Atonal and Tonal Structures

Basics of Music Theory

 

Atonal and Tonal Structures



Today i want to talk about two fundamentaly different approaches to music composition.This is obviously told from my personal perspective.As an autodidact i learned music theory over the period of allmost ten years.From 0.Today i am happy that i expanded my knowledge about it.In my eyes it is important to allways see music theory rather as a tool instead of a set of rules.It is a set of symbols that should help us recognize patterns and understand the highly complex language called music.

When i first started with music production i honestly didn`t know a thing about music.I started with basically zero knowledge about what i am doing but my strong will and trust helped me to go on.It took me years to form real “musical” compositions.And i mean musical in a sense of thought out tonal and rythmic structures instead of improvised trial and error production.Experimental music lives from crazy ideas and breaking the rules.The thing is , if a producer with fundamental knowledge about music theory goes “experimental” he does so with a backpack full of breakthrough knowledge and is weaponized with highly trained ears that are capable of identifieng tonal structures like intervals and chords.If you ever asked yourself why psykovskys music is so absurdly experimental but at the same time sublime you found the reason:He simply understands what he is doing and freed himself of any boundaries such as rules.



So in any case:It IS worth it!


To the matter:

If a producer starts a new track he could take two different routes:

  1. He could simply make a bassline.The note is unimportant because he will not regard a scale.The tones recorded afterwards are recorded on various notes and the producer disregards tuning his patches to a note i.E when he plays a C on his synth in reality it might be a F.The composition will be made step by step instead of planning the composition out as a whole.
  2. The producer makes a bassline in certain note.In our example he will choose the scale A minor.He makes a kick according to his knowledge that his track is in A minor.He also know about his rythmic microtiming.The smallest common unit in the track will be 1/16.He has a set of notes that he can freely play while recording without fearing unharmonic messes.When he approaches synthesis he regards tonality.that means he will tune his patches accordingly and use Frequency modulation in a calculated way to ensure consistent tonality.The composition will be thought out as a whole to begin with.

A minor Scale

So you see starting out a track is different depending on your approach.I am not saying one is better to the other.I don`t judge them i just analyze them to be a more concious producer.

As you can see in the picture above i chose the A minor cale for a specific reason:It is one of the most easy to memorize and use scale that exists.You start with the a and then just follow the white keys up until you reach the A one octave higher.The chosen scale also gives us several chords.Here the Triad A minor chord:

a minor triad chord on piano keyboard

You can imagine a chord as a house.Notes would then be the building blocks.A and C are the walls and E the roof.

For now we will make it a bit more simple and focus mainly on intervals first.Here is an image showing a minor third.To play a minor third yourself just press the a on the keyboard and afterwards the note C(three halftone steps above) and you played that interval.To give you an idea of how delicate the matter is do play a major third afterwards(4 halftone steps abpove C#).Repeat and compare the different feelings you get from those two intervals.You will notive a substancial difference normally.

Minor third

Working with intervals enables us to memorize certain intervals easy by simply remembering the amount of halftone steps.You can memorize and create melodies in number patterns in your brain with enough practice.For me it is a tremendously important tool as a musician.