View Full Version : Too much information.(?

04-16-2004, 08:01 PM
Hi folks,
Over the past couple weeks, I've come across some theory/explanations that just seem too involved.(from a variety of sources, I should add) It's as though the simplest ideas are built into a, honkin' thesis. The result is that I get confused and have to spend an, undue amount of time trying to "boil it down" or, I give up trying to understand and file it away for "future reference".

Does anyone else run across this ? Does it get in the way of music ?
Is there such a thing as too much theory ? Are there some points that I'm just not ready to understand ?

Ideally, I think an aspiring musician would find an approach/a way of learning that will lead him/her were they want to go. how would this musician know if "he's" run into a lesson/explanation that's been presented in an unnecessarily complicated way, especially if "he" lacks a certain amount of experience ?

Have I just gone off the deep end with this ?
Have I just taken a simple situation and made it, unduely complicated ? :D

Sorry, I just had to rant
Thanks for "listening"

04-16-2004, 08:06 PM
Hm, yeah, I often find myself reading article on article about different music theory... and after that I'm more confused than before. I guess a schedule would be helpful, like a planned practice time...

04-16-2004, 10:19 PM
A lot if it is complicated, meh, a lot, I'll go as far as to say it all is ;) When reading some theory to start with I felt as if I'd been thrown in the deep end of the pool, without a rubber ring, with no prior knowledge of swimming, and the pool contains a whirlpool, and many sharks, and is muddy and sludgy, and..you can see where I'm going ;)

It realy does help to try read the same type of thing from different sources, like you've said, but try not to just read it over once, when I was confused, I kept reading it, thinking about it, reading, eventually something just clicked for me. Remeber that theory sort of builds up on itself. I don't know tons, but if you're reading something that's pretty advanced, it realy does help to know the foundation stuff.

Not sure if this is how you mean when you are talking about how information is presented, but for me, I find visual aids, such as diagrams etc. realy helpful to understand things. A couple of sites that explain things in a visual way and have helped me a lot are:

http://www.musictheory.net (http://)
http://www.guitarknowledgenet.com (http://)

Hope I've helped,

Bongo Boy
04-17-2004, 02:01 AM
Yup, what he said. Everyone who tries to explain stuff to other peiple begins with what they think is the beginning. But there isn't any way for the author to know what the reader has to work with as far as background, experience, etc.

It isn't all that complicated. But if the material leaves out an important little key piece of info, it can sure be confusing.

04-17-2004, 02:21 AM
.... or put them to sleep by starting too far back down the road.

I have found that I understand today what was Jell-O two weeks ago, so I try and read it all. Little by little some gets through. :p

04-17-2004, 03:01 AM
You may be rushing through it too quickly. Theory is something to take apart (and I mean REALLY take it apart) slowly bit by bit and then try to pull it all together. Like everything in music, you go as slow as you possibly can to start.

Go buy 'The Advancing Guitarist".

05-25-2004, 04:24 PM
I have found the same thing about the little theory I know. I need to look at it regularly, and it slowly seems to make more and more sense. So I guess time is the main component for learning theory for me.

05-25-2004, 04:59 PM
Even more important than just learning it bit by bit, itīs most important to use it at some point. To quote my late grandfather:
"If someone explains something to you, itīs a good way to learn something. If someone shows it to you, demonstrates it, itīs an even better way of learning it. If you try doing it yourself then, thatīs th ebest method of learning it"

If someone explains the modes to you, you might get an idea of it, or even understand it. If someone explains them to you and then shows you how to use them ( i.e. make you listen to a composition or whatever ), you might understand even better.
But if someone explains them to you, and you then go and actually use them to improvise or write a tune... well, I consider that the best method to learn about them.

So, yes, take it bit by bit, start with the basics and move on to more advanced stuff, and always try to apply what you learn...

NP: Jimi Hendrix - Blues

05-25-2004, 05:11 PM
A problem you may be encountering is that so much of theory is inter-related. When I try to write theory articles, it is hard to stop myself from saying certain things that I know are relevant but maybe shouldn't be said at that time. Some authors are better at this restaint than others. Also, authors have to assume some level of knowledge for the reader, and you may have just hit on the "wrong" articles for you at this time.

It can be hard. The best thing is a private teacher who can find out what you know and don't know, then tailor answers to you. This way, it moves at your pace instead of the teacher's.

05-25-2004, 05:58 PM
Just a note. Sorry to disagree but "The Advancing Guitarist" is a horrible place to start for theory. I think of Goodrick's book like the critical thinking questions at the back of each chapter in your college textbooks. First you read the chapter which lays out all of the info. Then you answer the multiple choice and fill in questions (The "Duh, did you pay attention to what you were reading" questions) finally to really understand the topic it will ask you big open ended questions and give you no clue as to what the answer is.

Great to complete your understanding when used at the right time, make sure you've got the basics before otherwise you'll just get frustrated.


Caffeinated Cat
06-01-2004, 09:52 PM
I remember trying to learn theory. It was very difficult. The problem was that I'd read a lot of magazine articles, and someone would tell you about a certain little bit of theory. Trouble was, a tiny bit of information doesn't really mean anything unless you know how it relates to the whole body of information. Otherwise, someone would ask a simple question and get a Ph.D. level answer. That's because the person giving the answer knew that a little bit of information wouldn't mean anything, so they gave the whole body of information, and it was completely overwhelming. The worst were those books I'd get that covered "a little bit" of theory. They'd always leave out the one piece of information that you needed to understand it. Either omitting it because they thought you already knew it, or else because they were only teaching you "a little bit" of theory.

By far the best books I've read on the subject were Theory Workbook for Guitar Volumes I & II, by Bruce Arnold. They're expensive and the exercises (which are 80% of the books) are only for people who want to read sheet music. However, the books are worth it just for the first 20% of them, where he explains theory starting at the beginning, and covers everything thoroughly. Even an idiot like me could figure it out :p

Bongo Boy
06-02-2004, 03:44 AM
1. Does anyone else run across this ? 2. Does it get in the way of music ? 3. Is there such a thing as too much theory ? 4. Are there some points that I'm just not ready to understand ?No one actually provided answers to these specific questions. Here are MY answers:

1. Yes, of course.
2. It certainly can.
3. Yes, if that's not a compelling interest of yours.
4. Probably, unless you understand everything instantly.

I've tried to make a point about theory elsewhere at iBreathe, but I just thought of an analogy that may work to explain how I feel about 'theory'.

It's similar to the different interest people have in cars--those who are deeping involved with cars. Some folks want to be drivers. They have a passion for the game, the track, the chase. They don't care too much about how the car works or how to get it to handle--but they care very much that it does work...and handle well. Also, they absolutely need to be able to communicate to their technicians in a way their technicians and designers can understand and respond to. Understanding how the car works may be very useful to them, even if they don't want to spend a lot of time in that area.

Other folks may not get that excited about driving--or may simply not feel that capable. They may not enjoy the 'game' at all. But they may be totally fascinated with the gear, making it work, and understanding how to get it to work better.

Some folks may totally enjoy both.

So I see music theory in a similar way. I disagree with those who say its only purpose is to allow you to make better music. That's NOT its only purpose. It's a hugely fun field all on its own--as is the history of theory and its development. There are many folks in the world who simply create ideas and new ways of thinking about things--often with no apparent practical application. Other smart folks always come along, though, and FIND a practical application. Understanding the physics of a black hole comes to mind as something supremely interesting and satisfying to some folks--it doesn't have to save me gas at the pump to be worth your while.

That's what I'm sayin'.

06-02-2004, 01:56 PM
Long-awaited reconciling answer to theory-vs-practice question.

Bongo Boy, great analogy!


06-03-2004, 06:47 PM
The police made a good song called to much information

06-04-2004, 02:58 PM
.......... :D The theory police :D

I didn't expect to draw this much attention. Some good posts here.

I got hung up/frustrated with the way some of the things I was reading/learning were presented. I do have some knowledge of theory and taking the time to understand a chapter in a book or, a article only to realize that the point could have been made in a much simpler way,........I got a little huffy. I'm over that,....................yes, I am :rolleyes:

Thanks for the replies !

Bongo Boy
06-18-2004, 09:03 PM
I have a similar emotional response when I feel that something has been made harder than it is--and I get especially 'huffy' when I can't understand something that I really want to understand.

The simpler way that you feel a point could have been made, though, is simpler for you. It may help other folks too, but it's a reflection of how YOU see things. That's why there are so many books on the same topic--everyone who saw a simpler way who also felt the need to write about it...did.

That's a good thing--otherwise we'd have 100 resources for a topic that treat it all in the same way. If that method doesn't get it for you, you're hosed. The downside is that we may have to read 6 books on a topic before we finally get it. At least that's the case for 'some of us'.