#1
I've been studying a lot of theory lately just trying to figure out what is what on my own. I do okay, it interests me and I really like learning. I may not learn in the most proper fashion and I am sure there are more proper ways that would show me faster progress but hey, its trial and error. Now here is the thing I am all worried about learning how to play in key and all this other shit. And I feel like thinking of staying in key is almost confining me to strictly that. Before I even knew how to stay in key, it seemed as if my riffs were just more raw, as if I listened more to them and found the ones I liked instead of the ones I am told to play when theory teaches me to stay in key.

I guess maybe what I could work on is freestyling a riff, finding something I like...then examining it? figuring out which scale I unknowingly used for the riff and build off that?

any suggestions?

im about to just take a break from theory possibly
Last edited by jackBrockin2 at Dec 8, 2009,
#2
I'm interested to see where this thread goes as I'm considering studying theory since I'm in a bit of creative block right now.
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#3
Theory is not a set of rules just guidelines. A lot of great jazz players say the spent years learnign theory just to "forget it" As you learn theory it will become part of your self conscious the only reason its inhibiting your creativity is becase you are letting it.
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#4
Dude... you're worrying too much...
Theory is always for the better. The starting moments will feel as such, but you'll eventually stop worrying about it, but STILL stay in key without your knowledge...

Theory makes you a better guitarist, don't take a break from it.

The method you suggested is what I do... I just riff freestyle, and if it sounds a lil' messy, I just switch around the notes so that it'll be there according to whatever scale suitable...
#5
Theory doesn't kill creativity. Theory explains music, it doesn't restrict anything. Its like the accumulated knowledge base of the last couple of centuries worth of musicians. It isn't a set of rules you have to apply - if something sounds good then it is good, and if you can't explain it with theory thats just cos you don't know enough theory to do that yet.
#6
Theory is like chemistry... And a riff is a solution... You could make stuff blow up (metal riff) regardless if you know what's in it ...
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#7
Theory itself doesn't kill creativity, but it is easy for a musician to blame theory in killing their creativity. I think to many people think of theory as rules for making music, rather than a language to explain what you are playing. I think that if you don't know any theory you can just play around and you'll think that nothing is restricting you, apart from your technique. If you start to learn theory, I think your creativity will take a dip because you learn a few things, that you label as rules, and you feel like you have to follow them; but as you learn more and more the creativity dip begins to rise and once you realise that they aren't rules, your creativity will exceed that of your creativity when you knew no theory.

That's a pretty simplistic idea and there are going to be other factors and, of course, it won't apply to everyone. It's just the way I feel about theory. So, TS, you should continue learning theory, if that still interests you and you want to do it; but you need to stop thinking of it as a set of rules. When you are writing music, just write it and then analyse it afterwards, or if you hit a writer's block use what you know about theory to help you break that block.
#8
Theory is like a religions and guideline for music. It is something you should know but not necessarily follow.
#9
Saying that theory constricts musical creativity is like saying learning proper spelling and grammar has a negative effect on creative writing. Theory gives you a set of tools, but you don't have to use all of them all the time. Being a good musician means knowing what to use and when. But why wouldn't you want to have extra things at your disposal?

Intresting sidenote: I recently got a chance to meet and talk to one of my all-time favorite artists, someone I've been a fan of for almost ten years. I asked him what tuning he usually plays in most often--turns out he had no idea. He said, and this is a direct quote, "I don't really know the notes. I just play by ear."

So in closing, I'd like to say... I just contradicted myself. Thank you and goodnight.
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Last edited by BigFatSandwich at Dec 8, 2009,
#10
Quote by TechnoLp
Theory is not a set of rules just guidelines. A lot of great jazz players say the spent years learnign theory just to "forget it" As you learn theory it will become part of your self conscious the only reason its inhibiting your creativity is becase you are letting it.


everyone repeats that but alot of jazz guitarists know their stuff
#12
Don't think about theory as a set of rules, think of it as a helping hand.
You can use theory to create a certain sound, instead of being stuck in a key and being afraid to play certain notes. Out of key notes can sound great if you know how to use them.
#13
Quote by jackBrockin2
I've been studying a lot of theory lately just trying to figure out what is what on my own. I do okay, it interests me and I really like learning. I may not learn in the most proper fashion and I am sure there are more proper ways that would show me faster progress but hey, its trial and error. Now here is the thing I am all worried about learning how to play in key and all this other shit. And I feel like thinking of staying in key is almost confining me to strictly that. Before I even knew how to stay in key, it seemed as if my riffs were just more raw, as if I listened more to them and found the ones I liked instead of the ones I am told to play when theory teaches me to stay in key.

I guess maybe what I could work on is freestyling a riff, finding something I like...then examining it? figuring out which scale I unknowingly used for the riff and build off that?

any suggestions?

im about to just take a break from theory possibly


Try this.

When IN theory, think of yourself as "safe". Theory helps us as musicians grow confident in learning to play always "safely". Call it a box, where within, we can confidently approach a given situation.

But theory, in showing us how to stay in the box can also show us where weve stepped OUTSIDE the box. This is where we can enter into a new unknown world of creativity. Theory is STILL there, the difference, is that you know the difference between being IN the box and out of the box.

So, lets then distill this information into a very easy concept, note wise.

1. Notes either CREATE tension, or RESOLVE tension.

So, now, with this information, there are NO wrong notes. Yes, that's what I said. You now have an unlimited palette of colors to compose any way you like, intelligently. So, now the test is, working within these parameters, start looking, instead of scales and chords, look at lack of tension (safe theory), coupled with tension (notes and such OUTSIDE the safe areas of theory. Learn to bring the two areas together, the light and the dark unknown.

A whole new world.
Last edited by Sean0913 at Dec 8, 2009,
#14
thats like telling me learning english inhibits your ability to speak freely.

Quote by Myshadow46_2
Notice the quotes around "forget it"? They don't actually forget it, I think it is more of a case of knowing it so well that they don't have to think about it, they just apply it.

this is probably the most accurate way of "learn it and forget it" i learned a lot of theory i think, but most of it once i learn how to apply it, it becomes second nature and i dont even think about it
Last edited by z4twenny at Dec 8, 2009,
#15
Theory doesn't kill creativity, people do.

Learning theory can teach you a lot about music, but ultimately it all comes down to how things sound. You should never choose notes, scales, chords you play based on theory - only on how they sound. A lot of times people view diatonic theory as if it's a rule, but it's not. Learn as much theory as you can, it will help you understand music better, but rely on your ear for creativity.
#16
I brought this up to a friend of mine once and he rolled his eyes then said something along the lines of, 'thats like an artist saying he couldn't paint anymore after having learnt the names of colours.' Made me feel like a bit of a muppet but I guess he was right.

Correct me if I'm wrong but are you concentrating on harmonic theory? While it is important I feel a good riffs weight comes from the groove/phrasing/rhythm/whatever-you-wanna-call-it. Maybe before you studied theory you could just lose yourself in the groove, but now you're thinking about what notes to play and it's taking a bit of getting used to. Of course this is all subjective, just going off my experiences. =]
#17
This thread is why is say you shouldn't think when you play because if you have theory knowledge and you know how to play, they should go hand in hand without thinking. (that makes sense in my head). Listen to what you play and pick out the things you like. when you have the things you like, then string them together. Theory can only help with that. The problem would be to over think it and always follow the rules of theory, which is not always the best thing to do.
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#18
Theory in itself can be useless and pointless as there are often quicker ways to get to where you want to be. You need a good reason to study theory and also to use it. If you think of it as being one of many tools to aid your playing such as technique, aural skills, improvisation, composition, repertoire then this is the best way as it helps to bridge the gaps between many of these things which will make you an all round better player.

For example, when improvising a solo you will know which notes will sound good as you can hear them and maybe you will get lucky and hit a few that you intend to. Knowing theory will help you to understand why certain notes sound the way they do and allow you to have greater control of your note choices in the future.
#19
Quote by Bluesy...
This thread is why is say you shouldn't think when you play because if you have theory knowledge and you know how to play, they should go hand in hand without thinking. (that makes sense in my head). Listen to what you play and pick out the things you like. when you have the things you like, then string them together. Theory can only help with that. The problem would be to over think it and always follow the rules of theory, which is not always the best thing to do.

there are no rules of theory. and in fact, anything you play can be described using theory. theory is just about how we understand music. the "rules" people talk about are really just guidlines you can follow to make something you know will sound "good" or sound a certain way. no one said you cant go outside of these guidlines.

but yes, you shouldnt over think it. if you start thinking of theory as rules you need to follow, then its not going to sound as good.
#20
With theory, I think it really depends on where you are with it. I've heard alot of people say that theory is restricting them.

For example, if you just finished learning open chords and then look up a youtube video and try to learn about circle of fifths, you're going to be frustrated and confused. Just take it in stride and take it for what it's worth.

Alot of great players knew nothing about theory and alot of great players know all about theory. Some people have to rely on their knowledge of the fretboard more than others but if you feel it's restricing your creative thought, then just take a break or even better, start taking lessons so someone can explain to you in person to help you better understand
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#21
Quote by Blind In 1 Ear
anything you play can be described using theory. theory is just about how we understand music.

If you can understand this then hopefully you can free yourself of your self imposed prison.

All those "awesome" riffs you were jamming out before you knew theory still follow theory. It was just a matter of your theory knowledge not being advanced enough at the time (or maybe even now) to describe what was happening.

Keep learning your theory.

And keep being free with our playing.

As your theory knowledges advances what you are doing will start to clarify itself and your understanding will grow.
Si
#22
You could always use chromaticism for your riffs. No notes excluded.
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#23
Quote by Blind In 1 Ear
there are no rules of theory. and in fact, anything you play can be described using theory. theory is just about how we understand music. the "rules" people talk about are really just guidlines you can follow to make something you know will sound "good" or sound a certain way. no one said you cant go outside of these guidlines.

but yes, you shouldnt over think it. if you start thinking of theory as rules you need to follow, then its not going to sound as good.


Isn't that what i said? But you're right and that's what i meant
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#25
I probably don't need to add to this, but theory doesn't kill creativity, it enhances it, because it gives you greater understanding of what you're doing.
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#26
Quote by Sean0913
When IN theory, think of yourself as "safe". Theory helps us as musicians grow confident in learning to play always "safely". Call it a box, where within, we can confidently approach a given situation.

But theory, in showing us how to stay in the box can also show us where we've stepped OUTSIDE the box. This is where we can enter into a new unknown world of creativity. Theory is STILL there, the difference, is that you know the difference between being IN the box and out of the box.

So, lets then distill this information into a very easy concept, note wise.

1. Notes either CREATE tension, or RESOLVE tension.

So, now, with this information, there are NO wrong notes. Yes, that's what I said. You now have an unlimited palette of colors to compose any way you like, intelligently. So, now the test is, working within these parameters, start looking, instead of scales and chords, look at lack of tension (safe theory), coupled with tension (notes and such OUTSIDE the safe areas of theory). Learn to bring the two areas together, the light and the dark unknown.

A whole new world.
Some good ideas presented in a misguided way. A couple things to point out...

First, theory is a way of describing and understanding musical concepts. There is theory behind every note choice you could make. There is no IN and OUT of theory - I'm sorry but to say so is just plain wrong. Show me a concrete example of an actual piece of music that is supposed to be OUT of theory and I'll show you the theory behind it (actually I probably won't because I can't be bothered unless I dig the song but that's cause I'm lazy not cause there's no theory behind it).

Second, notes either CREATE tension, RESOLVE tension, or remain STATIC (by which I mean they neither create or resolve tension).

Finally, and this is a little bit related to the first thing...
So, now, with this information, there are NO wrong notes. Yes, that's what I said. You now have an unlimited palette of colors to compose any way you like, intelligently. So, now the test is, working within these parameters, start looking, instead of scales and chords, look at lack of tension (safe theory), coupled with tension (notes and such OUTSIDE the safe areas of theory. Learn to bring the two areas together, the light and the dark unknown.

This is good guidance I like what you're saying about thinking in terms of tension and lack of tension and thinking about creating a balance bringing together areas of light and dark. Music is about contrast and balance.

What is misguided about it is to describe the lack of tension as "safe theory" and the tension as "notes OUTSIDE the safe areas of theory". This implies theory only applies to the "safe" sounds a musician makes.

Music theory is all about analyzing and understanding the relationship between tension and it's release not just the resolve or safe aspects.

Theory is not a box as much as it is a language used to abstract musical concepts and present them in a way that can be discussed and/or analyzed. This allows us to communicate and understand music on a whole other level. Of course you need to marry the concepts to the music itself or there is no real point to it.

Theory can expose you to a world of new ideas but as you learn theory you have to learn the basics and attempt to marry the concepts you're learning (the theory) to the actual music itself (the sound).

As you're doing this it can sometimes "feel" as though you are "restricted" by music theory because you are restricting yourself to the small part of music theory you have learned and are able to apply with confidence.

The key is being able to recognize that you can't go "outside" theory. You can be as free and creative as you want and someone somewhere will be able to analyze it even if you can't right now. As your knowledge and understanding of theory expands you will get to the point where you realize theory is unlimited and so can not be limiting.

One good way to help you along the way is to keep a notebook and write down your musical ideas and observations using regular language. Describe details about important moves and what you hear in those moves. Ask yourself what works well in what contexts and why does it work well? Think about and listen for tension and resolve and about contrast and creating interest. Describe in your notebook how and what different chord movements do.

Also in the same notebook (or a different one) write out new theory you're learning. Then experiment with it and think about it and make notes regarding your thoughts and experimentation.

For example there are three key things working together that make a V7-I change so interesting. You might write all about it discussing each key point in your notebook then play with each idea individually to see what else you can do with it in different situations. This kind of approach can be a way of using theory to explore a musical landscape in ways you may never have thought of before.

You can hear something work and turn it into an abstract idea then analyze and dissect it to see what makes it work. From there you can start to play with it and use it in different contexts to see what else it can do with the same basic idea finding the limits of what sounds good to you. But you won't find the limits of theory because whatever you do there will be some theory behind it.

Of course there are lots of other ways to explore music, this is just one that directly uses theory to do so. In the end though it is all answerable to those holes on the sides of your head. Theory will never tell your ear what sounds good. Your ear tells you what sounds good or bad theory describes it. Theory is beyond good or bad. Always rely on your ear as the final judge when being creative.

So to belabour the point, don't play to the theory you know play to what sounds good to you. There will be some theory to explain it even if you don't know what it is.

Well, that's my mammoth post for the night.

Best of Luck.
Si
Last edited by 20Tigers at Dec 14, 2009,
#27
Why not experiment with someone else's deviations from conventional songwriting?

One example would be - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5dOI2MtvbA

A few years back I'd just always 'have a go' at doing different styles. So I'd try my hand at rockabilly or reggae, and the interpretations would be off, but they'd still be interesting and good, and would influence the next things I did.

There are lots of things you can do. There's no need to think outside the box, you can just not accept the box.
#28
These threads always crack me up.

Firstly, theory is descriptive. It's used to describe stuff, not tell you what to play. Everything in music can be described somewhat by theory.

Secondly, there are such things as methods of song writing. I think this is what OP wants to talk about. They're called conventions. Now, I bet half of you "indie" musicians who strive for "originality" are raging, how could you possibly apply a method or a scaffold to music? But I want you to stop and think for a minute. Why are some songs insanely popular, whilst others are frequently ignored? Why are we posting on a music forum whilst Lady GaGa is posting her songs to Vh1?

Because some things work in music and are naturally liked and some things aren't. You can have all the creativity you want and you'll still be writing only for yourself.

For instance, I'd like to draw your attention to a preschooler painting a picture. I'm sure the kid has lots of originality and creativity, the kid'll use all the pretty colours and paint things no man has ever seen before, but the kid will seldom be famous. Whereas a neo-renaissance painter has next to no originality, he just paints in the same style that went old over 300 years ago, but the painter will be making a bundle. Stop for a second and ask yourself why the kid will never make anything from its picture, yet the fraud will?

Because in ALL arts, there is more than just creativity. All arts are partially dependent on skill and skill can only be gathered through experience and guidance. The guidance you'd want in music are those song writing methods I mentioned before.

What I'm saying is this: there are wrong notes, there is a wrong way to write music, there are rules to music, creativity is only as important as skill, not everyone can write a good song (yet everyone can become a brilliant composer with time and then write a song).

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#29
Theory isn't killing your creativity. You either have creativity or you don't.

That's like and author saying that language (spelling, reading, grammer, etc...) is killing his ability to write.

Don't think, listen.
#30
I wouldn't say that theory in any way "kills" creativity, but when 1st studying theory one often does shift their focus. In some people this may indeed mean less focus on creativity. In most cases it's a temporary phase as they are taking in and making sense of the information.
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Last edited by GuitarMunky at Dec 14, 2009,
#31
Quote by Bluesy...
Isn't that what i said? But you're right and that's what i meant

well more or less i guess thats what you said, but you mentioned something about playing outside the rules. i was just pointing out that you cant really do that. theory isnt rules to begin with and anything you do can be described using theory. so you cant really play outside of what theory states. what you are really doing is just either not paying attention to theory, or perhaps your theory knowledge isnt as advanced as someone else.
#32
I wouldn't say that theory in any way "kills" creativity, but when 1st studying theory one often does shift their focus. In some people this may indeed mean less focus on creativity. In most cases it's a temporary phase as they are taking in and making sense of the information.


Truth! Don't worry threadstarter, the only reason you feel restricted now is because, well you are. The part of your mind which used to spend all it's time listening is now spent on the actual theoretical, interrelated parts of what you've been playing. It'll pass, and you'll be a better musician for it. Just remember to split up your time where sometimes you think with your newly discovered theory, and others with 'just' your ear. The two will come together very soon and you will be much better for it.

As a side note, make sure you do not neglect the ear training side of theory. Nomenclature is nice and all, but basic theory really becomes useful when it is coupled with a good ear.
#34
Quote by jackBrockin2
I've been studying a lot of theory lately just trying to figure out what is what on my own. I do okay, it interests me and I really like learning. I may not learn in the most proper fashion and I am sure there are more proper ways that would show me faster progress but hey, its trial and error. Now here is the thing I am all worried about learning how to play in key and all this other shit. And I feel like thinking of staying in key is almost confining me to strictly that. Before I even knew how to stay in key, it seemed as if my riffs were just more raw, as if I listened more to them and found the ones I liked instead of the ones I am told to play when theory teaches me to stay in key.

I guess maybe what I could work on is freestyling a riff, finding something I like...then examining it? figuring out which scale I unknowingly used for the riff and build off that?

any suggestions?

im about to just take a break from theory possibly


IMHO

Theory really does two things. Shows you where you should play if you want to stay in key, and helps you come back after getting lost.

Raw going out of key sound can be good, though eventually you want to resolve the tension and bring it back into the key.

You have a good idea, another one might be to pick some spots when to freestyle and when to return back into key. Use theory to figure out which chord progression to come back at and what scales to play over them.

Totally ignore all that when free-styling and play be ear and feel.

In other words, the theory is used to return back into the key.
Last edited by fx303 at Dec 19, 2009,
#35
If you play guitar for long enough, you'll pick up how music works anyway.

If you study theory, you can learn it faster and not have to reinvent the wheel.
#36
IF anything learning theory and analysing pieces gives you more tools to write with, before i learnt what a Neopolitan 6th was i'd never have thought to to have a bIIb ic V7 i progression.

It doesn't kill creativity, if you're not creative then you're not creative.
Last edited by griffRG7321 at Dec 19, 2009,