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Thread: Why learn?

  1. #1
    Lv. 16 Metal-Mage brianhitscar's Avatar
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    Why learn?

    Well, I've been through 2 years of music theory so far, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. The thing is, I have a friend who plays guitar and is actually very good, but knows next to nothing in theory. I always try to persuade him into taking a course in it at the university, but he just doesn't see a reason to. So far, I can't find a reason to disagree with him either, he's doing quite well for himself in terms of song writing and technique. So, I guess I was just looking for a solid reason to learn theory, something that makes it all seem worthwhile.
    "Before I could actually play the guitar, I was unable to sustain boners." -Chris McGowan

  2. #2
    Jazzman Poparad's Avatar
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    There really isn't any other reason than "why wouldn't you want to open up all the doors you can for yourself." Theory will allow you to recognize and understand chord progressions and keys a lot quicker, help you to know what are the 'right' notes over a chord for melodies and solos, and will give you new ideas to try out that you wouldn't have though to try on you own, and let you know why they work and where you can use them.

    Music theory basically takes the guess work out of writting music, so you can spend more time and energy on picking which of the right notes you like better than trying to which which note doesn't sound wrong.

  3. #3
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    If he is beginning to write songs he will be interacting with other musicians more and more. Music theory lets musicians talk to each other in specific terms. That in it’s self should be reason enough.
    However, if he does not see the need, not a lot you can do to talk him into it. He has to see the need first.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 05-11-2005 at 04:07 PM.

  4. #4
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    The key word is understanding. One thing is knowing how to compose songs, and maintain a higher level of technique. However, everything gets a lot more interesting if you learn the theory behind the music, which allows you to analyze musical pieces as well as discussing why certain parts sound good and other parts not.

  5. #5
    all around psycho
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    some of the most popular guitar players ever, hardly knew any theory. I mean I believe it greatly helps. But some just don't need it to express themselves and play great...

  6. #6
    Jazz Apprentice Factor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiechfreak
    some of the most popular guitar players ever, hardly knew any theory. I mean I believe it greatly helps. But some just don't need it to express themselves and play great...
    Yeah but I'm not willing to bet my musical life that I'm that someone with the "special talent".

    [rant]
    If your wish is to be a popular guitarist then image and marketing is more important than anything.
    [/rant]

  7. #7
    Musician in Training SostenutO's Avatar
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    I became interested in theory because I figured it helped a lot with writing. However, I noticed that there was a difference between progressions I made with theory and ones without. It was like without theory I would write what I thought sounded good. With theory there were like these invisible borders restricting me in a way. I also don't know if theory should be used too much in improvisation because of this. In my opinion you should play what you think sounds good even if you are breaking all of the rules.

    This is not to say that you should not learn music theory. It is good for all of us to become well-rounded musicians and theory is needed there. In addition, theory helps us UNDERSTAND our playing more. As we all know; if we know more about WHY we are doing something and WHY it sounds good, than we will have a tighter grasp of music. Just don't restrict yourself with it I guess.

    Personally, I now spend no time on theory. It matters what type of music you wish to play. If you picture yourself becoming a music teacher of some sort than ofcourse you may need theory. If you just play as a side activity now and than theory would not be needed as much. We should focus more on the things that are most essential in our playing. The majority of my practicing is technique and reading, etc. This is because I really have no need for theory...at least not yet.

    Hope I helped....and if not, maybe I said something useful...
    Last edited by SostenutO; 05-11-2005 at 09:48 PM.

  8. #8
    Registered User sixstrings121's Avatar
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    I think you should first learn tooons of music theory...then just forget it all...but kind of still have it in the back of your mind. I cant really explain it though.

  9. #9
    JazzNerd gersdal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiechfreak
    some of the most popular guitar players ever, hardly knew any theory. I mean I believe it greatly helps. But some just don't need it to express themselves and play great...
    I have a couple of videos and dvd's by Joe Pass, and he jokes around about not knowing music theory very well, but one way or the other he knows (well knew) an astounding amount of music theory by the way he talks. It may be years and years of practice in music, but the theory is there -clear and well understood. I don't know if that goes for all non-theoretical guitarists, but I wouldn't be suprised if it does. One possibility is surely understanding slowly by playing a lot for years, but studying the theory is in my opinion a quicker way to understanding.

    Edited a few spelling errors, the rest is left for you to find

  10. #10
    Jazz Apprentice Factor's Avatar
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    I think there are two kinds of music theory:

    Official Music Theory:
    The one people mostly talk about. Study of harmony, voicing, chords scales and all of that. This is what we use to discuss music abstractly.

    "unofficial music theory":
    The kind that any player will develop after playing for a long time. This is something which is hard to communicate, and it can be said to be "silent knowledge", because of this.

    In the end, any student of music strive to achieve this internalized kind of knowledge described above, to the point of not thinking of music theory when playing, but rather thinking of and feeling music.

    I think Joe Pass had a little more knowledge in the second departement than the first, which could partly explain why he could'nt always explain what he did.

  11. #11
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    There was a fellow looking for a surgeon to perform an operation he needed. Talked to this one person who looked the part, and could talk the talk, his bed side manner was great and they seemed to get along with each other. The fellow asked where he took his training and he said “You mean from which university? Never did go to college, I just have a knack for this stuff.” ---- Stuff is my word, not a direct quote.

    Having a knack will take you just so far, having a knack and some formal training will take you much farther. Training should never stifle your creative abilities; it should broaden your horizons. The more we know the more we understand the rule that says if it sounds good do it.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by SostenutO
    However, I noticed that there was a difference between progressions I made with theory and ones without. It was like without theory I would write what I thought sounded good. With theory there were like these invisible borders restricting me in a way. I also don't know if theory should be used too much in improvisation because of this.
    I was just about to write a few sentences on this; about how you should not let the theoretical knowledge limit your compositions, but rather create what you feel, and use the theory as a helping tool. This does not mean that you should be a slave to the theory.

    Then I read the rest of your post, and realized that you pretty much wrote yourself what I had in mind.

    Great reading.

  13. #13
    Registered User Mateo150's Avatar
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    I guess people understand as they grow older, and your still a real toddy youngin. But theory and explanation is done after the fact. Great music isn't made in light of theory, theory comes to be in light of great music.

    To expand on what Factor said:

    Official music theory: for people who aren't "naturals" to glimpse and understand the works of naturals. Try understanding Coltrane without theory....
    Unofficial theory: Stuff one is born with or develops over a long time and internalization. Don't need to know names of sounds and relations in spoken word, it's just known.

    Of course, the more you know the better off ya are.
    Last edited by Mateo150; 05-14-2005 at 08:35 PM.
    They call them fingers, but I never see them fing.

  14. #14
    I like music.
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    Hard luck and trouble...

  15. #15
    Experi-mental-ist
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    i think theres a bit of confusion between composition and theory within this thread. composition, the writing of songs, intuitively uses theory whether the writer realizes it or not. theory shouldnt be a wall standing in your way telling you what you cant do, but rather a bridge between you and your musical vision telling you why the things you just played work and how to communicate those ideas to another musician so he or she can work within the context of the song without having to hear or read it first (which is the true nature of improv).

    i vaguely remember guni or eric writing something about this last year, but i cant seem to find it.

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