“What is music?”
No one answered for a moment. Then…
“A bunch of notes?” said Michaels.
“Nearly, but you’re missing the essence” replied the music teacher. “Music is a bunch of notes played in a certain way to create a story.“
Core Elements Of Music
The wooden hut was flooded with morning light. It lit the teachers eyes as he raised his finger and said:
“There are 4 core elements of music:
- Harmony – The element of Water. Groups of notes flow together to create a musical landscape, setting the scene for the main idea. (chords)
- Rhythm – The element of Earth. It moves the notes along with the beat, the thing we move to when listening to music. (strumming pattern)
- Melody – The element of Air. This is the main idea in music, told by a solo instrument or by the lyrics.
- Meaning – The element of Fire. The emotional importance you give the music. Without it notes are played but have little to no value, and playing lacks enjoyment.”
He wondered who would be the first to reveal their musical power. Although it was dawn the adventurers sat up straight, listening to every word. Except for JoJo, who sat up hunched, listening for the bell so she could go back to sleep.
“Notes are types of sound. They are made by the air vibrating in a certain way.” The teacher snapped his fingers and a guitar appeared in his hands. “We have 12 notes in total; the natural notes (A) and accidentals. (A#/Bb)”
“Chords are two or more notes played together, usually in groups of 3.”
“These chords are made from a group of notes that sound good together, called a scale.”
“JoJo!” shouted the teacher.
JoJo bolted upright, eyes opened wide. “Yes, Machu!”
Machu laughed gently and said, “Listen closely…”
“When we use a scale to create a song, this is called a key. So a key is the certain group of notes we use to make a song.”
“You have 3-4 different chords at a time. These form a chord progression, and typically only use notes from one key, or one scale. All of the notes I’m playing in each chord come from the C Major Scale.”
“So let me get this straight” Michaels said. “You have 12 notes in music. You take a group of them which sound good together and this is called a scale.”
“Correct.” Machu said.
“Then from the scale you take around 3 notes at a time to create chords, and have 3 – 4 chords for a progression?”
“Exactly! And chord progressions are the basis for songs.”
“Got it” Michaels said happily. He then looked puzzled. “Is that it? Have we mastered music?”
JoJo rolled her eyes. Machu smiled and told him “We’ve got the notes; now we need the rhythm. As well as a volunteer!”
JoJo prayed this would be over soon.
“Next up is rhythm – the way the notes move.”
Machu raised two fingers. “It is made of two things:
- How many times we play a note
- How long the note lasts for”
“We know the types of notes – the other main detail is how long they go on for.”
“This is measured against a beat, the thing you move to when listening to music.”
As Machu finished his sentence, they all felt a warm gust of wind brush against them even though the windows were closed, and heard a faint pulse of drums echo in the distance. Machu gazed out the window with a knowing look.
“The beat is a magic thing. You can play all the notes you want, but if there is no beat, the feeling is not there. It is the steady guide we musicians follow and is what connects all of humanity together, regardless of age, gender, language or background.”
“Sounds real special” said JoJo muttered. Machu ignored her comment and carried on.
“You get slow beats and fast beats. They are repeated moments in time, usually counted in 4’s. We play our notes with the beat.”
“Let’s do a demonstration… JoJo! Why don’t you be the first to try?”
JoJo stammered. “Oh- Ok…”
She swept a drum seemingly out of thin air, then played a rhythm half-heartedly, thinking about her nap once this was done.
As she did so, she felt very bored, then grew sad. She did not know why she was playing, and was not enjoying it. Why had she bothered to learn music at all? She could not play, and these lessons were not helping her much. It was a dream to think she could be a musician.
With a heavy heart she continued. She suddenly felt fearful, a cold pit forming in her stomach as she noticed the room closing in on her, the floor grew unsteady, and the sound of fire crackled, slowly getting louder. The rest of the group looked at her unsure of what was happening. Machu seemed not to notice.
“We have Harmony and Rhythm – we need a melody. This is either played by an instrument,”
“Or with lyrics.”
Machu danced to the beat of JoJo’s drum.
“The melody tells the main plot of the story. You sometimes have extra layers for each element. A common arrangement is drums, guitar, singing, bass, keyboards.”
“Or you can look at it in groups:”
- Rhythm; Drums, rhythm guitar
- Harmony: rhythm guitar, keyboard, bass
- Melody: lead guitar, singing, keyboard
JoJo then swayed and nearly fell over. Sweat formed on her head.
“Machu, somethings happening to JoJo!” Michaels said, panicked.
One of the group, oblivious to JoJo’s condition, spoke up. “We’ve got Harmony, Rhythm and Melody – but what about the Meaning? What do we do with the Fire element?”
Suddenly the air got dark, fog clouded their vision and they felt a wave of furious anger as fire swirled in the middle of the room. It rose to a tornado, then collapsed to reveal a pig-like creature standing on its legs, with a skin of lava and two curled horns.
It snarled, then roared at JoJo.
“What have I done?!” she screamed.
“Summoned a monster, from the looks of things” Machu said calmly. “What will you do now?”
As the group looked at the pig-beast, they felt their power being drained by a psychic force. “We’ve got to do something!”
The beast then punched the walls, leaving burning slabs of wood that outlined its angry destruction. It roared again, heading for the door.
“Let’s play together!” Michaels cried. Machu sat in the corner quietly, watching as one might observe the flow of a river.
They each summoned their instruments and played an out-of-tune melody. The pig-beast squealed and stopped.
“Yes!” they cheered, only to watch in horror as they were met with an evil grin, the beasts body growing in size as it turned towards them.
“It likes the chaos” said Machu. “JoJo.”
She stared paralysed by fear.
“You need to play with meaning. This beast is showing you what you lack. Find something worthwhile to play for, or you’ll end up as its dinner!”
As the beast stepped towards JoJo, its outstretched hand and greedy eyes fixed on her, she twitched; then as fast as lightning she slapped the drum dead centre.
The air vibrated with a hollow boom, and the pig-beast froze. The tip of the claw so close to JoJo’s head slowly turned to ash as its body burned from the inside. It began to glow, then burst, leaving the cinders to fade away to nothing.
“That was close!” The party was relieved, but JoJo was shaken.
“What meaning did you find?” asked Machu.
“To help my friends.” JoJo turned to stare at Machu with fearful eyes. “But only for this moment. What happens if I play again? I can’t keep summoning that thing!”
“Keep on searching for meaning in your playing. You’ll find something to stick with in no time.” Machu smiled, and JoJo’s heart felt warm. She hugged Machu.
“Meanwhile, you all need to learn about the elements of Music.”
“Where do we start?” they said.
“Wherever the music takes you.” And with that, Machu laughed, which rose to a booming thunder, as he clapped his hands and vanished in a flash of light.
The adventurers, stunned, shook their heads and headed out the door.
Can you guess what they did next?
But what did they hear?