I agree. I think theory should be a side note to a good ear. Ear training is SO essential to music. Music is a hearing art, so any improvement to your ear will naturally improve your music. I was a music major in college several years ago and was going for a doctorate in composition. So I am pretty well trained in theory, however after realizing that the theory teacher I had in college had the same degree I was going for and never really got to use his knowledge for composing, but more for re-teaching that same information back to the students, I quickly decided that that wasn’t for me and I dropped out. Go figure I’m a guitar teacher now and love teaching theory to those students that want to learn it ha!
But yeah, I honestly think the music I have written, where I DON ’T think about what I’m doing sounds much better. Music where I intentionally theorize everything sounds too textbook, and not “novel” enough. It really lacks heart.
Likewise, up until more recently, classical composers didn’t really even have theory like we think of today. They wrote by ear and then hundreds of years later people started analyzing their works and finding patterns and forming theory principles around what they saw happen again and again, creating “music theory”
I would say if anyone really wants to dabble in theory, to see if it improves their composition, learn chord building. You can dramatically change the mood of a song from changing all major and minor chords to splashes of 7ths, 9ths, and 11ths. It’s confusing at first but once you get the concept of: major chord =1 3 5, minor chord = 1 b3 5, music really takes off I think.
Mhm … As you can see by Tim’s example you have to have talent and ear. Music theory will help you very much – knowing scales, chord progressions etc saves time when you working on material. I think, there is something that one who wants to get to all music here or everywhere need to learn – it is about mixing, mastering etc. Thanks to internet it’s easy ie. to find advice how proper balance of volumes / compression / eq in mix can improve finale material and so. When I was starting at the begin of 90’s last century you had to learn by you own experience, but now ?
Back to main topic – yes – definetly music theory will help but don’t concentrate to much on rules – hear the music.
I know about chords and corresponding scales, but I only actually use the theory when I can’t do it by ear. Theory is only the official versions of what our ears and those of musicians of many centuries before us have come up with.
All my music training has been entirely personal and self taught.I think even those amongst us who are self taught are in fact influenced and guided by our ears to a degree,we are being taught in a sub conscious manner. you are after all, listening to music in the world in general and then relating these feelings about how it came together through your own journey. so to some degree,you are never completely self taught if only for that factor alone.
i started out as a young teen and i think when your so keen to just enjoy music with no expectations,you learn quicker and with a kind of ego-free vision, you make big moves in a short space of time.I have found that my professional period has been much slower.
im more focused on quality control,keeping clients happy and agencies etc and dealing with some business aspects that are about as far from music creation than any of us would like but such is the nature of the beast.
do you need theory to make good music? most def not.but do you need theory to create for exmaple,a complex and engaging filmscore using a wide base of orchestral instruments whilst trying to conjure up a vast array of moods and feelings??
for me the answer can very much be both yes and no.some people have such a fine ear for harmony and arrangement/orchestration, that it belies there frugal self training.
some are blessed with a great deep seeded understanding whilst others take an intersting route that in turn creates there own voice.and the road to this discovery has then rewarded you with someting pure classical training might have missed.
not all classically trained composers and/or musicians make brilliant tune smiths.its historically proven over and over in all genres and facets that you can achieve the highest goals simply by writing something that people connect with and make the hairs on the back of there neck stand up.
im at the point where i have written and performed for so many years within the structures i know that i would like to learn more.you can get lazy and you can forget your audience and become self indulgent.so regardless of the way you learn and whos teaching.always challenge your ears and mind,find yourself walking into very odd places wihtin music and let yourself write your way out of them and see what you become!!
Rules need to know in order to be able to break them =))) Although there are many general principles, without which it anywhere! This knowledge is invaluable and they come in time with sound … And the most interesting is that this knowledge has no limits =)))))))))))))
I find often many people who dont know practical theory get ‘stuck’ in repetitive and same-sounding compositions. Though not totally necessary for today’s music, having a good understanding in harmony as well as some awesome production skills is the way to go. That way you understand which directions you can take from a certain chord or sound, and can create some nicely composed as well as produced tunes! I use my understanding of music theory for all of my portfolio pieces.
This thread is awesome! Music theory is an amazing tool but also a crutch to some. It’s great to hear other artist’s thoughts about it. I strongly agree that a very trained ear and refined musical taste outweighs music theory any day.
However I definitely recommend that everyone at least learns basic scales and chord shapes / voicings. Stuff like that will really take your music to the next level!
I learned in musical classic school (violin), so I can read notes for violin, but not when I play guitar. Actually, I don’t play violin already almost 20 years, and what I remember from the theory is major and minor scales, and some musical language, like crescendo, moderato, allegro etc This knowledge helps me to communicate with session players, but not in the composing or producing music. Most of the times I don’t know what chords I play on guitar or keyboard. But I wish I could know more about orchestration.
For me, after five years of formal conservatoire training and fifteen years of being a professional musician, there is no separation between ear and theoretical knowledge. I can’t help but automatically know what anything I play or hear is in terms of theory..
I’m finding this thread really interesting – I’m loving hearing about everybody’s approach and philosophy in this matter.
I think what I’m consistently hearing is that it’s crucial to have a good ear but this doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive from a good grasp of theory, which can be equally important.
Do any of you more formally trained musicians have any good recommendations for books or web sites for learning theory?