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Which harmonic environments should an improviser learn first?

Hey David,

Should I study the most important harmonic environments first? Or is it better to study all seven harmonic environments in order?

Thanks,
Karan

David's response:

Hi Karan,

The order is up to you, but there are two harmonic environments that are especially important in popular music:

The 1st harmonic environment. This is the way we are normally accustomed to hearing the major scale. It's the way the scale sounds to our ears when note 1 is the tonal center. This is where you'll find the melodies to almost every song you've ever heard which sounds like it's in a "major key" to your ear.

The 6th harmonic environment. This is the way the scale sounds to our ears when note 6 is acting as the tonal center. This is where you'll find the melodies to almost every song you've ever heard which sounds like it's in a "minor key" to your ear.

So depending on your own personal taste, you might prefer to focus on these two harmonic environments first so that you can begin to look for these sounds in the music all around you. On the other hand, if you are a more methodical person, it might be more attractive and appealing to study all seven harmonic environments in order. Personally I prefer to study things in order because I like to see the full picture before worrying about practical details like which elements appear most often in popular music. But it's totally up to you!

Two great resources that will help you get deeply into all seven harmonic environments are Sing the Numbers 2: Seven Worlds and IFR Jam Tracks Level 1: Seven Worlds. The Sing the Numbers course will show you hundreds of beautiful melodies in all seven harmonic environments and it will teach you to recognize all of these sounds by ear. And the jam tracks collection lets you practice creating your own music with all of these sounds.

Happy exploring,
David