Why Music Theory is Neither Beneficial or Detrimental

author: karstaag666 date: 05/27/2013 category: music theory
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Why Music Theory is Neither Beneficial or Detrimental
I read tommaso.zillio's article titled "6 Things Most Guitar Players Don't Understand About Music Theory" just moments ago and whilst I felt there were some extremely valid points made within its content, I also felt the article was rather one sided and needing a more open mindset. Bare in mind that I am not writing this to disprove Tommaso, only to provide further insight into the subject. Both views are neither right nor wrong at the end of the day and are just opinion. I am a 23 year old guitarist who has been playing and composing since I was 14/15. I have studied guitar in many ways such as, by myself, private tuition, and at academies. Despite all of this though, I have never learnt theory past learning different modes. I have had the chance to learn more but I didn't feel it interested me enough to do so and I also feel it isn't needed for my aspirations as a musician.

Do I Need To Know Theory To Write/Learn Music?

NEVER have I even thought of using music theory to write a song or learn a song I am hearing. Unless you count knowing how to play a chord, I simply just listen to whatever is in my head or is coming out the speakers and simply figure it out. After doing this for many years I often find myself knowing what note is being played before I even touch my guitar. Practice makes perfect and if you play your guitar long enough with focus you can do the same. Referring back to Tommaso's article: "We musicians need to know theory as writers need to know grammar." There have been many illiterate people who have had a knack with words yet have no idea how to write them down. Cockney talk is a poetic artform for some and highly entertaining, ever wondered why when you think of a Cockney Geezer it is an image of a homeless person you envisage? The same goes for music. Jimi Hendrix might have known music theory but can you say the many artists in the Punk Movement knew music theory also? Some did, but the general idea of playing Punk music is that anyone could do it. You simply just needed to pick an instrument up and play. Check out Siouxsie and The Banshees first ever gig at the 100 club. This leads me to my next sub-heading..

Does Music Theory Affect Your Taste In Music?

This can never be answered factually. My opinion on the matter is that the more knowledge you have in an artform, the higher chance your tastes in said artform are different from that of someone who has less knowledge. My brother is a film buff (Aspiring script writer). As kids we used to watch the same films mainly with slight differences in our taste. As years went by however and my brother studied films through various courses, his taste of films completely changed from liking most mainstream films to disliking them and liking obscure films that half of the time I feel are completely horrendous (although some are pretty cool). I noticed the same type of behavior change whilst studying music at academies. The course began with most of us at pretty much the same level of knowledge. Our tastes in music were slightly diverse but mainly within what some would consider mainstream styles of music. As the course went on and I felt disinterested in the theoretical aspects of the lessons, my peers' music tastes changed drastically from when they started and they began to even dislike what they used to like and have a new loving for more virtuoso styles of music. Mainly guitar virtuoso's like Jazz players, complex metal players etc. Outside of my class you could tell what the members of bands current year/term of study was simply by the choice of style of the band. This leads me onto my next part...

Does Knowing More Theory Affect Your Compositions?

It is my belief that for most it does. Whilst someone could say that just because they know complex theory, doesn't mean they have to use it, if we go look at my above statements about changes in taste, this could have a drastic affect on what a musician writes. When writing a song, a composer can come up with ideas they think are good, and some that are bad and want to burn. How does a musician decide though which are good and which are bad? Is it because they like it or dislike it in a similar way they like or dislike different songs of music? I reckon so. If you look at famous artists in history. Frank Zappa, you could easily say he has a good knowledge of music theory. His compositions are highly virtuoso. Now take a look at Kurt Cobain. Do you really think the rebellious high-school dropout had a huge knowledge of music theory? His songs weren't very virtuoso at all. Both composers are highly noted in the industry as successes. This leads me to my next point...

Is Music Theory Needed In Order To Be Successful In The Industry?

It all depends on what you feel is successful and what part of the industry you wish to work in. If you want to be a highly sought after session musician then you will most likely need a solid amount of music theory. If however you want to be in a famous Punk Band then you don't need to really focus on it at all. You are a unique individual with your own taste, ambitions, and inspirations. Decide your own future. Only you know what you want to do and if you find Music Theory uninteresting and hard to learn, its most probably because you don't want to learn it and have a different taste, ambition, and inspirations from someone who does find it interesting and does want to learn it. Don't let academics tell you that you are wrong and will fail for not knowing it because it is simply untrue and there is huge evidence against it. I hope you have enjoyed this exploration of a different point of view. I am certain there will be a lot of you who disagree entirely with what I have said and I welcome it. It's good to hear views from all over the spectrum to get a clearer view as a whole over things.
More karstaag666 columns:
+ A Guide To Surviving Financially As A Musician The Guide To 11/15/2012
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