Why learn music theory?

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Re: Why learn music theory?

Postby Jack Winter » Thu Sep 20, 2018 2:24 pm

Knowledge of solfege also makes talking about music in general or specifically a song a lot easier...
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Re: Why learn music theory?

Postby tavasti » Fri Sep 21, 2018 1:37 pm

jonetsu wrote:Or even worse, of not willing to do the studying to be a better musician ? One that can play in an orchestra but can never come up with anything original ?


Beeing musician and beeing composer is different thing.

jonetsu wrote:I never got any interest in playing others' songs. I played the first chords to "Stairway to Heaven" and got bored. My interest was in making new notes ring together. Not to be able to show off to others that I could play that or that tune and that hence I'm a good guitar player because of that.

Up to this day I do not know much about music theory. You can hear some results in the soundcloud pieces found in the signature below. I do know what major, minor, seventh chords are but moreover I can move the fingers in such a way as to come up with a creative expression I find.

I do not feel limited at all regarding music theory. I feel limited in my willingness to express more, to go further, to be more creative with the material I create. And this has nothing to do with music theory. I would not want to use music theory as a prop, as an illusion for me and for the listeners, instead of facing the limitation within oneself and within the soul. As such music becomes an expression of something more than 'mathematics'.

Many things you say are 'me too', but that relation to theory is just opposite. Learning theory gives me possibility to get results I want much faster. I do not have too much time for my music hobby, and without studying theory, all my music would be something much less than it is now.

I've studied some course from udemy, and right now studying more, to get my composition skills to next level.

I still remember when I first time learned what scale means, and how it enabled me to play 'elevator rock' with my guitar.
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Re: Why learn music theory?

Postby jonetsu » Fri Sep 21, 2018 10:19 pm

tavasti wrote: Many things you say are 'me too', but that relation to theory is just opposite. Learning theory gives me possibility to get results I want much faster. I do not have too much time for my music hobby, and without studying theory, all my music would be something much less than it is now.


I'm wondering about that actually. So far intuitively, to take an example to try to illustrate, I know that playing a F# in a D minor chord is asking for trouble. But if one tries to sneak a Ab it might work if there's some flexibility in the D minor to support it. And this is where the 'game' is at, flexing here and there to go along other notes and chords, as the inspiration leads.

The topic of inspiration is a totally different thing.

I have a chord wheel. It's a wheel you can turn around to see what chord matches with another. When I bought it I thought this will give me a boost. I will finally be leading off to something and not only fiddling around. Thing is it turns out I'm not using that chord wheel because I do not know which chords I use. My guitar is not even tuned to the standard tuning.

tavasti wrote: I've studied some course from udemy, and right now studying more, to get my composition skills to next level.

I still remember when I first time learned what scale means, and how it enabled me to play 'elevator rock' with my guitar.


I think there could be quite a difference between European and American mentalities regarding this. As an "American" I put accent on groove. Getting a groove going is very important. Chords and solfege and theory does not matter as much.

I know, there are American classical composers. Although I use a broad range.

The question remains. Can I really get my composition skills at a higher level by studying or can I instead face to hard work of feeling it all ?

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Re: Why learn music theory?

Postby tavasti » Sat Sep 22, 2018 10:39 am

jonetsu wrote:I think there could be quite a difference between European and American mentalities regarding this. As an "American" I put accent on groove. Getting a groove going is very important. Chords and solfege and theory does not matter as much.

I know, there are American classical composers. Although I use a broad range.

The question remains. Can I really get my composition skills at a higher level by studying or can I instead face to hard work of feeling it all ?

I don't think there is such thing as European or American mentality. I suppose Finnish and Canadian have more common than Canadian and Brazilian or Finn and Romanian. Most likely things are more about your musical taste.

But for your question, I don't think there will ever be answer for that. For some people theory may give ideas, for some other not. And for theory, there is lots of it, and you can pick what you need. I did not even know what is solfege (used google to find out), and no, I don't use it or have met it in any of my music theory material.

Music theory is like map showing where are roads and paths, but you can still walk where you want. With map you can maybe find easier way to that nice scenery, but you can get there also with plain work.
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Re: Why learn music theory?

Postby 42low » Sat Sep 22, 2018 12:25 pm

AnthonyCFox wrote:No one ever regrets having studied music theory.
(...)

I'm totally with you. It's a great backup.

Although i have some doubts about were is situated in practice.
Already as a kid i've learned about music. Not as serious education, but as a hobby and still rather serious for a few years.
When my kids wanted to start with playing instruments i learned them a lot of basics like reading and writing notes and so on. And off course this gave them a good start.

But when i saw what they picked up by themselves from the internet i was astonished. This discovery even made me learn a lot more this way.
In the pre-internet days it was hard to get more information. You had to go to school for some serious time to get educated enough. The teachers mainly could learn you the official way's to play, mostly not the stage tricks (ow man, did i finger fight a lot to change those two full chords, now done with a finger or two). Those tricks you had to gather elsewere. You had to build a network to learn those tricks from. You had to have (mostly hard to find) contacts to learn the real musician tricks. Sometimes you had to be very lucky to meet someone who could learn you that one trick what you were looking for for a long time. To play a song you had to find out how it should be played, by ear or by finding a copy of the sheet (mostly not available or to expensive, so eventually struggling trying by ear).

Now it's all on internet. A lot on youtube. Not one artist to learn from in real life, but several sometimes slightly different and each other complimenting tutorials provided by tens of artists. Not one trick, but several slightly different options to choose, or to learn all. That one thing what took you a year to discover those days, nowadays you find in a few minutes on the internet. Want to play a song, it's there fully explained how to play it. What you can learn in a day those day's took years.
And the same goes for recording. Man, did i had to have a lot of hardware to record. Cut and paste tapes. Rewind again and again. Building loop tapes. Rebuild hardware to get specific effects. Try and fail, and do it over until it was good.
Now it's all (even huge extended) within a good computer with a good DAW.

And eventually music theory doesn't provide you the "feel for music". As proven by the many non educated but great artists.

So having music theory as stated in this topic is great, but the way to gather it changes hugely and real study isn't necessary at all as you can easily study it by yourself. I myself am almost there to say that i've learned more since i picked up music and recording again then i did in those years with "official" music education.
Music theory education is that available nowadays that it almost looks like heaven. :D

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Re: Why learn music theory?

Postby jonetsu » Sun Sep 23, 2018 2:27 pm

tavasti wrote: I don't think there is such thing as European or American mentality. I suppose Finnish and Canadian have more common than Canadian and Brazilian or Finn and Romanian. Most likely things are more about your musical taste.


Not entirely. There's the cultural background, what you are growing into. Europeans did not have a cut in their cultural backgrounds. It all seamlessly progressed, with the church, classical music, everything just going on their own pace. In American there was a cut. 450+ years of fiddle and guitar songs completely removed from classical music have forged a mentality and an approach regarding music. This is why I say that in America (including Canada) the accent is on the groove. What makes people move. Hundreds of years for the common people (not the rich ones) to dance to fiddle and guitar tunes

In general terms of course. Latitude and weather contributes to shape a people, but not only. Attitude instead of latitude is much more important and this is shaped by the cultural context.

As an example, this is why such an immensely popular piece such as this one can exist, based on traditional roots:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1eUMVjwuAE

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Re: Why learn music theory?

Postby 42low » Sun Sep 23, 2018 10:54 pm

Don't forget that a lot of worldwide trend setting music styles (for moving) come from europe.
New beat from belgium. Acid and rave from uk. A lot of popular 90's music from germany and holland. Nowadays dance from holland too. Rock from uk and some more countries. Punk was typical european. Like many latin influences (also to find back in modern US music) come from latin america. And i for sure forget to mention other influencing countries and areas.

With the important historical note that the US rhythms blues and jazz, which both (blues most) highly influenced rock and roll, and which all three together in their turn are the mother of most later and modern pop-music which you mentioned and call "US move" rhythms, basically came from the core influence off african rhythms. Before that the US did the same classic european music like the walz and the stupid stiff tunnels and circle dances.

Eventually all evolved out off classic (european) music theory as worldwide spread ancient tribe music styles lacked a main music structure. And those ancient tribe music in turn have had influence on the evolution off all sorts of instruments, were the possibilities of usage from these instruments also influences music.
Basically we always before and still dance, jump, twist'd, hucklebucked and even tripped (60's), pogo'd, headbanged and slam danced on classic music theory. :mrgreen: 1 2 3 4 1 2 ....

I think it can be said that most parts off the world have had their cultural influences in the history off worldwide trend setting music and styles more or less. It's one big stew.

Music theory in practice! :wink:
Last edited by 42low on Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why learn music theory?

Postby tavasti » Mon Sep 24, 2018 6:56 am

jonetsu wrote:
tavasti wrote: I don't think there is such thing as European or American mentality. I suppose Finnish and Canadian have more common than Canadian and Brazilian or Finn and Romanian. Most likely things are more about your musical taste.


Not entirely. There's the cultural background, what you are growing into. Europeans did not have a cut in their cultural backgrounds. It all seamlessly progressed, with the church, classical music, everything just going on their own pace. In American there was a cut. 450+ years of fiddle and guitar songs completely removed from classical music have forged a mentality and an approach regarding music.

450 years ago definitely Finland did not have any classical music, first signs of it are 1790. Sure some church music, but not as a art. Folk has been singing or some fiddle music, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... i4fjc_6M-a and https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... z_K0HKB1nG

And for my personal background, AC/DC and Judas Priest define much more my musical identity than any classical music or old Finnish folk music. And most likely that will be true for many other people in my country. We have nation wide radio channel playing only hard rock and metal. And there are maybe total less than 10 radio channels which are broadcasted to whole nation.

In Finland there is more metal bands per capita than anywhere else. https://www.gislounge.com/map-of-heavy- ... er-capita/
With that aspect, USA would be par with Spain, Canada with German.
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Re: Why learn music theory?

Postby jonetsu » Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:31 pm

tavasti wrote: 450 years ago definitely Finland did not have any classical music, first signs of it are 1790. Sure some church music, but not as a art. Folk has been singing or some fiddle music ...


Well, every country has folk music. Although in European countries culture an classical music made its way. Not so in the 'new world'. Maybe Finland is a special case since after all written language in historic terms, is rather new.

I listen for years now to Värttinä. To Hedningarna (Sweden) with the two Finnish singers (inspired from Sami culture). I know Loituma. I know the nature of the Kalevala. I also know of Gjallarhorn. Since quite a long time.

So all countries have folk music. Because this is the most accessible to everyone to make 'some dancing noises'.

For my personal influence it was varied, but a lot of progressive rock. Some jazz, folk. I would say that folk music was kind of 'embedded' from culture. We used to gather around fires and stuff like that, so there was often nature close by. And someone would always have an acoustic guitar, sometime a violin. Even though there was a lot of European influence through prog rock, with all those chords and complex beats, there was also simple folk music not far away.

To go back to music theory, this simple approach does not need so much theory. A little bit, but certainly not complete theory courses. And this is what is driving my musical approach so far and my comments on 'why learn music theory ?'

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Re: Why learn music theory?

Postby tavasti » Tue Sep 25, 2018 5:06 am

jonetsu wrote:I listen for years now to Värttinä. To Hedningarna (Sweden) with the two Finnish singers (inspired from Sami culture). I know Loituma. I know the nature of the Kalevala. I also know of Gjallarhorn. Since quite a long time.


Indeed. I never listen them (I know Värttinä, and hate it), and then you start talking about cultural influence of your origin. No, hardrock has influenced me much more than any traditional music from any part of the world.

And making 'European' one group is really far off. East and west, north and south are culturally far away from each other. Maybe in northern America there isn't so much regional differences, beacause all over there has been people coming from all over the globe, bringing own influences.

jonetsu wrote:To go back to music theory, this simple approach does not need so much theory. A little bit, but certainly not complete theory courses. And this is what is driving my musical approach so far and my comments on 'why learn music theory ?'

Most likely, for folk music theory is pretty simple. I think in some page there was theory summarized and simplified:
- For nearly any music before 1700, you need 2 notes, 1 and 5 (speaking freats on guitar, open and 7th fret)
- For nearly all popular music after it, you need 3 notes, 1, 4, 5 (on frets, open, 5th and 7th)

And indeed, for guitar tuned to AEAEAE, knowing pentatonic minor will give lots of great rock stuff. However, I prefer to get further, and faster than with trial and error. That's why I study theory.
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Re: Why learn music theory?

Postby 42low » Tue Sep 25, 2018 11:11 am

tavasti wrote:And indeed, for guitar tuned to AEAEAE, knowing pentatonic minor will give lots of great rock stuff.

OMG i also don't like those open X tuning. Eventually those are NOT the tricks used by famous guitarists in famous hit songs.
I only sometimes use one adjusted string for metal as this is highly common. The rest i always play on standard EADGBE.
Open X tuning even disturbs as you can't fall back on other ways to play without tuning back. Your stuck in that open tuning. If you learn all EADGBE tricks to play you can simply switch while playing.

tavasti wrote:However, I prefer to get further, and faster than with trial and error. That's why I study theory.

But does music theory cover that all? I doubt that.
With that i learned the basics of music which is rather handy, but i never learned the real stuff there.
As eventually famous guitarists in famous hit songs also did NOT play the regular chords you learn in basic music theory. For that you need an experienced teacher. I won't forget how i got teached which full chords to set for playing a famous song, meanwhile finger-fighting to get those chords .... and quick. Turned out the original guitarist play with one or two fingers, and that is NOT on some kind of "open tuning" but simply on an EADGBE tuned one. :wink: :mrgreen:

Even more. Full chords played on an electric guitar will sound muddy so you can't even use them for that.

:D Look at guitar players on TV or wherever the coming time how they place "chord" and in the first instance if they even do. You will find out that more than 90% does not play full chords and no open X tuning either, but simply finger settings on an EADGBE tuned one. :wink:

If you look further you will find out that the common piano chords are made from the same tones as those guitar chords. And other instruments like bass guitar and even drums tuning. And if you then look further you will find out that those all fit exactly within music theory from songs.
The moment were the puzzle off music theory falls in it's place. And this goes beyond regular music theory. I knew several highly schooled musician and all did not learned this at school!
Last edited by 42low on Tue Sep 25, 2018 12:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Why learn music theory?

Postby jonetsu » Tue Sep 25, 2018 11:53 am

tavasti wrote:And making 'European' one group is really far off. East and west, north and south are culturally far away from each other. Maybe in northern America there isn't so much regional differences, beacause all over there has been people coming from all over the globe, bringing own influences.


It will depend perhaps on the density of population. In the USA there are more differences eg. between Texas and Vermont for instance. In Canada not so much, but there are some. Certainly nowhere near (many) European countries.

tavasti wrote: And indeed, for guitar tuned to AEAEAE, knowing pentatonic minor will give lots of great rock stuff. However, I prefer to get further, and faster than with trial and error. That's why I study theory.


I have stopped tuning my guitars the standard way a long time ago. I do not like it when the open strings are strummed and it shows bad. I like it when the open strings sounds good together. So that means it's a long time I have not done any standard chords on a guitar which in turns means that I have forgotten about the chords. And since the tuning can vary at anytime there's no point in learning the positions for 100 chords for each different tuning, so I play mostly by ear.

So far this 'by ear' takes place of music theory. This allows me to joyfully play and E and a F at the same time and finding that it sounds good, without knowing all the intricacies of why and simply let it happen and use it and develop on it. This said I do know a little theory, but I', not pursuing it.

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Re: Why learn music theory?

Postby 42low » Tue Sep 25, 2018 12:00 pm

jonetsu wrote:I have stopped tuning my guitars the standard way a long time ago. I do not like it when the open strings are strummed and it shows bad.

If you learn the right tricks for EADGBE you won't have that.
And this will give you the opportunity to change within several available tricks, or even fall back on the regular chords (whithout the need to tune again and again). Next to that you can still play solo's and riffs in between and simply over chords. You can change styles while playing which will make your play more catchy exiting.
This all is impossible with open tuning which will eventually limit and restrict you play and keep it flat. :( :( :(

42low wrote:Turned out the original guitarist play with one or two fingers, and that is NOT on some kind of "open tuning" but simply on an EADGBE tuned one. :wink: :mrgreen:

I guess i've explained enough about music theory. So in short words.
Make yourself know the (=enough) basics of music theory. But concentrate on LEARNING music PRACTICE!.

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Re: Why learn music theory?

Postby tavasti » Tue Sep 25, 2018 12:17 pm

42low wrote:
tavasti wrote:And indeed, for guitar tuned to AEAEAE, knowing pentatonic minor will give lots of great rock stuff.

OMG i also don't like those open X tuning. Eventually those are NOT the tricks used by famous guitarists in famous hit songs.


Oh really, what about https://www.gtdb.org/dadfad and https://www.gtdb.org/dadfsad
Even stranger DADDAD has some famous users https://www.gtdb.org/daddad

But yes, I know that most people don't play with alternative tunings, but most people who play with slide are using open tuning. And also there are plenty of blues guitarists that use open tunings even without slide.

And in metal, Drop-D is most likely nearly as common as normal tuning.

I am also doing music without guitar. I fact, right now most of the music without guitar, while trying to learn to play guitar so well that I can make music I want with it.

42low wrote:
tavasti wrote:However, I prefer to get further, and faster than with trial and error. That's why I study theory.

But does music theory cover that all? I doubt that.

No, at least I am not studying anything like 1:1 code how to write music. More ideas what sounds ok, and what not, and many times also what not so nice sounding things can be usefull to create tension, etc.

For direct 'do this' instructions for pop music Holistic Songwriting might be best place to go, but that does not intrest me.
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Re: Why learn music theory?

Postby jonetsu » Tue Sep 25, 2018 12:42 pm

42low wrote: If you learn the right tricks for EADGBE you won't have that.


Look, I've been playing guitar for 25 years. I had enough tricks with regular tuning. As I mentioned, I like it when the open strings sounds nice together. That's how I view guitar.

42low wrote: This all is impossible with open tuning which will eventually limit and restrict you play and keep it flat. :( :( :(


Not at all. If one is playing flat, then flatness is in the mind :mrgreen:


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