User:Mousemambo/Introduction to xenharmonic music terminology

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This page introduces xenharmonic music theory through the terminology used by its practitioners. This outline of links can be used as a self-guided introductory course through the Xenharmonic Wiki for beginners interested in understanding, playing or composing microtonal or xenharmonic music.

About this course

Although it consists only of links within an outline, the structure is intentionally ordered to help guide people new to this subject toward a growing conceptual understanding. The purpose is to open one doorway (among many possible others) to answering the question "How can I begin learning about xenharmonic music?" Other doorways include listening to or playing music.

This course overlaps and extends from a prerequisite of Music Theory 101, a ubiquitous first-semester college course whose material is also commonly taught to high school piano, guitar and jazz musicians. There are several excellent free online comprehensive textbooks teaching conventional Music Theory 101 (Music Theory for the 21st-Century Classroom, Open Music Theory, Music Theory). If you work through at least the first half of one of those comprehensive courses, many of the links below to Wikipedia articles will be redundant, or you may prefer the Wikipedia readings.

Using this introduction

This course begins by reintroducing some basic music theory terms but in a xenharmonic context. That may mean they have unusual definitions, or that they're explained in a way that points toward how they're understood and used in xenharmonic musicology and music. If there is corresponding English Wikipedia page, a link is provided here to help contrast the xenharmonic perspective with the one more commonly taught in conventional music theory. However, some Wikipedia pages were created with a partly or entirely xenharmonic perspective (e.g. Regular diatonic tuning).

This course draws a somewhat arbitrary line between "beginner" material that is included, and "intermediate" material that is not. A guideline for that distinction is that the material presented might fit within a one-semester college course. People who already have significant xenharmonic theory understanding may feel this course remains too superficial, and that much more could be added to the "Tuning system analysis and design" section (possibly a few items could be added). Unfortunately, hardly any standard introductions to music theory go deeply enough into tuning systems and temperament to provide enough of a foundation for exploring xenharmonic music theory. Therefore, this course recapitulates many introductory topics but from a xenharmonic perspective.

Some of the articles offered in this outline start with useful introductory material but then go deeper than the level intended by this course. In these cases, readers are encouraged to use their judgement as they read to decide when a useful depth of understanding has been reached, and then return to this outline. Revisiting deeper material later is always possible! However, at the time of this writing (Sept. 2023) some of the Xen Wiki articles lack much of a basic introduction at all (i.e. one without college math). In those cases, if there is a Wikipedia link provided you're encouraged to visit there. But one reason for developing this outline is to identify and remedy those articles, so perhaps by the time you read this some helpful wiki editors will have addressed the problem.

Other doorways to understanding

Although there is no "listening guide" for this course, you will find links to YouTube videos that provide some of that valuable experience. But note that links in the "Other Articles" and "Videos" sections are related and supporting, but outside the flow of the course. If you play or wish to learn an musical instrument capable of microtonality, you may find opportunities to play along as you progress here.

Finally, some people prefer to "learn microtonal music" mostly by listening to music, so this outline will probably not be useful for them. That's OK! There are other resources for you. For many of us, though, a progressive structure like this outline is very helpful.

Next level terminology

An "Intermediate xenharmonic terminology" outline is being compiled, which could follow this introduction. If you have suggestions for that page, or for this developing beginner terminology outline, please add them to this page's Discussion page or post them to the #wiki channel of the Xen Discord server.


Tuning systems and temperament

Tuning system analysis and design

Xenharmonic harmony