Dr. J’s list of theory rules

[ed. note: No, “dr j” does not have a doctorate. It’s a pseudonym (soubriquet alias, byname, cognomen, epithet, handle, moniker) given to me by my first class of band students. During that time period, Julius Erving, who forever altered professional basketball, was doing “Chapstick” commercials. Mr. Julian has carried Chapstick in his pocket since he was 7. The kids connected the dots. Maybe you can, too. However, dr j WOULD be Dr. J if he had had enough money!]

MUSIC THEORY: Rules for Survival in the Jungle

  1. Never Give-Up! Never Surrender!
  2. Always speak the truth
  3. In Close structure—LESS than one octave between soprano and tenor
  4. Always watch the watchers
  5. Always be respectful and polite, no matter what the provocation
  6. Never walk away unless you’re protecting something precious, then RUN! And don’t stop until safe.
  7. Musicians do not rely on luck
  8. The difference between mediocre and amazing: mediocre players practice until they get it right. Amazing players practice until they cannot play it wrong
    • Corollary 8a:  Mediocre drives a car with “Domino’s” on top.
    • Corollary 8b: Amazing gets paid for music.
    • Metaphorical Corollary 8c:  Not everyone gets to be an Astronaut when they grow-up.
    • Literal Corollary 8d: As of 2013, no one gets to be an astronaut when they grow-up
  9. In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
  10. Open structure—an Octave or MORE between soprano and tenor
  11. Trust the evidence
  12. Never sit on the sidelines
  13. Always seek out a movie analogy.
  14. Do not allow any part to cross above the soprano or below the bass
  15. Don’t talk about something until you have all the facts.
  16. Follow every line of logic or harmonic progression to its ultimate conclusion.
  17. Always make sure your work is done but make it look like you are just lazing around
  18. Rhythm: Keep it simple
  19. EVERY melody note should belong to the chord that is to harmonize it
  20. If it seems someone is out to get you, they are.
  21. The melody should be primarily conjunct (stepwise)
  22. Whenever dr j says something more than once, chances are you should remember it because it will be on the test
  23. If it feels like you’re being played, you probably are
  24. The shape of the melody should be interesting, but clear and simple and have a single focal point, i.e., the highest note of the melody.
  25. When smaller leaps are used consecutively in the same direction, they should outline a triad
  26. Never ignore a coincidence. Unless you’re busy, then always ignore a coincidence.
  27. A melodic interval larger than a P4 is usually best approached and left in the direction opposite to the leap
  28. Make sure the leading tone goes to 1
  29. Never ignore a coincidence. Unless you’re busy, then always ignore a coincidence.
  30. There is no such thing as coincidence
  31. Subdominant (4) often goes down to 3
  32. Clean up your own mess.
  33. Sometimes You’re Wrong. Admit it, Fix it, Get Over it.
  34. Never run when you are scared.
  35. Time is not the boss of you, nor is meter.
  36. Everything has its time…and everything ends. Usually on a Perfect Authentic Cadence.
  37. A little Gratitude will not damage your self-esteem.