'Karma (music theory) Police'...

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Re: 'Karma (music theory) Police'...

Post by sonic5397 »

I had a (music theory) professor once explain things to me this way:

If you listen to most successful musicians who have NOT had formal music training, you will start to notice that they usually end up following most of the "rules" of theory in the end. The only difference is that they arrived at the rules through listening to what sounded good, rather than what was mathematically, scientifically, (insert your word of choice here) "correct". In a lot of cases, if you can absorb and apply the theory, then knowing theory becomes a shortcut to producing good sounding music.

You can always try many different notes, chord progressions, escape tones, approach tones, etc until you find something that sounds good to your ear, but if you know the theory of how different notes tend to resolve (e.g. - 9th resolves to the root, 13th resolves to the 5th, etc) and can think and act upon this while you are playing, then theory is a big help. I tend to play via emotion and only consciously think about theory when I get stuck somewhere - like the end of a chorus - how can I transition (harmonically) back to the verse, or if I want to change key signatures - how can I do it based on theory (which seems a lot quicker to me) than trying a bunch of different combinations at random?

I think about this all the time when improvising, especially over 12-bar blues. For example: during any "I" or "V" part of the blues progression, i immediately think in my mind, "oh...I can play the notes of a diminished minor scale starting on the tritone of the root" - that the theory at work. On the other hand, an old jazz guy with no formal theory thinks...hmmm.....if I'm playing blues in F and and I play B, C#,D, E, F, G#, A over either an F7 or Bb7 chord, it sounds good. Either way, the arrived at result is the same.

To sum up, my professor said: Theory is simply the formal collection and organization of knowledge for easier learning.
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