Theory for Producers

The White Keys and Major Modes

The white keys on the keyboard are full of possibility. Let's get started by mastering the major modes.

45-60 Minutes
5 Sections

Created in partnership with

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Welcome to part two of our Theory for Producers series! This series is all about demystifying music theory by looking closely at popular songs and how they demonstrate common musical concepts we can use as producers to improve our tracks. In part one we looked at the black keys on the keyboard. In this section we’ll be examining the white keys and a few different types of melodies you can create with them.

By the end of this course, you’ll have created a collection of grooves using three different scales comprised entirely of the white keys. We’ll look at the songs of Michael Jackson, Katy Perry, and Queen with David Bowie to illuminate the various modes and how you can use them to create your own great music.

This course was created in partnership with NYU's MusEDLab. Visit their site to learn more about their terrific work!


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Ethan Hein

Adjunct Professor, Guitarist, Theory Nerd

Ethan Hein is an adjunct professor of music technology at NYU and Montclair State University, and a founding member of the NYU Music Experience Design Lab, under the leadership of Alex Ruthmann.

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major
scale
beginner
theory for producers
music theory
production

Course Outline

  1. Section 1

    Introduction

  2. Section 2

    "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough"

  3. Section 3

    "Teenage Dream"

  4. Section 4

    "Under Pressure"

  5. Section 5

    Discussion

MORE INFORMATION

Who is this course for? 

This course was created specifically with producers in mind, but it could be helpful for any musician looking for a better grasp on music theory. Specifically, we use the piano roll that you mind find in a digital audio workstation such as Ableton Live or Logic to illustrate certain concepts. 

What can I expect to get out of this course?

By the end of this mini-course, you'll have a solid grasp and understanding of some important major-tonality scales, based on the white keys of the keyboard. You should be able to use the scales to make your own grooves and melodies, and potentially even identify it in songs you hear. 

What's next in this series?

We're currently hard at work on part two of "The White Keys," in which we examine minor-tonality scales derived from the white keys that can be found in popular music of all types. We'll email you when it's published!