Reading a Chord Chart
Okay, um, here we're going to do now. This is a little different. Um, this is not gonna be the analysis thing like we've been doing in the past. We're going to talk about how to read a lead sheet. Um, in a way that I hope is useful to you. So we're looking at a lead sheet now for Ah, Billie Jean by Michael Jackson. Um, there's notes here, and you're thinking this is nonsense. I can't read. Ah, these notes. Maybe you don't know how to read the dots on the lines and all that stuff, but that's fine. I don't care about that. We're still gonna be able to dial in the song in our sequencer. Um, just by using ah, couple tricks to tricks, actually, that we already know. Um, how did you so we can read this thing? We could make music out of this piece of paper based off what we already know how to do. So let's do it. Um, the first thing I'm gonna look at is just like the other tunes. I need to figure out what key it's in. So, um, there's a clue when you look at sheet music and it's right here. It...
's this thing right there. Now you might say, OK, there's a sharp symbol. We know that that is a symbol for a sharp. It's one of these things or hash tag, if you will. Um, don't call it a hashtag college A sharp because we're talking about music, not Twitter. Um, so this is a sharp and there's one of them right there. Ah, sometimes you'll see more of them. You might see of them here and you might see flats here. I don't really care where they are. What notes there on does really matter. All I need to do is count how many there are. There are one. Okay? Or there is one. There are one. There is one. Doesn't matter. Ah, one sharp here. So let's go to our circle of fifths. We know this thing. And what will this tell us about that one sharp. It's actually going to tell us what key were in because if there was nothing there, if there was nothing in that spot, we would be in the key of C. If we go this way, we get sharps. And if we go this way we get flats. So if there's one sharp, we would be here if there's here or here one of these two. If there were two Sharps, we would be here. Three Sharps. We would be here and so on. If there was one flat there, we would be here or here. Sorry. If there were two flats, we would be here. Three flats. We would be here. So there is one sharp, which means we must be here. So I'm either in the key of G or the key of the minor. That's just what that symbol is telling me. So let's figure it out. How do we know if we're in the key of G or e minor? Well, are really good. Clue would be if our first chord was one of those two. Things are first chord is an e minor so pretty darn safe bet that were in the key of e minor. So let's assume we're in the key of a minor and hey, that's the key. We've just been in for, like, the last, like, two or three videos. So that's convenient because it's fresh in our head. So we're in the key of you minor Now it's telling us the names of the cords, These guys Ah e minor f sharp Minor overeat. Now this over e thing we haven't looked at yet, but we will. That's an easy one. So we're gonna look at that over eat, so let's just ignore it for just a second will come back to it. So are two chords are e minor and F sharp Minor. We're in the key of the minor. So our first court is gonna be an e minor chord and we know e minor in the key of e minor is just a chord based on eat. So let's put that together. Do it right here. So I e minor is gonna be our 1st 3rd and fifth. There's R E minor court. Great. So there's our first chord. An e minor in the key of you Minor is a one chord. We know how to do that. Our next chord is an f sharp and we're gonna forget about that over E for just a minute. We'll do that next. So in F Sharp is based on two, but we have a little bit of a problem here, so let's build our F sharp board. So Route 2nd 3rd 4th and fifth. Now what is the two chord? The second chord in our in a minor key is that major minor or the funky one that diminished it's diminished. So this doesn't want in F Sharp. Minor recorded are sorry enough sharp, diminished chord. It wants enough start minor chord, and we can see by looking at the, um, the notes here. We don't need to know how to read this, these notes, but we see there's another sharp here, which means there's one note that's out of key that they want us to fix. That's what they're telling us with that. So we need to convert our diminished chord to a minor chord. And in order to do that, all we really need to do is raise this note. So to get a diminished chord to a minor chord, we're going to raise the fifth of the chord. So that's just something you might want to remember or, uh, deal with when you encounter it. So now we have an F sharp, minor chord, and in e minor chord guys, so e minor chord F sharp, minor chord now Let's deal with this over e All that over e means is, if another way to write this that would make it look a little more clearer is if we wrote it kind of stacked, which sometimes you see him written this way, so f sharp, minor over e. It looks like a fraction, right? It's not a fraction. It's literally the way I just said it f sharp minor over E. All that means is they want an F sharp, minor chord, but they want an E in the bottom of it, so they want an E in the bass. They're just telling us what the baseline is by saying that, so it doesn't affect the court at all. It's still in F sharp, minor chord, but we're gonna add an E to the bottom of it. Sometimes those notes and the bottom will be notes that her in the court, and sometimes they won't be in the court. This note is not in the cord, but that's fine. So here's our F sharp minor chord on, and they want us to put an E in the bottom so that changes the quality of the court a little bit but not much. And they wrote the music. And that's what they want us to dio. That's what they told us to do based on the names of those chords. So that's what we're gonna do. Okay, so there's our first bar. I'm gonna put this into rhythm a little bit. Here, let me see here. Hoops going awfully fast. Should be about They're trying to remember how the song goes and just kind of roughly dialling the rhythm. Okay, uh, I'm gonna get rid of my scale. I left the scale here of E minor, but it's gonna trip up my rhythm. And I want this to really sound like the song. So, um, I want to start it unbeaten one. Okay. Okay. Um, So now let's do the next bar and exports slightly different. That would be here, so e minor. Now they want 1/7 and then the same f sharp minor. So remember that whenever we have these seven, if I just played an e minor and didn't put the seventh on it, I would be playing zero wrong notes, right? I would just not be playing all of the notes that it's asking you to do so. If I leave off the seventh and just do any minor, I have all the right notes. There's just one more note that I could put in there. So leaving it off doesn't create any wrong notes. It just doesn't have enough notes. So we could leave that off. What? We're gonna put it in. So let's go to the first thing because it's so similar. I'm gonna copy that and paste it here so e minor. But now they want 1/7. So there's the seventh of you minor. And then that f sharp over e is the same. Okay, and then that's what they want for pretty much all the rest of this section. So this bar is the same as the first bar e minor to f sharp minor over e. And then this one is e minor seven with F sharp minor overeat. Same is that one. So that's the pattern going back and forth. And I don't want to analyze this entire song. So I'm just gonna take thes two bars and let's just repeat him four times and I've cued up. Let's get this over here somewhere. There we go. Have queued up a little beat. That will kind of sound like it a little bit, just kind of roughly. Okay, so now we have the beginnings of Billie Jean that we figured out just based off the sheet music when when we didn't really know how to read notes at all. And we didn't have to deal with the notes. All we had to do was figure out the key and look at the names of the cords and then figure out how to make those cords, which we know how to do. Even we don't even need to deal with individual notes. We just need to recognize those chord symbols and be able to put it together. Excellent. You can read sheet music now.
In the first part of Music Theory for Electronic Musicians, we learned how to work with the piano roll editor in a DAW to make harmonies, melodies, and whole tracks. In this second part, we'll expand on those ideas. We'll work with minor keys, focus some time on melody and bassline writing, and we'll talk about how different tracks work.
In this class, we feature an extensive track analysis segment by Daft Punk, Avicii, Skrillex, and many more. In each of these segments, we'll look at their tracks on the piano roll editor. We'll talk about why they sound the way they do, and how you can use similar techniques in your own music. Each of these segments picks apart multiple elements of the song and dissects it in an easily digestiable manner.
Who should take this course?
Anyone interested in producing their own tracks. This will get you up and running and give your tracks a unique sound in no time.
This course consists of video lectures, which all contain a session in Ableton Live 9. If you are using a different program (or none at all), no worries! This isn't a class on how to use Ableton Live, and the concepts can be applied to any DAW.