Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Matrix Theory - Keen Insight

When I play the piano, my understanding is a matrix of theoretical concepts I call “Matrix Theory.”  These concepts -by themselves- are idle, but when fused with other concepts, erupt into something different.

On a 101 level, combining and altering meters of poetry and music creates one such fusion.  Tempo, pitch, meter and rhythm are the combined vegetables of musical soup.

But when I say “Matrix Theory,” I mean something completely different.  Music theory is generally taught in a way that focuses more on the fact, than the application.  For example, take the definition of a major scale: 

               “It’s a series of 8 notes that begins and ends
            on the same note with half steps at the 3rd 
            and 4th and 7th and 8th intervals.  All the 
            rest are whole steps.”

Music majors view this “fact” as sufficient and so obvious there’s really no reason for further explanation.  They’re too hip.  When asked, they can recite the definition on demand while totally missing the concept beyond the fact.  The major scale is the cornerstone!!!  It’s worth a LOT of study.  When you truly comprehend the magnitude of all the musical disciplines rooted in the major scale, that’s when you look down on music as an observer of theory-in-motion. 

It is the “Conceptual” behind the facts
that makes up “Matrix Theory”

There are many quandaries in music whose answers are cultivated through Matrix Theory.  I’m not going to explain things here but, these questions and facts are some of the biggies:

     • What is a major scale?
     • What is a beat?
     • What is the difference between 2/2 and 4/4?
     • Any song can be written with any time signature.
     • To read music well you must think like a composer.
     • Think numbers, not alpha tones.
     • Major and minor key signatures are the same.
     • 1-4-5 dominates in music numerology.

Now you, my smart reader, may think you have a handle on these things.  You might even disagree.  Be aware, however.  Every one of these questions has a 101 answer for which you may be too hip.  Stand by.  We’ll get around to discussing them in due time.

In the meanwhile, tell me your experiences.


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

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