What am i missing ?

June 15, 2010 at 07:16 PM ·

First let me start with some background information, I'm an adult beginner who has been taking private lessons for about 6 months, now i'm about to be done with Book 1 of A Tune a Day by C.Paul Herfurth, the problem is i feel like i should be doing more, know more, than i am at this point. To clarify i can sight read and play all the pieces in the book with relatively good intonation and perfect technique[ or so my teacher says :) ] but i still have some trouble with the key signatures and other music theory stuff... for example when playing in the D major key(?) i was just told that the two sharp signs reffered to F# and C# and so that's what i do every time i see them, but i also want to know  WHY?! i want to understand the big picture. Aslo i'm not very happy with the method book that we're using and, for Book 2, would like to switch to one that has a lot more explanations provided( re: theory) before each new lesson.

So what i'm looking for are suggestions for a good and comprehensive Music Theory Book, one that will teach me EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW, in a detailed fashion(a CD or DVD to go with it would be nice but not a MUST) and secondly a method book to replace A Tune a Day Book 2, one with explanations that will help me work my way through the book even without a teacher. Not that i'm giving up my lessons, it's just that my teacher has a very thick russian accent and even though she gets my questions i don't always understand her explanations(sometimes things get lost in translation, literally,which is a source of great frustration for both of us). I'm sticking with her because she is so friendly and has been a great source of encouragement for me, which i value greatly as an adult beginner.

Also are there other books i should be reading or working on in addition to the method book of choice. I recently went on a book buying frenzy and got the following

Basics and Practice by Simon Fischer

Wohlfahrt 60 studies - Edition Peters

Scale System by Carl Flesch

and other equally expensive books that i know are too advanced for me right now but hope to be using later LOL

Please list your book suggetion by levels, meaning :

Method Book 1 + ?

Method Book 2 + ? and so on. I don't know if this is how you describe a 'level', maybe there are overlaps from one to the other in terms of supplementary books used.....?

Replies (37)

June 15, 2010 at 07:51 PM ·

"Music Theory" is really a misnomer. It is what we call the set of rules that apply to music (mostly western classical music). However it is based on some natural phenomena, and thus on some science. But you don't have to know any of the science to learn and use "Music Theory."

Go to amazon.com and look up books on "music theory".  Idiot's Guide, "for Dummies" and others are all quite adequate for learning the rules and some "mnenonic devices' for recalling them.

I think it is better to separate your theory learning from your violin learning until you ahve them both organized in your mind. From ages 10 to 12 I took a violin lesson and a theory class at the MSM every Saturday morning. They finally came together at the end of the 2nd eyar when we had to write a piece of music for violin and piano.  I would suggest having a keyboard or piano in front of you to help learn the theory part. It won't hurt to have that backup when learning the violin, either. (I can recall sitting down at the piano to figure out how strange intervals on should sound in my violin music (60 to 65 years ago).)

Talk over the pieces you are playing and any pedagogical material you do or don't have with your teacher. A competent teacher should have many options for materials and pathways to learning to play the violin.

Many of the classic "methods books" are available on line at http://imslp.org (for free download)!



June 15, 2010 at 08:12 PM ·

The Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine is a music theory book disguised as a "how to play jazz piano" book.  It is a classic, and is full of useful music theory.  If you get it, have a keyboard to use so you can hear, see, and think about the music theory concepts as you work through it.  You'll learn intervals, chords, and why some chord progressions sound "nice" and others don't.  Then you'll start to hear these in the music you play on the violin.

Learning "everything" about theory is very big.  For example, the BEADGCF sequence of flats comes from modal tuning of Sumerian 9 string harps from almost 4,000 years ago. We know that from translations of clay tablets about how to tune the harp. The sequence of sharps is the reverse.  So  its very big, and that's why music is a life long exploration for many people.

Enjoy the trip.

June 15, 2010 at 08:34 PM ·

@ Andrew maybe it's my personality but i find it impossible to work on my violin playing when i don't know and understand WHY i'm doing what i'm doing : ), thnks for the reply tho.

@ mike thanks for the reply, and yes i know learning EVERYHTING abt music theory is a tall order. But i don't mean to learn it all NOW, i simply want a book that has it all, so i have the information at hand to look up if and when i need it.


June 15, 2010 at 10:33 PM ·

Fellow theory nerd!  Yay!  Theory taught as it applies to a violinist (most theory texts take a pianist approach which certainly works, just not all the connections are as clear) is SO much fun when everything starts to flow together.  Theory is not necessary to play the violin, but I think it's extremely valuable.  That said, I actually teach my theory very hands-on, but i don't textbook teach, and I don't have any great text recommendations for you on that end, though I'd have a blast showing you some of it if you were anywhere close to me!

June 15, 2010 at 10:45 PM ·

When I started learning violin last year, I used these web sites to refresh my memory about rudimentary music theory that I learned as a kid (and more):


Then I read the two Berklee Music Theory books, which at times felt like cram school materials, but are pretty helpful if you go through the exercises and quizzes after each chapter.

June 15, 2010 at 11:25 PM ·

Music Theory for Practical People by Ed Roseman

Alfred's Essential Music Theory (Complete)

Those are the 2 books that help me understand music theory, since I have no music background at all.

I used and still using The Doflein Method for violin, plus Etudes, Scales, etc...

Hope it helps..Good luck!

June 15, 2010 at 11:51 PM ·

 A nice place to learn and practice music theory at your own pace: http://www.teoria.com

June 16, 2010 at 01:18 AM ·

Consider enrolling in an intro Music Theory course at a local college. It's much more interactive (i.e. fun!) than a book. If not, the Ricci-Adams musictheory.net is a nice alternative. It's divided into lessons with interactive "quizzes" and exercises for practice.

June 16, 2010 at 03:47 AM ·

Hi Kathleen,

I think it depends on your goals.  If you want to become a better violinist, knowing a bunch of  music theory is not going help much, that is, unless you plan to get into jazz and improvisation.  In which case, it is almost essential.  But if you are playing classical music, you'd be better off spending your time practicing rather than learning music theory.

It is great that you have good technique, but with just 6 months under your belt, you've barely scratched the surface.  There are many, many technical skills that require thousands of hours to master.  Skills involving both the right and left hands.  There aren't enough hours in a lifetime to truly master all the skills.  So my advice is to forget the theory, and spend that extra time practicing. 

P.S.  You might also benefit from a teacher that you can comprehend.  :-)

Good luck.  Keep us posted on your progress.

June 16, 2010 at 10:06 AM ·

Many things we undertake have instruction manuals...driving, cooking,  etc....Learning your music theory helps you to understand about and learn what you're doing when learning a musical instrument...after all, you don't drive unless you know the road rules

June 16, 2010 at 01:47 PM ·

Ok i've been checking out the websites mentioned above they seem interesting, found most of the basic stuff explained there in an interactive way... might be enough to tide me over for now. I don't happen to agree w/ the idea that music theory contributes nothing to your playing, my original post i think has given the impression that i'm hung up on theory but that's not it at all. I continue to concentrate on practicing the violin diligently but theory is something i want to look into as well. Alfred's Essentials of Music Theory has been mentioned and is available locally, anybody else have any thoughts on it.

 Will the The Doflein Method books suit my needs for a more detailed method book ? Will i be able to transition from A tune a day Book 1 to  Doflein Book 2 without feeling overwhelmed ?  I'd really appreciate suggestions for the method book, i need to make a choice ASAP. Is it enough for me to simply work through the method book or should i be supplementing it w/ other works as well ? my teacher is easily led and is liable to nod her head at any suggestion i make, which is great at times and at others leaves me feeling a bit lost ....

June 16, 2010 at 02:43 PM ·

I used A Tune a Day as a beginner over 50 years ago, and while everything has its place, I would be very unlikely to assign that now. There have been many beginner books published since, with a veritable explosion in the last 10 or so years. I'm not saying T-A-D lacks a pedagogical base, but that the recent books have a thorough one. You might look at String Explorer or All for Strings. All for Strings has some workbooks that would fill in some of the theory gaps you mention, and two volumes called Solos & Etudes, which include excerpts from various pedagogical works & some short pieces/classical themes. You don't have to use the lesson book to use the theory or etudes book. You might end up running through the Book 1 of a new series quickly just to get their system working for you. You might also consider Scales Plus! as an exercise/reference. Sue

June 16, 2010 at 03:42 PM ·

I started on tune-a-day in 1958 - and whats more I still have the original. 

I am not a teacher and can't comment on its educational potential - but it (the original) had some truly LOVELY music in it that I still like to play.  My favorite was a mozart minuet in G I beleive.  I've tried to look this up on the internet but it seems it has changed drastically.  What a shame.

Wonder if its a collectors piece now :)


June 16, 2010 at 05:55 PM ·

i don't know what A Tune a Day method like.but I can say that maybe the bk 1 of Doflein maybe 2 bks combine of the A Tune a day. Bk 2 of Doflein is all about techniques,as the title goes Development of Techniques, where they introduced bowing, minor mode, different kind of minor scales on both harmonic and melodic.. I'd say, have your teacher develop a program for you, based on the book/method your using, or a combo  bks/method your using.

If A tune a Day is too elementary for you, ( no pun intended) then find ways which method that wil work out for you. I started Suzuki, but I failed miserably, it should work for me though, since I have no music background at all, but it didn't. I took up Viola last year, though the teacher teach Suzuki, we used different method bks, since not all students are  the same, esp if you are adult learner. I stumbled on Doflein until I started learning the 2nd post, Laurie Niles suggested it, then I went back to bk 1 all the way to the last bk which until now am still using, I asked the teacher to create a program for me. I learned more from that bk, and understand better how and why some music played that way. Try to get the bk1 and see it for yourself., it won't be a waste, if didn't work for you, there are good things, exercises, and little quizzes you'll gain in the end.


P.S. you'll need a teacher to explain some stuff in Doflein..i.e. the last chapter  is about Music in the minor mode (Aeolian) tonic to the 5th degree, that is where the continuation of bk 2. That is a good music theory lesson, if you can have your teacher explain those to you.

June 16, 2010 at 08:18 PM ·

>I don't happen to agree w/ the idea that music theory contributes nothing to your playing

OK, I am open to the possibility that I could be wrong.  If music theory does help ones violin playing, can someone explain how?  Please be specific.  If someone can provide compelling and concrete examples, I'll be the first one to enroll in the next music theory class at the local community college.

June 16, 2010 at 09:26 PM ·

It depends on what constitutes "playing" to you.  Reproducing the notes written by someone else on a page, or being aware of what's going on structurally, which gives you the ability to arrange and write things on your own even within a classical idiom, not to mention the ability to recover from mistakes much more easily.  (Miss that Ab?  Hey, depending on what key you're in, you may be able to stick in a C instead and it'll still sound good -- as long as you know where you've modulated to.)

Music theory is to music as grammar is to language.  You will not truly understand how to use your language without some grounding in it.  And there are so many fun and enjoyable aspects to really grasping your grammar -- understanding the way the language evolved, understanding how it relates to other languages, having a solid foundation upon which to create your own expressive works.

Without at least a rudimentary grounding in theory, it's just pretty notes one after another.  With some theory, it's beautiful to hear and becomes beautiful to understand.  The music is fascinating and wonderful on many more levels than just the present-tense level of what goes into the ear at any given moment.

Bottom line: if one loves music, then why not peer more deeply into it?  It's fun to learn how it works.  It's like lifting the hood on a car -- you get to enjoy all the fiddly bits and see how they're connected.  The car becomes fascinating even when standing still.

The best part about music theory is that we ALL know it, even if we don't know we know it.  Again, it's like the rules of language.  I'm fluent in English -- that means that I follow the rules brilliantly, but I can only do that when I cease to be aware that the rules exist.  That's what it means to be fluent.  That's amazing when you stop and think about it.  We are all composed of entire universes of knowledge that we can only fluidly access when we lose awareness that they are there.  And it goes for music, too -- the great masters followed general rules, but they could only do it because the rules were so embedded in their minds that they didn't pay attention to them.  That's a wonderful thing -- there are universes inside of each of us.  We're all much larger inside than we think.

June 16, 2010 at 10:35 PM ·

Kathleen, I second Smiley's concern about your communication problem with your teacher. Violin is hard enough even with comprehensible instructions. Also, if your teacher understands your goals, and is experienced and competent, she should have some ideas about the method books, scale book, etudes, and any supplemental materials that suit you and help get you where you want to be. Maybe it's time to have a discussion with her about your goals, and what her plan is for you.

June 16, 2010 at 11:25 PM ·

Smiley Hsu,

Janice Cortese gave some good general reasons how music theory helps a violin performer. I would summarize her comments by saying a performer gets additional clues about notes to emphasize and notes to soften by knowing the chords and the chord progressions of a piece. Major violin soloists have been known to practice off the piano accompaniment because the chords help them make performance decisions.

Here's a personal example.  I have been working on the Loure' in Bach's Partita No. 3. Its full of double stops.  As I learned it, I heard, vaguely at first, a familiar sound of chords. I analyzed the implied chords of the double stops. This is music theory.  It turns out to be very similar to the blues chord progression.  This is music theory.  However, instead of dominant 7ths, it has major 7ths.  This is music theory.  Major 7ths sound more elegant than dominant 7ths.  This is music theory.  This gave me some ideas about an interpretation of Bach's Loure' that is sad and elegant and dignified. 

Music theory is another tool.  If you know how to use various tools, its possible to get results that differ.  If you use the tools well, the different results can be outstanding.

June 17, 2010 at 01:52 AM ·

Mike and Janis,

Thank you for responding.  You both make some excellent points in favor of having an exposure to music theory. However, in the interest of continuing this important discussion, I still do not see how music theory will help one’s violin playing.  Mike obviously has some background in jazz, and I agree music theory is important if one pursues any form of jazz, but to say that double stops are music theory, is not saying a lot.  After all, isn’t ALL MUSIC music theory?

I am currently working on the Bach Chaconne, and am having trouble with the triple and quadruple stops.  Relating those chords to blues and major 7ths isn’t going to make my fingers move to the right place.  The only thing that is going to make that happen is practice.

And while I do agree that one of the beautiful things about Bach is the hidden polyphony, one does not need to understand all the theory behind it to know it exists and be able to pick out the melody in a given phrase.

My violin woes are not unlike those of many other violinists.  I struggle with intonation, a loose and free vibrato, many right hand issues, etc, etc, but all of these things are technical issues having to do with specific motor skills.  These issues will improve with practice and repetition, but (excuse me for being so obtuse) I simply don’t see how music theory will help in any of those areas.


June 17, 2010 at 05:57 AM ·


sorry I don`t have time at the moment to rea dall the previous replies but I cna tell you the Doflein method is one of the greatets method books every written.  Tuune a day is actually rather poor and compariosn betwene the two is pointless.

One way in which the Doflien will fascinate you I think, is that it technically soli8d in a very traditional way but musically it introdues very diffenrt kind sof music in ahuge variety of -styles- from the beginning so that your musicianship is developed more rapidly tha with other books.  Not only  this, but the introduction of time signatures, keys ,  musicla points, etx thta are usually kepy until later provide a wonderful intellextual challenge to adults who can feel they are exploring true music theory,  which in fact,  they are.



June 17, 2010 at 08:41 AM ·

I'll check out Doflien for sure - but Calos (Vadillo) thanks also for that online link (not sure anyone else noticed).  Its very accessible and would, I think, be particularly useful for beginners.

Here's the link again for those that missed it: http://www.teoria.com/index.html


June 17, 2010 at 04:56 PM ·

Janis wrote:

The best part about music theory is that we ALL know it, even if we don't know we know it.

Yes!  Theory is not the textbook explanations, though those helps some people.  Theory is how music works.  Many people pick up a lot of it aurally without even realizing it, finding the tonality, the harmonic progressions, the rhythmic framework and more without even realizing it.  And many theory classes teach it all on paper without a holistic reference, without connecting it very well to what it sounds like, what it feels like.  Which is why SMiley may feel a theory class is unnecessary.  But I would argue that consciously understanding it can better help your intuitive understanding of it, and for many of us that conscious understanding is just fun and fascinating in and of itself, especially when you get back to the science, the physics, of WHY it works the way it does.  And it can totally open doors, especially in improvisation--which is far from limited to jazz :)

June 17, 2010 at 04:58 PM ·

In answer to Smiley though, I don't know that the physical technique is helped a ton by theory.  Maybe in some way, confidence or something? but I wouldn't testify to it in a court of law  :)

June 17, 2010 at 05:03 PM ·

Theory made me a better sight reader!  It also helps me with putting expression into what I play.

June 17, 2010 at 05:59 PM ·

@ Smiley: I get your point and i actually happen to agree as i've mentioned in my previous post, i'm quite aware that proficiency in music theory doesn't magically make it possible for one to bow straight or play with better intonation or any of that stuff that only comes w/ consistent practice.

@ Janis & Mike: that's it! you've found the words that i never could to make a credible argument for theory, thanks :)

@ Buri: So do you think i should start from Book 1 of the Doflein and work my way through...

@ Elise: yes those websites have been helpful and fun!, thanks to all those that reccommended them.


June 17, 2010 at 06:26 PM ·

I do think that a good grasp of theory makes one a better performer, granted it doesn't intersect immediately with physical technique.  It enables you to get a grip on the music, and importantly, it enables you to avoid mistakes, anticipate where they may occur and prepare for them, and recover from them gracefully when they do occur.  All of these things do improve one's playing ultimately, even if you don't arrange or write your own music.  I say this both as a rank newbie on the viola and as a longtime pianist who started when I was a snotnose kid.  No matter what stage you are in, theory will come in handy at some point and make you a better performer -- and besides, it's fun.  :-)

June 17, 2010 at 07:26 PM ·


>Buri: So do you think i should start from Book 1 of the Doflein and work my way through...

Certanly wouldn`t do any harm.

One thing thta really helps is learning both parts of the duets and then imagining/singing one and playing the other and vice versa.




June 17, 2010 at 09:07 PM ·

A knowledge of theory can help you recognize where leading tones, accidentals, etc., fit into the harmonic structure of the piece.  With double, triple, or quadruple stops, it can explain why they sound out of tune even if you think your fingers are correctly placed.  It can give you suggestions on finding fingerings, if you can immediately recognize a key and know which positions are friendly to that key.  It can help make the structure of arpeggiated passages or long sixteenth-note passages clearer.  To me, all this helps with technical issues.

June 17, 2010 at 09:46 PM ·

Doflein method will definitely serve you better than your present method book, but you gotta have a teacher to guide throught it. Its a very solid method books, like Buri said. Am glad that I posted my dilemma on 2nd post  here on vcom and Ms. Niles suggested that book, its like an AHA momentt to me when I bought that vol, and went to buy the rest of it, and asked my teacher to guide me through it.


June 18, 2010 at 11:20 PM ·

In time she'll get into learning about Temperaments and how we ended up with the keys that we use and why a piano is set up using the notes that it does, etc.  Last year I read one of the most fascinating books about that!

June 19, 2010 at 11:47 PM ·

@ John Cadd= Have you seen the key board made about 250-300+ years ago that has 32 notes between an octave? 

June 20, 2010 at 07:36 PM ·

I had a teacher recently who did not hesitate to give some quick music theory tips that always seemed helpful in solving some problem I was having.  But it was always a specific problem that prompted him, and was probably something I was just then ready to hear and understand.

As for classic violin pedagoy books, I'm becoming a huge fan of Drew Lecher's 'Violin Technique, The Manual',   I begin to get inklings of music theory while working with his first exercises.   I start to really hear things that I think music theorists talk about.

His rhetoric is spare but my guess is that if anyone can learn "theory" through practice, this book would help guide them there.  I also suspect that if you work through it with diligence and care, your technique would be yielding music so beautiful you'd forget all about theory and just be playing your heart out.

June 22, 2010 at 07:16 PM ·


Good for you for asking those questions! It used to bother me, when I was a beginner, that I didn't know all the "theory" behind what I was doing....and I had so many unanswered questions regarding "WHY"...but either I didn't know what to ask, or my teachers didn't think it needed addressing....and I was only 10 years old. I think it's even worse for adult beginners, because we naturally want to know the reason and the logic behind things, and children tend to just go along with it and learn in the order it's given without questioning as much.

You sound like a wonderful student, and it seems that you are taking matters into your own hands. I think with that attitude, you will solve your dilemma. Just remember, not knowing the reason WHY doesn't necessarily impede your progress. It's nice to see the big picture, but honestly, that comes with time, so try to be patient.

To answer a couple of your questions, in my opinion, a basic theory book (violinistically speaking) is called "Essentials for Strings" by Gerald Anderson, and it is VERY BASIC. School Orchestra teachers use it, so it may be too basic for you, but I honestly think it will unlock some of the basic things that are bothering you. This book has a wonderful explanation on rhythms, as well as many pages of rhythm exercises. It also explains "intervals" on our fingerboard. But the reason I like it so well is that it includes 1 octave, 2 octave, and 3 octave scales. The one octave scales include the major scale as well as natural minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor, which my beginners love to learn about....and it explains where the half steps fall under a section called "Scale Construction".  So, for the few bucks it would cost you, I'd recommend this book, even if it answers just a few of your questions!

To answer "why" regarding the Key of D Major....that's a very long answer, but I'll give you the highlights as I usually summarize for my students.

It all goes back to the Gregorian Chant in the thirteenth century. (I think it was the 13th) This was before music was written down in the manner we now use. The Chants soon began using some familiar patterns of where the half steps and whole steps fell, and these are known as "Modes".

If you have a piano keyboard in front of you, TRY THIS, it will make more sense! Otherwise, try to look at a picture of a piano keyboard.  If you started on the white note "C" and play JUST the white notes from C up to the next C, you would get the IONIC MODE. (nowadays, we know it as a Major scale, or Major mode) The IONIC mode has a half step occurring between the 3rd and 4th notes as you play up the keyboard, and also between the 7th and 8th notes.  But if you started on the white note "D", and play JUST the white notes from D up to the next  D, the half steps would occur between different scale degrees, namely between the 2nd and 3rd degree, and between the 6th and 7th scale degree. (remember, you are just counting up the white keys, starting on D, and going up the keyboard). This mode is called the DORIAN mode, and is still used by Jazz musicians. (actually, all the modes are used for Jazz)

So, each white note you start with on the keyboard, is the beginning of its very own MODE. I honestly can't recall them in order, but their names are Myxolidian, Lydian, Locrian, Phrygian, Aeolian, Ionian, Dorian.  And these modes were used by the monks in their Plainchant.

Your Major and Minor scale are the two modes that survived and gained the most favor for Western Music. The minor scale is the Aeolian mode, and if you play the white notes on the keyboard starting on A, you'd get Aeolian Mode, or A Natural Minor.  Later on, composers decided Natural Minor needed a little more "tension", so they raised the 7th scale degree, giving us half steps between the 2nd and 3rd degrees, the 5th and 6th degrees, and the 7th and 8th. This altered the Natural Minor and became known as "Harmonic Minor".   Then, I'm guessing that the big gap that created between the the 6th and 7th degree (it leaves us with 1 1/2 steps) making this an awkward scale for melodic instruments to play.......so they sort of blended the Natural Minor with the Harmonic Minor, which is now known as the "Melodic Minor", and is the scale most commonly studied and practiced by me. (I'm guessing I'm not alone here, and most violinists utilize Melodic Minor in their practice)

Melodic Minor is a Harmonic Minor scale, but when you are going UP the scale, you raise the 6th scale degree, which eliminates that awkward gap, and when you come back DOWN the scale, you lower the th 7th and the 6th scale degree, which, SHAZAM......turns the descending scale back into a NATURAL MINOR!!! 

So Kathleen, no one wants to just play C MAJOR scales all day, so we now add sharps or flats to enable us to start the IONIC, or MAJOR scale on ANY NOTE WE WANT, but at the same time, keeps the half steps in the right place to keep us in IONIC mode. (transposing) Same with MINOR, or AEOLIAN mode.....just add sharps or flats needed to maintain the half step pattern.

That basic explanation is the reason for key signatures, the reason we add sharps in the following order (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#), and the reason we add flats in the following order (BEADGCF) Also notice, the flats are exactly BACKWARDS from the sharps!!!

Did you REALLY want to know all that? If you did, then I hope that helped. If you didn't, then maybe you can rest assured that you will figure out the WHY'S on a "need-to-know-basis" on your quest to learn violin.  Good luck!   ---Lora

June 23, 2010 at 05:00 AM ·

Thank you all for taking the time to write replies, i broached the idea of a different method book with my teacher and she's agreed to go shopping to take a look at other choices with me. I now feel confidant that i'll eventually "get" the theory behing the music that i play, just have to be patient and read up some more : )

September 9, 2010 at 02:54 AM · I saw music theory for dummies at borders lol not implying that you are a dummy but it seems like the most basic simple approach to learning music theory(: you also said that when the signature of D major has two sharps you don't get why? What id tell you is that a when a composer is creating a piec he/she chooses a key signature for the piece to be in so that his musical ideas get through its kinda like rules. If the key is D major the 2 sharps are F# and C# when your playing the piece if you play a c natural or f natural it doesn't sound right you get it

September 9, 2010 at 02:09 PM ·

 The big picture is the major scale.  A major scale consist of whole and half steps. The half steps are on  3,4 and 7,8.   If you play a major scale starting on D, to make the half steps fall on 3,4 and 7,8 – you half to adjust F to F# and C to C#. Theory would be easier for you to visualize if you learn a little piano. 

September 12, 2010 at 03:34 AM ·

I read some good reviews of "John Brimhall's Theory Notebook", the one I purchased contains levels 1-3. It's really very basic stuff, and it might be some backtracking for you, but it's an ok simple little book with lessons and little quizzes.

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Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine