Connecting Chord Flow to Music Theory

When I was growing up, everyone had a phone number you had to remember. If you wanted to talk to someone, you had to know it. If I wanted to call my best friend, or a girl I liked, or prank call the pizza place, I had to pick up the phone and dial the number. 

It’s similar when I want to connect Chord Flow to Music Theory. There’s a phone number to do that. It’s 736-2514. That’s seven numbers (the first of which is a 7).    

Music Theory’s ‘phone number’ aligns with the pattern of Chord Flow, which is BEADGCF, or BEAD Guides Chord Flow. Here they are connected:

A lot of people get nervous about music theory because it feels like math and math can be tricky. This isn’t math. If you know the ‘phone number’ you can connect Chord Flow with Music Theory. 
One way to think about the numbers of music theory is that they’re labels for chords in a key.

It’s like how baseball players are given numbers based on their position on a field. The pitcher is 1, the catcher at home plate is 2, first base ends up being 3, and so on. The numbers in music theory are labels. 

Let’s see how the labels work. We’ll start with the key of C. Chord Flow organizes the key of C like this:

When Chord Flow connects to Music Theory with the phone number, 736-2514, we get this:

You can see now how music theory labels the position of each of these chords. Am has a 6 over it. In the key of C Am is the 6 chord. (Music theory people label these positions using roman numerals like this: vi. They write major chords with upper case roman numerals and minor chords with lower case roman numerals). 

Another way to get the chord labels is by putting them in alphabetical order, starting with the chord that names the key and then numbering them. You’ll get the same result. Here’s the key of C alphabetically:

And here are all the chords numbered, revealing their position.    

It might be easier for you to connect Chord Flow to Music Theory this way, but you lose the relationships between the chords that Chord Flow reveals. Music Theory’s ‘phone number’ is a shortcut, so you don’t have to identify the key and alphabetize the chords. 

Let’s try another key. Here’s the key of G organized by Chord Flow:

And here’s how Music Theory’s phone number connects chord flow to music theory:

G is the 1 Chord.
C is the 4 Chord.
D is the 5 Chord, and so on.  

Here’s one more example, the key of E, with Chord Flow already connected to Music Theory: 

Knowing Music Theory’s phone number helps you see the connections between chords in a key. The principles that guide chord flow are still the same. For instance, you can line up the major and minor chords from Chord Flow and see which chords are related and substitute well for each other, but that’s something for another blog post.


Unfamiliar with BEAD Guides Chord Flow?
Here’s an intro: BEAD Guides Chord Flow Intro
Here’s how it works in the Key of C: BEAD in the Key of C
Here’s how it maps chord substitutes in the key of C: BEAD Substitutes

The Prompt:

Art by Kara Joslyn. Find out more about Kara’s work here.

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