introduction to music theory
Before undertaking this whole set of lessons, we need to clarify something that often creates confusion in defining what a sound engineer does (at least in the music recording industry): we work (mostly) with music, we deal with a lot of different musical instruments and talents, we talk about music, we listen to music all day. Many times talents ask us if their last take was good enough, or if we feel they should do another one. And even when we are not directly required to give an opinion, we are still the ones who will blend together the bits and pieces of a song. So, do sound engineers need to be musicians? No. Must they understand music? Yes.
Let's be a little clearer, not that being a musician isn't of any help to a sound engineer. Of course being able to master the art that we deal with every day cannot be considered not helpful, but there are plenty of successful sound engineers that cannot be considered musicians. And if that is still confusing, it is probably due to the meaning that we attribute to the word 'musician': being able to read music, play a few notes on a few instruments, understand the basic concepts of harmony and melody, and being passionate about music does not make one a musician. It would be the same as saying that being able to read, write, put a sentence together, and understand the basic concept of grammar would make one a poet.
So, while is not usually required from sound engineers to be able to express their most inner feelings through their skills in playing an instrument, it is definitely recommended that they understand the language that musicians speak.
Besides, let's not forget the ultimate purpose of this course, which is to give you a pair of trained ears that will improve the quality of your work. Being able to recognise basic rhythmic patterns and music intervals, is undeniably a skill that sound engineers must have.
This is where this second set of classes comes into place: it will teach you the basis that you must have to make your ears able to recognize the basic musical events, so that you can apply critical listening to musical pieces more effectively. Moreover, but this is not the main point of the course, it will also improve your communication with the talents.
Let's make it clear from the very beginning that this course will not make you a musician, nor it will teach you to develop the perfect pitch: there are plenty of courses of this kind around and this is not one of them.
By the end of this set of classes you will be able to:
- Apply the previously developed knowledge of sound theory to musical concepts in order to understand and describe the relation between notes, intervals and chords.
- Describe the different range of frequencies covered by the most common musical instruments
- Name and recognise different key and notation figures
- Recognise basic rhythmic patterns
- Recognise the most common kinds of chords
- Recognise simple musical intervals
- Recognise the instruments that are part of a pop song
- Understand and describe the role of different elements of a song
If you are a musician, or have a basic musical background, this part of the course should not be covering much new to you. As I said, this is not intended to be a comprehensive course of music, but it is supposed to teach the minimum musical skills that sound engineers should have.
One more note: throughout this classes we will often refer to 'pop-music' as an extremely broad term opposed to 'classical music'. This conscious generalisation makes it easier to refer to the kind of music that we are likely to find in a recording studio.
Ready to begin?