The Music Theory Advantage TM
Rapid Skill Development with the Cycle of Thirds

Created by
Max Maxwell
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Introduction to the Interval Portion of the Course

Why Learn to Spell Intervals?

Learning to spell musical intervals is a critical skill that lets you make the most of your ear training, and is fundamental to working with differences of pitch in music composition. Any student of music theory, who can quickly and easily spell musical intervals, has gained a powerful advantage in their study of music theory. This course makes it not only possible, but practical for music students to be able to spell musical intervals as easily as they can name adjacent numbers.

With this free online music theory course, you will learn to do the above tasks in your mind without the need for external reference. Not only will you learn how to do what is described above, but you will develop more skill and speed in these tasks with less time and work than with any other method. This free online course assumes that you have a working knowledge of basic concepts such as note, pitch, scale, key, interval, chord and their relationships to one another.

This course is excellent for beginners to the study of music theory, as remediation for first year college music majors, and is great for anyone of any skill level who is deficient in the music theory skills of spelling intervals and chords.

The Music Theory AdvantageTM Advanced Course Description (TL;DR)

The full course, which begins with a link at the bottom of this page, spells out the process in detail. However, the principles underlying this course are so simple that they can be quickly laid out for those who have a more thorough understanding of music theory. If you really know your music theory, but just need to improve your ability to spell intervals, or are a music teacher wanting to quickly evaluate the course, read the advanced course description. It is a quick, but highly condensed read. However, if you are unsure of your knowledge of music theory, or if you read the advanced version and it does not make sense, you should read the rest of the introductory material on this page and follow the link at the bottom to take the full course. The full course contains much more detailed descriptions of the process, illustrations and practice exercises.


The Making of an Effective Mental Musical Interval Calculator

While developing mathematics and music courses that have been used in public schools all over the United States, I realized that musical intervals and natural numbers are structurally identical. Furthermore, musical intervals function as numbers in the twelve tone equal temperament system relative to the manipulation and measurement of pitch differences in the creation and interpretation of music. This means that skill development priorities that have been proven necessary for learning mathematics will also be useful for music theory. This free online course is based on the idea of transferring the skill development priorities of basic mathematics to the study of music theory. You may read more about the development of this idea as well as a detailed illustration of the structural commonality of musical intervals and natural numbers. In mathematics, you would never teach multiplication without first teaching a student how to count. Yet in music this is done all the time. The musical analogue to counting is the ability to spell intervals, which is usually either not learned or put off until later in musical studies. The reason is that counting numbers has a very obvious and linear progression that is easy to memorize. Musical intervals, in contrast to numbers, do not have as obvious a pathway to the memorization of all the interval spellings. The inability to spell musical intervals is a developmental deficit that significantly inhibits the progress of the student of music theory. Spelling intervals is as fundamental to pitch difference in music theory as counting is to mathematics. Thus, if one can accelerate skill development in interval spelling so that it is as easy as counting, it will have a very positive effect on the study of music theory.

To meet this new agenda of skill development, I had to equalize the task by making it about as easy to spell intervals as it is to learn to count. To do this, I created a new tool. The first step in creating this tool was to use an obvious simple structure that was easy to memorize, just like the single digit order is easy to memorize. This structure, which I call the Cycle of Thirds, is the bases of the new tool. The tool functions as a mental musical interval calculator. The mental musical interval calculator is why this course is the fastest and most effective way to learn interval spelling. It is also a very fast method to learn chord spelling. It is easy to spell all chords for any root just by knowing the interval structure of the chord when you first learn how to spell musical intervals. The methods in this course were tested down to seven years of age. Even a first year elementary school instrument student, who takes this course of study with the help of a knowledgeable parent or music teacher and follows through with the recommended practice, will be more competent at spelling intervals and chords by the end of their first year of study than many musically accomplished high school graduates entering the first year of their college music major. This course of study is designed to develop more essential skill in less time and with less work than any other method. With this course, anyone can quickly and easily learn how to spell musical intervals.

The Music Theory AdvantageTM significantly raises the bar of expectation when it comes to spelling intervals. Traditionally, if a high school music theory student is asked "What is a perfect fifth above C?", and in response to that question they spend a few seconds in thought to answer "G," the student is considered to be doing well. However, if you asked a high school student what number comes after five and they hesitated for a few seconds before answering six, you would be rightly concerned about their progress in mathematics. This course transfers the expectations of the skill development priorities of basic mathematics to music theory. Because spelling intervals is as fundamental to pitch difference in music theory as counting is to number differences in mathematics, all music theory students be able to spell all musical intervals as easily as math students can say that six comes after five or four comes before five. I have heard from college professors that say as many as half of college freshmen entering a music major are deficient in basic skills such as interval spelling. The problem with this is that music theory students should be able to spell intervals right at the beginning of their music theory studies. For the first time, this is possible for all students (even first year elementary school instrument students). It is the goal of this course for students to learn how to spell intervals so well that they can answer interval questions such as "Name a series of six perfect fifths above C." with the answer "G, D, A, E, B, F#" as easily as you can count from one to seven. With the musical interval calculator you will learn in this course, this is a realistic expectation. It will also be a lot faster and easier to develop such skill than you would imagine. If you used memorization to learn the interval spellings, there are hundreds of interval spellings to memorize. With The Music Theory AdvantageTM, you will not have to memorize all the intervals because you will carry a musical interval calculator around with you in your head.

Begin the Music Theory Advantage Course of Study!

Copyright 2008-2011 Kenneth J. Maxwell Jr.