“I never believed in a set routine. It should depend on how you feel, because you play what you feel.” Buddy Rich- American Jazz drummer and Bandleader
A theory is a system of ideas intended to explain something. Scientists have theorized about the universe for centuries in efforts to explain energy, time, and the Earth, among a slew of other concepts. Everyone wants an explanation. Yes, I was one of those “Why?” kids. Always looking for connections between subjects or people was just a natural ambition. I guess that’s why I was led to study music.
Around 500 B.C. a Greek philosopher named Pythagoras of Samos successfully explained the material world using numbers. Known more so for his theorem of right angle triangles, Pythagoras immensely contributed to the beginning of music theory. A string bearing tension creates pitch, and he discovered that how the string was divided changed the pitch in certain and measurable ways. Nowadays we call this concept a harmonic series or the overtones. A string divided in half creates the same note and octave (8 pitches higher). Divided in half again, the string creates the interval of a fifth, subsequently adding more intervals, as the string is further divided. These pitches are measured in frequency, the numeric measurements in which we define our musical sounds.
Over 2500 years, theorists and scientists have studied music using Pythagoras’ concepts as a springboard. Musical instrument makers must bear in mind the mathematical side to make functional instruments that have accurate intonation (in tune). The Western world standardized the frequency upon which other tones would be built as A=440hz and limited the number of notes to 12. That is why harmony in Western music sounds the way it does. On the other side of the world, Eastern music has developed with different concepts. By dividing the harmonic series into more than 12 notes, Eastern music uses micro-tonal steps (essentially notes in between notes) to express pitch. This lends for a sound that is a far cry from what we are used to hearing.
Calling all students songwriters, musicians and singers! We are looking for submissions to be showcased in our Cleveland County Artists feature: