Chord Stories, Music Theory, Songwriting

Music Shapes

Here’s experiment you can try for yourself.  Draw a circle with 12 points on it. It’ll look like a clock without numbers:

Now what is the most interesting pattern you could create to get around the circle, moving the same number of spaces each time. You could move one space at a time, which gets you all the way around the circle, but it’s kind of a boring way to do it. 

If you move by twos you create a hexagon, and you miss half the notes.  Moving by three creates a square. Fours creates a Triangle.  Both are closed loops and with a bunch of points which get missed. 

Moving by five dots at a time however, is pretty cool, you a star and you touch all the dots.  


Six is a line.  


After that it’s all repeats in reverse.  Moving by seven spaces is a again star, eight triangle, nine square, etc. 

Now name the points on the “clock” with the twelve notes from frets one to twelve frets on the guitar. Use any string you like.  I chose the low E string.  Follow the path of the star around the circle and you end up with the same pattern as the Wheel of chord Story (the circle of fifths. 


Kinda cool right?  All the other patterns of 2, 3, and 4 spaces create closed loops, (geometric shapes really), but jumps of frets five or seven allow you to touch all the points on the circle.  Of course all these jumps have names in the jargon of music theory:

Jumping of 1 dot (or fret) is a 1/2 step (or semitone)
Jumping of 2 dots (or frets) is a whole step (or whole tone)
Jumping of 3 dots (or frets) is a minor thirds
Jumping of 4 dots (or frets) is a major thirds
Jumping of 5 dots (or frets): is a perfect fourth
Jumping of 6 dots (or frets): is a tritone, augmented fourth, flat five, or diminished fifth (a lot names for a simple line, eh?)
Jumping of 7 dots (or frets): is a perfect fifth

That’s enough for now.  All of that jargon can be a little confusing and abstract to keep straight.  Looking at the shapes they create however give a nice visual reference to think about how these jumps might help you move in a scale, or piece of music.


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