harmony

Who says that lows are not important or not heard? In music you have three frequencies that have to be balanced in order to be able to hear a composition the best way possible, there are highs, mids and lows, or treble, mids and bass. In order to achieve this balance every instrument has to play it’s part. In music where there are electronic devices or volume, this has to be a priority, in other genres the force applied determines the volume, and others the quantity will determine the volume.

In other words every instrument has a job and each instrument is essential once every job is assigned. However you may have heard that sometimes a person would say “The bass is not that important, it’s just there” but no matter how simple the bass may be in some ocasions, it’s always essential. Of course you have Jazz and Funk which gives the sound of the bass lots of freedom and space to do flashy things, but it’s not always like this.

The Bass is Rhythm and Harmony

Bass

Bass in most musical compositions lay the bases of two essential parts of music, rhythm and harmony. In other words, the bass it’s in the middle of the percussion and melodic instruments in terms of its role in the musical piece.

A lot of the music out there is very well received because of its rhythm, and this is not achieved by percussion alone, mostly because percussion tends to be high frequency sounds, but with the help of a well composed bass, it doesn’t only completes the rhythm, but also works as a bridge from the percussion to other instruments.

In terms of harmonies, the interesting thing is that sometimes people are not even sure of the part the bass is playing in a specific song, but you are hearing a beautiful harmony, and your ear tricks you into believing that strings or air instruments are responsibles, when in fact the bass is allwing these harmonies to happen with its low frequency notes.

The bass plays a powerful role in how we hear harmonies. When we hear several notes played at the same time, we hear them all relative to the lowest sounding pitch — the bass note.

Studybass.com

The Science Behind It

According to the PNAS there is a scientific reason as to why the bass is so important in music, and they conducted a studied which verifies the following:

Previous work using electroencephalography (EEG) demonstrated that the auditory cortex encodes pitch more robustly in the higher of two simultaneous tones or melodies, and modeling work indicated that this high-voice superiority for pitch originates in the sensory periphery. Here, we investigated the neural basis of carrying rhythmic timing information in lower-pitched voices. We presented simultaneous high-pitched and low-pitched tones in an isochronous stream and occasionally presented either the higher or the lower tone 50 ms earlier than expected, while leaving the other tone at the expected time. EEG recordings revealed that mismatch negativity responses were larger for timing deviants of the lower tones, indicating better timing encoding for lower-pitched compared with higher-pitch tones at the level of auditory cortex. A behavioral motor task revealed that tapping synchronization was more influenced by the lower-pitched stream. Results from a biologically plausible model of the auditory periphery suggest that nonlinear cochlear dynamics contribute to the observed effect. The low-voice superiority effect for encoding timing explains the widespread musical practice of carrying rhythm in bass-ranged instruments and complements previously established high-voice superiority effects for pitch and melody.

Michael J. Hove, Céline Marie, Ian C. Bruce, and Laurel J. Traino

In other words, our brain’s capability to make sense of music and finding order is a lot easier thanks to the bass and the lower tones, this also aligns with the role of the bass in music.

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The first time I introduce a chord to my piano students, it’s at the keyboard.

Playing Chords

The problem most younger kids (3 to 7 year olds) have with chords is they just can’t seem to get their fingers coordinated enough to make this sound clear.  So, I usually present it on it’s own as a separate activity weeks before I actually have them use it in a song.

So I show them a C major root position chord first as the outside notes – making a fifth, and then the inner third.  Then putting it all together.  This takes longer than you would think!

After a few weeks of practicing the chord daily so that they can play it 10 times in a row bouncing up and down, we can now move to playing the song Mary Had A Little Lamb.

Reading Chords

Playing piano and reading music are separate skills.  Yes they are interrelated but much less that you would think.  So, weeks later, after the students are playing chords easily, I begin to address chords on the staff.   To do this I tell them a little story and show them a drawing.  I actually draw it right in their notebook in front of them.

There’s always magic seeing something come from nothing!

I tell them that in this magic world of music there are snowmen.  Each note can be stacked on top of each other and this is what they look like.

Root position chords look like a snowman.

Chords-Snowmen

Illustration by Andrew Ingkavet

Play It On the Keys

We then play the chord and notice how our fingers correspond to each ball of the snowman.

Find All The Snowmen In This Piece

I will usually have them look at song and start circling all the “snowmen” they can find.

Chord Inversions

Then later, when we learn other chords, we have other versions of snowmen.

This snowman is stretching his legs!

First inversion (3rd in the bass)

Screenshot 2016-03-23 12.05.13

Play this one.

This snowman is lifting his head and shoulders up!

Second inversion (5th in the bass)

Screenshot 2016-03-23 12.06.47

Play this one too.

The kids think it is very funny and funny is memorable!

And now that Disney has made Olaf a famous snowman (from Frozen), I even can tell them

“Hey look, it’s Olaf!”

What do you use to teach chords?

Any fun stories?  I’d love to hear!

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SingAnd there I stood! A shy, male, British teenager!

Everything was conspiring against me. Especially my music teacher. Right then as he commanded me to “sing”, I was thinking unspeakable thoughts of hatred towards him.

Why did I need to sing in the school choir? After all I was an instrumentalist. I’d managed to survive all these years of mumbling at the back during class singing so why did everything need to get so ugly?

And there I stood! The whole choir of immature boys and girls just waiting to poke fun at me. Why couldn’t I just run around the corridors naked? Surely that would be less embarrassing?

But he made me do it! Oh how I seethed with anger at the time. But when I look back now, he probably gave me one of the greatest gifts to my musicianship!

So why sing?

Reason 1: Helps You Express Yourself Better
When you can’t articulate into words what you mean to another musician, singing simply fills in the gaps. The more frequently you sing to express musical ideas, the more relaxed and “normal” this method becomes. I love to promote a safe environment in my studio where everyone feels relaxed enough to communicate through singing their musical intentions without  [···]

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