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 » Sat Jul 16, 2011 3:28 am

Tone Deft wrote:
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.
Wait what? I thought the whole point was to not have to practice!

I was being cheeky, I've never even considered using Scale for performance and really hadn't messed with it in years but from playing with it just now I find it completely annoying.

I've had plenty of jams where me and a friend also use the same scale setting… in our heads that is. :P
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felipescalador12
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by felipescalador12 » Sat Jul 16, 2011 3:36 am

memes_33 wrote: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
you have made an excellent pont..

theresomething about traditional instruments that doesnt fit with me. I play guitar and I dont know if it is muscle memory or just the physicality of the intrument itself that you tend to move in a distinct way which in the end just limits your musical idea..

I like the idea of just letting go with the help of technology.. Having midi files that dont let you get out of the scale are great idea you may not be good at the keyboard but stil what you are making is entirely your music idea.. Unfortunately I don think technology is quite there yet so knowing music theory is a great advantage

Tone Deft
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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 3:53 am

stringtapper wrote:Wait what? I thought the whole point was to not have to practice!

I was being cheeky, I've never even considered using Scale for performance and really hadn't messed with it in years but from playing with it just now I find it completely annoying.

I've had plenty of jams where me and a friend also use the same scale setting… in our heads that is. :P
you're too chill to troll. :P

it was a great moment when I could stop using ANY scale preset in my head and just play. I can't always do it but getting my guitars intonated helped a ton.

"Whatever happened to Gus?"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8M_sHiOQMVY
Gus has they key...
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gjm
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by gjm » Sat Jul 16, 2011 7:28 am

You are all wrong. Bobby Mcferrin says we are all born innately knowing the minor pentatonic scale. Its a part of our DNA. (my paraphrase). You might as well give in and learn what you already know. :wink:
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crumhorn
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by crumhorn » Sat Jul 16, 2011 10:06 am

felipescalador12 wrote:... I play guitar and I dont know if it is muscle memory or just the physicality of the intrument itself that you tend to move in a distinct way which in the end just limits your musical idea..
I think this happens on any instrument, old habits become ingrained and once you learn enough to get by there is a tendency to fall back on what comes easily rather than putting in the work and practice time needed to learn new movements.

It's the same with DAWs and other software as it is with traditional instruments. How many people use just a small subset of the software (e.g. session view) because Learning the other features seems too onerous?

Putting in a bit of work each day to learn something new pays back over and over.

Try downloading some guitar tabs off the internet and learn to play them. Try some classical guitar or blue grass or whatever turns you on. You'll find you have to force your fingers to learn new ways of moving in order to play them well.
"The banjo is the perfect instrument for the antisocial."

(Allow me to plug my guitar scale visualiser thingy - www.fretlearner.com)

hoffman2k
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by hoffman2k » Sat Jul 16, 2011 10:09 am

gjm wrote:You are all wrong. Bobby Mcferrin says we are all born innately knowing the minor pentatonic scale. Its a part of our DNA. (my paraphrase). You might as well give in and learn what you already know. :wink:
Damn, it took 4 pages?
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crumhorn
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by crumhorn » Sat Jul 16, 2011 10:19 am

"The banjo is the perfect instrument for the antisocial."

(Allow me to plug my guitar scale visualiser thingy - www.fretlearner.com)

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

Post by Machinesworking » Sun Jul 17, 2011 12:45 am

Coming back to this for one simple reason. I really wish the scale tool didn't just change all keys to fit the scale, that is the major turn off as pointed out here. What it should have done, and what's entirely possible I would guess, is to mute all the notes on the keyboard that are not in a particular scale. That way you're not just using the tool to say play an E Minor scale, it's actually training you to only hit the notes in that scale.

Wouldn't help me with my fucked up scales much but it would help to learn scales in general instead of just being a "cheat" method....

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

Post by Cool Character » Sun Jul 17, 2011 1:19 am

With Ableton Live, it's easy:

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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 » Sun Jul 17, 2011 4:03 am

Machinesworking wrote:Coming back to this for one simple reason. I really wish the scale tool didn't just change all keys to fit the scale, that is the major turn off as pointed out here. What it should have done, and what's entirely possible I would guess, is to mute all the notes on the keyboard that are not in a particular scale. That way you're not just using the tool to say play an E Minor scale, it's actually training you to only hit the notes in that scale.

Wouldn't help me with my fucked up scales much but it would help to learn scales in general instead of just being a "cheat" method....
As Cool Character pointed out, it is possible to make it mute the keys that are out of the scale, it's just that the presets that come with Scale don't do that and instead "round" pitches out of the scale to the nearest half step. Although as I pointed out earlier the C minor preset is actually fucked up because it rounds Ab to G and A to Ab. Rounding A to Ab makes sense but rounding Ab to G makes no sense because Ab is already in the key of C minor! This is a very "unmusical" way to use Scale IMO, but regardless I think the difference between the default presets and the kind of setting Cool Character posted a pic of is that one is better suited for performance while the other is better used as a pitch sieve. CC's preset would be good for performance in that it constrains you to the pitches of the scale without letting non-scale pitches round so you only get sound from the right keys; or the other possibility is that you could play everything in C major/A minor and transpose. The presets with "rounding" offer the possibility of using a random note generator fed into Scale in order to get some quasi-random output that fits within a certain scale or key. I've done a lot of this pitch sieve random generation stuff with Max/M4L and even have an algorithmic M4L synth that I'm going to release soon that does this kind of stuff, but it's totally possible to do this kind of thing simply with a combination of Random and Scale. Great way to get pads and background textures that stay in key but aren't so static.
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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 » Sun Jul 17, 2011 6:59 am

stringtapper wrote: As Cool Character pointed out, it is possible to make it mute the keys that are out of the scale, it's just that the presets that come with Scale don't do that and instead "round" pitches out of the scale to the nearest half step.
Yeah I've only made presets in the scale tool to constrain the keyboard to certain octaves, so I just assumed that the rounding feature of scale was how it always worked. Makes you wonder why someone would do that?

The pad device sounds good, are you going to get it to generate sympathetic harmonics in a key randomly for pads or full on random? I'm a big fan of multiple LFOs working on various parts of a sound (pitch, filter, noise etc.) in minute amounts to get movement, a smart random LFO that pushed a feedback filter to add minute harmonics of the notes would be pretty cool. Sounds like a bitch to program though. Christ? it's obvious to me you could waste a lifetime in Max and enjoy it. :lol:

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

Post by stringtapper » Sun Jul 17, 2011 8:13 am

Machinesworking wrote:The pad device sounds good, are you going to get it to generate sympathetic harmonics in a key randomly for pads or full on random? I'm a big fan of multiple LFOs working on various parts of a sound (pitch, filter, noise etc.) in minute amounts to get movement, a smart random LFO that pushed a feedback filter to add minute harmonics of the notes would be pretty cool.
Those are great ideas, but my synth is much less sophisticated right now. It has four oscillators each with basic wave selection and envelope filter. Each oscillator then has an algorithmic engine that lets you set a rhythmic value, duration, and then a pulldown for which scale/chord you want the output to be in. Then hit play and it just goes. Beefing up the synthesis engine is my next step and I'll look into your "sympathetic vibration" idea.

Machinesworking wrote:Sounds like a bitch to program though. Christ? it's obvious to me you could waste a lifetime in Max and enjoy it. :lol:
It can get pretty out of control programming in Max, you want to keep adding features, thinking of things that you'd like to do or could make it better. At some point you have to step away. I definitely had to once I got the basic idea of that synth done because I was getting stuck down the rabbit hole. And it's not really a very complex synth, any veteran Maxer could put it to shame! 8O

And to bring this back to topic, I think this kind of low level programming is going to become (if it already isn't) the "counterpoint" of electronic music moving into the future; the real nitty gritty music theory that the über-geeks dig into. :twisted:
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broc
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by broc » Sun Jul 17, 2011 10:09 am

stringtapper wrote:Those are great ideas, but my synth is much less sophisticated right now. It has four oscillators each with basic wave selection and envelope filter. Each oscillator then has an algorithmic engine that lets you set a rhythmic value, duration, and then a pulldown for which scale/chord you want the output to be in. Then hit play and it just goes. Beefing up the synthesis engine is my next step and I'll look into your "sympathetic vibration" idea.
I'm also experimenting with algorithmic "song generators" based on scales/chords, but with MIDI output.
Is there an advantage of using your own synthesis engine? For example, sound parameters that can't be modulated with MIDI?

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

Post by stringtapper » Sun Jul 17, 2011 3:10 pm

broc wrote:I'm also experimenting with algorithmic "song generators" based on scales/chords, but with MIDI output.
Is there an advantage of using your own synthesis engine? For example, sound parameters that can't be modulated with MIDI?
Well the only advantage is that you can have multiple textures per the four voices, i.e. You can set up an "ensemble" with for example a lead line, pads, bass, percussive sound all coming from one device. Then again you could use a MIDI trigger version on separate tracks and achieve the same thing but with more sophisticated instruments thatn my measley synth engine. :)

I actually made a one-voice MIDI version that's basically just the algorithmic engine from my synth. I'll pm you when I get a chance and maybe we can compare notes.

What I love about having M4L is that instead of creating a bunch of presets in Scale to achieve something similar I can have pulldowns that choose not only traditional scale and chord forms but even the whole list of set-classes for extra compositional dorkery. :P
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Gregory Wells-King
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Re: Why do I need music theory when I have "Scale" and "Chord"?

Post by Gregory Wells-King » Sun Jul 17, 2011 4:54 pm

Simple put, there are loads and loads of writings from music profesionals about music theory and computer mased music, I'm reading,using and learning all the time, and the one thing i'm greatful for, is that Ableton infact (eJay 6) opened up the door of music creation in the first place, that was absolutely right for me.

I could experiment, with loops 3rd party and user created and do things with a live keyboard that instantly gave convincing results and made me feel creative and productive.

The next stage in all of this is to continue with both side's of the coin, learn music theory let it bleed into my music compostions in Ableton, sometimes use work arounds, for keyboard skills I havent yet honed and continue to push my knowledge and understanding of how they both work.

In my experience, I break my day up in the studio to accomodate this, with some house cleaning of set's and library's, music experimentation and sound creation, the key skills, music theory and learning to balance it all out.

I enjoy both equally, and infact if you've never sat with an a single instance of your favourite synth or sampler on one track and just played for an hour learning and listening to your mistakes and triumphs then I suggest you do.

Most of all enjoy what ever level of skill you have, give youself a pat on the back every now and then for pushing forward with any part of it, because these day's the music industry is still a tuff place to be and keep growing your music and ideas into finished trakcs. learning all parts of producing, mixing, computing, mastering, and everything else is quite time consumeing, but no doubt like most of us here at Ableton nerd forum, you bloody love it anyway.. :lol:

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