We all know that in order to build a house, you need to ensure that the foundation is intact and solid first before proceeding any further.
Producing music is no different.
If you are an aspiring beatmaker, it is important to understand the basic theory behind music creation – Because that is the foundation.
Making beats is not about “software” as some of you might believe. There is so much that goes into producing music. The software program which you use is totally irrelevant.
However, it is vital to know what you’re doing and as the saying goes Knowledge is Power.
This short post covers basic music theory for beatmakers. Whether you are just starting out or have been producing beats for a while but have zero music theory knowledge. There is always room for improvement.
But before we proceed, I just want to point out that this is not an ultimate guide; music theory is a broad subject on its own (You have to buy textbooks for that, hahaha I’m just kidding).
On a serious note, I want you to look at this as a “crash course”, so I’m going to be quick on this one.
Now, let’s get to the part you have been waiting for.
Know Your Scales
In a musical context, a scale is a group of notes ascending or descending in a key. As a music producer, you have to be familiar with basic scales because the knowledge will help you to play melodies.
One thing that you should always remember is that each musical scale consists of seven notes.
Let’s take the easiest scale for example, which is the C major scale. This is how it looks like:
This scale consists of white keys only.
But how is a c major scale formed?
Each scale is constructed using the whole and half steps formula. In order to form any major scale, you should memorize the following pattern:
Just in case you might not be aware, there are only twelve notes on the piano or keyboard.
But just to clarify further, a whole step is two half steps. For example on the c major scale, C to D, E, is a whole step. A half step is the closest note (C to C# is a half-step).
Say you want to construct a D major scale; you apply the same whole/half step formula mentioned.
It’s easy to play a scale on any key but only if you have memorized this formula.
For every major scale, there is a minor scale.
How to form a minor scale on the piano or keyboard?
There are different minor scales but for the purpose of this post, I will stick to the natural minor scale.
The formula for constructing a natural minor scale is as follows:
Below is an illustration of the C minor scale
You can repeat the same process on any key using the exact formula for minor scales.
Now that you know about scales, let’s move on to chords so you can understand the relationship between the two.
Basic Piano Chords
If you have a basic understanding of scales, it’s easier to learn how to construct chords.
A chord is basically three or more notes played together.
Again using the C major scale as an example, this is how you play a C major chord.
As you can see on the above picture, C-E-G played together forms a C Major chord.
If you are confused, refer back to scales and if you can, try to memorize this as 1-3-5 (first-third-fifth notes on every major scale).
Bear in mind that you can swop these notes around like E-G-C or G-C-E in order to form a C major chord.
This is known as chord variation. But it will get easier once you have learnt to master chords in their original form.
Again, using the formula, a C minor chord would be C-Eb- G (1-3-5 notes of the C minor scale).
You can repeat this pattern on every key using whole and half steps.
A basic understanding of major and minor chords is a must for any producer in my view- Irrespective of the kind of music you make.
When you know these basics, you can play decent chord progressions which can further enhance your beats.
I just took you through the basic scales and chords that you need to know whether you are a beatmaker or a producer.
It’s not enough to learn how to make beats through trial and error.
Having said that, don’t read this and think you are done or that you know enough. There is so much to learn, but I will be adding more posts on this subject in the months to come.
But for now, you can click on the links I have provided on this post to educate yourself further.