Going Home

Here’s a quick lesson in music theory for writers. Every traditional scale has seven notes: Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, and Ti. Do is called the root note, and in the key C, the root note is C; in the key of G, the root note is G, and so on. Most melodies are a journey back to that root note. When a song reaches a point of conclusion and rest, when the tension the melody builds is resolved, it is because the melody has found its way home to that root note. Every note in a scale also has a corresponding chord, which are three or more notes played at the same time. The Do chord and Re chord and the Mi chord and so on. Some are major and some are minor, yet even the major and minor chords sound slightly different from one another. For this reason, not all chords sound harmonious when played in succession.

Which is why we have something called chord progression. Songs are sometimes written as a succession of chords, and music theorists, helpfully, have mapped out which chords progress most naturally from each other. And so while the Do, Mi, So, and Ti chords all follow the Fa chord, only the Do chord naturally follows the So chord. When I write songs, I think of these chord progressions as a map home, for every chord will lead me, either directly or indirectly, back to that root chord.

There is one chord that is different from all the others – the Do chord, the root chord. All chords follow naturally from this chord. That means that musically speaking, which is mathematically speaking (because all music can be understood in purely mathematical terms), which is also emotionally speaking, home is both the destination, the place of rest and resolve, and also the source of all creation, the starting point from which everything is naturally possible.

Whether I’m writing music or blogs or books, I’m always going home, so that I can start creating again.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion.

"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

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