be confused, they refer to the same pitch, but they are notated differently. In the key of D major, there are 2 #'s: F and C. Check out the Circle of Fifths:

So you would never go: D, E, Gb, G, A, B, C, Db, D, because you'd be repeating note names (Gb and G...) Typically you want to name them all: D, E, F#, G, A, B, C, C#, D. It just is a lot easier when reading and writing.

And the last question, technically I suppose the octaves go on forever, or at least within the range of the human ear... But a piano only covers 88 notes, or 7 octaves plus 4 notes.


Hope this all answers your question! I LOVE theory, I love studying it. So anything you got, don't hesitate to ask.
:mushroom2: :mushroom2: :cool: :cool:


--------------------
Blas'?trid (bl?s tr?d)
    n.  3rd generation derivitave of a combination of 'bastard' and 'blasted'.  Used as both an insult or an expletive.
    ex.  Blastrid!

Stereopattern  <--My music.


Edited by Blastrid (05/04/05 11:06 PM)


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InvisibleLetto
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: freddurgan]
    #4134764 - 05/04/05 10:48 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

I'll answer what I can.

So you could just as easily say that you are playing at a higher FREQUENCY as you could say PITCH.

Correct.

Now..what defines these notes? What is an 'A'. Why is an 'A' not a 'C'. Is there a certain pitch at which these notes occur EXACTLY? If you have a sound wave at 0 Hz and just start raising it's frequency, are you going to hear bullshit until you hit that 'A' mark, and then hear an A?

The accepted standard is A = 440 Hz. Some systems of music set A to be 420 Hz or something else (maybe it's 450). It doesn't really matter, as the difference in pitches will still be pleasing to the ear. There are A's at any multiple of 440 Hz, from 55 Hz, 110, 220, 440, 880, etc. These represent the octaves of A. There are only so many of these octaves that are actually audible to humans though.

If you started at 0 Hz, you would hear nothing (since there's no wave). Then you would slowly move up and you would go up until you reach the human's threshold frequency for hearing. Then you will hear a note; I don't know what is would be though. You continue to increase the frequency and you through all of the notes, and many octaves until you reach the upper limit of human's hearing.

But what I DON'T understand is WHY they use the "Twelfth root of two" as the multiple for which to multiply the first note. Why 12? Why not 100? Why are there not 100 notes in each octave. Why not infinite notes? Why are there only 12 notes in each octave.

12 tones is just the convention for Western music. You could have 100 tones, except then the intervals between tones would be very small, and most people would have trouble telling the difference between the 50th note and the 51st. I believe that Indian music and instruments are designed for 24 tones per octave (I think... I'm not 100% sure. I know it's more than Western music).

Why not have "A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L"?

No idea, but it seems like a good question.

Why are some notes always described by the lower-note#, and not the upper-noteb. For instance...G#? Or Ab? C#? Or Db? Does it matter?

Notes won't always be described as just C# or Db. It depends on the scale you're working with. Take, for instance, the A major scale. I'll right it in all flats.

A B Db D E Gb Ab A

Again, by convention, you don't want two notes with the same letter in a scale. In this case, you have Db and D and Ab and A. So instead, the "proper" way to write it is:

A B C# D E F# G# A

And last..octaves. Are there a certain amount? Like..if the lowest audible A marks the bottom of the first octave, I would take it the highest audible G (or G#?) marks the top of the last octave? Is that right?

There are an infinite number of octaves, it's just that humans can only hear a limited amount.


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OfflineBlastrid
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: Letto]
    #4134852 - 05/04/05 11:08 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Ha! nice Letto, right at the same time. Pretty much what I said but more straight to the point... :smile:


--------------------
Blas'?trid (bl?s tr?d)
    n.  3rd generation derivitave of a combination of 'bastard' and 'blasted'.  Used as both an insult or an expletive.
    ex.  Blastrid!

Stereopattern  <--My music.


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InvisibleLetto
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: Blastrid]
    #4134911 - 05/04/05 11:21 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

You definitely know way more than me on the subject though. Just refer people to my post first, then back to yours, hehe. I never actually studied theory, just picked up some things along the way. It's one of those things I'll learn eventually, but eventually never happens. :smile:

Actually I've been meaning to take music theory at my university, since I'll probably never get to it on my own. But there is only one 20-seat section for a university of 30,000 students. :rolleyes: If the class isn't full already, then it's impossible for me to get in because of scheduling conflicts.


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Offlinefreddurgan
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: Blastrid]
    #4134965 - 05/04/05 11:34 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

I honestly think I understand completely, everything I asked. I'm amazed!! :thumbup: :thumbup:

Wow you both are really good at explaining. This is gonna be a good summer. Summer of questions and learning :wink:

I'm curious though..if we have 12 notes per octave and some other systems have 24..why not us? Are we missing out? Do they have instruments over there that could make new and beautiful music that we just don't hear on a daily basis? I'm intrigued here.


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Offlinetomk
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: Blastrid]
    #4135060 - 05/04/05 11:53 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

I'm going to put on my music theory black rimmed nerd glasses and respond to Blastrid's post in the way a nitpicky music theory nerd with black rimmed glasses might.

Quote:

Blastrid said:
Try not to confuse the physics terminology with the musical notation terminology. It refers to the same thing, but it can get much more complicated if you throw in an additional set of names for everything... but yes you are correct. The frequency of a wave is the same as the pitch of a note.




No. Basically, yes, but no. The frequency of the same pitch can differ, depending on if you are playing it up or down. For example, the pitch A = 440. However, if you are playing the major scale, the ascending G will be higher then the descending one if played properly. Same pitch, slightly different frequency. Also, sometimes, the same frequency is a different pitch. A violinist playing 440 could be playing an A or a Gx (x = double sharp). These are different (but equivalent) pitches, but the same frequency. Sort of.

Quote:

OK, next: I wonder if anyone really knows why A was called A, except for ease. I suppose B could equal A#/Bb, and then C would be B, etc etc. But this is just how it is.




Actually, when they made the tuning changes, they sort of did this. Mozarts A did not = 440. Mozarts A was closer to our Ab then our A. As instruments, especially, the piano, got better, they were able to make frames from steel instead of wood. This had the effect of letting them tighten the strings with more tension, producing better sound and a less likely to break piano. This let them sharpen things up a bit at the same time.

Quote:

As for why say, in a piece, a D# is called a D# and not an Eb? well it all has to do with the Key, and the key signature. Every scale and key has a certain number of sharps OR flats. Don't be confused, they refer to the same pitch, but they are notated differently.




Actually, any violinist will tell you there are differences between an D# and an Eb beyond this. A d# will be sharper then the Eb. Be confused. At this stage, if it all makes sense to you, you are misunderstanding a lot.

A lot of the confusing stuff comes from fretless instruments. For example, some performers in early jazz choose not to play with a piano, because they wanted to be able to sharpen the intervals between the notes more, and the piano is in equal, not perfect, temperment. Reeds and horns and fretless strings (even fretted strings, with bending) produced a huge variety of pitches.

Think of it like the color wheel, there are definately areas where it is clear cut differences, but within each color there are subtle shades. Likewise with the pitches. Pitch names are not mapped perfectly onto frequencies in real performance (except on fretted instruments and pianolike instruments). Inso far as pitch names are mapped exactly onto frequencies, the mapping is an academic exercise and not a reflection of the way musicians think about music. Rather, pitch names are like color, where there are definate differences between them, but also small differences within them.

Further, it is a huge flaw of many composers of eleectronic music that they assume pitch = frequency. One reason live performance will outshine most computer music for a while is that in live performances, there are subtle differences between different occurances of the same pitch name, while this is not the case in most computer music. Reason had a great little synth where you could change the frequency by cents, either fattening the tone so that rather then encompassing one frequency, you encompass them a range (So, the frequency is 440 +/- 2 rather then 440) or by playing with it and altering the frequency during different pitches.


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Offlinetomk
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: freddurgan]
    #4135171 - 05/05/05 12:11 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Quote:

freddurgan said:
I honestly think I understand completely, everything I asked. I'm amazed!! :thumbup: :thumbup:




You don't understand it.  Neither of these guys explainations answered your question to the extent that would convey understanding.  Not that their answers were bad, it's just this is stuff that takes years to master, not days.  I don't understand it all.  But, I know enough to realize I don't have much understanding.  It's a start.

The reason the scale we used developed as it did is simple.  There are two aspects, the tuning aspect (equal vs perfect) and the 12 note aspect.  First, perfect intervals were used.  These are based on very simple ratios, like 3/2 and 2/1 (fifths and octaves, with the fourth being the inversion of the fifth).  These sounds are naturally pleasing, and occur in nature (birdsong, for example).  Since the main interval was the fifth, we can derive our entire set of pitches, just by going up fifths.  A-E-B-F#-C#-G#-D#-A#/Bb-E#/F-B#/C-Fx/G-Cx/D-Gx/A.  This is where the division of the octave into 12 tones comes from.  All from the fifth.

But, at first, they just used perfect intervals for harmony and seconds for motion.  After a while, some brave composer got bored with perfect intervals and started adding thirds.  This was alright, but there were tuning problems.  If your instrument is tuned to play the interval C-E (a major third) in perfect tune, then other intervals, like E-G#, would be horribly out of tune.  When you tune C-E so that E-G# is in more in tune, then both are a little bit out of tune.  So, after a while, they decided that the best way to make it plausable to play in lots of keys at once was to sacrifice a little tuning to maximize versitility.  This is why the distance between all the notes on the piano are the same, and why there are 12 of em.  I won't go into the math because I am lazy, want to get stoned, and have to go get cat litter.

Bachs WTC (well tempered claiver) was written for an instrument in perfect, not equal, tuning.  This meant, for Bach, that each key sounded different, since some were more out of key then others.  When modern pianists play this work, they lose that aspect of it.

Note that this problem applies to the guitar.  The hardest string to tune is the fifth string, the B string.  This is because it tunes to a major third above the G rather then a fourth.  In order for your guitar to sound right on the high frets, the G-B interval will not be perfectly in tune.  This is why that string is sometimes a bitch to tune and get to sound right.

Quote:

I'm curious though..if we have 12 notes per octave and some other systems have 24..why not us? Are we missing out? Do they have instruments over there that could make new and beautiful music that we just don't hear on a daily basis? I'm intrigued here.




Because our music is based on the perfect fifth, and that leads to 12 notes.  Note in systems with other divisions of the octave, the perfect intervals do not occur.  Yes, they could make some new and beautiful music, but it couldn't be performed by most performers, and most audiences would not be able to understand it.


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OfflineSneezingPenis
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: tomk]
    #4135360 - 05/05/05 12:42 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

actually, this doesnt take years to understand, you are all still within the realm of theory 101, except maybe Tomk.

Yes, indian and arabic scales are far superior to our scales, and much more complicated.

I got really high one day and decided to figure out the corresponding frequency to the color red. I then started to fantasize about a computer program/scanner that could make a chord/sound/note by analyzing a picture/painting based on the notes of the colors......OR, vice versa, painting a picture from a melody.


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Offlinetomk
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: SneezingPenis]
    #4135404 - 05/05/05 12:49 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Aphex Twin has a piece where if you do a graphical analysis of the piece it shows his face. I wouldn't call it melodic though.

It's my belief that most people who have a BA in music probably don't understand enough to answer that question. What I meant when I say it takes years to understand is the subtlities between Ab and G#, or the different ways a trumpet player might make a B sound. I didn't mean the circle of fifths stuff.


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Offlinefreddurgan
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: tomk]
    #4135638 - 05/05/05 01:32 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Well yeah..lol. I didn't mean I understand music theory, but I understand what I wanted to know about the questions I asked.

Feels like Stephen Hawking answered some high school algebra kid's question :wink:


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OfflineAnisotropic
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: tomk]
    #4136843 - 05/05/05 11:04 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

"Further, it is a huge flaw of many composers of eleectronic music that they assume pitch = frequency. One reason live performance will outshine most computer music for a while is that in live performances, there are subtle differences between different occurances of the same pitch name, while this is not the case in most computer music."

You play Firewater by BT and tell me if his 'computer music' sounds like it could be outshined by anoyone's live proformance.

(The fact of the matter is everyone is using computers today, if you're not, you're out dated, or are a garrage band. As a composer it would be really stupid not to record you're work and edit it digitaly.)

Yes, if you repeat one sample over and over again it sounds bad. But you're about 15 years behind my man. Good Electronic Composers figured out how to not make things sound samplie in the 90s.

Method 1. Have large sample librarys.
Method 2. Have synths constantly modulate slightly.
Method 3. Do not stack stacatto attacks of the same sample in rapid succession
Method 4. EQing a sound different on each attack.
(there are many more)

Dude seriously, everyone that is at the top levels of 'computer music' production has gotten past these things.

As a matter of fact, most things you hear are 'computer music' as everything on the radio has gone though some kinda digital editing.


Edited by Anisotropic (05/05/05 11:16 AM)


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OfflineBlastrid
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: Anisotropic]
    #4137024 - 05/05/05 12:01 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

I've got a BA in Music, and I think I answered it pretty well... :smirk:

tomk, you definitely know your shit, yeah. I suppose I never dove quite into tunings like this because my studies always focused on written theory, not performance. but, don't assume too much about others' experience and knowledg...;)

I can see your reasoning tomk, but wouldn't you say that a piano is equal tempered, so a G# and an Ab will always sound the same because it's the same 'button' on the keyboard? Sure I know this doesn't apply to stringed or woodwind instruments... what do you mean by 'played properly'? you mean as a perfect-temperment?

While tomk is right that there are subtleties in not only tuning and harmony but rhythm of live music not commonly or easily found in computer music, this shouldn't ignore Anistropic's point that a good computer or electronic musician recognizes this and accounts for it. Hell, Air on stage has a combination of recorded and played synths, mixed with live instruments (guitar, flute, etc).


more after work... intriguing. but don't assume too much! :smile:


--------------------
Blas'?trid (bl?s tr?d)
    n.  3rd generation derivitave of a combination of 'bastard' and 'blasted'.  Used as both an insult or an expletive.
    ex.  Blastrid!

Stereopattern  <--My music.


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Offlinetomk
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: Blastrid]
    #4137286 - 05/05/05 12:57 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Having been in a music school, I was astounded by some of the people they passed out of their music theory courses. Do you think most of the people who graduated with you had a very good idea of concepts in music theory? I remember taking 400 level music classes where people couldn't tell if a progression was I-IV or I-V from listening. I also remember the professor getting frusterated at how little skills many of them had. I didn't mean to come off like I was shitting on you, I was shitting on all the stupids who were in those classes I went to. As a smart BA in music, surely you must of been surprised at some of the stupids they let graduate as well. I didn't mean you man.

Yeah, they are the same on the piano. But, the thing to remember is that the tuning on the piano is a comprimise. Mostly, it's reeds, winds, and fretless strings that play this effect. I should of clarified that I didn't mean keyed or fretted instruments. If you are interested I could dig up the math that shows the cent difference between some our tempermant system and perfect tuning. Some instruments have the capacity to correct this difference. Thats what I meant.

Anisotopic - I love the good computer music. I think squarepusher is better then mozart. It's just most of it isn't as good as the guys on the top. I am hardly an opponent of computer music.


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Offlinefreddurgan
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: tomk]
    #4137390 - 05/05/05 01:28 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

I really hate that name, computer music lol. Do you call any music that was made in the 1980's "tape deck" music?

It's just music folks. At least call it Electronic or something.

No hate, just clarity.


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OfflineBlastrid
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: tomk]
    #4137980 - 05/05/05 04:02 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

yeah tomk, I totally know what you mean. I excelled at theory and progressions, and especially ear training in school, and I really couldn't believe how some of my peers were passing!
"c'mon dude, don't you hear the 7th resolve up? It's a dominant chord! Jeesus!"
hehe... my course MUS420 (hehehehe) -  20th century music class was my most favorite course I took in school. Most of the class hated it. They kept complaining that Schoenberg wasn't good music, it was just random notes that sounded creepy and stupid.  All i could do was shake my head...

No offense taken, buddy. I'm always happy to chat theory! :smile:

btw, there's a plug-in in Fruity Loops that achieves what Aphex Twin did in that song, it turns any image into a sound, appearing in the spectrographic representation of the music. It's built-in, called BeepMap. but like tomk said, it's hardly melodic. It sounds like digital noise or harmonic garble... (still effin cool)


--------------------
Blas'?trid (bl?s tr?d)
    n.  3rd generation derivitave of a combination of 'bastard' and 'blasted'.  Used as both an insult or an expletive.
    ex.  Blastrid!

Stereopattern  <--My music.


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OfflineSneezingPenis
ACHOOOOOOOOO!!!!!111!
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: Blastrid]
    #4138245 - 05/05/05 04:52 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

I-IV = here comes the bride

that is always a good way to remember it..


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OfflineAnisotropic
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: tomk]
    #4142766 - 05/06/05 04:47 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

Thats cool, it's just everything is on computers nowadays. The term 'computer music' just really doesn't have much relevance anymore because everything is edited/polished on computers now.

Most electronic music also has elements of the track recorded live. No one that knows what they are doing is trying to synth flutes instead of recording them anymore.

I mean I guess there might still be old timers still doing stuff completely on DAT, but thats only because there old or have out dated equpment. (if you want the charactor from dat you can just record the noise and add it back digitaly)

btw a light depth flanger/phaser cuppled with small amounts of compression can take away a 'samplie' sound also.


Edited by Anisotropic (05/06/05 04:52 PM)


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Offlinewrestler_az
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Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: Anisotropic]
    #4143055 - 05/06/05 05:46 PM (11 years, 7 months ago)

wow, this is an awsome thread......even for me, who know nothing about music except for what my ears like to hear. you guys really know your shit.


--------------------
how's your WOW?





  Edited by yageman (04/20/06 4:20 PM) 


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Invisiblemoog
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Registered: 02/15/05
Posts: 1,296
Re: Music theory question from a noob who would love an answer [Re: wrestler_az]
    #4144593 - 05/07/05 01:42 AM (11 years, 7 months ago)

*bump* :smile:

What a cool thread.


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