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#1
This is a thread to talk about whether or not the knowledge of music theory will in any inhibit creativity.

Mods, if this thread is against the rules please close it with no fight from me. I just think that we have this argument break out in so many threads, and it is a question relavent to musicians, so I thought I'd make a thread dedicated to it.

To start things off, I think music theory only helps creativity, and doesn't harm our creative spirit at all. I use theory to understand what my feelings sound like so I can put it into sound.
Quote by Zaphod_Beeblebr
Theory is descriptive, not prescriptive.


Quote by MiKe Hendryckz
theory states 1+1=2 sometimes in music 1+1=3.
#2
I think that music theory can help your creativity. It gives you a way to understand how to make your guitar sound like you want.
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#4
^ouch
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#6
Music theory, simply put, is just a GIANT SUGGESTION.

I harmonize(theory) AND spin my guitar around(no theory)! ^.^
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#7
I'm going to the store to buy some stiffles.


I don't really care for these threads, but I guess it's good for people to get the arguments out of their system. If it gets ugly one of us will close it.
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#8
without theory music would be considered noise?

isn't music organized sound.. so their IS theory behind


and anyway i believe it can only help you GREATLY
i don't get how it could hurt in any way
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#9
personally i think we should all learn as much theory as we can, but never let theory get in the way.
what im trying to say is, if you play something thats "out of key" and it sounds like crap, yeah, go to theory, try to make it better.

but if you play something out of key and it sounds cool, GO FOR IT.
learning theory helped me ALOT, but sometimes i play something "wrong" that sounds awsome.

EDIT: i obviously love music theory, but everyone has to remember (especially me) that music is meant for our ears.

just cause a chord progression is perfectly in key doesnt mean its gonna sound good, and just because something is waaaay out of key doesnt mean its gonna sound bad.

i LOVE music theory, but i love music more.
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Last edited by musicTHEORYnerd at Feb 8, 2009,
#10
Quote by musicTHEORYnerd
personally i think we should all learn as much theory as we can, but never let theory get in the way.
what im trying to say is, if you play something thats "out of key" and it sounds like crap, yeah, go to theory, try to make it better.

but if you play something out of key and it sounds cool, GO FOR IT.
learning theory helped me ALOT, but sometimes i play something "wrong" that sounds awsome.


Theory doesn't mean "play in key", it describes what a key is.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
#11
Quote by Archeo Avis
Theory doesn't mean "play in key", it describes what a key is.

you know what i meant.

my point was, just because someone learns theory, it doesnt mean they should stop using their ear.
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#12
Quote by musicTHEORYnerd
you know what i meant.

my point was, just because someone learns theory, it doesnt mean they should stop using their ear.


I don't see how music theory would conceivably replace someone's "ear". How would someone even do that? Understanding what you're playing isn't somehow going to keep you from writing what you like.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
#13
Quote by Archeo Avis
I don't see how music theory would conceivably replace someone's "ear". How would someone even do that? Understanding what you're playing isn't somehow going to keep you from writing what you like.

all im trying to say is, if something is out of key, and it sounds good, play it.
music is all about sound, not whats written down on the paper if you wrote it out in sheet music.
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#14
I disagree. I've jammed with plenty of people that won't even venture out of key, or tell me I can't play something because it's not in key, whether the rest of the band likes it or not, whether they like it or not.

edit : This is in response to Archeo's post.
Quote by Zaphod_Beeblebr
Theory is descriptive, not prescriptive.


Quote by MiKe Hendryckz
theory states 1+1=2 sometimes in music 1+1=3.
#15
Quote by The_Sophist
I think music theory only helps creativity, and doesn't harm our creative spirit at all.


Quote by The_Sophist
I disagree. I've jammed with plenty of people that won't even venture out of key, or tell me I can't play something because it's not in key, whether the rest of the band likes it or not, whether they like it or not.


Contradiction much?

Anyway, in that scenario, an idiot is stifling his creativity, not music theory.

Quote by musicTHEORYnerd
all im trying to say is, if something is out of key, and it sounds good, play it.
music is all about sound, not whats written down on the paper if you wrote it out in sheet music.
Music theory doesn't tell you what to play; it descrubes what has been played. It is not perscriptive but rather descriptive.
Last edited by bangoodcharlote at Feb 8, 2009,
#16
Music theory doesn't tell you what to play; it descrubes what has been played. It is not perscriptive but rather descriptive.


i agree, but some people dont.
some people ONLY play in key and never add chromatics to spice things up.
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#17
Quote by musicTHEORYnerd
i agree, but some people dont.
some people ONLY play in key and never add chromatics to spice things up.
"In that scenario, an idiot is stifling his creativity, not music theory."

Who just said that? It sounds like something I would say.
#18
Quote by musicTHEORYnerd
i agree, but some people dont.
some people ONLY play in key and never add chromatics to spice things up.


Which is the fault of music theory, how?
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
#19
yeah, the problem is that people get misinformed about what theory is. it is NOT the rules of music. it's the explanation of why music sounds like it does.

people then start to think that certain music is written with theory, and certain music cannot be written by people who know theory. this is bogus. music that sounds good is good. theory doesn't replace the ear, and theory doesn't change the way the ear works. it just allows you to understand what you are hearing, and understand how to replicate it, or modify it if you wish. theory just takes out the guesswork.

you can either refuse theory and spend X amount of time guessing at what chords will sound good in your songs, and just playing by feel to find the notes that work to make your song "feel" like you want it to. but it's not like you'll arrive at some riff that theory can't explain. the more theory you know, the less guessing you'll have to do to find the sounds you want.

people always say that lots of famous players never learned theory. this may be true, but they sure UNDERSTOOD theory. some people are very auditory learners, and it's no surprise that many of them play instruments. they are able to understand the relationship between the notes (which is what theory is all about), but they don't need it to be written down or shown to them. they just listened to the notes when they first heard them, and the more they experimented on their instrument, the better they understood those relationships.

but if you're not born with such a good ear, you have to learn those note-to-note relationships in theory, then match that knowledge up with what you hear. most people subconsciously understand a lot more about music than they think, and learning theory often makes that little light bulb go on behind your eyes where you suddenly understand your instrument ten times better.
#20
Quote by Archeo Avis
Which is the fault of music theory, how?

if you read my first post it says that.
it says that music theory helps, but you shouldnt only play whats correct in theory.

you guys know what i mean
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#21
Quote by The_Sophist
I disagree. I've jammed with plenty of people that won't even venture out of key, or tell me I can't play something because it's not in key, whether the rest of the band likes it or not, whether they like it or not.

edit : This is in response to Archeo's post.


okay.. but what does that have to do with your knowledge of theory..
they're are the ones putting up the restriction.. not theory

Edit: a tad late.. but still stands
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Last edited by victoryaloy at Feb 8, 2009,
#22
Quote by bangoodcharlote
Contradiction much?

Anyway, in that scenario, an idiot is stifling his creativity, not music theory.

Music theory doesn't tell you what to play; it descrubes what has been played. It is not perscriptive but rather descriptive.



I agree completely, but I said the knowledge of music theory. People seem to think they are rules, not guidelines. I think theory should be used to explain not control.
Quote by Zaphod_Beeblebr
Theory is descriptive, not prescriptive.


Quote by MiKe Hendryckz
theory states 1+1=2 sometimes in music 1+1=3.
#23
Quote by musicTHEORYnerd
all im trying to say is, if something is out of key, and it sounds good, play it.
music is all about sound, not whats written down on the paper if you wrote it out in sheet music.


this is exactly the problem. music theory doesn't say you can't play out of key. music theory just tells you what notes ARE in the key, and from that, you can draw conclusions about what it would sound like to use other notes. and people always associate certain terms to be automatically bad. why does everyone think "out of key" always means "bad?" why do people think "dissonant" always means "bad?" because they don't know what theory really is.

it's not like there are "unknown" notes or gray areas that theory can't explain. people who know theory will use general statements like "play in key" as a shorter way of saying something like "this sounds bad. whatever experiment you are doing, it's obviously lost relevance to what the rest of us are playing, and if you listen to the band as a whole, then one of us sounds lost."

theory is like an alphabet for music. there are 12 notes or "letters" and how we use them is completely up to us. if everyone knows the alphabet, bands can use this "alphabet" to write "words." not knowing theory would be like having to guess at the spelling of every word you type, even if you've typed it lots of times before.

if you spell a word wrong by one letter, it can change it's meaning dramatically. the same goes for chords and melodies. sometimes using a different "letter" will just yield a new word. sometimes it will yield nonsense. over the millenniums, people have found that time and time again, the same intervals sound good in one situation and bad in others, regardless of what key is being played and REGARDLESS OF GENRE OR STYLE OF MUSIC. theory explains why this is so.

it cannot possibly stifle your creativity to know theory anyways, since the two aren't directly related. i've heard some boring, uncreative, terrible music that was written by educated musicians, and i've heard incredibly soulful, moving masterpieces written by people who learned theory entirely by ear and couldn't tell me what a scale is to save their life.
Last edited by frigginjerk at Feb 8, 2009,
#24
Quote by musicTHEORYnerd
if you read my first post it says that.
it says that music theory helps, but you shouldnt only play whats correct in theory.

you guys know what i mean


That doesn't make any sense. How is playing in key somehow more "correct in theory" than playing out of key? Explain.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
#25
Quote by musicTHEORYnerd
but you shouldnt only play whats correct in theory.


You know there's theory behind chromatic passages, right?


Edit: Quote clarification.
Last edited by bangoodcharlote at Feb 8, 2009,
#26
Yes, we do. We are not talking about us. We are talking about the musicians that believe that because something is out of key, or does not conform to the knowledge they have they think it is "wrong".
Quote by Zaphod_Beeblebr
Theory is descriptive, not prescriptive.


Quote by MiKe Hendryckz
theory states 1+1=2 sometimes in music 1+1=3.
#27
I think it can stifle your creativity but it's easy to prevent. Like Satch says, 'Theory first, then comes freeform expression'. Or something along those lines.
#28
i don't think music thoery has any bearer on creativity.

i think it is the person. it can teach you why and how things sound good but just because you understand the relationship between notes does not mean you are creative.

i know thoery but when i make music i just sit and let my ears decide what i want to play some would say it would seem tedious but it works for me.
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#30
Quote by Roast Beef


...and? Ear is obviously being used here to refer to the composers own musical preference.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
#31
Of course you can be creative without knowledge of theory. Though if you ask me, theory is more a tool to boost your creativity.
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#32
It only stifles the creativity of people who see music theory as rules and have such a limited knowledge of it that they don't understand how to leave key.
#33
theory describes what and why sounds good together, but it doesn't rule how music is written and performed. if you want to write strictly with music theory, then you do that. if you want to write music without knowing an ounce of music theory, thats fine, alot of artists have had songs do well that where written without any ounce of music theory. just don't sit there arrogantly stating that music theory is the plague that kills creativity, and makes you a worse musician.
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#34
Quote by AcousticSlayer
Without music theory, we would all be punk bands.

Care to elaborate?
#35
Quote by frigginjerk
this is exactly the problem. music theory doesn't say you can't play out of key. music theory just tells you what notes ARE in the key, and from that, you can draw conclusions about what it would sound like to use other notes. and people always associate certain terms to be automatically bad. why does everyone think "out of key" always means "bad?" why do people think "dissonant" always means "bad?" because they don't know what theory really is.

it's not like there are "unknown" notes or gray areas that theory can't explain. people who know theory will use general statements like "play in key" as a shorter way of saying something like "this sounds bad. whatever experiment you are doing, it's obviously lost relevance to what the rest of us are playing, and if you listen to the band as a whole, then one of us sounds lost."

theory is like an alphabet for music. there are 12 notes or "letters" and how we use them is completely up to us. if everyone knows the alphabet, bands can use this "alphabet" to write "words." not knowing theory would be like having to guess at the spelling of every word you type, even if you've typed it lots of times before.

if you spell a word wrong by one letter, it can change it's meaning dramatically. the same goes for chords and melodies. sometimes using a different "letter" will just yield a new word. sometimes it will yield nonsense. over the millenniums, people have found that time and time again, the same intervals sound good in one situation and bad in others, regardless of what key is being played and REGARDLESS OF GENRE OR STYLE OF MUSIC. theory explains why this is so.

it cannot possibly stifle your creativity to know theory anyways, since the two aren't directly related. i've heard some boring, uncreative, terrible music that was written by educated musicians, and i've heard incredibly soulful, moving masterpieces written by people who learned theory entirely by ear and couldn't tell me what a scale is to save their life.


This guy speaks truth. Theory (I think) is just a set of guidelines (GUIDELINES, not rules) that were figured out by people who found out that something sound better with somethings than others. Like doesn't "word" sound better than "asdf"?
#36
Music theory is the single barrier between many of the "good" musicians I've met and many of the not so good. Period. That's it. It cannot possibly hurt. Someone on here said once "It's like the difference between a man that just goes out and builds a bridge vs a man who educates himself before attempting to build said bridge. I've never met a musician who refused to learn theory who was open-minded or even... decent at their instrument, for that matter.

MORE IMPORTANTLY.

Let's question this phrase "out of key" for a moment. There is theory to back up chromaticism. There is PLENTY of theory to back up key CHANGES in the middle of songs. Even between measures. "Out of key" is somewhat of a simple concept for musicians just beginning to understand key itself. For a beginner, "key" is a rule, and that's probably a good thing that will help your understanding of key to begin with. In reality, key is a description of what you're generally going to be playing throughout that specific part of your piece. If you want to write a piece that deals entirely with chromatics, you don't even need a key. Just accidental everything.

For me, "out of key" doesn't really exist when one can so quickly change the key or apply further theory to back up chromaticism. It's a mental concept to make our music-making simpler and less hectic.

Anyway, that's what I've always thought.
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#37
Quote by Norphin
This guy speaks truth. Theory (I think) is just a set of guidelines (GUIDELINES, not rules) that were figured out by people who found out that something sound better with somethings than others. Like doesn't "word" sound better than "asdf"?

Also, excellent analogy sir. I may use that one later.
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#38
it is what it is.


An apple can be named a pear, but it still acts as an apple.

If you know what the essence is (an edible nutrient product) then you can still use it in the same way as someone naming it an apple.

What does language help?

It helps in naming the already discovered essence "the apple", and you learn that you can eat it. This saves time, because if you need to find out for urself all that is edible in the world, you'll be spending a good 5 years in something that can be learned in much much shorter time.

The problem is psychological, and it is close mindedness. People often take 1 "mindset" and ignore the others.

Only a good ear and totally neglecting theory, or the other way around.

Learn the essence of why a note works. As in let ur ear decide if i makes you feel good, and let theory be the suggestive tool it is.

In my opinion theory is a collection of acquired conventions that have worked in music for as long as it exists.

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#39
Just think of it like math.

You could learn on your own that 2+2+2+2+2=10, and you might eventually have the epiphony to just remember that five 2's equals 10.

But luckily you didn't have to do that, because someone taught you that 5x2=10 and saved you a lot of time.

Or like trying to learn a new language.

You can move to Mexico and try to learn the language by ear, or you can take classes/read a book to learn the vocabulary and grammar rules.
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#40
I've not read every post and I'm not going to. I'm just going to say...


If anyone writes music without learning theory, they're still using it, they just don't know it.
If you actually learn theory - and more of it - you're increasing your musical "vocabulary" and will be able to create more complex and interesting sounds far more easily.

It's a tool that when used correctly can only help.
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