Next step in Music Theory?

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Evengy
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Next step in Music Theory?

Post by Evengy » Fri Dec 23, 2011 11:18 am

Hey Guys,

im trying to get familiar with Music Theory since 2-3 Years. I know Intervals, Chords (7th, 9th, 11th etc. aswell), Scales, Modes, Inversions, Chord Functions etc. and i can use this stuff slowly but it´s possible.
My problem is that i start to make a song where i begin with Chord Progressions and most time it sounds like shit. I try and try and try and try and try different Chords in different Scales with different cadences and many many more. Sometimes i get a nice Progression and i use that for an Idea or something. It´s easier for me to do the Chords first and Melody + Bass after that because i habe a stable harmonic base frame.

But too many times i have the feeling that i forgot something so i started a few times by zero and started again. Everytime i reach exactly the same level where i am at the moment but i don´t come a step further.
Do you have some Tips & Tricks what i should do next to reach another level? Which topic makes sense and should i read next? Any other suggestions? Maybe i need only more practice ;) My feeling is that i need more knowledge about Chord Functions and which effects they have. What do you think?

Thanks and best wishes
Evengy

liveISlife
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Re: Next step in Music Theory?

Post by liveISlife » Fri Dec 23, 2011 3:22 pm

I feel you man. I get to a certain point in a song and just lose it. You know what's funny is, most of the time, the simpler I keep the song the more I will flow along making it. So I'd say just start making simple little songs. Work on creating your own sound and tone while doing so. Then, maybe make each track more complex. Or who knows maybe you will make awesome sounding simple songs. Crawl-Walk-Run :wink: Good Luck. And don't forget to sometimes just forget all that theory stuff, and just let go. Just go off the resident natural music making abilities we have within us. :D

Nilus
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Re: Next step in Music Theory?

Post by Nilus » Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:10 pm

Maybe a look at arrangement techniques? Also there is plenty of good reasoning(as you seem to have found)for completely abandoning theory as well, or maybe abandoning it just a little bit. For example keep a good(in key) bass structure while one of your melodic instruments has hints of chromaticism - of course there is theory for stepping out as well.
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Warrior Bob
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Re: Next step in Music Theory?

Post by Warrior Bob » Fri Dec 23, 2011 5:18 pm

This happens to me. I'll give you the same advice my friends gave me, which helped a lot:

I think you need to stop focusing on your theory. Your theory is fine. It's great.

Now, instead of coming up with music to fit the theory, use the theory to extend and make easier your artistic work. You've already tried starting with chord progressions and like you said, most of the time it sounds like shit. You try to fix this with more theory. Cut all that out, at least temporarily.

Start with something you wouldn't think of. Start with some kind of awesome sound. Get a new sample library or synthesizer preset or something. Start recording, then play (for example) a chord, any chord. Don't think about it. Play a couple more. Find a couple that sound good together. Once you do, THEN figure out why they sound good together, using your theory knowledge.

The point is to not use your theory to create something, but rather to explain something that you found and liked.

This is, of course, not the only way to go, but it got me out of a similar writing rut, and hopefully can be of some help to you too.

simmerdown
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Re: Next step in Music Theory?

Post by simmerdown » Fri Dec 23, 2011 6:00 pm

i think keeping it simple is the best approach...seems like the more complicated things get, the lesser the impact..

at one point i asked pretty much the same question as the op and just googled 'common chord progressions' and found this interactive lil lesson...its simple, but imo simple is good, and it allows you to find interesting variation within a structure, then you can branch out from there and embellish.....

http://www.8notes.com/school/theory/com ... ssions.asp

antarktika
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Re: Next step in Music Theory?

Post by antarktika » Fri Dec 23, 2011 7:28 pm

Nilus wrote:Also there is plenty of good reasoning(as you seem to have found)for completely abandoning theory as well, or maybe abandoning it just a little bit. - of course there is theory for stepping out as well.
I'm really glad you put that last part in there, because I see people all over the place talking about how limiting music theory is, and how they never use it, etc... but they are unwittingly following theoretical concepts put forth by more advanced theory, because much of what is not obscenely annoying to listen to musically is covered by some concept covered by the broad scope of music theory, but for some reason people thing music theory stops at major/minor scales and chords, and doesn't cover chromaticism, atonality, and the like. If you understand the rules, you can effectively use any note in a composition, so really it's not a question of abandoning theory, if anything, people should be learning more theory, because then they will discover the rules they thought they were breaking were actually playing into higher level concepts of music theory, and may perhaps be humbled in the knowledge that instead of being unique snowflakes, they are just less educated musicians.

crumhorn
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Re: Next step in Music Theory?

Post by crumhorn » Sat Dec 24, 2011 12:07 am

The Theory has to be related to musical experience, which takes a lot of practice.

I'm at a similar place in that I have quite a bit of theoretical knowledge but I'm still learning what all these theoretical things actually sound like.

Ultimately I'd like to get to a point where I can imagine how I want something to sound in my mind's ear and by knowing the theory be able to translate that into note names without really having to think about it.

at my current rate of progress this should take about seventy years.

I really think it's just a matter of practice.
"The banjo is the perfect instrument for the antisocial."

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

Angstrom
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Re: Next step in Music Theory?

Post by Angstrom » Sat Dec 24, 2011 12:33 am

I'm certainly no theory expert, but I can tell you what I've started doing rather than trying to construct songs from sitting anf thinking about progressions.

I've been doing what people did for years and years, playing along to other people's songs, just learning a bit and then figuring out what's going on. Quite often I find I'm re-cycling their key changes or ideas in my own music later on, because it's lodged in my back brain, but that's fine.

The songs I'm playing along to are not particularly 'cool'. The songwriters of the 50s, 60s and 70s had some really good tricks that are barely explored these days, so I enjoy mining the techniques and methods. Not all of them require amazing technical skills, some of them are just nice modulations from minor to major, or whatever, but as I say - stand on the shoulders of giants. Pick out reknowned songwriters and learn their stuff.

anyway, that's just what I've been doing. I know it's not exactly rocket science though ;)

BlackMath
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Re: Next step in Music Theory?

Post by BlackMath » Sat Dec 24, 2011 2:32 am

Learn the theory then forget it...let your sub conscience handle and just jam out.
I find seperating various tasks out through the day
Like start fresh in the morning
Do some sound design for a song
Like make a bass, gather drums, throw in some samples
And then start a session and just use stuff from that folder
You gotta feel..let loose

Tone Deft
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Re: Next step in Music Theory?

Post by Tone Deft » Sat Dec 24, 2011 2:35 am

what instrument are you playing on?

for guitar, a capo makes everything old new again.
"Obsession is a great substitute for talent." - Steve Martin on learning the banjo

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craigb
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Re: Next step in Music Theory?

Post by craigb » Sat Dec 24, 2011 3:54 am

Great advice in this thread. I'm almost in the exact same boat.

I just finished "Music Composition for Dummies" today. It assumes you already know the theory – which it sounds like do – and takes it the next step. There are many other books out there regarding 'composition' and songwriting, which is an actual skill that takes theory and puts it into practice.

One other thought...RE: Chord Progressions. If you haven't already, learn some things about chord substitutions. It'll add zing to your progressions.

Good luck!
Craig

rojlewis
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Re: Next step in Music Theory?

Post by rojlewis » Sat Dec 24, 2011 7:33 pm

A theorist can tell you why you're music sounds bad:
1. You're breaking too many voice leading rules
2. You aren't writing correct harmonic progressions.
3. The music is relatively unconnected with common motifs.

But that doesn't solve anything unless you want to go train at a conservatory for a few years (and believe me it's not worth all that money just to find out that you're not qualified for any job BUT IM NOT BITCHING)

Try to hear your music before you write it. Explore your favorite parts before you sit down to write it out on paper. Composers say this part is hear in the "inner ear." You have to write your melody, harmony, and bass line at the same time in order for your music to sound cohesive.
Think about an artist. He doesn't draw a detailed nose, then a detailed ear, then connect them with a detailed chin and a detailed mouth. He sketches the entire face, and brings all parts of the picture into detail together. Think of it as walking towards a house in heavy fog. You don't see a clear chimney, then a clear porch, then a clear window. The entire house becomes more clear as a whole. You can't write a melody, then a harmonic progression, then a baseline. It all has to be written together at once.

stringtapper
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Re: Next step in Music Theory?

Post by stringtapper » Sat Dec 24, 2011 9:40 pm

The notion that theory, once learned, can simply be dispensed with is a misunderstanding of how music (and humans) works. If you've learned theory then you're probably using it to some degree whether consciously or subconciously, and whether you like it or not.

What we call "music theory" is really just a presentation, an articulation if you will, of the building blocks of the language that is music. Taking the linguistic analogy further, one could consider "tonal" music to be a particular "alphabet" which different "languages" of music like classical, jazz, modern pop use in different ways. Just like French and English use the same alphabet, but are different languages. 12-tone, microtonal, and spectral music could be considered other "alphabets."

The point is to figure out which language you're trying to speak. You're obviously already learning the tonal music alphabet so now you need to immerse yourself in the particular "language" you're trying to learn. So if the kinds of melodic and harmonic idioms found in house music are your thing then that's the language you need to immerse yourself in. It's going to be closely related to the generic "modern pop" category, you might even consider it a "dialect" more than a language in itself.

Now someone might say "Be original, make up your own language." Sure, Schoenberg did it, BUT he was already fluent in other languages and dialects (specifically the Germanic common practice through romantic traditions), which gave him the tools to expand upon them and create his own 12-tone language.

In his book "On Writing" Stephen King said that if you don't have time to read then you don't have time to write. It's the same with music. You need to get to "reading" in the styles you'd like to compose so you can build up a vocabulary.
Last edited by stringtapper on Sat Dec 24, 2011 10:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Saxer
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Re: Next step in Music Theory?

Post by Saxer » Sat Dec 24, 2011 10:22 pm

good points here!

annother way of doing more 'complex' things if you like to 'bath' in jazzy harmonies (like i do) is writing a simple melody over very simple chords to get a good feeling for timing and developement in a song. then replace the simple chords with more jazzy ones (i.e. replace a V7 chord over two bars by III VI II V halfbarwise).

yet annother way i like is to start with a line... you could imagine it as a string line which runs in backgroung of a track... one or two notes per bar, chromatic or diatonic down or upward, some nice bows over 4 or 8 bars. then look for chords to fill it.

keep a note or ostinato figure and try out all chords it fits. even far out chords will fit cause the ostinato glues it together.

listen to tracks and write down the chords. most of them are not as complicated as one would expect.

play chords from the real book, combine progressions 4-bar-wise from different tracks.

mix a lot of used and expected things with some surprizes. it's very effective... i.e. bridge in annother key, 9-bar-form, some altered seventh chord in diatonic environment, transposed reptition of a few bars, starting in major and end in minor... endless possibilities...

and sorry for my x-mas-english :wink:

spr1000
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Re: Next step in Music Theory?

Post by spr1000 » Sun Dec 25, 2011 6:34 am

liveISlife wrote:I feel you man. I get to a certain point in a song and just lose it. You know what's funny is, most of the time, the simpler I keep the song the more I will flow along making it. So I'd say just start making simple little songs. Work on creating your own sound and tone while doing so. Then, maybe make each track more complex. Or who knows maybe you will make awesome sounding simple songs. Crawl-Walk-Run :wink: Good Luck. And don't forget to sometimes just forget all that theory stuff, and just let go. Just go off the resident natural music making abilities we have within us. :D
+1 The masses tend to enjoy music with very minimal structure. Not to say we should make music for the sake of being popular but most catchy tunes are very simple chords with minimal layering. K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid : :wink:

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