Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
stringtapper
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by stringtapper » Fri Jul 15, 2011 8:24 pm

Machinesworking wrote:With all that said, even if you're interested in breaking the "rules" etc. only roughly half the people who've changed popular music in a big way are untrained, so it makes little difference in the evolution of popular music either way.
Little fix there.
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DEEMUSIC
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by DEEMUSIC » Fri Jul 15, 2011 8:25 pm


That why you need to learn theory so you don't Produce SHIT LIKE THAT. And to me not knowing the basics of theory is like driving a car and not knowing what the steering wheel is for. The more you know about theory and your DAW the more creative you become.

Machinesworking
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by Machinesworking » Fri Jul 15, 2011 8:54 pm

stringtapper wrote:
Machinesworking wrote:With all that said, even if you're interested in breaking the "rules" etc. only roughly half the people who've changed popular music in a big way are untrained, so it makes little difference in the evolution of popular music either way.
Little fix there.
I wouldn't call Cage, or Throbbing Gristle, NON, or Stockhausen popular.

Cage and StockHausen were trained, NON and TG were not. IMO all changed music significantly. Not just classical but popular music... anyway this is veering towards taste, but realistically I would say Cage and NON started whole genres of music, or at least really took Musique concrète in new directions.

BTW, I'm stuck with this scale. I can't find any cheat method to figure out what it is? It's the main part of one of my songs. G A A# C C# D E looks like a scale to me? Dominant note is G. Seem to like the awkward scales, though it sounds normal enough.

stringtapper
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by stringtapper » Fri Jul 15, 2011 9:19 pm

Machinesworking wrote:
stringtapper wrote:
Machinesworking wrote:With all that said, even if you're interested in breaking the "rules" etc. only roughly half the people who've changed popular music in a big way are untrained, so it makes little difference in the evolution of popular music either way.
Little fix there.
I wouldn't call Cage, or Throbbing Gristle, NON, or Stockhausen popular.

Cage and StockHausen were trained, NON and TG were not. IMO all changed music significantly. Not just classical but popular music... anyway this is veering towards taste, but realistically I would say Cage and NON started whole genres of music, or at least really took Musique concrète in new directions.

BTW, I'm stuck with this scale. I can't find any cheat method to figure out what it is? It's the main part of one of my songs. G A A# C C# D E looks like a scale to me? Dominant note is G. Seem to like the awkward scales, though it sounds normal enough.
Don't know an exact name off the top of my head but it's a G minor tonality with a flat fifth (Db) and a raised sixth (E). What you're calling A# is a Bb, and yes it matters if you're talking theory.

And my point was that your statement about half the musicians being trained is true if you're taing about pop music, but not if you're talking about classical, avant-garde, high art, etc. musicians like Stockhausen and Cage; they were most definitely trained. The classical tradition even up through the 2st century is in many ways distinguished by the level of training of its practitioners.
Last edited by stringtapper on Fri Jul 15, 2011 11:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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stringtapper
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by stringtapper » Fri Jul 15, 2011 9:25 pm

Oh and what I'm calling "popular" is anything not in the classical, avant-garde, high art tradition, so yeah throbbing gristle is popular under that definition.
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by memes_33 » Fri Jul 15, 2011 9:59 pm

if you can create interesting tracks/progressions/melodies without knowing the theory behind them, then why put the energy in to learn?

if, over time, you find you're repeating yourself or want to make something new, then by all means, learn it. if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

i think there's valid reasons for learning theory as well as valid reasons NOT to learn theory. i've played scales endlessly on my bass only to be disappointed down the road because i have preset patterns programmed into my playing. i think electronic music is great cuz you can fiddle around with melodies and chords without ever knowing WTF you're doing. your are making decisions purely based on feelings, and without something telling you that its 'right' or 'wrong'. to me, that is almost a more 'pure' way of making music as you don't have the history of human ideas and theories bogging down your creative process. chords & scales make life much easier when communicating ideas with other musicians, but if you're doing it all on your own, it doesn't matter as much.

what knowing this stuff can offer, though, is some ideas for where to go when you hit a wall. that's when knowing chord progressions and substitutions comes in really handy, at least for me. but don't just learn theory cuz these guys say you need to. it can help, but in my opinion, it can be a double-edged sword.

"I'd rather play a tune on a horn, but I've always felt that I didn't want to train myself. Because when you get a train, you've got to have an engine and a caboose. I think it's better to train the caboose. You train yourself, you strain yourself." captain beefheart
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Machinesworking
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by Machinesworking » Fri Jul 15, 2011 10:09 pm

stringtapper wrote:Oh and what I'm calling "popular" is anything not in the classical, avant-garde, high art tradition, so yeah throbbing gristle is popular under that definition.
On many many levels though, NON and Cage have more in common than Cage and Wagner. Though the environment they operated in is different. It's a matter of semantics and perspective, but really, IMO all music influences other music, whether simple pop songs or classical music, the time it's developed and the direction that music goes in isn't in a vacuum.

BTW, yeah, makes total sense what you said about that progression, it literally sounds flat as opposed to sharp, and most scale machines on line can't recognize it, so no surprise it's slightly out of norm. I love slightly whack progressions, Discipline remains one of my favorite records of all time in that sense.

Cool Character
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by Cool Character » Fri Jul 15, 2011 10:59 pm

From an academic standpoint, the approach Throbbing Gristle took for composition were already proven decades before.

They changed popular music. Stringtapper's correction stands.

bluehen
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by bluehen » Fri Jul 15, 2011 11:09 pm

cramos241 wrote:
to the dude asking if he should learn that ish or not. i think it boils down to this: its not about whether or not you need it to produce a good song. there are producers out there that without theory knowledge are makin killer tracks. i feel this might hinder your general workflow or maybe cause chord progression ideas to be a little lacking after a while but nevertheless, you should just be learning that theory cause ultimately you want to excel at your art. dont you wanna do more than just "get by" musically speaking?
it sounds all fine and dandy to learn music theory, but a bunch of these DJs are doing more than just "getting by" with no training. if i dont need theory to produce good electronic music, then id rather utilize that time more wisely, i.e. learning my primary DAWs and VSTs more in depth. just sayin.

stringtapper
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by stringtapper » Sat Jul 16, 2011 12:11 am

bluehen wrote:it sounds all fine and dandy to learn music theory, but a bunch of these DJs are doing more than just "getting by" with no training. if i dont need theory to produce good electronic music, then id rather utilize that time more wisely, i.e. learning my primary DAWs and VSTs more in depth. just sayin.
Well this is certainly true with a lot of electronic music, be it high art or pop. The fact of the matter is that traditional music theory dealing with tonal harmony, atonal harmony, etc. has become less relevant in certain styles of music. However, I would hazard a guess that most of the DJs you mention are playing music that contains a couple of key musical elements, namely tonal melodies and chord progressions. So they are playing music that is using certain conventions of modern tonal harmony whether they know it or not. And if they can do some cool melodic and harmonic things without knowing what they're actually doing more power to them. I liken it to the difference between someone who can pronounce and define the word "antidisestablishmentarianism" and someone who can mouth the phonetic sounds "anni-dis-etab-esh-munt-ariry-anism" and knows that they should say it in a conversation about people who like the Church of England(!). You might sound "smart" but you don't actually know what's going on.

But the fact that it's absolutely true that this type of theoretical knowledge is less relevant in much electronic music doesn't mean that there is no necessary theoretical knowledge needed to pursue this kind of music, in fact I would argue it's becoming more necessary than the other. The kinds of theoretical knowledge I mean are things like the basic scientific properties of acoustic and analog sound, of synthesis, and of signal processing. These are the domains of the new music theory and elements that are becoming important for all musicians to have at least some cursory knowledge of moving into the future. Actually I'm planning a dissertation on this very topic—the convergence of traditional music theory with electronic music theory and how it will effect what future students of music will be expected to know. Fun stuff! :D

Of course there are even levels of theoretical knowledge already forming if you look at the difference between what someone who is competent at programming a synth like Operator knows versus what someone who can build a synth like Operator from scratch with Max knows. This could be likened to the difference between pop musicians who can write some great songs versus composers who can write incredibly complex works that contain large scale structural intricacies. Don't get me started or I'll go on and on…
Last edited by stringtapper on Sat Jul 16, 2011 12:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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bluehen
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by bluehen » Sat Jul 16, 2011 12:28 am

stringtapper wrote:
bluehen wrote:it sounds all fine and dandy to learn music theory, but a bunch of these DJs are doing more than just "getting by" with no training. if i dont need theory to produce good electronic music, then id rather utilize that time more wisely, i.e. learning my primary DAWs and VSTs more in depth. just sayin.
Well this is certainly true with a lot of electronic music, be it high art or pop. The fact of the matter is that traditional music theory dealing with tonal harmony, atonal harmony, etc. has become less relevant in certain styles of music. However, I would hazard a guess that most of the DJs you mention are playing music that contains a couple of key musical elements, namely tonal melodies and chord progressions. So they are playing music that is using certain conventions of modern tonal harmony whether they know it or not. And if they can do some cool melodic and harmonic things without knowing what they're actually doing more power to them. I liken it to the difference between someone who can pronounce and define the word "antidisestablishmentarianism" and someone who can mouth the phonetic sounds "anni-dis-etab-esh-munt-ariry-anism" and knows that they should say it in a conversation about people who like the Church of England(!). You might sound "smart" but you don't actually know what's going on.

But the fact that it's absolutely true that this type of theoretical knowledge is less relevant in much electronic music doesn't mean that there is no necessary theoretical knowledge needed to pursue this kind of music, in fact I would argue it's becoming more necessary than the other. The kinds of theoretical knowledge I mean are things like the basic scientific properties of acoustic and analog sound, of synthesis, and of signal processing. These are the domains of the new music theory and elements that are becoming important for all musicians to have at least some cursory knowledge of moving into the future. Actually I'm planning a dissertation on this very topic—the convergence of traditional music theory with electronic music theory and how it will effect what future students of music will be expected to know. Fun stuff! :D

Of course there are even levels of theoretical knowledge already forming if you look at the difference between someone who is competent at programming a synth like Operator knows versus someone who can build a synth like Operator from scratch with Max knows. This could be likened to the difference between pop musicians who can write some great songs versus composers who can write incredibly complex works that contain large scale structural intricacies. Don't get me started or I'll go on and on…
Well said! Your dissertation sounds sick. Learning to build a synth from the ground up--not so sick :)

Nx1
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by Nx1 » Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:39 am

the way you speak of music, referring to how the computer can just do it for you, leads me to suspect your trying to make music for other people or just for the sake of making music, rather than making music because you enjoy it. If you truly enjoy music and creating it you would do anything possible to further your understanding of it

dna598
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by dna598 » Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:57 am

I properly discovered how to use the scale plug in the other day after a year or 2 of using patches (c minor, etc...)

when your jamming and you know certain notes work, when your fucking with a piano or whatever, its amazing.

This + input quantize = momentary and instantaneous genius (for the masses, lol)

(p.s. I am a guitar player ofcourse!)
ctrl + left/right = select transient

ctrl + shift + left/right = select between transients

ctrl + space = play selection

stringtapper
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by stringtapper » Sat Jul 16, 2011 2:40 am

dna598 wrote:I properly discovered how to use the scale plug in the other day after a year or 2 of using patches (c minor, etc...)

when your jamming and you know certain notes work, when your fucking with a piano or whatever, its amazing.

This + input quantize = momentary and instantaneous genius (for the masses, lol)

(p.s. I am a guitar player ofcourse!)
Using Scale as a performance device doesn't make any sense to me. I don't mean that facetiously either. When I'm playing an E on my keyboard I want the computer to play a fucking E, not an Eb because I happen to have the C minor Scale preset on! But seriously one thing I just noticed about the C minor Scale preset is that the note Ab is set to round to G. Uh, that's retarded. Ab is already IN the key of C minor so why not just let Ab stay as Ab?? In that sense Scale is actually a hinderance if you already know the notes of the keyboard and how they relate.

Now using the scale plugin as a pitch sieve for random note sequence generation? That's another story…
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by Tone Deft » Sat Jul 16, 2011 2:52 am

stringtapper wrote:Using Scale as a performance device doesn't make any sense to me. I don't mean that facetiously either. When I'm playing an E on my keyboard I want the computer to play a fucking E, not an Eb because I happen to have the C minor Scale preset on!
FFS practice before you go on stage, that's a given.

I've had jams where me and a friend use the same scale setting then we just play. really cool with some of the less common settings. it can be a lot of fun performing like that.
oddstep wrote:I agree with all of this. I'm just bored of writing "its music, just listen and trust your judgement"

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