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#1
So a little back story that my question stems from, I'm trying to put a band together, so far I got a singer and possibly a drummer, not too bad. Yesterday the singer and I met up with a bassist that was interested in joining. He was a music theory "nut" (I guess you could put it that way), he started playing classical instruments then switched over to bass and still takes music theory classes. Anyway I thought it went great but apparently it did not. He texted me today saying how he wouldn't join the band because I didn't know any music theory and before I attempted to start a band I should learn.

I've been playing guitar for 6 years, so I'm pretty confident in my abilities. I'm definitely not a music theory expert but I do know basic stuff like scales, etc. and I can read music somewhat.

tl;dr: How much theory should I really know to start a band? I was comfortable with the amount I know but now I'm thinking twice. Am I just letting this asshole's comments get under my skin?
Q is for Cheese
#2
None, but it's always better to know theory than to not know theory.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
-Chick Corea
#3
Zero. That bass guy needs a reality check.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#4
I'm a huge theory freak, I know all the scales, modes, octotonic, whole-scale and tritone dominant substitute and whatsoever, but that bass player is completely wrong. Theory can help you a lot but it has never been, and will never be mandatory.

But if you're in a prog band I would really, really advice you to learn it but for any rock/metal band (say Foo Fighters to Pearl Jam to Deftones) you don't really need it
#5
All of it.

Kidding.

It's not needed, but theory helps communicate your ideas and what you're playing. Instead saying you're playing "3 on the E string, 5 on the A string, 5 on the D string, 4 on the G string, 3 on the B string and 3 on the high E string", you could just say you're playing "a barred G major chord".
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#6
none

but it doesnt hurt to know the names of at least the chords and a few scales

but anyone who wouldnt join a band because you dont know theory is an idiot
#7
As everybody else has said, you don't need to know any, but every bit that you learn will be good for you.

As for that bassist, it seems everybody else here is a dick, but I can see his point. It's hard to be in a band with people that aren't on the same level as you.
#9
he's not wrong for not joining, but he's wrong in saying you need to know theory to start a band.
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#10
You'd be surprised at how many pro musicians don't know a lick of theory. They play by ear and it's all the theory they need.
#11
Dude sounds like a dick.

That said, I probably wouldn't join a band with people who couldn't talk theory, myself. I don't think you need to know traditional tonicization patterns in late classical ternary forms, but it helps a lot if you can discuss music in terms of harmony, rhythm, and form. It's just really hard to communicate ideas if you can't talk say what chords you want to play, for how long, and on what beats you intend to change. Being in a group with people who can all solfege is also very convenient for communicating melodic ideas.

Knowing about voice leading and harmony in an ensemble will also do great things for your playing and writing on your own.

Quote by KG6_Steven
You'd be surprised at how many pro musicians don't know a lick of theory. They play by ear and it's all the theory they need.

Like who?
Last edited by cdgraves at Apr 7, 2013,
#12
definitely not none. the reality is that to have a remotely successful band, you need to have some basic theory. nothing fancy, but knowing some chords, scales and the like is pretty much a necessity. you don't need tonnes, but you definitely need to know what you're doing a little bit
Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things...
#13
As a "music theory nut", it really helps to know some basic stuff (intervals and chords), unless the rest of the band writes all the music and spoon-feeds you tabs. If someone says a progression goes, say, Am Bb F C Dm, you should probably know how that'll sound.
Beyond that, if it sounds good, who cares?
#14
Well, i think what the bass player meant and in that case i would agree, you need to be able to talk the music language. Or at least understand it by hearing. For example, when one of you says "ok this is a riff in A minor, goes from Am to F then E, try to accompany." You should be able to know what to play, at least hear what to play. Be that familiar with music and your instrument. Otherwise itd be pretty hard to communicate within the band, wouldnt it?
#15
Quote by KinkyC
Am I just letting this asshole's comments get under my skin?

Duh..., well yeah...

With that said, playing the bass is a bit more dependent on theory than say, rhythm guitar.

The guitar player needs to know how to hit an A barre chord. But a bass player should know the names of the notes in that A chord and their relation to the key being played, with both chord and scale degrees.

For example, say the guitars are pounding away on "A5" (power chords). The bass guy should that the 3rd of that A chord is "C#", and that if you want a whole triad, he needs to play a C# on his bass. And if you want an A minor triad, that 3rd needs to be flatted, so he's gotta play a "C" natural.

It helps a guitar player to know the same things, but there's a lot more wiggle and cheat room the guitar.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Apr 8, 2013,
#16
The thing is, theory is not hearing. Knowing how Am F E sounds like isn't knowing theory. But knowing what Am F E means is knowing theory. It's not just a bunch of chords, the chords have a function i-bVI-V, that's knowing theory.

But yeah, it's easier to communicate with the band members if you know what it means if somebody says "the song is in the key of E".

But in a band aural skills are much more important. A good sense of rhythm is also very important.

And I don't see a point in not starting a band. I mean, you can learn the stuff while you are in the band. No band will sound great when they start. You can just have fun and jam some songs. You need to learn to play together first. If the bassist knows so much theory, why couldn't he teach you some basic things? Me and our band's guitarist talk a lot about music theory.

I learned a lot when I joined a band. It really helped my ear and "jamming skills". I think playing in a band is the best way to get better in these skills. It's a very practical way to learn necessary things fast. You won't learn to play in a band any other way than by playing in a band.

Has the bassist even played in a band before?
Quote by AlanHB
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Apr 8, 2013,
#17
Band members need to be all arounda certain level, and if theory is his thing, he'll get frustrated when he can't talk theory with the rest. Probably best that he finds people more into that. He's ignorant and full of himself if he thinks its necessary for starting a band though,.
#18
Quote by KinkyC
So a little back story that my question stems from, I'm trying to put a band together, so far I got a singer and possibly a drummer, not too bad. Yesterday the singer and I met up with a bassist that was interested in joining. He was a music theory "nut" (I guess you could put it that way), he started playing classical instruments then switched over to bass and still takes music theory classes. Anyway I thought it went great but apparently it did not. He texted me today saying how he wouldn't join the band because I didn't know any music theory and before I attempted to start a band I should learn.

I've been playing guitar for 6 years, so I'm pretty confident in my abilities. I'm definitely not a music theory expert but I do know basic stuff like scales, etc. and I can read music somewhat.

tl;dr: How much theory should I really know to start a band? I was comfortable with the amount I know but now I'm thinking twice. Am I just letting this asshole's comments get under my skin?

At first it sounded a little like Led Zep. Jimmy Page didn't know any theory found a drummer and singer that both got by on raw feel, then got John Paul Jones in on bass. John Paul Jones had a good foundation in classical music and a solid grasp music theory. I guess it's a good thing for John Paul Jones that he wasn't as dimwitted as the bassist you interviewed. Amount of sleep to lose over what that guy said = 0
Si
#19
Quote by cdgraves
Dude sounds like a dick.

That said, I probably wouldn't join a band with people who couldn't talk theory, myself. I don't think you need to know traditional tonicization patterns in late classical ternary forms, but it helps a lot if you can discuss music in terms of harmony, rhythm, and form. It's just really hard to communicate ideas if you can't talk say what chords you want to play, for how long, and on what beats you intend to change. Being in a group with people who can all solfege is also very convenient for communicating melodic ideas.

Knowing about voice leading and harmony in an ensemble will also do great things for your playing and writing on your own.


Like who?

It does makes things a lot easier. I play in two bands; one of which features musicians who have a pretty good knowledge of theory, and one in which I'm the only one with much theory knowledge. It's far easier to communicate ideas in the former, and when, say, the other guitarist solos, I can just say "F Minor!" Or something of the like. Whereas in the latter band, it's harder to teach the other guitarist riffs in person, as we have to go by fret number rather than notes, which is a lot more difficult.

Of course, you don't need that much theory, essentially you just need to know chords, keys, notes, and intervals, and you should be able to get by. Some people get by with just a good ear, but that's it: few musicians below the pro level have good ears, and they'll need theory to compensate. Many musicians see pros going without theory and eschew it as well, not understanding that you need a good ear to compensate.
#20
Quote by Withorwithout
Well, i think what the bass player meant and in that case i would agree, you need to be able to talk the music language. Or at least understand it by hearing. For example, when one of you says "ok this is a riff in A minor, goes from Am to F then E, try to accompany." You should be able to know what to play, at least hear what to play. Be that familiar with music and your instrument. Otherwise itd be pretty hard to communicate within the band, wouldnt it?


I agree it would be hard to communicate with someone who didn't know notes, but I do know the notes. As I said in the OP I'm not an expert but I know my notes, chords, scales, etc.

Quote by MaggaraMarine

Has the bassist even played in a band before?


Nope
Q is for Cheese
#21
Quote by KinkyC
I agree it would be hard to communicate with someone who didn't know notes, but I do know the notes. As I said in the OP I'm not an expert but I know my notes, chords, scales, etc.


Nope

OK, then he doesn't know anything about playing in a band. To play your favorite songs with a band you don't need to know any theory. And I would suggest to start with some basic songs, and after you have learned to play together, start writing your own stuff if you want. Playing in a band is about good sense of rhythm and listening to each other. It has very little to do with knowing the theory. Tell him about Jimi Hendrix for example. He wasn't good at theory but he played well. And you know more than enough stuff to start playing in a band. If you both have no experience about playing in a band, you are both at the same level.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

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#22
Maybe I should revise my answer, some good points have been made above. You should know chords and names of chords to pick up songs quickly and communicate them to your bandmates. You'll generally pick up keys along the way. If you are a lead player in an originals band you should know your scales.

Otherwise as noted by TS the bassist has never been in a band before, so he has no right to say he's of a higher level. You can only get better at playing with bands by playing with bands.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#23
The bass player is a moron. Yes, you need to know enough basic theory to communicate chords and riff ideas to bandmates and so on. However, you don't need to essentially have a university level understanding of music theory. Tell the bass player that he should 1) learn to be more polite and 2) form his own band and be successful at it before he talks shit. He sounds like he has no idea of the reality of a band situation. Hell, if music theory is the requirement to form a band, then 90% of the bands of the 1900s and into the 2000s (from the blues/early Jazz guys to the rock bands of every decade since the '50s)...none of those bands would have formed.

Music theory is a tool; it is NOT a requirement. Although, it might be a requirement if you want to play progressive or technical music.
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Apr 8, 2013,
#24
You know how Periphery's songs are all technical and complicated and shit? Bulb has said he doesn't know any theory at all.

Theory is really useful if you write music, of any kind. Knowing, at least, what all the intervals sound like, will save a lot of guesswork and make it really easy to write down ideas as you come up with them. But again, not everyone needs that. I've watched screencasts of Big Chocolate making music, and he comes up with all his melodies by trial and error on a piano roll in Logic. And this guy's had his music used in a trailer for a Jason Statham movie.
#25
It all really depends. Neither Hendrix nor any of the Beatles could read music, and well....look at what they became. However randy Rhoads (no introduction needed) was a devout classical guitarist and incorporated much of that into his music.

I for one have been playing for a little over two years now and am glad that I learned to read sheet music. However I also read tabs and pick up things pretty quickly just by watching somebody play it (live or youtube cover).

Basically the more you know the better off you'll be. Learning more can't hurt you (unless of course the information is wrong!) It's best to get a good ground foundation in guitar; of various styles, genres, acoustics and electrics. What has helped me a lot (and saved me a lot of money) is learning about guitars themselves. Paying your local guitar shop to string your guitar for you is a load of crap. The same goes for changing pickups or other parts. The only thing that I would even consider taking to the shop is to get the body painted or refinished (I'm no good with chemicals :p)

The more you know!
#26
Look at like this:

If someone says "This is a ii V I in Eb" and then plays it a couple times, can you pick it up and jam? Can you hear and play over a big dramatic V7?

That's about where'd I'd put the minimum for my own musical buddies - being able to tell what's happening in the music without having to explain which chord is which and when things are changing.
#27
As much as it takes for you to play with others that need you to know it. I think it's essential, if you want to walk into virtually any musical situation and be prepared o face whatever comes your way. I can do it, and our students can do it.

Look at it this way, anyone can build a crude shelter using a hammer and nails and enough plywood boards. But if you wanna build a home and youre just not naturally gifted, you're probably going to need more of a foundation in building and things like municipal codes. So the idea is, what are you after? Many people's understanding resembles the shelter with plywood boards. It works and is functional. Some even get lucky along the way.

Best,

Sean


Quote by KinkyC
So a little back story that my question stems from, I'm trying to put a band together, so far I got a singer and possibly a drummer, not too bad. Yesterday the singer and I met up with a bassist that was interested in joining. He was a music theory "nut" (I guess you could put it that way), he started playing classical instruments then switched over to bass and still takes music theory classes. Anyway I thought it went great but apparently it did not. He texted me today saying how he wouldn't join the band because I didn't know any music theory and before I attempted to start a band I should learn.

I've been playing guitar for 6 years, so I'm pretty confident in my abilities. I'm definitely not a music theory expert but I do know basic stuff like scales, etc. and I can read music somewhat.

tl;dr: How much theory should I really know to start a band? I was comfortable with the amount I know but now I'm thinking twice. Am I just letting this asshole's comments get under my skin?
#28
I think there's nothing to discuss in this thread any more. The bassist is an idiot and has no experience in playing with a band so he knows nothing about it. And I think TS knows enough stuff. He has been playing for 6 years and knows notes, chords, scales and stuff. I think that's enough. (When I started my first band, I was much less experienced than TS.)

Also cdgraves asked: "Can you hear and play over a big dramatic V7?"

This doesn't have anything to do with theory. It has a lot more to do with ear training. If you have a good ear, you can play what you hear and that's all you need to do. I'm sure that even if you don't know theory, you can hear that the chord is dramatic and can play something dramatic over it.

Also, I wouldn't worry about these things. You'll learn them when you just play with your band. You don't need to know them in advance. Just go and jam with your band. That's the best way to learn to play with a band.

/Thread
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Apr 9, 2013,
#29
I look now for musians who know music theory because of time constraits. Jamming once a week is far more productive if you can communicate music when you are not together with instruments.

That's however a select situation.

I knew no theory 6 years ago when I got onstage with 2 rappers and a dj.

Well we made an awesome jam for an hour long in front of 100 ppland everyone liked it.

I know this.. music is first and foremost a journey more enjoyed with focus on taking leaps and a sense of exploration.

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#30
Quote by KinkyC
So a little back story that my question stems from, I'm trying to put a band together, so far I got a singer and possibly a drummer, not too bad. Yesterday the singer and I met up with a bassist that was interested in joining. He was a music theory "nut" (I guess you could put it that way), he started playing classical instruments then switched over to bass and still takes music theory classes. Anyway I thought it went great but apparently it did not. He texted me today saying how he wouldn't join the band because I didn't know any music theory and before I attempted to start a band I should learn.

I've been playing guitar for 6 years, so I'm pretty confident in my abilities. I'm definitely not a music theory expert but I do know basic stuff like scales, etc. and I can read music somewhat.

tl;dr: How much theory should I really know to start a band? I was comfortable with the amount I know but now I'm thinking twice. Am I just letting this asshole's comments get under my skin?


At first that bassist seemed like an exact description of me but then.....lol

In all technicality you dont have to know a single drop of music theory. It just helps. That bassist dude probably knows that but was looking for an excuse to not play with you guys. Thats how i see it.

If youve been playing guitar for 6 years dont trip keep your band together and find another bassist, its best for all
#31
just fyi pretty much everyone i've met who's been a self-described "theory nut" or "theory freak" or some other bullshit has had little knowledge outside the realm of pointlessly rattling off scale and mode names and been completely underwhelming when it came time to apply anything practically

probably best to not think twice about this guy and leave him to spend his nights masturbating as he recites the modes of the melodic minor scale
#32
I think the dude's currently choosing his band members. There's no sense in wasting time with people who are incompatible for any reason.

Quote by MaggaraMarine

Also cdgraves asked: "Can you hear and play over a big dramatic V7?"

This doesn't have anything to do with theory. It has a lot more to do with ear training. If you have a good ear, you can play what you hear and that's all you need to do. I'm sure that even if you don't know theory, you can hear that the chord is dramatic and can play something dramatic over it.

/Thread


1) That's exactly the point: if someone can't spot a basic dominant and deal with it appropriately, they are probably not going to keep up with musicians who are practiced in it. The "dramatic dominant" is just an example, but it's probably the most common major change that most people will have to deal with in a song.

2) You can't get far into ear training without knowing any theory. Plenty of people can identify the V in a song, whether or not they know what's it called. But far fewer actually know how to work with it melodically or rhythmically.

Actually dealing with harmonic context is not something amateur musicians are known for doing well. Bluesy Pentatonic minor over a V-i gets old really fast, and that's about as sophisticated as most guitarists will ever get, whether or not they realize that's what they're playing.

If someone can sound great just by ear, sure, awesome. But what matters is how they sound, and the vast majority of people don't get to a high level of playing without knowing a thing or two about music theory.
Last edited by cdgraves at Apr 11, 2013,
#33
Quote by cdgraves
I think the dude's currently choosing his band members. There's no sense in wasting time with people who are incompatible for any reason.


1) That's exactly the point: if someone can't spot a basic dominant and deal with it appropriately, they are probably not going to keep up with musicians who are practiced in it. The "dramatic dominant" is just an example, but it's probably the most common major change that most people will have to deal with in a song.

2) You can't get far into ear training without knowing any theory. Plenty of people can identify the V in a song, whether or not they know what's it called. But far fewer actually know how to work with it melodically or rhythmically.

Actually dealing with harmonic context is not something amateur musicians are known for doing well. Bluesy Pentatonic minor over a V-i gets old really fast, and that's about as sophisticated as most guitarists will ever get, whether or not they realize that's what they're playing.

If someone can sound great just by ear, sure, awesome. But what matters is how they sound, and the vast majority of people don't get to a high level of playing without knowing a thing or two about music theory.

Yeah, you have a point.

But what sounds good is subjective. Maybe bluesy pentatonic minor over a V-i sounds good to the guitarist who plays it, I don't know. But to start a band you don't need to know how to play over a V-i. It's of course good to know but it doesn't mean you shouldn't start a band if you don't know how to play over a V-i. I mean, you don't even need to play solos. And usually when you start a band, first you play some covers. You only need some theory knowledge if you start writing your own songs.

And yeah, of course knowing theory helps you in ear training. But many "legendary" guitarists (Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page for example) weren't good at theory. Though I'm sure they knew some chord and note names and stuff. And I'm pretty sure every guitarist knows some theory.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#34
Quote by innovine
Band members need to be all arounda certain level, and if theory is his thing, he'll get frustrated when he can't talk theory with the rest. Probably best that he finds people more into that. He's ignorant and full of himself if he thinks its necessary for starting a band though,.


Yup, i was going to say something like this.

If everyone in the band is good with theory, it will work out. At the same time, if everyone in the band is more of a feeling/play by ear kind of musician, it will still work, but the communication within the band will be different.

Theory always helps, and he was probably a bit of a dick for just abandoning you pretty much straight away, usually if i'm in a band with people at different levels of understanding, or people who take different approaches, we usually just try to patiently work it out, and it usually comes together in the end.
WHOMP

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#35
Seems to me a lot depends on the type of music being played. I play fairly often with a bluegrass "jam" group and theory doesn't get broached much beyond "what key are we playing in?" These are mostly 3-4 chord (and first-position chord at that) songs and everybody will take a "break" if they like... Not much theory involved.
Same for most blues jamming.
However, if you're going to be playing jazz....Better know your stuff.
#36
1) for a band, there is absolutely no need for theory, if they want chord names and things, tell them to shove it and play it out for them. thats why we have ears thats how we make music and thats how we are supposed to communicate. If someone wants you to change from a I to a minor VI on that beat of that bar, he or she should physically play it and show you. thats band stuff. dont even consider being in a band with someone who would write a few letters and numbers over physically playing it, straight up. its your band anyway, who is he to tell you what to do? dont let him get to you.

what follows is the most important thing im going to write, if theres one thing you should pick up, its this.

im assuming that you're going to do originals, because a cover band would have absolutely no need for theory. music theory is like a palette of colors. obviously, having more colors helps the painter, it gives him or her more to work with.
knowing music theory gives you more to work with.
but picasso could probably do a better work in black and white than i could do with all the colors in the world.
the canvas, the palette and the brush are simply the tools. you decide what to do.
this is why music theory, while helpful, is not a requirement for a band setting, and this is why many famous artists and musical geniuses have rudimentary theory knowledge, but still write beautiful music.
id also like you to know that most of a good song, for an audience, assuming you are not playing technical brutal death metal, will be in the lyrics, and music theory doesnt cover that. some of the greatest musicians were fundamentally great poets and visionaries - kurt
cobain, john lennon etc.

finally, for a band, how you play live is a huge factor, which again music theory completely neglects. this is an aspect that can be practiced, but must not be forgotten.

(exceptions go for certain types of bands where everybodys a proficient musician and nobody knows what song theyre going to do before they come to practice. then people hand out the sheets, you get reading and work. im also assuming you have a good ear, having played for 6 years. you can improv, you know what to do when this progression is played)


2) learn music theory for yourself, it helps you x9999 in many ways. every new scale you learn is a whole new library of sound for you. it adds depth to your playing. everyone wants and needs more depth. its practically necessary in a professional environment. perfect your sight reading skills and stuff.
Last edited by pushkar000 at Apr 11, 2013,
#37
I don't understand all of the comments here that are explaining how useful music theory is, but then insulting this guy for wanting to play with somebody who is on the same level as him at the same time.
#38
Quote by innovine
Band members need to be all arounda certain level, and if theory is his thing, he'll get frustrated when he can't talk theory with the rest. Probably best that he finds people more into that. He's ignorant and full of himself if he thinks its necessary for starting a band though,.

And why does everyone need to be at the same level for a band?

Quote by Macabre_Turtle
I don't understand all of the comments here that are explaining how useful music theory is, but then insulting this guy for wanting to play with somebody who is on the same level as him at the same time.

Because the bass player basically implied that you need theory to start a band. History has shown us that this is NOT true.

Now, for certain genres, knowing theory is important. That said, it sounds like TS just wanted to start a basic rock band. You don't need theory for that. You just need to know basic chords, a few scales, a sense of rhythm, and the ability to read tabs.
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Apr 11, 2013,
#39
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
Because the bass player basically implied that you need theory to start a band. History has shown us that this is NOT true.

Now, for certain genres, knowing theory is important. That said, it sounds like TS just wanted to start a basic rock band. You don't need theory for that. You just need to know basic chords, a few scales, a sense of rhythm, and the ability to read tabs.


Quote by KinkyC
He texted me today saying how he wouldn't join the band because I didn't know any music theory and before I attempted to start a band I should learn.


That looked much more like a suggestion than a law to me. Telling OP he didn't want to be in a band with somebody that didn't know theory is totally legitimate, as he just wants to work with people that are on his level. Telling OP that he should learn before he started a band is a harmless (and useful, regardless of genre) suggestion.
#40
Quote by Macabre_Turtle
That looked much more like a suggestion than a law to me. Telling OP he didn't want to be in a band with somebody that didn't know theory is totally legitimate, as he just wants to work with people that are on his level. Telling OP that he should learn before he started a band is a harmless (and useful, regardless of genre) suggestion.

That depends. You don't need to know advanced theory to be able to play in a basic rock band, as I said.


That said, there's nothing wrong with learning theory. In fact, regardless of genre, I still would advocate learning theory. But it's not a requirement either.
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