Music Theory

Musicians’ Questionnaire

Musician Questionnaire

A dozen of one, or not.

It’s tempting to think that it’s only the domain of modernist composers, theorists and ethnomusicologists to talk of anything but 12 notes in an octave. After all if it was good enough for Mozart and Beethoven it should be good for everyone, right? Well, as it happens, Mozart and Beethoven understood F# and G-flat as different notes. A manuscript survives for example of Mozart’s teaching notes to his English student Thomas Attwood showing the difference between a major semitone (e.g. E to F) and a minor semitone (Fb to F). Almost universally considered as identical today, in his they were pitched slightly differently.

Very few musicians are aware that even into the 19th century fingerboard diagrams and scale exercises existed with two types of accidental (e.g. g# as distinct from a-flat) as well as keyboards with split keys so that the player could choose between accidental types.

It’s remarkable how efficiently this has been filtered out of the system so that even professional classical musicians and teachers – let alone students – are unaware of our microtonal recent history.


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A Glimpse At the Modal Universe

A diagram demonstrating a section of the huge modal universe. You may see how mirroring modes (turning them upside down) can organize them into levels of brightness. It can also identify those modes that are identical in mirror form. These include Dorian (used in a thousand tunes from Scarborough Fair, Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Brick House to The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy), Aeolian Dominant (Babooshka) and Double Harmonic (Miserlou from Pulp Fiction).

These are just 3 of the heptatonic even-tempered modes with mirror symmetry parents. There are many others, scales with 2-12 notes, as well as scales with ‘twin’ mode systems. Regardless this technique can be applied widely and is a rich resource for composers and improvisers alike.

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Melodic Minor Harmony and Modes

An Introduction to Popular Music Harmony

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Melody and Harmony

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The Notion of Convexity in Music – Honingh & Bod

Here’s the interesting article examining inherent ster-convex properties of musical scales. Quite intriguing, will give it its due attention when I can.

Universal property of music discovered


An overblown title, but interesting nonetheless. Will comment when I have time to explore…

Trebuchet – The Interview. Geo and Milt geek out.

A transcript of Milton Mermikides’ interview with George Hrab on his latest album ‘Trebuchet’
Painstakingly transcribed by Kylie Sturgess.
The hours of audio are here:****Warning geeky musical content ****

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Upper Structure Chords

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The solution to the PD/DA/PF puzzle.

Yesterday I asked the (unlikely) question if anyone noticed a little musical easter egg I laid in the Pod Delusion tribute to Douglas Adams.

The podcast was edited in a way that made it barely audible and the reference is obtuse and lateral but here goes if you are keen to know.

The moment is most clearly heard at 56:00 of the pod delusion mp3 track.

In Pink Floyd’s tribute to Syd Barrett, ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ as the song is dying away the moog plays – in a very missable but achingly poignant way- the melody from Syd’s classic ‘See Emily Play’

The Hitchhiker’s theme (actually by the Eagles) that I rearranged is in a mode called Dorian (a particular scale with a lovely characteristic – see here for more:… This happens to be the same mode as ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ so in my track as the last chord dies away, you hear a moog playing a little melody with the classic ‘Shine On’ four note guitar motif… What is the melody? The Pod Delusion theme.

The reason I did this is that Douglas Adams was a big Pink Floyd fan and as mentioned on the pod delusion special even played bass guitar with them on stage. which gives it all a nice symmetry. I won’t mention what happens at 42 seconds.

Here’s an annotated audio file:

Did you get it?

Complete Track Analysis Techniques

Complete Track Analysis

Popular Music Harmony: Inversions and Basslines

Time-Feel Lecture Slides

Jazz Harmony Lecture Slides

Milton Mermikides Research Seminar – University of Surrey – Guildford

Milton Mermikides Research Seminar

Time-feel: the analysis, modeling and employment of sub-notational rhythmic expression

Tuesday 22 February 2011

16:00 to 18:00

Open to:
Public, Staff, Students

The analysis and pedagogical focus of the jazz idiom has, historically, been largely limited to those musical features most easily described within the standard notational system. These aspects took precedence over the hugely important stylistic mechanisms of rhythmic expression that fall between the cracks of standard notation. However, with 1) the advent of digital audio analysis, 2) an increased willingness and ability of practitioners to articulate this aspect of performance and 3) a conceptual liberation from a quantized grid-view of rhythm, light has been shed on this poorly understood and yet “most basic fundamental element” (Crook 1991) of jazz and popular music virtuosity. Through the consolidation of practitioner-led research and pedagogy (Mingus, Crook, Bergonzi and Moore etc.), current analytical research (Benadon, Naveda et al, Gerischer and Friberg & Sundström etc.) and extensive use of precise digital audio analysis, this paper presents a relatively simple, powerful and usable model of expressive micro-timing in jazz and contemporary popular music, variously referred to as ‘swing’, ‘groove’ or ‘rhythmic feel’ and here collectively termed ‘time-feel’.
Central to the model is the conceptual separation of the mechanisms of swing (offset of the second quaver) from latency (the sub-notational rhythmic placement of an individual performance relative to a negotiated time-line). This separation reveals and makes quantifiable a wealth of expressive rhythmic mechanisms (dynamic swing-levels, time-line hierarchy, time-feel blocks, differential elasticity, hyper-latency, swing friction, ensemble swing, isoplacement, latency contours and temporal plasticity) lost to the discretely delineated rhythmic paradigm. Analytical methods are suggested that create useful comparisons of stylistic and performer-based variations, as well as how time-feel may be controlled dynamically during performance. A formal mathematical model, specifically written real-time software, graphic notation and digital audio techniques are presented which may be employed with great flexibility for analysis or as supporting mechanisms to performance, pedagogical practice and composition. In order to demonstrate the real-world relevance of this model, detailed analysis and commentary of precisely measured rhythmic data is also presented in case studies with a diverse range of artists including Django Reinhardt, Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Michael Jackson, Nick Mason (Pink Floyd) and a specifically commissioned recording session with Pat Martino.

Rock and Pop Harmonic Devices

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Modal Interchange

Common modal interchange chords.

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An Introduction to the Wonderful World of Modes

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