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Everything You Need To Know About Music (Almost)

Okay, the title is slightly misleading. One of the amazing things about music is that there is always something new to learn and the range of musical expression is infinite. However, most western music is made up of seven notes arranged in scales. There are twelve chromatic notes, so each scale starts on one of the twelve notes. The following is a variation of a chart found in many music lesson books.

Major 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Relative
Key I ii iii IV V vi vii I Minor
C C D E F G A B C A
F F G A Bb C D E F D
Bb Bb C D Eb F G A Bb G
Eb Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb C
Ab Ab Bb C Db Eb F G Ab F
Db Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C Db Bb
Gb Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F Gb Eb
B B C# D# E F# G# A# B G#
E E F# G# A B C# D# E C#
A A B C# D E F# G# A F#
D D E F# G A B C# D B
G G A B C D E F# G E

Explanations

  1. The numbers 1 to 8 indicate the notes in the scale, including the octave note as 8. You can also use this chart as a chord chart and think of these numbers as Nashville numbers representing harmonic degrees. Studio musicians will talk about simple song as having a 1-5-4 progression in a key such as E.
  2. The roman numerals are an alternative representation of the chords in a scale. Some musicians will use lower case roman numerals to indicate minor chords and upper case numerals to represent major chords. Chord theory is more complex than this chart implies, but this is handy to tell at a glance the main chords of a scale.
  3. You can use the columns to transpose both notes to play in a melody and the chords to play when changing from key. Say the IV chord is F in the key of C. You can look down the IV column to find A if you want to transpose to the key of E. Very handy.
  4. The chart immediately tells you what the harmonically correct notes and chords are for any given key. Great for jamming or faking.
  5. The highlighted I, IV, and V indicate the strongest chords in the key. Most pop tunes emphasize these chords. Playing the V chord as seventh chord (V7) will make most progressions harmonically stronger.
  6. The notes of the relative minor key are exactly the same as the major key, only played in a different order. The relative minor starts on the sixth note of the major key.

Learn these chord progressions and many of the popular keys and you will be ready for almost anything!

  1. I-IV-V7
  2. I-vi-ii-V7
  3. I-vi-IV-V7
  4. iii-vi-ii-V7-I
  5. I-IV-iii-vi-ii-V7
  6. I-IV-vii-iii-vi-ii-V7

Notice how the V7 almost always leads to the I? That progression form the strongest resolution or cadence in music and seems most natural to most listeners of western music.