#1
(This is a wall of text about nothing informative and I recommend you skip this thread if you have things to do.)

I guess the biggest downside of being self-taught is not knowing what to learn when and from where. I mean, I could stumble around and find out on my own, but I'm pretty sure that is not the best plan.

I would love it if some of you more knowledgeable about theory would point me towards some resources (most likely books) to learn from.

I know the basics of harmony and all-around theory, but it's probably a good idea to further study them.

It's hard to ask for guidance, when you're not sure if that is what you should be learning, but I'll try.

Things that interest me:
I am mostly interested in metal and in atmospheric instrumentals. I like melodic metal with delicate contrasts between the harshness of metal and beauty of melody. I like prog for its interesting composition, when it's not over the top, and I almost exclusively write in the minor scale. I want to incorporate seventh chords into my music (interesting, delicate, jazzy sound outside of jazz), I want to learn every interval in half-step music (most material I've read does not document this well, should I just learn it from listening?).

The reason I find it hard to learn harmony in practice is that I don't know how to create a suitable harmonic context for intervals that I'm trying to define...

All this is very specific, but in reality I strive to KNOW music and be able to create and improvise, while understanding the theory behind what I create/play, not just randomly stumbling upon something that sounds good without knowing why.

Any suggestions for material covering these topics and questions? Thank you kindly. I hope my post wasn't too poorly constructed.
#2
Genre specific stuff?? I don't know. Harmony in general? I have started reading Tchaikovsky's Guide to the Practical Study of Harmony. I don't play piano, nor do I read music with any kind of fluidity or speed. So it's a bit of a slow process to work through the book and some of the exercises. But straight off it has given me new things to think about.

Counterpoint can be pretty good for harmony as well. Species counterpoint uses very strict rules about intervals created between different voices. There is a book written some three hundred odd years ago and has been studied by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms among just about every other composer that has had any kind of formal training. No one ever sticks to the strict rules (except when doing the exercises or in the classroom) but listening to examples (good and bad) helps you to hear specific intervals in motion and how they can bomb. There's a website somewhere that has some of the rules and examples. If you google species counterpoint it is one of the first links (Listening Arts.com I think it's called).

These suggestions may sound odd considering they are mostly classical - but I personally only have an entry level knowledge of classical music. But regardless of genre or era nearly all the music I have ever heard has to some degree employed some kind of counterpoint in the harmony where there is more than one melody going on. This stuff helps with voice leading and the like as well.

Of course with a lot of rock, blues, and I presume metal such learning is not essential. It's often a case of just trust your instincts and what you know from the music you have listened to and learned.

The Tchaikovsky book is pretty good. It talks about how chords are voiced and how they move one to another. It talks about which chord tones to double, which ones to leave out, and I'm only just reaching the end of the first section at the moment but the table of contents promises to cover seventh chords, ninth chords, augmented fifth, augmented sixth chords, modulations, harmonizing melodies, part writing, deviations from the law of harmony, and a host of other topics concerning harmony.

It's an old book which has some ups and some downs. Some up sides is that depending on your country it may be in the public domain which means it might be available on IMSLP or Project Gutenberg. The language is not too heavy but there is a fair amount of reading and writing music to be done. But that is kind of a plus too because it is a very practical guide.

I'm sure there are a whole lot of other books on harmony. Walter Piston wrote a book on harmony. I started it once and it bored the crap out of me so I never finished it.

For something more guitar specific you could try something like Ted Greene's Chord Chemistry. I haven't read any of that though so don't have any idea if it's any good or not. I also haven't read any of the Berklee books on harmony - I think there's four or five of them that I know of, there may be more.
Si
#3
Thanks, I'll see if I can find Tchaikovsky's book anywhere, that sounds like it has some of what I am looking for. The thing about metal is that it's so diverse (imo probably the most diverse genre with its endless subgenres) that just about anything can be used in terms of theory, hence I am exploring the areas that interest me most.
#5
How good is your ear? I think having a good ear is really important when it comes to pretty much anything in music. One way of learning to compose songs that you like is learning to play songs that you like by ear. Also, use your knowledge - analyze songs. Figure out what's happening in them (what kind of chords, rhythms, melodies, arrangements, etc do they use)?
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#6
My ear is getting better, but it's by no means great. I know about analysing and stuff. The thing is I think I need more knowledge to be able to recognise the more intricate music bits when analysing. I can easily analyse a simple rock hit no problem, usually just from hearing, but when I hear progressive melodic death metal my mind goes numb. Guess I need to work on everything at once... There's a looong road ahead of me. Thank you, guys. This will keep me occupied for atleast half a year.
#7
I suggest song books. I got my start looking at the little chord diagrams above the words in them.
#8
20T's got some great advice, although the Fux book (the one Beethoven used) has a big hole in it, the book only teaches modal counterpoint, not tonal counterpoint. Fux would have given Bach a big fat 0 on his counterpoint test.

Depending on how much work you want to do/where your are now, you may want to look into classical theory texts, or some good books on jazz. I can make a recommendation or two, but none of those books were written with a guitar in mind. It's purely the mental side of playing.

You definitely want to start ear training as well.

And break out of the minor scale. If you only use natural/harmonic minor, you have denied yourself at least 50% of music. Even Converge has music in major keys.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#9
Well, there's always the ability to go from minor to major for a section or so, gives a nice feeling, but otherwise writing purely in major feels unnatural to me. I'm just more of a melancholic I guess...

Should I incorporate more than just ear training apps and learning songs by ear into ear training? Never really sat down and tried to learn... Just used the apps to see how much better I am than before.
#10
Take a few minutes every practice session and sing everything that you play.

If you try to transcribe anything (even if you are reading a tab) sing it first, then play it.

Practice sight singing musical notation, and try to figure out songs without a guitar in hand.

Those will work wonders for your ears. Also, that's interesting, because IMO major keys are much sadder/more melancholy than minor keys.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#11
Well, it depends on how you use those keys. Imo major is more like bittersweet, atleast when I try writing in it. Definitely beautiful, though. I'm not THAT experienced to debate over this, so keep this in ind whenever I say anything. There's also the whole business of starting on major and quickly finding yourself in the relative minor...
#12
True, true. It's a trained skill like everything else. The more you do it, the better it gets.

Write bunch of bad music in major, and soon you'll be writing really good stuff in major
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#13
I'd consider myself lucky if I wrote a full piece in ANY key without absolutely hating it the next day...
#14
my question is : how serious are you..is music/guitar a obsession/vacation or a passing curiosity? my suggestions depend on your option..if serious be prepared to study and learn something new EVERYDAY..a constant challenge to grow..accept more and more difficult material to study and integrate in you playing-attitude/confidence/determination/patients is mandatory to achieve this goal..

alan holdsworth (if your not familiar with his playing-please do a search) has said.."..it takes about two years to learn a scale.." now he does not mean to play a two octave major scale ascending and descending in all positions..though that is required..it is learning diatonic harmony from the scale form..what triads and four note chords are produced from the scale..all the inversions of the chords -triads and four note chords-on ALL string sets in ALL keys..learning basic progressions using these forms I vi ii V / iii7 vi7 ii7 V7 etc. in all positions with all inversions in all keys..in open and close voicings..and learning to do this from any point in the scale (the modes-wolf says in a whisper) then leaning how to use this material in practice and performance-song/compositions etc. .. to fully digest this would take approx. two years if the result is being confident in playing a song in any key and being able to use the chords in some melodic fashion (and this is just using scale tones of the key your in)

do all the above now in minor keys!!

this will prepare you to explore "jazz theory/harmony" and the extensive repertoire it encompasses..the study of altered dominants and substitution principles..three and four tonic scales (diminished and augmented theory-symmetric harmony) .. voice leading..counter point..contrary motion and other melodic devices

quick example of a symmetric concept..using the minor third substitution

given progression

Dmi7 G7 CMA7

minor 3rd sub principle

Fmi7 Bb13 Db13 CMA7

note how the resolve is satisfied with the new cadence..now imagine using some of the material mentioned above in this simple example..inversions perhaps..or a scale run in triads and their inversions..many possibilities..

Fmi7 Bb7 D7 Db13 CMA7--using chromatics (approach chords-from above and /or below the target chord..

hope this give some insight into the possible - if you want it
play well

wolf
Last edited by wolflen at Feb 3, 2015,
#15
I am definitely serious, the passion is there, it's just that I'm studying engineering and it's draining my time dry. Still, I try to at least move forwards, albeit slowly. You really described what I need, though. I guess I'll put the most effort into scale studying and ear training then.

One question though... How do I know when I learn, say, a specific scale degree? There's quite a ton of possible (diatonic) harmonic background... I don't really know and understand the extent of what I am learning, I guess.
#16
you will as time goes on..the mystery will lessen as your ear becomes more familiar with the sound and function of not only one chord but groups of chords..
play well

wolf
#17
Quote by Jet Penguin
20T's got some great advice, although the Fux book (the one Beethoven used) has a big hole in it, the book only teaches modal counterpoint, not tonal counterpoint. Fux would have given Bach a big fat 0 on his counterpoint test.

You're right, but I think the Fux book is a good starting point. Tonal counterpoint still uses much of the same things.

But yeah, looking back at the Fux book, it has a lot of stupid and worse than useless restrictions that don't apply in any shape or form to tonal counterpoint.

Still, I'd recommend it as an "introduction" to counterpoint. It's not sufficient by itself and further study will be needed, though.

Basic voice leading and counterpoint is something I'd recommend everyone to learn regardless of skill level or instrument played. It just opens your eyes (and ears!) to many things that make your music sound better and more sophisticated.

Even if you have a simple homophonic texture (simple does not mean inferior by any means. It's better to have good homophony that shitty polyphony just for the sake of having polyphony) having good voice leading on the chords sounds much better than just moving stacked thirds or something. And if you ever want to write countermelodies or have a contrapuntal texture, you will know what you're doing and how to keep the voices separated, yet connected. (if that makes sense ).

I had this software called "Counterpointer" by Ars Nova assisting me. It can be used in combination with the Fux book, since it has every exercise that is in the Fux book. The program also has a ton of Bach chorales in it that you harmonize. It gives you either figured bass symbols or roman numerals. I still do 2 chorales every day so I don't get rusty at part writing. I would've probably been screwed without this software. I seriously made like 500 mistakes on every attempt at first XD Even had a lot of parallel fifths and octaves without noticing.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Feb 4, 2015,
#18
Oh as a introduction I totally recommend it, but not as a reference or bible.

Kurt Kennan has the best book on counterpoint I've ever seen, but its huge and expensive, and only talks about counterpoint.

There are some great classical theory books where the first few sections are just counterpoint, those will do fine.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#19
I don't recommend the Fux for anything. There's no point in learning counterpoint abstracted from harmony like that. At most read the first chapter, do a couple exercises to get the clausula vera and the basic concept of how voices interact and move on. If you really want to learn modal counterpoint (for whatever weird reason) get the Peter Schubert book. Otherwise just go straight to a book on tonal harmony. And then quickly after you get the grasp of it start incorporating Bach analysis.
#20
I don't think I'd recommend Fux to someone just beginning music theory, but it's a great book for just working on voice leading. There's no functional harmony to worry about, and you can just focus on voice leading.
#21
That's the thing though, what's the point of learning voiceleading so abstractly? Like learning harmony is as much about learning voiceleading (or should be) as it is about understanding vertical harmony. The whole trick of tonal counterpoint is balancing strong voiceleading with harmonic function.That's why I don't get the Fux book. It's teaching you concepts that you'll never really ever use and in the end doesn't give you any musical results (which at least the Schubert does).

There are like six things that are useful in the Fux

1) Clausula vera
2) Sixths and tenths predominate outer voices
3) The four ways two voices can move in relation to each other
4) Restrictions about those movements
5) ?
6) ?

There are only four things.
#22
I just think counterpoint is one of those things that is pretty hard to learn by yourself from textbooks, but not that complicated if there's someone to help you.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Feb 4, 2015,
#23
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
That's the thing though, what's the point of learning voiceleading so abstractly?


Because if you use good voice leading, you can literally do anything you want; it doesn't have to be functional harmony, or harmonic progression as we would define it.

Quote by jazz_rock_feel
Like learning harmony is as much about learning voiceleading (or should be) as it is about understanding vertical harmony.


I agree but see my response above.


Quote by jazz_rock_feel
The whole trick of tonal counterpoint is balancing strong voiceleading with harmonic function.


Not entirely true. The voice leading is the important part. Harmonic function is elemental to common practice music; voice leading applies to (or can be applied to) all music (common practice or otherwise).

Quote by jazz_rock_feel
That's why I don't get the Fux book. It's teaching you concepts that you'll never really ever use and in the end doesn't give you any musical results (which at least the Schubert does).


Not true; I use his concepts all the time. Many times, I compose with my attention on voice leading only, with little or no regard to harmonic function.
#24
Quote by jazz_rock_feel


There are like six things that are useful in the Fux

1) Clausula vera
2) Sixths and tenths predominate outer voices
3) The four ways two voices can move in relation to each other
4) Restrictions about those movements
5) ?
6) ?

There are only four things.

Wait, isn't that pretty much the whole book?
Si
#26
Yeah pretty much lol. The thing is those concepts are all presented in the first chapter and after that it becomes less and less useful. Don't get me wrong, counterpoint is important, but Fux kinda sucks.
#27
Yeah it's all pretty much presented in the first chapter. Everything after that is a progression from first species, to second, to third, fourth and fifth. With each species it's just a few more concepts building on the previous to take what you've learned to the next level with a clear gradation from writing a single cantus firmus through to the goal of writing florid counterpoint in four voices.

It is modal counterpoint though, and I agree - the style of music that it deals with is less relevant than I would prefer. Of course no book will take you all the way there anyway. At most it will only ever take you 5% of the way - if you're lucky. The other 95% comes from doing it over and over and over and over and over and over....

That's the difference between self study and formal study. With formal study you have someone giving you exercises, deadlines, and feedback. Teaching you a new piece of knowledge and then requiring you to put it into practice and assessing your progress along the way. With self study you have to figure that kind of stuff out on your own, set your own deadlines, and assess your own work (which can be extremely difficult).

But yeah I just take what I need from Fux. I'm searching now for something a bit more contemporary (read: tonal) that is readily available and has a similarly clear progressive methodology. The Shubert book is modal counterpoint I noticed.
Si
#28
Yeah right; it sucks so much that Albrechtsberger, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven all found it useful. I think you'd have to actually read the whole thing and do all the exercises to really get it. It's one thing to read a few rules; it's quite another to actually put them into practice. It's certainly not a perfect book (the part we have in English, that is), but its concision and comprehensibility make it worth the study.
#29
Quote by Harmosis
Yeah right; it sucks so much that Albrechtsberger, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven all found it useful. I think you'd have to actually read the whole thing and do all the exercises to really get it. It's one thing to read a few rules; it's quite another to actually put them into practice. It's certainly not a perfect book (the part we have in English, that is), but its concision and comprehensibility make it worth the study.

I've done Fux you goon.

And that whole "well such and such used Fux" argument never really holds water for me. That was a long time ago and a lot a newer, better written, more practical and more pedagogical resources have been written since then.

This really isn't an argument worth having.
#30
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
I've done Fux you goon.


I'm skeptical but I can give you the benefit of the doubt.

Quote by jazz_rock_feel
And that whole "well such and such used Fux" argument never really holds water for me. That was a long time ago and a lot a newer, better written, more practical and more pedagogical resources have been written since then.


Using the "newer, better resources" counter is no real argument. The fact that great educators and composers used the text proves its worth. The time window is relative. It wasn't that long ago.

Quote by jazz_rock_feel
This really isn't an argument worth having.


Yet you continue to engage and incite.
#32


I agree with both of you. The book is a good intro to the concept of voice leading, but needs to be supplemented if you want to do tonal counterpoint. Otherwise, the only thing you really get is alot of work with the basic principles.

The thing is though, as Harmosis said, the basic principles have near-infinite application, and can be extrapolated and modified to see fit, whether it be modern musical language or an improvised jazz comp.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#33
Seems like a book I'd read AFTER understanding the basics of tonal music really well, so I could clearly see the differences and take in what I need? I mean, from your discussion it seems like the Fux is not the ideal book to start with? I've only ever read one book, which was about the basics of harmony.
#34
Do both. It's all intertwined. One will help you with your understanding of the other and vice versa.

If you are concerned about time, don't be. Learn both slowly and surely. Take each new idea on board and practice it over and over until you have it down then move on to the next idea.

Or don't. That's the beauty (and the curse) of self directed study.
Si
#35
Exactly what 20T said.

I would recommend getting a theory book with a good section on counterpoint and voice leading. That's all you'll need.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#36
Yes, it would be best to gain a command of common practice tonality/fundamental bass first, since we are currently surrounded by music based on that. Although, it would be a really interesting experiment to start someone with species counterpoint first Incidentally, Fux's book was written with self study in mind, so no need to fear lack of a teacher (but you'd better have some serious self-discipline!).
#37
Yes, self-discipline is definitely needed. I remember being really annoyed when I was learning species counterpoint, but it was worth it. Now I'm learning sight reading (piano) and I am just as frustrated with this as I was with counterpoint XD