A Crash Course in Music Theory

Permutations and shapes

Let's move on to another experiment with our { C B C D } sequence. Here we use those notes to generate twenty-four permutations. That is, we re-order those four notes in twenty-four different ways. The formula behind the number of possible permutations is 4! (four factorial or 4 x 3 x 2 x 1). Actually, instead of permutations we could substitute the word shapes. That's because if we put our twenty-four permutations onto graph paper—or standard music score paper and then connected the note heads with lines, we'd see twenty-four different shapes, each of which comes from a corresponding...

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