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Thread: How do you feel about music theory?

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    Senior Member ImmortalDiotima's Avatar
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    Default How do you feel about music theory?

    A few threads have been posted regarding this topic but none of them have rooted, sprouted, and flourished so I'm gonna take a crack at it.

    Do you think there are fewer musicians today who are taking the time to learn (at least basic) music theory? How does this effect the music they produce? Is music theory important? At least beneficial? Does music theory kill the magic of music for you or increase it?

    I'd love to hear from various people with various levels of music theory knowledge and various opinions about how this effects their music.

    Personally, I don't know how many musicians in the 60's, 70's, 80's etc knew music theory, but I think there are a lot of bands and musicians out there today with little to no music theory knowledge.

    I think it is unnecessary to know it to be a good musician, yet I think for many people it enriches their music composition and relationship to their music. It does for me. Other people may experience the opposite. I think that stems from the fact that there are certain "rules" you learn early in mt education that are very obviously broken in music everywhere. It can be kind of frustrating because you're thinking, "this is not a real rule!" But once you learn the "rules" you learn the most effective ways of breaking them. You just have to get over that hump or embrace it.

    what do you guys think?

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    My opinion of music theory is Merzbow.

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    Senior Member ImmortalDiotima's Avatar
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    Wow! I've never heard him before. How interesting. I'm definitely gonna have to look more into this. How deconstructed....

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    Admin Muzoid's Avatar
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    I've always been on the fence regarding theory...to me it greatly helps in composition, as well as communication between musicians....

    But then there are musicians like Billy Sheehan (monster bassist, one of the best) who have no training at all.

    But then again, there are tons of great painters, who never studied art, or authors who never took a creative writing course.

    I think the fact that some take it and some don't actually adds to the creativity and diversity in music.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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    Senior Member ImmortalDiotima's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Muzoid View Post
    I've always been on the fence regarding theory...to me it greatly helps in composition, as well as communication between musicians....

    But then there are musicians like Billy Sheehan (monster bassist, one of the best) who have no training at all.

    But then again, there are tons of great painters, who never studied art, or authors who never took a creative writing course.

    I think the fact that some take it and some don't actually adds to the creativity and diversity in music.
    Yea I completely agree. i think what's best for each person depends on the person. Sometimes too much training can stifle natural creativity while other times training can help it to blossom.

    I've always been an extremely logical person and even though i know i have a lot of inner creativity I freak out when i try to tap into it and constantly second guess myself. The small amount of theory I know has given me a framework from which to understand music (especially since I don't play instruments). It's something I feel deep in my fibers as a vocalist but don't know how to produce. Music theory helps me.

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    I'm not a musician, I have no formal training at all, so could never tell you from listening who has a good knowledge of musical theory. But I'd like to give an opinion (of sorts) anyway lol

    I would have thought that someone with a knowledge of music theory would theoretically have a better idea of composing music, because they have been taught how and why things work within a composition, and understand what needs to be done to create something similar. But that is also a reason why I think that someone with no training formally would be better, in that they dont know the rules, and have no concept of the boundaries that may or may not be imposed by understanding musical theory properly.

    At the end of it all, its more about the individual's creativity that decides whether they are good at making music. I could have all the music theory knowledge in the world, but if I have no creativity I'd never be able to use that knowledge to any good effect.

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    Senior Member ImmortalDiotima's Avatar
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    I think people who don't know music theory must have a different way of composing. Usually they know how to play a guitar and what sounds good and so they compose on that (or whatever their instrument is) but someone who knows music theory (and has a little understanding of the capabilities of different instruments) can sit down with a piece of staff paper and compose a piece. It doesn't seem like that would be possible for someone who doesn't know theory. How would you know how to build a chord or write it? Does anyone disagree? I don't know because I've never really tried to compose music for an instrument. I've just co-written music with others.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ImmortalDiotima View Post
    I think people who don't know music theory must have a different way of composing. Usually they know how to play a guitar and what sounds good and so they compose on that (or whatever their instrument is) but someone who knows music theory (and has a little understanding of the capabilities of different instruments) can sit down with a piece of staff paper and compose a piece. It doesn't seem like that would be possible for someone who doesn't know theory. How would you know how to build a chord or write it? Does anyone disagree? I don't know because I've never really tried to compose music for an instrument. I've just co-written music with others.
    I think this would be one for the guitarists to answer, but I'll (again) say my piece. If someone hasnt learned music theory, chances are they have learned guitar by learning songs - most likely by reading tabs. So with that in mind, when it comes to making their own music, what would be the difference between them just fiddling around seeing what sounds good on their guitar and then writing what they play in tab form, and knowing music theory properly?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ImmortalDiotima View Post
    I think people who don't know music theory must have a different way of composing. Usually they know how to play a guitar and what sounds good and so they compose on that (or whatever their instrument is) but someone who knows music theory (and has a little understanding of the capabilities of different instruments) can sit down with a piece of staff paper and compose a piece. It doesn't seem like that would be possible for someone who doesn't know theory. How would you know how to build a chord or write it? Does anyone disagree? I don't know because I've never really tried to compose music for an instrument. I've just co-written music with others.
    I guess this would depend on what is being composed...for example:

    If the artist was writing a 3 or 4 chord pop song...not alot of theory would be needed...chords can just be written as C, A-, F, G....and a pretty melody can be added on top....now, they would need some theory if they wanted to write it out for let's say instrumental piano version....but there are people for that in the industry, so not essential.

    However, someone composing something like Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven), would greatly benefit from threory....not that it can't be done without it, but it would be one hellofa task to chart.

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    Because tabs are just like... these are the strings I play on my guitar to make this sound, or whatever. Whereas on staff paper you can write for all kinds of instruments with the same notation. I know you can write for multiple instruments on tab it but with theory you don't even have to have an instrument in the room to fiddle with, you can write a concerto because you understand how it will sound. They actually aren't that different. I feel as though there is a difference but I'm having a hard time defining it. i guess if you know tabit well enough it's almost like knowing your own form of notation. The main difference seems to be that you know what sounds good... you just don't know why. In theory you learn a lot about why certain things sound a certain way or why they sound better than others.

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    Senior Member ImmortalDiotima's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Muzoid View Post
    I guess this would depend on what is being composed...for example:

    If the artist was writing a 3 or 4 chord pop song...not alot of theory would be needed...chords can just be written as C, A-, F, G....and a pretty melody can be added on top....now, they would need some theory if they wanted to write it out for let's say instrumental piano version....but there are people for that in the industry, so not essential.

    However, someone composing something like Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven), would greatly benefit from threory....not that it can't be done without it, but it would be one hellofa task to chart.
    I can't even imagine how someone without theory training could even conceive of a composition like Beethoven's. It's so entrenched in theory. It would take an utter genious to figure out all those relationships...
    But at the same time... I guess people who play instruments (besides voice) must have an understanding of chords and things in order to play them in the first place. Does every guitarist know what a dominant 7th chord is?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ImmortalDiotima View Post
    Does every guitarist know what a dominant 7th chord is?
    Well, some do, some don't...those who don't can easily look it up on a tab, or chord chart...but not all untrained guitarists would be able to play me an A Minor Melodic Scale, or be able to play me the Dorian version of it, without asking a few questions first.

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    So do you still think someone without theory training could write moonlight sonata?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ImmortalDiotima View Post
    So do you still think someone without theory training could write moonlight sonata?
    Oh absolutely they could...

    ...but they couldn't put it on paper, so another pianist could play it exactly as intended, therefore surviving through the ages....they would most likely make several errors, that would confuse a trained player...if a song is never written down, or recorded, it basically dies with the artist.

    But the conception could be done by an extremely musically talented person, just look at Mozarts early works, sure he had a bit of theory, but not much when he was just a little kid, right?....and he was writing masterpieces.

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    I'm a little confused here. Are you guys discussing that todays music talent is declining < (not sure on spelling), or are you talking about the musical knowledge etc. I'm confused. Help would be, well... Helpful

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