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All Well in Theory
See how much you know about music in this fun quiz.

All Well in Theory

Making and hearing music ~ of whatever kind ~ is (or should be) an emotional experience. But the business of writing and creating music has its own 'nuts and bolts'. How well-up are you on the theory of music? (Don't forget, EQ has a complete suite of quizzes on Music Theory if you need to work at this more schematically!)

1.
How many quavers would there be in a bar of Compound Triple time?
6
8
9
12
'Compound' indicates that the sub-beat is not divisible by 2 (which would be 'simple time'), and 'triple' shows three beats to the bar; so 3 x 3 = 9. This is the effective beat structure for pieces as diverse as Bach's famous cantata movement Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring ... or a jazz-waltz ('swung' three-in-a-bar)!
2.
In terms of key signatures, how far round the 'cycle of fifths' do we move, if we are switching from any one major key to its tonic minor (i.e. to the minor version of the same home key in which we began)?
Three steps down, so we add three flats or cancel three sharps from the original key signature
Two steps up, so we add two sharps or cancel two flats
Four steps down, so cancel four sharps or add four flats
Five steps up, so add five sharps or cancel five flats
The tonic minor has the same key signature as the major key that starts three semitones higher; this happens not to be because of these semitones (of which there are three, but we are counting upwards), but we add three flats.
For example, C minor, B♭, E♭ and A♭ share a key signature with E♭ major, though often music in C minor will have its B's re-naturalised to make a keener leading-note, just a semitone below the tonic
3.
Much as culinary French is the traditional language of menus, Italian terms are the international standard for labels of musical pace, style and interpretation. Which of these is the odd one out of the four?
Allegretto grazioso
Crescendo molto
Andantino cantabile
Adagio pesante
Answer 2 is a dynamic instruction ('louden lots', as the Australian Percy Grainger would alternatively have put it, since he sedulously refused to apply Italian terminology to British folksongs or indeed anything else). The others are all more to do with pace and style: (1) Moving along gently and gracefully, (3) Moving slightly more slowly than (1) and in a singing style; (4) Really quite broadly, and with a heaviness of tone (e.g. in the solemn manner of a funeral march).
... And, of course, Answer 2 was the only one which happened not to begin with the letter A!
4.
In full orchestral score, whereabouts do the staves for the percussion section correctly belong?
Right at the bottom of the overall system
Between the woodwinds and the brass
Between the brass and string sections
Right at the top
The convention is to start with the upper woodwinds (typically, piccolo) and so down to the bassoon/s; then the brass, then the percussion (tuned percussion usually lowest within the section, e.g. harp &/or kettledrums), then the strings. The 1st violin stave may thus well be only a few lines off the bottom of a page with 25 or even 30 lines
5.
Which of these is the correct name for the interval between any correctly-tuned B natural and the F natural above it?
Augmented fourth
Diminished fifth
Perfect fifth
Minor fifth
From any B upwards to any next F, note-wise, is a fifth, but this consists of 7 semitones rather than the 8 of a Perfect Fifth, so it is described as diminished. The inverse interval (F natural up to B natural) is a diminished fourth. There is no such thing as a major or minor fifth
6.
Which of the following is NOT an accepted usage of the wavy line in musical scores?
Vertically alongside a keyboard chord, to show it should be 'arpeggiated' ( = very slightly 'spread' or 'rolled', harp-style, rather than all the notes sounded strictly together)
Horizontally over a note to request/suggest that it be played with a trill (or some other instrumental equivalent technique, e.g. a drum-roll or flutter-tonguing)
Diagonally, to indicate that the pitch should be slid from one note to the next (vocally known as portamento; this
can also be done on the trombone, and approximated with a glissando on the harp or keyboard instruments)
A curved wavy line indicates the use of increasing or decreasing vibrato for various performers
Vibrato, or tremulation, is usually at the performer's discretion.
Informally, session musicians often also use a wavy line (usually with increasing 'amplitude') to remind them of a ritenuto or slowing-down, particularly if this will involve watching others to coordinate it with them
7.
What are Leger Lines used for?
Indicating that a note or passage is to be played leggiero ( = lightly)
To extend the existing stave up or down and accommodate pitches not otherwise lying within it
To link together notes lasting less than one beat, within that beat, in more easily-recognised groups
To show that the notes marked are to be lengthened and/or emphasised in performance
Leger lines are temporary additions to the stave, e.g. to show Middle C relative to the treble or bass staves. Answer 1 is a false-etymological red-herring ('line' accents are more as in Answer 4), and what Answer 3 refers to is correctly called Beaming, as in the yoking of three or four quavers or semis that fall within the same main crotchet beat
8.
Which of the following is UNTRUE about the names and natures of the degrees of the Western scale?
The third step upwards is technically known as the Submediant
The Tonic Triad consists of the Tonic, Mediant and Dominant
The Leading Note is a third higher than the Dominant
The Subdominant and Supertonic are a third (or sixth) apart
The third step is the Mediant (as in Answer 2); the Submediant ~ perhaps a trifle perversely ~ is the note next above the Dominant, so it sits higher within the scale than does the Mediant itself. (These would be A and E respectively, within a plain scale of C major)
9.
Which of the following would you be LEAST likely to see within the first bar of almost any conventionally-notated piece of Western music?
A time signature
A key signature
A clef
A repeat bar
Not all pieces begin with a section to be repeated (though plenty may do); but each stave will need ~ in this order ~ a clef, a key signature (even if that happens to be blank, as for C major / A minor) and a time signature (unless the piece is so metreless as not to need one)
10.
Which of these is the longest-valued note?
Dotted quaver
Crotchet
Semibreve
Minim
Don't be fooled by the 'semi-', which may have suggested half the length of something: this is 'half of' something ... but of a breve, which lasts a full 8 notes, so the semibreve is still worth 4 beats. A minim is half that length, a crotchet half that again, and a dotted quaver is 3/4 of a crotchet (half, plus half as much again for the dot)

 

Author:  Ian Miles

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