| home page | about frank | musician's lounge | cds from nkp |
| current students | instruction | theory den |

AMERICAN music is typically viewed in categories of sound and instrumentation. Rock and roll is equated with the electric guitar, high volume, and a danceable back-beat from a rhythm section consisting of drums and electric bass. Euro-Techno is created on synthesizers and sequencers, and uses electronic sounds for the rhythm section.

Structurally, however, the two forms of music share much in common. Harmonically, they both tend to be modally based, with rock having a more direct blues influence. The drum and bass parts can be virtually the same, excepting the spontaneous embellishments of the live musician. The American musician must famaliarize herself with the structural elements that are used in these forms, in order to be prepared for the variations that occur.

For terms of study and discussion, we will refer to these structure categories as styles. American music divides itself up into four basic styles: Blues, Modal, Minor Key, and Major Key. In my teaching practice, I order them this way in order to align the learning process with the acquisition of skills and knowledge.

The Blues serves as an excellent beginning in many ways. It is the historic beginning of improvisation in American music, and its rule-breaking melody/harmony relationships form the essence of jazz, rock-and-roll, funk, and most other forms of popular music. It is an excellent first-pass style, because relatively easy-to-handle expressions of every improvisational technique are possible within the blues form.

Modal harmony includes the traditional diatonic harmony (Ionian), and applies to classical, folk, rock, country, some blues, latin and spanish, jazz, and many other sub-categories of popular music. The exploration of Aeolian serves as a spring-board for the discussion of relative minor, which leads into the Minor Key style. The use of harmonic-minor to provide the [lacking] dominant V7 chord, and the use of melodic-minor-ascending to smooth the ascending augmented-second over the dominant, provides the explaination for the co-existence of these three minor scales. This also provides the explaination for their use.

Major key harmony introduces the mechanisms of jazz. These harmonic patterns show themselves in other forms of music, but they are the province of the jazz musician, and the focus becomes the control of functional harmony within the jazz form called BeBop. The contemporary jazz musician builds upon these techniques and parameters for all of the modern jazz improvisational styles.

The following table outlines the styles and the skills used to develop these styles. Links open windows with details on selected topic.




Blues 7th chords / 9th chords, minor pentatonic / blues / dorian by key, major pentatonic / major blues / mixolydian by chord, triplets / shuffle rhythm, 12 bar form
THEORY: cycle of fifths, diatonic harmony, / tonic / sub-dominant / dominant, cadence (plagel / authentic), chromatic scale, major scale formula, chord quality and construction ( triads / sevenths), roman numeral analysis, extensions / tensions, passing tones
secondary / extended dominants, substitute dominants (subV / tritone substitution), functional harmony, passing diminished
Modal drop voicings, modal progression, giant steps (passing-tone) exercises, modal 'cadence'
THEORY: critical-note harmony selection, rhythmic resolution, S w S w balance, scale breakdowns, arpeggios, 12 key playing
modal interchange, line-motivators, line-cliches, typical M.I. progressions, montuno / clave / salsa, 2 against 3 syncopation, swing, latin, funk, rock, odd-meter
Minor Key natural / pure / relative minor scale (aeolian mode), harmonic minor scale, melodic minor scale (traditional), real minor / jazz minor / real melodic minor / melodic minor ascending scale, I-VI-II-V in major and minor
THEORY: II-V in major and minor, guide-tones, approaches
root-guide tone voicings, inversions
Major Key chord tones, tensions, passing-tones, scale-approaches, chromatic-approaches, embellished-whole-step-scale-approaches, 9th / 11th / 13th / extensions (also 15th / 17th), II-V series, master progressions, major blues, Giant Steps
THEORY is integrated into drills
true chord-scales, 23rd extensions, hexatoncs, intervallics, tetratonics, complete scale / modal / arpeggio breakdowns including chromatic scale

ALL music forms contain the four basic elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and form. The student of American music must understand the interaction of these four elements in any music style or form they encounter.


4 Structural Elements of Music

Melody concept and development
Harmony concept and development
Rhythm concept and development
Form concept and development

©2003, Frank Singer | Naked Kitty Productions | chelaBOP | Frank Singer.com
All Rights Reserved

| blues | modal |
| minor | major |
More Talk
| melody | harmony |
| ryhtym | form |

time to practice

[ back to top ]