#1
Imagine you would meet this really good guitarist that plays in alternate tunings, has great techniquie and plays music that most people not are able to play. Imagine if you then would have found out that that person not has any clue at all about any theory and you would feel that you should tell that guitarist that it is important to learn the theory to also become a good musician, what arguments would you have used? Tell me some reasons to why someone that already plays good and has a perfect ear should learn music theory. Or would you think it not is nessecary to learn if you are able to play good? Just curious

Simply: If you already know how to play good but not are able to play with others and not have any theoretical knowledge, should that person learn theory? If so, why?
Last edited by Azhark at Aug 14, 2011,
#3
Personally, I don't think it is necessary for someone to know music theory unless they wish to go into a career that demands it like music for video games and movies. As far as just writing songs, as the saying goes "If it sounds good, it is good."

I'm a self taught musician, and I write (what I consider =p) some "good" progressive metal. I recently took a music theory class, and I got a D-... I chalk this up to a lot of musicians ego. If you're trying to convince a guitarist to get into theory than good luck, because the whole time I was in class all I was thinking was "This is stupid, I already know how to write music better than this" but there is an art to it. Ignorant? Yes, very.

Regardless, it can never hurt at all for someone to learn it.. I'm probably gunna re-take the course and see if I can't get a little bit better. Hell, maybe I'll actually learn the names of the scales I'm playing =p
#4
@GS LEAD 5 I didn't mean it in that way (sorry if I was unclear). I mean if that person self stated that he/she not have any theoretical knowledge. What would the best arguments to convince that person to learn?
Last edited by Azhark at Aug 13, 2011,
#5
These threads always seem like people are trying to convert people to their religion. He probably knows theory, at least in a good-ear sense, if he's as good as you say he is. Just because he can't necessarily articulate it doesn't mean he's stupid about it.

Just as well, you can't teach someone who doesn't want to learn. If you use note names and scale names around him and he gets used to it, or chooses to learn theory, then fantastic, but don't try to shove it down his throat. Unless he's becoming a symphonic or sessional musician, he doesn't really need to learn how to read music, for example. I've met people who can hear key and play in it well without knowing what it's called, and if this guy truly knows what he's doing in that sense, there's no point throwing theory at him because he just might not need it to be content with his playing.
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Last edited by Hail at Aug 13, 2011,
#6
Quote by Azhark
@GS LEAD 5 I didn't mean it in that way (sorry if I was unclear). I mean if that person self stated that he/she not have any theoretical knowledge. What would the best arguments to convince that person to learn?

Theory will help him write better, and understand what he is doing.

Playing guitar without knowing theory is like firing a gun without knowing how it works. When the gun jams, youre screwed.

Learning theory is like firing a gun after knowing it inside out, and knowing what situations what gun will work best.

In short, its not essential. But it will help him understand why something sounds good and why something doesnt.

And no, I dont mean reading scores. I have never bothered with it
But scales, modes, progressions etc, will help a lot in how he inteprets music and how he writes it.
Last edited by GS LEAD 5 at Aug 13, 2011,
#7
Quote by Hail
These threads always seem like people are trying to convert people to their religion. He probably knows theory, at least in a good-ear sense, if he's as good as you say he is. Just because he can't necessarily articulate it doesn't mean he's stupid about it.

Haha. I am.

No, but seriously. I haven't found the right words myself, since why I started learning it was because I heard that you "had" to learn it and that it just was an important part of learning the instrument. But I've later found out that not many of the guitarist that have inspired me to play really have any super deep theoretical knowledge. Now I'm talking about guitarists like Kirk Hammet, Dimebag Darrell, Eric Clapton, Tommy Emmanuel, Chet Atkins, Joe Robinson and other succesful musicians that have reached really far without being theoretical guru's, but just with playing music that people seem to enjoy.

Of course, the theory is probably not as vital in metal and blues music as it is in for example classical and jazz, but still. They are all acclaimed to be top notch guitarists. I need to convince myself as well. Or rather, I really don't know if I need to.
#8
Quote by Azhark
Haha. I am.

No, but seriously. I haven't found the right words myself, since why I started learning it was because I heard that you "had" to learn it and that it just was an important part of learning the instrument. But I've later found out that not many of the guitarist that have inspired me to play really have any super deep theoretical knowledge. Now I'm talking about guitarists like Kirk Hammet, Dimebag Darrell, Eric Clapton, Tommy Emmanuel, Chet Atkins, Joe Robinson and other succesful musicians that have reached really far without being theoretical guru's, but just with playing music that people seem to enjoy.

Of course, the theory is probably not as vital in metal and blues music as it is in for example classical and jazz, but still. They are all acclaimed to be top notch guitarists. I need to convince myself as well. Or rather, I really don't know if I need to.


You mentioned one end of the spectrum. You also have incredible guitarists like John Petrucci and Joe Satriani who know theory inside out.
Ultimately, do what works best for you. But either way, IMHO a basic knowledge of scales and how to improvise and write using scales, and knowledge of time signatures is necessary.
EDIT: All the guitarists you mentioned have at least basic knowledge of scales.

Ultimately, theory is a means not an end. Its a tool for channeling your creativity into music.
Last edited by GS LEAD 5 at Aug 13, 2011,
#9
You do not need to understand music theory to be a good musician. By this, I mean that you do not have to know the academic side of musical theory, as that is nothing more then a means to teach and anylize music, to understand music in a scientific sense. But you do not have to understand music scientifically in order to make use of common musical processes in your music.

For instance, I cannot define for you what a prepositional phrase is (to choose a random basic grammatical concept). Yet, although I have no idea what that concept means, I bet I use prepositional phrases all the time in my speech and writing. I may even be using one as we speek. Just because I cannot explain what the definition of certain grammatical concepts are doesn't mean I am a terrible writer or speaker. In fact, I consider myself a good writer (at least for someone who doesn't do more then write papers for college, emails, and UG posts).

Music works similarly, there is no need for some people to consciously study the academic/theoretical aspects of music. For some people, these concepts come naturally on their own, and it does not matter whether their names for those concepts match the theoretical name for the concept, all that matters is can he or she use musical concepts to accomplish a goal. Just like I can use grammatical structures to accomplish the creation of a sentence.
#10
Even if you have a perfect ear you still need to be able to communicate ideas quickly with other musicians. Things like song structure, what key something is in, time signatures...

And in my experience, anyone with an good ear can see the value in putting names to sounds.

If you need an argument to convince someone to learn music theory, say,

"Ok, 12 bar in G, I'll take first chorus, start on the V... 1, 2, 3, 4..."

This works best if you do it in front of lots of people.

Tommy Emmanuel


Tommy SERIOUSLY knows his shit. I don't know where you got the impression he doesn't.
#11
Well if they are able to jam and do everything a musician does (compose music), I don't see it as a problem. The only problem is they will just have to work so much harder in order to be able to do that, basically discover music theory themselves. Why do that when you have hundreds of years of experience from past musicians to learn from? But if they choose to not learn it, they should still be able to jam, improv, compose, the things musicians do. If not, they should work towards that, whichever way they choose.

Most often though, if you don't know even basic theory, you have a lot of trial and error-ing to do. Also knowing music theory, even having a degree in music does not guarantee that you will be a great musician, although chances are you will be a good one.
Last edited by zincabopataurio at Aug 13, 2011,
#12
Thanks for the replies everyone!

Tommy SERIOUSLY knows his shit. I don't know where you got the impression he doesn't.

He knows his theory, but he himself says that he not is a theoretical pro. He have for example never had any formal teaching and don't know how to read sheet music, but he have snapped up stuff on the way. Check this out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4h3zuINqBo&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMEhGNGgJMc&feature=channel_video_title
#13
Quote by Azhark
Now I'm talking about guitarists like Kirk Hammet, Dimebag Darrell, Eric Clapton, Tommy Emmanuel, Chet Atkins, Joe Robinson and other succesful musicians that have reached really far without being theoretical guru's, but just with playing music that people seem to enjoy.


What's your evidence that these people don't know theory? I have no idea whether any of them do - I don't actually listen to any of them very much - but it seems unlikely that Chet Atkins, who played country & jazz guitar, could play the fiddle, was the tp Nashville producer for years, could read sheet music etc., knew no theory. Similarly, Clapton at the very least understands theory as it relates to blues progressions, scales, chord tone soloing etc. and freepower's already pointed out that TE really knows his stuff.

Sorry, I've just realised that you said they weren't "theoretical gurus", not that they "didn't know theory at all", but a lot of people on this forum don't seem to realise that if you know a few scales or how to form some chords you already know some theory and so long as you don't have the this-is-going-to-make-my-music-boring mindset, learning more is only going to make your music better, more inventive. easier/quicker to compose, as well as making it easier to learn covers (because you can see the bigger picture easier and remember songs and sections as variations on progressions/scales you understand) and allow you to communicate musical ideas with other people more easily.

Now, as someone will no doubt point out, people with a relatively low level of theoretical knowledge have still made awesome music. The point, though, is that ^^ - learning more theory is only going to be beneficial, so if you're low on knowledge but already composing great music (like the guy TSer is talking about), the music is only going to get better with more knowledge, along with all those other communication/cover-learning fringe benefits.
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#14
Quote by Paramecium302
Personally, I don't think it is necessary for someone to know music theory unless they wish to go into a career that demands it like music for video games and movies. As far as just writing songs, as the saying goes "If it sounds good, it is good."


This.

There are several ways that people can learn to play their instruments, non of which are strictly the correct way, what is right for one person is not always right for someone else.

Some of the most famous and criticaly acclaimed guitarists that ever lived didn't know much about music theory, they just played all day every day until they became phenominal at what they do.

Quote by Freepower
Even if you have a perfect ear you still need to be able to communicate ideas quickly with other musicians. Things like song structure, what key something is in, time signatures...


That's easy, you just play something to someone else who watches what your fingers are doing while you play it. A good 'ear' player will pick up on what you are doing really quickly and is more likely to add his own improvisational touches to the tune you are working on, which, to me, is better than sticking to something written down and rigid that never evolves.
Last edited by SlackerBabbath at Aug 14, 2011,
#15
Quote by SlackerBabbath
This.

There are several ways that people can learn to play their instruments, non of which are strictly the correct way, what is right for one person is not always right for someone else.

Some of the most famous and criticaly acclaimed guitarists that ever lived didn't know much about music theory, they just played all day every day until they became phenominal at what they do.


That's easy, you just play something to someone else who watches what your fingers are doing while you play it. A good 'ear' player will pick up on what you are doing really quickly and is more likely to add his own improvisational touches to the tune you are working on, which, to me, is better than sticking to something written down and rigid that never evolves.



Ah yes, that's why all the jazz greats (you know, the masters of improvisation) didn't know any theory, right?
#16
Quote by Azhark
Imagine you would meet this really good guitarist that plays in alternate tunings, has great techniquie and plays music that most people not are able to play. Imagine if you then would have found out that that person not has any clue at all about any theory and you would feel that you should tell that guitarist that it is important to learn the theory to also become a good musician, what arguments would you have used?


I wouldn't use any.........

If I met someone like the person you described, and they asked me what I thought about them learning theory, I'd share my thoughts on the benefits, but to preach to them that they should learn it. I don't advocate that. I consider that to be foolish, and arrogant.


Quote by Azhark

Tell me some reasons to why someone that already plays good and has a perfect ear should learn music theory.

There are none, but there are plenty of reasons that they may want to study it.

Quote by Azhark

Or would you think it not is nessecary to learn if you are able to play good? Just curious


It's not necessary period.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Aug 14, 2011,
#17
Quote by Keth
Ah yes, that's why all the jazz greats (you know, the masters of improvisation) didn't know any theory, right?


The jazz greats new theory but they said learn the theory then forget all about it. which basically meant internalize the theory until you don't have to think about it when improvising

Theory explains in words the abstract nature of music, which the ear understands intuitively. Theory helps communicate the music in words. So theory is not a must but a great tool to really understand what you are playing and to create a common ground for communication with other musicians.
#18
@GuitarMunky Stop messing with me since I not am able to formulate me 100% in english. I am swedish and that should be an enough excuse to the language problem, but if you're into correcting people:

Quote by GuitarMunky
I wouldn't use any.........

You are using your ellipsis wrong. Many people find that extremely annoying.

Oh, and to assume that other people are foolish and arrogant only makes others think so about you.
#19
Quote by Azhark
@GuitarMunky Stop messing with me since I not am able to formulate me 100% in english. I am swedish and that should be an enough excuse to the language problem, but if you're into correcting people:


You are using your ellipsis wrong. Many people find that extremely annoying.

Oh, and to assume that other people are foolish and arrogant only makes others think so about you.


I wasn't messing with, or correcting anybody, and I made no assumptions.........

I was answering the questions you asked. I'm sorry that they weren't the answers you were looking for.

If you really want to inspire someone to learn music theory, you might consider following your convictions and inspiring them with the end result. I'm sure that if the person you referred to heard you play, he would be interested in knowing how you got there, which would potentially lead to him developing an interest in theory. I feel like that seed would be quicker to grow and bear fruit than preaching that you "should learn theory".
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Last edited by GuitarMunky at Aug 14, 2011,
#20
Quote by GuitarMunky
I wasn't messing with, or correcting anybody, and I made no assumptions.........

I was answering the questions you asked. I'm sorry that they weren't the answers you were looking for.

If you really want to inspire someone to learn music theory, you might consider following your convictions and inspiring them with the end result. I'm sure that if the person you referred to heard you play, he would be interested in knowing how you got there, which would potentially lead to him developing an interest in theory. I feel like that seed would be quicker to grow and bear fruit than preaching that you "should learn theory".


What ever you say.

I agree with you. I might have formulated me wrong in the OP, but what I wanted to hear was reasons to why you should/not should learn theory if you already play good (a player who's accompanying himself in this case).
#21
Quote by Azhark
What ever you say.

I agree with you. I might have formulated me wrong in the OP, but what I wanted to hear was reasons to why you should/not should learn theory if you already play good (a player who's accompanying himself in this case).



Well, assuming you know some theory you could play for your friend. The end result of what you can do with that knowledge as demonstrated by your application of it on the instrument is surely something that could be seen by someone else as a convincing reason to get into it.

So play for him, then explain how you got there and how learning music theory was part of it. I don't see what else you can do. You can inspire & motivate people, but you can't make decisions for them.
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Last edited by GuitarMunky at Aug 14, 2011,
#22
Quote by GuitarMunky
You can inspire & motivate people, but you can't make decisions for them.


Yeah, it was more towards that area I wanted to go. To find "arguments" to inspire the person to learn. Thank you for taking your time and replying btw!
#23
Quote by SlackerBabbath

That's easy, you just play something to someone else who watches what your fingers are doing while you play it. A good 'ear' player will pick up on what you are doing really quickly and is more likely to add his own improvisational touches to the tune you are working on, which, to me, is better than sticking to something written down and rigid that never evolves.


I've personally found that learning more theory has helped my ear (giving me a better framework to remember the relationships of the sounds I'm hearing), which has in turn helped me remember the theory better (because I'm better at hearing the differences between the concepts I read about), which in turn has helped my ear...etc.

It's really not a 'vs' thing - not 'theory vs. creativity/originality' or 'theory vs. ear'. I did go through a phase where knowing a bit of theory was restricting me in some ways because I was using go-to chords/scales/note choices based on what chords were strictly in the key I was playing in, what notes were chord tones of the harmony etc., but once I started getting over that I realised that the theory just describes the music and helps you in pretty much every single sphere - communicating the music to other people, helping you compose much faster because you can relate the sounds you hear (or the sounds in your head) to concepts you know, learning large amounts of music because you can more easily see the songs as based around certain progressions or in certains keys with x and y accidentals etc...it's been said before, but theory - so long as you don't get caught up in the false cliche noted above - will do nothing but help you with pretty much any aspect of music and the basic stuff that most rock-based guitarists would need to get that help really isn't too difficult or time-consuming to learn.
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#24
Quote by SlackerBabbath
is better than sticking to something written down and rigid that never evolves.

I take issue with this. Just because it is written down in no way means it does not evolve. Musical performance is much more complex then the notes you play, as I'm sure you yourself would agree with. Personal interpretations require extreme subtlety and, on first glance, you might not know what it is about a great performance that distinguishes it (although you certainly do notice that it is distinguished) from a good one. Since our perspectives on art are constantly evolving, this means, too, that our ways of communicating music must constantly evolve to continue creating effective performances. This means that music that might seem "written down and rigid" actually has much fluidity to it.
#25
Tell them not to bother. One less "wat mode shud i use to sound emotionful" thread to deal with as far as I'm concerned.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#26
That's easy, you just play something to someone else who watches what your fingers are doing while you play it. A good 'ear' player will pick up on what you are doing really quickly and is more likely to add his own improvisational touches to the tune you are working on, which, to me, is better than sticking to something written down and rigid that never evolves.


I don't know if you're familiar with the entire practice of jazz, but starting with a written or prebaked form hasn't stumped them.

Not to mention, I don't have time to play through things with people all the time. I got up recently at a jam session and what happened was I said

"Jazz Blues in Dm, i i iv i IV V I Valt, half time feel" -

Which ended up a lot freer than it would have if I had played everyone my parts and asked them to figure out something by ear. Not to mention, there was a point in the jam where the bassist shouted "Ebm!" and we came in on the next one, altogether.

I'm not saying a pure "ear" player couldn't have dealt with the situation almost as well, but they'd had to have excellent ears and be pretty quick with the key change. Not to mention the whole thing took 10 seconds instead of 10 minutes.

You need good ears, but you can't expect people to work around you. I know people who won't gig with people who can't read, because you can't have 5 guys in a room ready to go and the 6th guy is like "play these changes through once and I can get it".


And finally, I've only known one person with ears good enough he didn't need a little helping hand from theory, a lot of people are just lazy (or scared and confused) and say they don't need it.

He knows his theory, but he himself says that he not is a theoretical pro. He have for example never had any formal teaching and don't know how to read sheet music, but he have snapped up stuff on the way.


I know he has a brilliant command of chord construction and voicing, he definitely has the essentials, whether he can score for orchestra or not.

A lot of professionals say they "don't know any theory" but even they know some snippets - if you check out the book "secrets from the masters", you'll notice even a lot of guys who "don't know theory" still know terms about form, and still usually know what their chords are called and a few scales and how to move them around.

There's not much more I would say is essential but that much I would expect from any competent guitarist.

Sorry if I seem a bit of a dick in this post, am tired. Apologies.
#27
^ most people have good enough ears, it's just that they don't listen.
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