David Newman’s educational videos

I just discovered David Newman’s educational videos. He writes

I’m a classical singer, and I teach voice and music theory at James Madison University. I started this channel to support my efforts in teaching Sophomore Ear Training at JMU.

Hidden among the more boring videos on this channel are about 18 songs I wrote to teach elements of music theory.

I hope you enjoy them, and learn from them!

Here’s his channel

and here’s an example video. Modes again!

the Dominant 7 song


Trip down the rabbit hole 9/25

Last night I watched quite a few videos about the “monochord”, which I will post later. I was looking for other “nontraditional” string instruments — especially ones with drones. Here is an example of the hurdy-gurdy. This is in 11/8 time!


Curriculum ideas

Here’s my fall curriculum, centered on Music Theory but touching on other topics too.

Main Text
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory by Michael Miller

Supplemental material
Music Theory Comprehensive 2, 4 taught by Jason Allen through Udemy (behind a paywall)
Understanding the Fundamentals of Music — recorded lectures by Robert Greenberg

One on One Instruction — “Miss Muse”  🙂

post summaries here!
analyze music ex. songs from choir in church, folk music ex.  121 Favorite Irish Session Tunes

the occasional “trip down the rabbit hole” on Youtube

Why study music now?

A while ago my sister and I were talking about “what would we do differently if we could do it all over again”. She said that with the confidence she has now (now she knows she is smart!), she would go into nursing. I said that I would try for a degree in music and aim towards 1) composition and 2) music technology — synthesizers, samplers, recording; sound effects, backgrounds for films and video games. Back in the ’80s we didn’t have music for video games the way we do now (it was “chip tunes” — monophonic — only one note at a time!). Now, music for video games is composed using complex software, and the games themselves have enough storage that the music can be recorded by an actual orchestra and it will be played back with CD quality.

Composing music for games is an extremely competitive field. I don’t have the ambition to study cutting edge technology; I don’t have the energy to get another college degree!

However, I would really enjoy studying on my own. Maybe I could compose for an indie game. The composer I am inspired by is Ben Prunte, who was self-taught (much of that time while working as a janitor). Here are some of his interviews. I first heard him on the NPR show “Top Score”.

Here is his cheerful, retro soundtrack for the game FTL (Faster Than Light). I really like it because it reminds me of some synth music that was popular when I was in high school. I like to put this soundtrack on when I need to focus on writing.

Memorizing the Modes


From left to right–



Ionian is what we think of as the “major scale”. Lydian and Mixolydian also sound like major scales because they have a major third.
Lydian is a sort of “super major” — it sounds extra bright because of the raised 4th (– Jason Allen)
ex. “Theme from the Simpsons”
Mixolydian — flat 7th — blues

Aeolian is the same as the natural minor scale. Dorian and Phrygian also sound minor because they also have a flatted third in the scale.
Dorian — Raised 6th — ex. plainchant; Kyrie by Josquin (– Jason Allen)
Phrygian — Flatted 2nd — which means your first step of the scale is a semitone
Used in flamenco (Spanish & Islamic culture fusion) (– Robert Greenberg)

Locrian is the odd one, off by itself, because it has a flatted fifth (“Tritone”).
Tritone is THE most discordant interval ( — Robert Greenberg)
Used in crazy compositions
ex. Mark Applebaum, see TED talk “The Mad Scientist of Music”


Reasonably Sound — a podcast by Mike Rugnetta of the Idea Channel

Here is Mike Rugnetta


Mike is host of The Idea Channel, where he talks about “the connections between pop culture, technology and art”. His videos are convoluted and soulful and always makes me smile.

In addition to his talents as educator and programmer, Rugnetta is also a musician; his podcasts center around the idea of sound. Here is my favorite episode.


Episode #20: The Drop

Due day, due day!

I’m very happy to have started taking music lessons again! My teacher this fall is a young woman whom I met through my church. In addition to leading our new “Global Worship” music group, she is also trained in music education for very young children. When I suggested the possibility of lessons in music theory, she said “I know just the thing!”. And so, I have now been introduced to the ideas of Edwin Gordon.

When I was in elementary school back in the late 60s, our music teacher spent some time teaching material from Kodaly. We 10 year olds didn’t call it Kodaly, we called it “ta ta titi ta” because of the names for the syllables.


My current music theory teacher (let’s call her Ms. Muse) told me that Edwin Gordon developed a method similar to that of  Zoltan Kodaly, but instead of being based on Hungarian folk music, it uses American folk music as its source. And instead of ta ta titi ta, it’s due due due-day due.

At least, that’s how I heard it! Actually the syllables are written “du” and “de”.

Here is a video featuring an article written by Edwin Gordon. I want to be sure to give him the recognition that he is due!

I mean, du.