#1
I just read the article discussing how learning to use your ear is an important, and often overlooked, skill for a musician. The article refers, among other things, to the Nashville Number System wich I've never heard of until now.

I've thought about this before but was reminded when reading more about the NNS that western music is limited to contain a fixed (and in my opinion small) number of chords. That for every key there are seven associated chords to play. Is that all?

I really love playing and creating music and have done so all my life but everytime I try to learn more about the theory I feel like my creative elbow room is reduced and at the same time music loses a bit of its magic.

I would really like to hear your opinion on this. I'm curious if you can learn too much and in doing so make music boring and predictable OR by learning more you simply enjoy music more?
#2
Well, music theory is not there to tell you what you can and cannot do. It's there to explain what you are doing.

There are how many chords you'd like in any given key. I might be playing a song in the key of E major, but that doesn't mean i can't throw in a Bb major chord into the progression. It doesn't have to be apart of the current key to be used, the main thing is that you get the sound you want.

Also worth mentioning, this is just western music we are talking about. There are tons of music that is based on other ways to split up notes, so they might have more than 12 notes, or fewer. I often listen to classical turkish music for example and if you going to transcribe some of that stuff you have to work on your micro-bending and ear for sure. Cause a lot of the time you might play a note that is in-between a major and minor third (what blues players often play aswell to get more grit out of their notes).

I agree that learning by ear is often overlooked and sometimes theory is getting too much focus. The important thing is to focus on the ear and then just use theory to explain what is being done in the piece you are studying so you understand why it sounds the way it sounds.

I mean you can listen to players from all styles and they all use the same 12 notes. If anything, i get inspired when i listen to music and realize that they are using the same notes but the music sound so different.

As Victor Wooten said, notes (Scales, chords, arpeggios, harmonization etc) is just ONE element of music. You have many more that affects the outcome such as emotion/feel, articulation, tone, space, rhythm etc.

To answer your final question. Learning more makes me realize how little i know. When i started playing many years ago i started with rock and metal, at a point i thought i was a really amazing player, then i started getting into abit of jazz and blues and realized i was worthless at playing those styles. I sounded like a complete beginner. Now that i have been playing jazz for a couple of years i had the same thing happen to me with country music and Latin music.

Don't get me wrong, i am tremendously happy to find out that i suck at these things, cause that means i have more to explore! The more i learn music just becomes more open and accessible and i can pull out more stuff from my bag of tricks. Learning by ear and learning a vast range of styles is great and i never regret putting away tabs for good and learning solely by ear.

Excuse my rambling, i hope you got something out of it though. Interesting topic!
Best Regards
Sickz
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

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#3
As Sickz said, music theory ins't a set of rules that can't be broken, it is there to explain what you're doing. And in the end it just comes down to one thing: If it sounds good to you, you should play it, it doesn't matter if theory can't explain it.
#4
No, it doesn't. Even simple plain I - IV - V can still be interesting after all the thousands of songs you've heard it in. There may be just 7 basic chords in a key, but nothing stops you from borrowing chords from other modes or using secondary dominants, chromatics, etc. Also modulation makes things more interesting. Then there's the rhythm and time signatures which make a huge difference too. There are so many things you can do.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Jan 23, 2014,
#5
"Well, music theory is not there to tell you what you can and cannot do. It's there to explain what you are doing."Excellent way of saying it. When I first started playing back in the stone age of the 60's. I just wanted to play and not incorporate any theory. I had taken lesson's on piano and hated it (I know that was dumb). When I started playing guitar I just wanted to play and didn't want to be bothered with any theory. After playing guitar for a few years I started college and took a music theory class as an elective. Although it was strickly theory and not physically directed toward any paticular instrument it took me to another level of playing on my guitar almost immediately. Not because I learned to play something new on my guitar, but because it showed me how many of the things I already knew could be tied together very easily. I had little pieces of knowledge that a study of basic music theory linked together. Today some of this seems so simple but unless someone explained it to me I may never have found it myself.
#6
I remember reading a Satriani interview were he mentioned that theory is like a ruler
A ruler doesn't tell you how long or short to make a line, or what to do with it, it just gives you a set of numbers for you to understand what you're doing

Or something to that effect

I only really get bored with music when I'm stuck in a rut or keep playing the same styles
Whenever it gets boring or I'm tired of playing the same stuff I just put the guitar down for a while and go back when I miss it
Great thing the guitar
#7
I don't know any theory, I just play by visual tutorials, by sound and feel. It's pretty fun finding new sounds, especially through new tunings.

I'd say in general when practicing or playing songs over until you get it right, you need to be able to not get tired of hearing it. Many a time my brothers have said they're tired of hearing me play the same things over, yet I never seem to get fed up of hearing or feeling myself play it.
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#8
Quote by johanroos86
I just read the article discussing how learning to use your ear is an important, and often overlooked, skill for a musician. The article refers, among other things, to the Nashville Number System wich I've never heard of until now.

I've thought about this before but was reminded when reading more about the NNS that western music is limited to contain a fixed (and in my opinion small) number of chords. That for every key there are seven associated chords to play. Is that all?

I really love playing and creating music and have done so all my life but everytime I try to learn more about the theory I feel like my creative elbow room is reduced and at the same time music loses a bit of its magic.

I would really like to hear your opinion on this. I'm curious if you can learn too much and in doing so make music boring and predictable OR by learning more you simply enjoy music more?

That's exactly what I've been going through for the past 2 years. So I took up audio engineering and started mixing other people's songs. I'm still doing something musical and creative but I'm not feeling like I could write around this time.
If Rock is a life-style, then Metal's an addiction

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#9
Quote by johanroos86
That for every key there are seven associated chords to play.


Even talking in purely diatonic terms that's not even close to true:

7 triads
7 7th chords
14 suspensions
7 9th chords
7 11th chords
7 13th chords

That's 49 chords without even beginning to pay attention to outside notes, timing, lead instruments, arrangements... I couldn't even be bothered to list all the possible "standard" diatonic chords because there's too many different types.
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#10
Measuring the walls of your house does not make the rooms any smaller.

Ken
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#11
I'd also add that, if you are afraid that you might just "figure out" the formula underlying music, and then the mystery will be gone, forget it. I'm quite certain from my own time studying music theory that music an infinite onion with infinite layers you can peel off, it does not lend itself to being "solved." So don't put off learning music theory because you fear you may kill the goose that's laying the golden egg, in terms of losing the sense of mystery (and perhaps spirituality) that draws you to musical creation.

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!
#12
There is no magic. If you mean to say you think music is more enjoyable with an ignorant ear than with a structured and knowledgable one, I can tell you from experience that's wrong.
#14
Unless you're playing really dull cover tunes, music is as boring or interesting as you make it. If you find yourself getting tired with what you already do, try to take it to the next level by applying new techniques or new musical approaches. Or just find music that excites you more and focus on that for a while.
#15
No, but people get boring.

Also brush up on your music theory knowledge. Keys don't limit you in any way.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#16
someone on this forum said it best a few years ago. i think it was xiaoxi.

"there are no boring scales, only boring guitarists." it ties in pretty well to alan's post above.
Anfangen ist leicht, Beharren eine Kunst.
#18
Quote by AeolianWolf
someone on this forum said it best a few years ago. i think it was xiaoxi.

"there are no boring scales, only boring guitarists." it ties in pretty well to alan's post above.


I guess to expand upon this, if people enter with the intent to be bored they will make themselves bored.

I recall some nice looking girls I used to date who would be all for a trip to the coast then complain that there's nothing to do and that they were sooooooo bored. I didn't think this, had heaps of fun surfing and getting drunk at the pub with mates. All they did was complain that there's no malls or clubs. But the whole thing is that on the occassions they actually shut up about being bored they actually had fun there.

Same goes for music. If you think playing the same three chords over and over again is boring, and plan for it to be boring beforehand, it will be. If you just want have fun playing a good song that just happens to have three chords, you'll have fun.

In one of the first cover bands I was in, the entirety of the first set was I - IV - V songs. I initially thought it was really boring and couldn't wait for the next sets to come. However I decided to change my tune and put effort into trying to play distinct parts for each song to make them sound different from eachother. It was quite a challenge when approached in this way and became one of my favourite sets.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#19
Quote by johanroos86
I just read the article discussing how learning to use your ear is an important, and often overlooked, skill for a musician. The article refers, among other things, to the Nashville Number System wich I've never heard of until now.

I've thought about this before but was reminded when reading more about the NNS that western music is limited to contain a fixed (and in my opinion small) number of chords. That for every key there are seven associated chords to play. Is that all?

No that is not all there is. You can play any chord you want - the trick is to make it sound good.

There are certain tricks that are used over and over again in music. This does not limit music though. The Blues is an entire genre based around pretty much three chords. Not only that but a huge percentage of that is the same chord progression (12 bar blues) but it just kept going and going as people found new ways to make it sound fresh.

There are plenty of other progressions that are so common the occur over and over again. Yet people find new ways of making them sound new and interesting.
Quote by johanroos86
I really love playing and creating music and have done so all my life but everytime I try to learn more about the theory I feel like my creative elbow room is reduced and at the same time music loses a bit of its magic.

I would really like to hear your opinion on this. I'm curious if you can learn too much and in doing so make music boring and predictable OR by learning more you simply enjoy music more?

Learning music theory just amazes me more. When I started to understand music theory I would look at a song that I thought was awesome before and realize just how simple it is and the "tricks" that the song uses. It makes it even more amazing. The fact that it was so simple and yet so awesome gave me new appreciation. That is not an easy thing to do - make the simple same old tricks sound fresh new and amazing. It's a feat to be admired.

Then there are the songs that did something different. Understanding what was happening musically made some of those songs even more interesting. I remember one song that I thought was okay had an interesting chord progression and when I looked at it the progression went around a chain of fifths and then a nifty little substitution for what would have been the next in chain to set up a final V-I back to the tonic to complete the chain. I thought it was so clever.

If your creative elbow room is reduced as you learn new theory then you are doing it wrong. I'm a proponent of learning theory I think it is a great tool to help you understand and analyse music. But if you prefer to be mystified by music and find that it offers you more creative freedom then perhaps it is not your path.

===
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^Awesome analogy!!
Si
#20
As everyone said, music theory isn't a set or rules, it's just a guideline of how sounds relate to each other. I do like the analogy with the ruler and drawing a line. Music will only become boring when the listener and/or player makes it boring. Even a simple I vi IV V progression can still be very interesting even though it's used in countless songs.

I do have a pretty sturdy understanding of theory as well as using my ear (It's pretty average, so it can use some work.). I do know that when I'm in a key of a song, I'm not strictly stuck with the 7 diatonic notes within that key. I can use any of the 5 accidentals to add to the sound of the song. An example would be a blues shuffle in A minor. I, along with many other musicians, will use the major 3rd (C# in this case) in conjunction with the minor 3rd (C). I also like to bend the minor second (Bb in this case) up to the minor 3rd when I'm playing over the chord. Even though those are some notes that aren't in the key of A minor, you can still make them work with some experimentation.
Skip the username, call me Billy
#21
as a prog musician (and one that knows a lot of theory to add more context), if music is getting boring, try new music

i started out writing straight-up metal but got tired of so much dissonance, so i started writing melodic metal. but that got old, so i challenged myself to write more technical stuff. but that got old, so i challenged myself even more to be weird and write prog metal (still do)

even that got a tiny bit stale, so i started changing genres in songs (smooth jazz, flamenco, classical, etc.) as well as writing entire songs in other metal sub-genres (speed, djent, groove, death, nu, prog, etc.), and then i tried writing prog rock (loved it, still do time to time), and then i wrote some super-melodic post-hardcore. now im working on writing acoustic music, and smooth jazz

my point is, if music EVER bores you, do something new. be a proggie, like me
Last edited by pAWNlol at Jan 24, 2014,
#22
Music is not just notes. If it was, we would have run out of music. There are so many songs that use really similar chord progressions or melodies but still sound different. Music isn't chords. For example there are so many songs that use the 12 bar blues progression. I think "4 Chords" by Axis of Awesome proves that you can do a lot with just four chords.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOlDewpCfZQ

Some people think the video criticizes contemporary pop music but to me the video just means that you can do a lot with simple stuff (though I don't think the video really has any message - they just did it for fun).

But yeah, when I write songs, I don't write chord progressions. Because almost every chord progression is used somewhere. I just hear stuff in my head and if I like it, I may write a song. The same four chords can sound genius or generic, depending on the context. Almost anything will sound boring if you just strum chords on your guitar. But if you make a good arrangement, you can make it sound really good.
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Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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#23
sure music gets boring but thats when you find new stuff to listen to/to play and then when you revisit the old shit it wont be boring anymore
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#24
Quote by jimihendrix6699
sure music gets boring but thats when you find new stuff to listen to/to play and then when you revisit the old shit it wont be boring anymore

such truth. ive gone back to old songs that i hadnt listened to in a long time because they started to bore me, and jammed the **** out to them
#25
Quote by johanroos86

I've thought about this before but was reminded when reading more about the NNS that western music is limited to contain a fixed (and in my opinion small) number of chords. That for every key there are seven associated chords to play. Is that all?


This statement right there tells me your "theory" ended at Diatonic harmony.

That statement is not remotely true.

If that statement were true, Freebird would never have existed.

Best,

Sean
#26
Thanks a lot for all the great comments! Your way of looking at this is so much better and I'm going to work on changing my view on music theory. I actually just ordered a book and I'm really looking forward now to taking my hobby to the next level. I feel like I just needed the reassurance to take the leap. Thanks a lot, to all of you!