Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
Jeremy W.
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Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Post by Jeremy W. » Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:59 am

Hello all,
I'm very new to music production. I've started asking a few people I could on Twitter about getting started. I had one guy tell me to pick up music theory as it will make life easier. It makes sense but it's also quite a comprehensive thing to learn. I mean, there are degrees in music theory so I know there is more to it than someone's blog. I also bought a book, at the suggestion of others, called Dance Music Manual which appears to cover some music theory. My question is in the title but I'll ask it again: Is music theory something you have to know before you get started or is it something you can pick up as you go?

Take care,

Jeremy

JuanSOLO
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Location: Shreveport LA, sometimes Dallas/Ft Worth TX

Re: Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Post by JuanSOLO » Tue Jul 10, 2012 1:26 am

I got into music because I loved bands like Sonic Youth, and some of my favorite music is created by people with zero music theory.

simmerdown
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Re: Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Post by simmerdown » Tue Jul 10, 2012 1:50 am

since music theory is something you will never get to the end of, i would say "learn as you go'

or not all, just get started producing and you'll know how much or how little you want/need...def no rules

trevox
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Re: Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Post by trevox » Tue Jul 10, 2012 2:06 am

Don't get too bogged down with the term "music theory". As you said, it is a comprehensive thing to learn, but as Juan said, a lot of the great musicians have no formal music training and pick it up naturally by playing a guitar, messing around with a synth or applications like Live etc. You don't have to know anything. If you have an aptitude for it and are willing to put some work in, it will come - talent comes in handy too! Either way, you need a lot of patience, as it can take quite a while to get to a stage where you write something you are completely happy with.

rap masta rj
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Re: Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Post by rap masta rj » Tue Jul 10, 2012 2:56 am

in my opinion, the more theory you do know the better, understanding the way things are gives you more opportunity to expand your creativity.

as far as dance music goes, knowing the structure of dance music and the build up and release of tension is where you should be focusing. most dance music isn't exactly intricate in a melodic or rhythmic sense, but rather in a technical sense, such as the way instruments sound and mixing and what not. i do recommend to learn some basics though, like scales and that kinda stuff.

Jeremy W.
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Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2012 11:40 pm

Re: Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Post by Jeremy W. » Tue Jul 10, 2012 4:09 am

Thank you all for your answers. I love this place.

oddstep
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Re: Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Post by oddstep » Tue Jul 10, 2012 6:32 am

Learn as you go. It'll make more sense that way. Also don't view western music theory as a set of rules. Its just a load of observations on what works within orchestras tuned to a piano (midi frinstance ). It doesn't have a lot to say about filter sweeps.

antarktika
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Re: Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Post by antarktika » Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:30 am

As was said earlier, it's not a subject about which you'll someday run out of new things to learn, so learn as you go, but definitely put some work into learning as much of it as you can. I wasted way too much time trying to figure out how to make music without bothering to learn how music was made, and immediately improved after reading a bit about music theory!

david.barker
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Location: Hampshire UK

Re: Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Post by david.barker » Tue Jul 10, 2012 8:30 am

Hi Jeremy :D

http://www.macprovideo.com/index-home2. ... d=325195-2

I use these excellent videos for all my learning stuff,they are not cheap but excellent value for money.You will learn a lot of stuff and gain valuable knowledge :D

Im no musician, more of a hobbyist.I done a bit of theory a school,but after I left years ago,wished I carried on,oh well

Focus on learning the software first and music production,theory will come in time.Nice people here will help you out ,Im sure of it :D

all the best

Martin Gifford
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Re: Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Post by Martin Gifford » Tue Jul 10, 2012 9:39 am

It depends on your unique talents and interests. Instinctive types might pick it up naturally, mental types might need more theory, etc. But I reckon all the theory you need for pop music can be taught and learnt in 1 hour and contained on 1 sheet of paper! Really! Now that we have computers, music teachers and courses are a waste of time unless you want to master an instrument.

I just did a search online for the basics, and I was shocked to see so much time wasting. Really appalling. Despiriting! George Harrison remarked that he hated music at school and learnt nothing! That's because they were taught in a very indirect way. I think people want to cut to the chase. Don't get bogged down. If you haven't learnt something immediately useful in the first minute, then the teacher is bad.

For computer based pop music, learn how a beat is commonly divided into 2 or 4:

1 & 2...
1 e & a 2...
1 e & 2...
1 & a 2...
1 e a 2...
1 e 2...
1 a 2...

Learn about triplets (dividing a beat by 3 instead of 4).

Learn about chord construction (which is basically adding every other note of a scale).

Learn 20 common chord progressions, or just nick them from other songs as you go.

Learn about relative major and minor, and key changes.

That's about it. You can pick up exotic scales, harmonies, rhythms, and embellishments as you go. Also, there are computer programs that teach you this stuff. Maybe download a trials and see if they teach you things instantly or if they waffle on.

And, of course, any rule can be broken if it sounds good.

Linear Phase
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Re: Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Post by Linear Phase » Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:17 am

+ 1 for learn as you go.


nobody is a master, some people are experts and that just means their knowledge is extensive, but not infinite.
Linear Phase has left the building..

crumhorn
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Re: Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Post by crumhorn » Tue Jul 10, 2012 3:17 pm

I don't want to start an argument with Funken - what he says is quite correct from one point of view. A lot of music is basically that simple and none the worse for it.

But there is a whole world of different musical styles that don't follow those simple formulas.

I think my main point is that however much theory you learn, never think of it as "The Rules Of Music" because there is no such thing.

If you follow basic level traditional music theory you will probably create basic traditional sounding music.

If you want to play in a less traditional style the best way is to study and play as much music in that style as you can and steal from it while absorbing it's tricks and idioms. If possible get someone who already works in that style to teach you the basic techniques.

For example here's a sequence of chords I've been using as guitar practice in different keys. It's got a definite Cockney Geezer Music Hall feel because it throws together many of the cliches of that style (the basic rules of Cockney Geezer Harmony ?) The turn around has been used by everyone from Chas and Dave to David Bowie

In C it goes : C / / / B7 / / / C7 / / / A7 / / / F / Fm7 / C / A7 / D7 / G7 / C / / /

The 7ths are all optional you could probably throw in the odd 9th as well.

It's definitely in C.
"The banjo is the perfect instrument for the antisocial."

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

morbid
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Re: Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Post by morbid » Tue Jul 10, 2012 3:50 pm

What kind of music do you make?

Theory kind of goes out the window if you're making hardcore techno.

Chords and scales are always useful though - I wish I knew more but always just go with what feels right. The human ear is pretty good at judging tones - If you put the wrong notes together it will just sound shit. Your ears will let you know where to go.

Angstrom
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Re: Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Post by Angstrom » Tue Jul 10, 2012 4:19 pm

When you have to use the " try this, no that sounds wrong. try this, no that also sounds wrong. try this, no that sounds wrong too ..." approach it can take forever to get anywhere. Also the easy results are the roads most travelled. Thats the main reason musicians slowly realise the point of theory, its restrictive in the same way that having a gps is restrictive. It gets you where you want to go quicker and with fewer compromises.

However .... On the upside, when you know less theory you wont alienate the general public with your polytonal ever-shifting time signature music which based on your masters thesis about backwards Bartok in the style of Scriabin.

A good music education may mean that making 6 minutes of music in 4/4 A minor, intended for ladies to dance to is forever lost to you. :wink:

JuanSOLO
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Re: Is music theory a prerequisite or can you learn as you go

Post by JuanSOLO » Tue Jul 10, 2012 4:31 pm

try this, YES that sounds wrong.

I kinda go for that in a way.

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