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May 1, 2010 - 1:28:40 PM



3274 posts since 2/7/2008

Theory doesn't exist to make up rules, it exists to talk about those sounds we make.
Theory can describe recurring patterns, like the pentatonic and the diatonic scales or the dominant chord relationships, and by describing those patterns you can make sense of the stuff that follows the pattern and even of the exceptions: you can think of them as not following the pattern and try to describe them in terms of their difference. Most stuff in bluegrass can be described in terms of simple music theory: If it doesn't fit into the diatonic scheme it probably fits into the some other scheme, like the dominant relationship I described or the blues scale.

The major chords on the II and VI and bVII don't fit into the diatonic scheme, but they do fit into the circle of fifth/dominant chords scheme. You have to choose the right bit of theory to describe what's going on.

Edited by - JoeDownes on 05/01/2010 13:30:45

May 22, 2010 - 6:52:02 AM

3 posts since 4/29/2010

This was very interesting and helpful. I've been playing music for about 14 years but somehow have always avoided learning much about music theory. Not nearly as complicated and scary as I thought.

Dec 4, 2010 - 1:37:07 AM



4 posts since 10/15/2009

thanks for sharing your explanation and making it sound so simple

Dec 22, 2010 - 1:36:18 PM



460 posts since 9/23/2010

Thanks also. Your explanation helped me understand the concept.

Dec 28, 2010 - 10:53:44 AM



1 posts since 12/27/2010

the ii chord (which is usually minor) often becomes major when preceding the V chord because it's the V of the V (secondary dominant) as in the following example:

G |C |G |D
G |C |G D|G

D |G |D |G
C |G |A |D

the A is the V of the D with D as a temporary tonic - in roman numeral analysis since the D is V, the A is V/V (read five of five) and this is the theoretical mechanism for the II becoming major instead of minor. it sounds a more convincing resolution to the V before the V resolves to I

in G E7 A7 D7, the vi is becoming major (VI or V/II) for the same reason. in jazz this is known as "backcycling"

the connection between melody and chords is often overstated and even more often generates endless arguments in online forums; however, the connection is undeniable...

classical music theory defines a "chord" as no less than three notes and yes, a triad is a chord: a three note chord...

example chord progression above is from a tune called "hot dog"

Jan 28, 2011 - 5:01:49 AM

517 posts since 1/8/2011

would someone kindly tell Me what > means over a note? Thank you George

Jan 28, 2011 - 5:28:28 AM



3274 posts since 2/7/2008

It means that you're supposed to emphasize that note.

Jan 28, 2011 - 6:40:44 AM

517 posts since 1/8/2011

thank you Joe very much.

Jan 28, 2011 - 7:36:23 AM

518 posts since 5/31/2004

Actually it's the opposite if you are talking about musical notation. A" >" is a decrescendo, (decrease in volume) and a "<" is a crescendo (increase in volume), but the actual musical notation symbol is bigger than the "end bracket" symbol you used which can be found on any typewriter on the same key as the period (dot) if used with the cap key. A cresendo in musical notation may span several notes. You didn't specify whether you are looking at tab or musical notation. If it's tab it probably means emphasize the note, but the person who wrote the tab should have used the beginning bracket symbol instead of the end bracket symbol, imo, so it agrees with standard musical notation. In my books I boldface my melody/emphasis notes so there is no confusion and you don't have to look two places to get the information (at the note AND at the symbol above it).

Feb 2, 2011 - 9:26 AM



3274 posts since 2/7/2008

Wiki says:

In music notation, an accent mark indicates a louder dynamic to apply to a single note or an articulation mark. The most common is the horizontal accent, the fourth symbol in the diagram above; this is the symbol that most musicians mean when they say accent mark.

For more information on accent marks see

In my tab book by Tony Trishka the same symbol is used in tab.

A crescendo/decrescendo looks like this:

Edited by - JoeDownes on 02/02/2011 09:30:26

Feb 2, 2011 - 10:06:03 AM

518 posts since 5/31/2004

My bad. I didn't realize musical notation used the "<" at all. I just remember the crescendo mark from high school band a half century ago, and it normally spanning several notes.

Mar 6, 2011 - 6:55:57 AM

22 posts since 2/26/2011

thanks so much just reading this topic and it really helps a brand new player

Jan 2, 2012 - 7:21:59 PM

21 posts since 11/28/2011

I have had an ha-ha moment. Thank you sherry as always you are a wealth of information. Much appreciated.

Jan 17, 2012 - 9:07:38 PM

1242 posts since 7/15/2011

OK! I just realized that had I been practicing this whole time instead of reading this post, I would be an expert! I'm going to go puke now!!!

Feb 15, 2012 - 9:12:29 AM



22 posts since 2/5/2011

Thank you very much for taking the time to post this info. Great help!

Jun 7, 2012 - 5:20:30 PM

11 posts since 4/28/2012

Thanks Sherry, for sharing the Music Theory with us. I teach guitar and banjo and the first thing I do is teach scales and why they are played that way. My students do much better when they understand why they are playing the notes being played. You did a great job of compiling it all for us.

Jun 12, 2012 - 5:41:50 AM
Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)


29823 posts since 8/3/2003

Thanks for the compliment.  I try to help when I can and if the theory lessons are of value to people, then I'm happy. 

Jul 5, 2012 - 11:42:29 PM



3550 posts since 2/1/2012

Hi, is the following correct or is there a typo.  In the explanation it states 9th fret but in the bottom group there is an 8 instead of the 9?


------------------------------------------------------- Each Fret is a HALF STEP on your banjo. To make a G scale on the 3rd string, you fret as
follows: open, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 & 12. Try it on your banjo, it works. (notice that there are 2 frets
between each note EXCEPT B) and C and F# and G — this is why you need to know the whole
and half steps. There are NO sharps and flats between B and C and E and F.


Jul 6, 2012 - 12:48:44 AM



3274 posts since 2/7/2008

It should be a 9 (E) in both cases.

Jul 6, 2012 - 5:09:14 AM



3550 posts since 2/1/2012

Originally posted by JoeDownes

It should be a 9 (E) in both cases.

 Thank you, that is one bit of music theory cleared up for me.


Jan 15, 2013 - 1:11:04 PM

10 posts since 1/12/2013

As a beginner, all this is well above my understanding, but I will continue to reference it every few days. Maybe it will make sense eventually.  Thanks for the effort of putting this together.

Jan 29, 2013 - 11:52:31 AM

3 posts since 2/18/2012

Cheers for posting this. Great help!

Jan 31, 2013 - 7:24:50 AM



115 posts since 2/1/2008

another bump for a good thread. I learned most of this many many years ago, but my brain doesn't retain... so it's good to have such summaries (and great back and forth discussion, bumps and all :) )!

appreciate everyone's input!

Feb 14, 2013 - 8:40:16 AM

2865 posts since 5/14/2003

Wow Sherry, thanks, downloaded your booklet, very, VERY informative

May 1, 2013 - 11:15:31 AM

27 posts since 4/5/2013

I've just written a book called "Patterns on Your Banjo - Unlock the Secrets to Blues Improvisation" Its all about pattern , no music or tab reading. Just need some Blues backing tracks which you can easily download off the computer for free. I teach just enough music theory to allow people to be creative and stop them worrying that they don't know enough music theory!

My web-site is The download of my free sample function is just being fixed so you should be able to have a look at it in the next couple of days.

All the best, Jennie

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