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

Created by
Max Maxwell
All Rights Reserved.

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Young Students:
Although even young students can learn to spell intervals, chords, and scales quickly with these two methods (in as little as a few weeks), the key to successful long term development of superior basic skills for young students is regular practice over the course of a year. The good news is that the amount of practice on any given day is very small. Just one minute of reciting the cycle of thirds forward and backward for several months after initial mastery. The cycle of thirds is a structure that must be as familiar to the student as the series of single digit numbers from one to ten. Then a minute or two of spelling intervals (five days a week recommended, or along with each instrument practice). For the scales, because the image based memory techniques help retention, I recommend (after initial mastery) the practice of reciting the images that give you the key signature information and the spelling of a few random major and minor scales be done once a week for a year. This should only take a few minutes. Although the idea of the regular practice of basic skills for a year may seem daunting to some, it produces vastly superior results, provides the student with a sense of mastery, and is easy enough to be fun. After one year of practice (and for most this will happen much sooner than a year) a young music student will be able to spell intervals, chords, and scales better than the average freshman entering college for a music major.

Crash Course Remediation:
Up to half of students entering college for a music degree are deficient in basic knowledge and skills pertaining to music theory. If you are getting ready to enter a music major in college and are lacking a capacity for interval spelling, cannot spell chords and do not have the all the musical key signatures memorized, this is the best way to ready yourself with regard to these basic skills prior to starting classes. If you practice these methods rigorously, putting in as much as a few hours a day, you can become fluent at the tasks taught with this course in as little as one week. If you go fanatical in devoting your time to it, you can even become fluent in the music theory tasks of interval, chord and scale spelling in just one weekend.

General Practice Tips:
The key to assessing an individual student's need to practice is to recognize that the goal of these methods is the long term development of basic skills. Nobody teaches a person how to count numbers with the idea that this will be a basic skill they will forget as they advance in mathematics. The same type of attitude must be present with the spelling of intervals. Spelling intervals is as fundamental to music theory's handling of pitch differences as counting is to calculation in mathematics. This means that it is not enough that you learn it quickly and easily. You must continue to practice until it becomes second hand and will stay with you for the long term. This will be easy if you are taking a degree in music composition, as the practice is mostly built in. In the absence of a rigorous music theory learning agenda, you must ensure a regularity of practice beyond the point that you FEEL you have mastered the material. One of the difficulties with the methods I created is that it is so quick and easy to learn that there will be a temptation in some to drop off their practice too soon. Learn fast, forget fast is a dictum that is true for many. After you master the content of this course, you must continue to practice regularly until your mastery is ingrained in you for the long term.

Below are the two basic ideas you need to develop long term mastery:

Two Steps to Master The Music Theory AdvantageTM Course of Study

1. Step by step mastery. This cannot be emphasized enough. Do not proceed forward in the course until you have gained initial mastery of each step. All course content builds on earlier lessons. You will undermine your success if you haphazardly move through the course.

2. Continue to practice the basics! Even after you finish the course, even if you can spell intervals and chords like a master, continue to recite the Cycle of Thirds daily for at least several months after initial mastery. It is very important that this interval structure be as familiar to you as the single digits from one to ten. Within a week of study, it may seem like you absolutely know the cycle, but trust me, you still need to recite it for several months after initial mastery. Each day, spell intervals for a minute of two. Do this for several months after initial mastery to ensure long term retention of superior ability. Follow the method of practice outlined in the Instruction Guide to Practicing intervals. The only exception to this is if you are already immersed in the formal study of music theory such that you are using your abilities to spell intervals, chords, and scales in other work every day. In this case special practice is unnecessary. The scales portion of the course should be practice once a week. This is to ensure that the images will stay with you for many years to come. Once a week, practice reciting the images that encode the key signatures and use that information to spell a few random major and minor scales. Follow the method or recitation outlined in the How to Practice section of the course. I recommend that this be done for a minimum of several months (once a week) after initial mastery. If you value the study of music theory then, like counting in mathematics, you will never want to forget how to spell intervals, chords or the key signatures for the musical keys.




Copyright 2008-2011 Kenneth J. Maxwell Jr.