Posted by: Corey | January 26, 2012

Learn Music Theory 1 [More Than Scales]

I’m so excited to start this crash course on music theory from a songwriting perspective. This is how you become able to just listen to a song, then immediately go and play it. This is how you understand what’s actually happening in music, and see it an entirely different way.

Put simply, you’re like Neo at the end of The Matrix. You’re no longer struggling to understand what’s happening and getting tripped up all the time, you’re a masterful ninja who stops bullets with your mind.

And my favorite: this is a giant part of your songwriting process.

Let me level with you though. I know what you’re thinking. We’ve all been there- a couple piano lessons, or being in a school band- and you’re forced to learn a bunch of other stuff that doesn’t really make sense to you. But the problem I have with the way most people teach music theory is this:

If you were going to learn a language, would you just open up a dictionary and start memorizing words? NO! Yet that’s the way we’re taught theory. We don’t learn structure or meanings, we just jump into random facts with no context. And today I want to fix that. Let me preface all of this by saying I’m talking about music theory in terms of modern music and songwriting. Things are VERY different when we’re talking about classical music.

To me, there are two main elements to music: Melody and Chords.

However, before we get to those, we have to start somewhere that you probably already know. But stay with me- I promise I’m going somewhere with it.

Where we have to start is: the scale.

You’ve heard a major scale. I get into more detail on how to make scales here, and if you don’t know how to do make a scale on any note you should DEFINITELY read that article. But for now, lets just say a scale sounds like this

Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do

Bam. Most people know that- but here’s what most people don’t know. Each of those notes, in music theory, is assigned a number. “Do” is 1, “Re” is 2, “Mi” is 3, etc.

Now what most people FURTHER don’t know- is that each of those notes can also be the foundation for a chord. There is a specific chord that can be built off of each of these notes.

There’s technically 7 notes in the scale (because there’s 2 “Do’s”, the first and last note are the same). And out of those, I’ll tell you right now we’re usually only going to use 6 of those notes as the foundation for chords in our modern songwriting. And here’s what ROCKS MY WORLD.

Notice I haven’t mentioned a specific key. Once you learn about how these chords work together, they will work together in that same way no matter what key you’re in. This means you don’t have to memorize a ton of scales, or learn about key signatures, or the order of flats and sharps, etc. (even though you should). Just learn about these chords, pick a key to plug them into, and you’re good to go! That’s where we’re heading next.

Please leave a comment and let me know what’s on your mind!



  1. […] that we’ve learned about what scales can set us up to do, let’s dive into the world of chords. Here’s how to make a basic […]

  2. […] Learn Music Theory 1 [More Than Scales] ( […]

  3. I’ve always considered chords are harmony and melody as flow. Both are built on the scale notes and when using numbers for the relationships, yes all you have to do is pick a staring point. However, not every musician is adapt at the ear training, it will be wise to learn real music theory to support and boast your skills. Get some details here: And quite frankly going into jazz you’ll want to understand those structures.

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