You Write That Chord How? And Other Music Theory Horrors

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Music theory does not always make sense.

Sometimes it’s because the concepts are genuinely difficult and it takes some time to understand them, and then figure out how to use them in your music. This is normal.

Sometimes though, music theory does not make sense because we music theorists made a mess at it. We took something very simple and we made it as hard as we possibly could for no good reason.

Of course, we did not do this on purpose. I hope.

In this video, we are going to see some music theory ‘gotchas’, starting from the completely illogical way we count the intervals to the notational monstrosities that you can find on Jazz chord charts.

Come and enter the music theory ‘gallery of horrors’, have fun by laughing at how absurd music theory can be, and learn something useful. What’s not to like?

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Aylbdr Madison says:

I'll tell you what makes me angry: it's that horn players insist on calling a C note a B flat. As a guitarist I don't call an E a C, even though that makes it easier for a guitarist. <_<

Just kidding. But I do think it's funny how some people really are irritated by this. Especially for those who play stringed instruments (like guitar for instance) that make transposing wonderfully simple and easy.

Tony Rapa says:

It does get frustrating trying to work out different notations, but I don't rant about it. Personally, this is what I use when notating chords: CM7 (C major 7), Cm7 (C minor 7), C7 (C dominant 7), C+ (C augmented). Then, with extended chords: CM9, CM11, CM13, Cm9, Cm11, Cm13…. etc, etc, etc. And for altered chords: CM13#11 (C major 13 sharp the 11)… etc, etc, etc. I think this is fairly straight-forward and easy to understand…. so that's why I use this. I also have no problem with a triangle to indicate a major 7, a minus to indicate minor.

Scott Clark says:

I love it. The most common I see is Cmaj7 but I don't what they use as long as I can figure it out. Fort the fist time I recently encountered the triangle and I had no clue what he was talking about but when I say him play the chord I quickly figured out he was referring to a Cmaj9. After that, it was no problem.

alex chalakee says:

The right way to write a Cmaj7 is Dddmaj7. OK boomer.

Danky McSwag says:

I hate ambiguous chord names.

Joachim Comes says:

"if you like this video smash that like bottom…" but it is clearly a thumbs up button! xD joking. yeah i think that it doesn't matter how we write but if it transmit the information that you want to transmit, it is like language, in Spanish we speak horribly, some things doesn't make semantic sense, but we understand each other so it does not matter haha

Loving your videos man, keep it up

Dedi Cavit says:

I disagree. There needs to be a large international consensus system. System 15 or whatever. If the main national musical institutions agree on making an international standardation (each country can still use their own. It's about transition – like in science to the metric system or Kelvin etc.) and everybody agrees that the goal is first: practicality (shortness), second: supporting logic and easier theory – then success with quality is completely possible!
Languages, written word and standards change all the time and they often do so for the better and become more practical. There is no good reason to hold on to bad ideas that create obstacles, not least between nationalities. Music is universal and deserves its universal practical language.

Andre Alvarado says:

C7(+9) is just C7 add 9

Know One says:

I'm getting angry….people don't like me when I'm angry…PLEASE STOP ANGERING ME…PDLETHER RGGGH R ARRRGGGGH!!! HULK SMASH PUNY NOTATION!!!

Why you should never teach music theory to Dr. Banner.

Rob Harris says:

Yer what ever floats your boat… Well Said….

666cordyceps666 says:

I believe that music notation, that is stuff notation (scores/partitas) or chord symbols, must be
What I mean by that is a "notation's" purpose is to help the performer to interpret the above (scores/partitas/chords) as fast as possible.
Has to be accurate and clear.

Bowen SUN says:

It’s not 3+3, you are stacking note E, not placing E twice like when you counting apples. So 3+3-1=5. The point is your explanation is wrong, not about where to start indexing intervals. Why plain addition not making sense with addition is because they are not number of difference, they regard tonic as 1. You should see (3-1)+(3-1)+1=5 being the real formula for stacking general intervals

Adam Smale says:

As long as it’s clear: Cma7 or any variant of that I’m OK with. But C7? C7+? CM7? Your just going to cause confusion. You’re asking you have clams being played in your chart!

PH10 AD800 says:

05:45 A delta sign (Δ) "triangle" in science denotes 'difference'. Obviously both professors were wrong!
However I can understand all the different syntactical notations while originating from different countries and cultures: potatoe/potahtoe. It's however when they interfere semantically when it gets a problem, e.g. the erronious interpretation of the use of the car-horns A,B,C,D in Gershwin's American In Paris. People believed it where A,B,C and D note sounds.

#Girmay BassGTime says:

I say just like other standards (e.g. electronics, communication, etc), there needs to be a standards body on this topic. If not, the word "Music is international language" will have to be changed (::)

Steve White says:

8+2 also = 9 … an octave & a second is a nineth. Madness 🙂

Steve White says:

What would you call x345xx … a power chord but with a b5. ie. 3rd chord in the chorus of "Allstar" by Smash Mouth. I'm thinking Cdim(no3rd).

zolibxl says:

Ok so first of all, the only proper symbol EVER for C9 (or Cmaj9 if you will) is actually Em7/C. Period. (And Maiden rules m/)

For the rest I love this video. Do more of these! Self-derision by masters like you make philistines like me feel less stupid.

One of my favorite "theory let me down" moments was when I discovered that the fifth mode of melodic minor can be called "Aeolian dominant": for me Aeolian is so intimately related to natural minor that I cannot mentally process the notion of something called Aeolian having a major third. Calling that mode Mixolydian b6 makes so much more sense (also because Mixolydian is dominant to start with).

Timmy Spencer says:

Haha. Entertaining. Like 5-10 regular ways, and like 4 different jazz ways as well.

I started writing G7 (dominant) with a downward pointing triangle, opposite of the upward facing Maj7 triangle…just to muddy the waters more. Mwuhaha!

Seriously, it might be easiest to just write the chord notes (CEGB)…

Edit: This one friend is a jazz guy (sigh). So everything has to be stupid hard on purpose (it's a jazz thing).

So I'm teaching someone a song in C Major, and I want the Dorian mode on D (D dorian, the second mode of C Major).

So he butts in with "D dorian is just D Major with a flat 4th and 7th".

Why the F would you even bring up D major while I'm teaching a D dorian mode in C major? That's pointless and confusing to the student.

I could just as easily mention that D Dorian is like D Aeolian with a sharp 6th…but it has nothing to do with the C Major song so don't I mention pointless shit. 🙂

Jeremiah Lyles says:

Great Video.
Some of those notations that you wrote have often confused me into thinking that they were something else, such as ; C+9 being C augmented 9.
You made an excellent point.

Florian Thaler says:

For me it was always Cmaj7. In Jazz notation the triangle is the standard way imo. Outside of Jazz I've never come across a minor 9th chord so just C9 (meaning a major 9) was the only notation I ever saw 😀

nichttuntun says:

Great conclusion. I like the "there is no wrong or right" aspect of your lesson. Could listen for hours. I enjoyed.
Have joy and be sound.

Engywucki says:

I learned to use Cj7

Tom Hamrick says:

Great video — I always assumed it was my lack of understanding and there was a method to the madness. I especially liked your comment at the end of your video regarding your course: @10:35 "we do our theory straight on the fretboard . . . We don't use pianos in this course." There's nothing more frustrating than trying to learn a concept on guitar when the instructor insists on demonstrating the chord or pattern on the keyboard.

Laureano Ahmad says:

Too many names just one sound.
Either composers or musical educators have to agree on just one system.
Like musical notes and scores notations.
We need to talk and calm down. We are here for music not for theories.

3lc!0 says:

Here in Brazil we use C7M, (C major 7)because here the adjetives come after the substantives, C7 is a seventh dominant, CM7 does not exist in brazilian notation, Cm7 is C minor and seventh dominant, Cm7M is C minor and seventh major, and so on. Another great video, by the way.

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