Music Theory Cheat Sheet

One of the problems you often find when trying to teach yourself something is that you lack the technical language in order to search for good quality content. If you knew what specifically you had to learn, the information is much easier to find, and tends to be of a higher quality.

Enter this little beauty.

Music Notation.png

It was released under a creative commons license by Toby Rush on his website ‘’.

I’m just gonna leave it here.



Guitar Notation

So I’ve known enough guitar players and musicians to know that the former often prefer to have things written in tab.

Tablature, or tab for short, is an alternative, easier to understand written system for expressing what fret each string needs to be pressed on.


It’s a good system, for example it’s pretty much instantly understandable.

However, I found the most amazing diagram:


Not only does this express that a flat of one note is the sharp of another, e.g. F# and Gb, but also if you know your scales, you can play them almost straight away.

Unfortunately, I don’t know my scales that well, so I cheated:


Et voila!

Figuring it Out Guitar by bodging it and messing up.

I was talking with Joanna about music and guitars after we’d watched a bogus science video of guitar strings vibrated.

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 15.07.58.png

(original video): (repost)

After we figured out not only that it was false, but how it’s specific enough yet unspecific enough to be believable, she asked if I could make the same vibrations on my recently acquired strings.

We tried. It didn’t really work.

(debunking) :

It then got me to asking about why the 6 strings of a guitar are in the tuning they are in, and indeed why there are six of them. I knew that there were other tunings apart from Standard Tuning (E A D G B e), but there must be a reason why the tuning we call standard is standard.

This train of thought took me to a website called ‘hyperphysics’, which had a whole rolling page dedicated to the electric guitar.

Turns out that each fret, the space between the metal ribs along all of the strings at the same distance, is roughly a semitone.

I asked Joanna what specifically a tone was, and she couldn’t quite remember, so I consulted Google this time:

A semitone is:


Clearly there’s a lot to understand here, but it seems as if it’s all connected.

This is a perfect Octave in C:



Another thing to probably say is that the piano is a very precise instrument, and the instrument against which all others are usually tuned – this is less so for chordophonic guitar.


Okay, so what’s an Octave?

“In music, an octave (Latin: octavus: eighth) or perfect octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency.”

– Wikipedia

Jesus Christ.

I also know that Western musical tunings are ever so slightly distinctive from eastern tunings, meaning someone from either musical tradition instantly can recognise the music from the another as ‘different’, even though they may not be sure why.

Insert Bob McFerrin talk ‘Watch me play…the audience!’


It’s really in the music, deep routed.

Hence Bethoven’s stunning compositions even after the onset of deafness.


This is going to be a fun journey.


I suppose it is very important not only to reference and be authentic about what/who inspires you, but also to seek out inspiration.

In that vain, I found an excellent short graphic novel called ‘The last days in the life of Vincent van Gogh’ Cover.jpg

[side-note: Isn’t it interesting that people will go out of their way to pronounced the gh in Gogh as ‘Go(hrr)’ but won’t follow the other Dutch pronunciation rule making it ‘van Hrokhr’]

It was published by Avery Hill Publishing as part of their ‘Last Days of Nobodies’ series.

The graphic style is intoxicating and sublime, the typography masterfully worked into the frame.


It’s beautifully melancholic, it speaks directly to the saddest part of me and leaves my conscious mind out of it.

I can see that I will need this book, crave its insights and style.

Thank you, Avery Hill, thank you.



What I’m listening to and why.

So I listened to something I was introduced to a fair few years ago now, ‘Get Better’ by Dan leSac vs Scroobius Pip.

In it, he quotes Billy Bragg:

“But as Billy says, whether you have or you have not wealth
The system might fail you, but don’t fail yourself”

which it turns out is a reference to the song ‘To Have and Have Not’.

I first listened to ‘Between the Wars’ and was drawn to the stark and authentic ideas and sounds.



It made me think about the channels of distribution and discovery, and how arstists can give shout outs to their idols and contemporaries in the songs themselves in order to guide their audience and pay tribute.

Colour Clock Nonsense.

So the big idea for Unit 2 is a colour clock.

I’m not gonna make one anymore, although I could, and that was the idea at first

The most famous example of the colour clock can be found in the form of a website by Jack Hughes, which in fact holds the url ‘’.

Colour Clock.png

There are several copycat websites, and even one that will show you exactly how to write the very few lines of HTML and CSS, a language used almost exclusively for website design, and its styling sub-sect.

Here’s the crux though – after I figured out that it was simple to turn the three values of HH:MM:SS (Hour Hour: Minute Minute: Second Second) into RR:GG:BB (Red Red: Green Green: Blue Blue), there was something really alluring, if a little frustrating about the original Jack Hughes Website – it didn’t make sense. I couldn’t figure out how Jack had turned the three time values into colour values and therefore one colour.

I started working at it, explaining the foundation, the system, and the possible ways one could translate time to colour.

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 23.18.23.png

I started collating all of this in an InDesign Document, thinking that the book would act as a nice accompaniment to the clock, however it was presented.

This project really excited me, so I was explaining it to people the whole time – class mates, friends, people I met in bars; it was ridiculous. I started to realise that I liked explaining it to people in person more than I did in print.

Then I had a brilliant tutorial with Jennet. I showed her the document I was working on, and explained to her the concept, but it felt a little like I was just playing about with the whole thing, and I was going to have to knuckle down and do some art at some point. She told me that the most interesting part was my interest in the translation, and hearing me passionately explaining the whole thing – and assured me that that was a valid practice, introducing me to the terms ‘performance lecture’ and ‘performative research’.

I also felt I needed to finish translating, or decide exactly how I was going to turn the time values into colour values, but I was again reassured that it was legitimate to not finish. Moreover, there was no end, the beauty and the interest in the project was in the yearning, and the trying and striving.


In the end, no matter when I decide to drop the thread of this project, it’s sparked my interest in systems, and translation, as well as done something to curtail my inclination to try and “finish” everything.

This has been great.