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
djadonis206
Posts: 6490
Joined: Thu Jun 17, 2004 4:23 pm
Location: Seattle, WA.

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

Post by djadonis206 » Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:13 pm

I'm no where near musically educated but I took a couple weeks a few months ago to look into music theory. I learned the difference between a scale and chord and dipped into a little harmonization. But honestly, all that kind of f'd up my jamming sessions because I was like, "well that's not minor" and "let's make this fit into a major" etc.

I gave all that up and now I'm back to jamming away and having fun. But with that said, the little bit I learned is still working in the back of my mind and I'm sure it influences some of the notes I draw in ;)

I'd say learn it as a hobby but don't go so far down the rabbit hole that music isn't fun anymore
Ableton | Elektron

Music

3dot...
Posts: 9996
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:10 pm

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

Post by 3dot... » Tue Jul 10, 2012 6:44 pm

learn it... then unlearn it..
Image

Vios
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:13 am
Location: Denver, CO
Contact:

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

Post by Vios » Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:26 pm

Definitely learn as you go, but definitely learn the basics. Knowing a bit of music theory will let you break out of being stuck (at times) when composing a song. Understanding cord progressions will help you know WHY it doesn't sound right. For example I may have a chord progression in C major that the last chord doesn't sound right, and I would immediately look to see if the last chord is a B or G and try changing it to that because I know B and G are subdominant chords that finish well into C.

There's a lot of electronica out there that (IMHO) doesn't have much of a melody or harmony. It's just a bunch of drums and loud basslines. I don't really connect with that type of music. I enjoy the enormous bass drop, but I also like to connect with the music emotionally. Knowing music theory will really help you create emotional music when you're composing. You will want to be able to create both emotional and energetic music.

I think that at any given point in a song you are on a continuum with Energetic on one side and Emotional on the other. Knowing the theory lets you more easily place the dot where you want to.

I agree with the point that applying too much music theory to tracks can ruin them. If it sounds good: do it! If it doesn't, don't. There are often good reasons to break the rules. Music is art.

I'll also add these two tutorials:

5 Steps to Writing Better Music Faster

The first one I posted because it's important to think about composition and music theory mostly only in the first stage of music production: composition. Once you're in the production stage of your track, you generally shouldn't need to think about music theory.

Also, if you're really interested in theory, this can help:

Circle of Fifths Chords Tutorial and File
Last edited by Vios on Wed Sep 12, 2012 10:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Sage
Posts: 1102
Joined: Thu Mar 19, 2009 11:16 pm
Location: London
Contact:

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

Post by Sage » Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:58 pm

JuanSOLO wrote: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.
You'll never have listened to a band with no idea about music theory. Don't buy into that bullshit.

Martin Gifford
Posts: 425
Joined: Mon Jun 14, 2010 12:48 am

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

Post by Martin Gifford » Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:00 am

Yeah, you definitely need some music theory. I have heard dance songs going on with monotonous repetition and you can tell that it's not because it's the best choice - it's because they don't know where to take it from there.

I disagree about not emphasising chord progressions. Just a move from major to relative minor or minor to relative major or changing key up a 4th can make a dramatic impact.

BTW, here's a site with some great online basic piano lessons that cut to the chase:

http://www.doctorkeys.com/chord-piano-l ... opics.html

That's not related to dance music, but it's an example of not wasting time and being immediately useful.

Generally, getting piano lessons (maybe from a young switched-on keyboardist who is into contemporary music) will give a good overall theory education because you learn about basslines, harmony, rhythm, and dynamics all in one. Most people who study at conservatoriums learn piano in addition to their main instrument because it covers everything. But, yeah, don't get bogged down. Many guitarists start out because they were turned on by Jimi Hendrix and end up playing complex dry boring jazz in 5/4 time. They moved from their gut/heart into their head.

All IMO.

Winterpark
Posts: 1671
Joined: Thu Apr 15, 2004 2:59 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

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

Post by Winterpark » Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:28 am

3dot... wrote:learn it... then unlearn it..
in a similar mind-set:
My theory on theory is= learn it to forget it.

Because it's all very well knowing where all the "coloured blocks" should go to fit into different keys and what scale goes with what and what chords fit with which progression, but if you don't use your ears to decide what sounds good, then there is no point in knowing all that stuff.

and as for 'what sounds good'.... that is all informed by what you listen to and what you know... so just learn, listen, do.
web | fb | sc | twt | bc

3dot...
Posts: 9996
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:10 pm

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

Post by 3dot... » Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:38 am

Angstrom wrote: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:
as always... SPOT.ON.
Image

Post Reply