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#1
I want to learn more about music theory but what the Internet has to offer for free and legally isn't much. I probably don't know where or what to research. What else is there to learn?
#3
Serious answer:

I think you need a complete overhaul of the fundamentals.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#6
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What the internet has to offer in music resources is not enough?

It's not the breadth of information, but rather the way the information is presented. I have yet to see any source on the internet (or even most formal academics) present music theory in a way that is both organic and captures the essence of the "intuition logic" needed to truly understand the concepts in genuinely applicable ways.

It's funny that peppers framed this question as an analogy using math, because I think math suffers the same issue in an even more systemic manner. It's not unreasonable to say that most people don't like or truly "get" math, myself included. After a painstaking process of truly internalizing the essential concepts of how music works, I realized that math is the same way. The people who are the math geniuses of the world literally do not see math the way that it is conventionally taught. It that were the case, it would be impossible for these people to understand math as a unified and logically driven concept. They would not have enough true understanding to further its possibilities.

My suspicion was confirmed when I saw this earlier today:
http://www.businessinsider.com/lockharts-lament-math-education-is-wrong-2014-10

...modes and scales are still useless.


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Last edited by Xiaoxi at Aug 9, 2015,
#7
Quote by Xiaoxi
It's not the breadth of information, but rather the way the information is presented. I have yet to see any source on the internet (or even most formal academics) present music theory in a way that is both organic and captures the essence of the "intuition logic" needed to truly understand the concepts in genuinely applicable ways.

It's funny that peppers framed this question as an analogy using math, because I think math suffers the same issue in an even more systemic manner. It's not unreasonable to say that most people don't like or truly "get" math, myself included. After a painstaking process of truly internalizing the essential concepts of how music works, I realized that math is the same way. The people who are the math geniuses of the world literally do not see math the way that it is conventionally taught. It that were the case, it would be impossible for these people to understand math as a unified and logically driven concept. They would not have enough true understanding to further its possibilities.

which I assume also explains why I can learn and memorise a 6 page piece in less than a week but can't write a nursery rhyme level tune?
#8
Quote by Pastafarian96
which I assume also explains why I can learn and memorise a 6 page piece in less than a week but can't write a nursery rhyme level tune?

Partially.

Yes, a lot of what's wrong with conventional teaching is relying on rote memorization. For example, maybe you can calculate a derivative equation in calculus. But what exactly is the derivative function? How was it formed? What is its significance? Etc. The people who genuinely understand math does not need to "memorize" the formula of the derivative function. They can naturally come to its conclusion using their intuitive logic, developed through a truly effective understanding of the fundamentals of math.

Not a perfect analogy, but the introduction of music theory suffers some of the same mistakes in presentation. As an obvious example, UG and many many other guitar oriented settings are quick to introduce the concepts of modes derived from the common scales. People then naturally latch onto this, since these are bite sized and clearly organized bits of knowledge related to music theory. It's then easy to think that music theory is a collection of different chunks of technical concepts. This is why TS asks his question, as if he has already collected most chunks and is looking for the few that he has not yet been introduced to. But does he truly understand all of these things in a unified and organically applicable way? Does your average math student truly understand why a quadratic equation is the way it is?

Someone recently said in the MT subforum that if you know the alphabet from A-G and can count from 1-7 (or 1-11), you already know most of what music theory encompasses. This is not nearly as tangible or quantifiably digestible as "bite sized chunks" such as X mode for Y chord, yet it is exactly the essence of the unified understanding in your mind, malleable and controllable enough to do anything with intent. This seemingly simple frame of mind does take a lot of study to truly internalize, but it ultimately helps you "ride the wave" instead of getting stuck on recreating individual molecules of water.


Some further food for thought...

Art is the science of humanity.
Science is the art of physical reality.



...modes and scales are still useless.


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Last edited by Xiaoxi at Aug 9, 2015,
#9
If music theory only goes into a deeper understanding of the relationship between notes I dont feel there is much more to learn, aside from a life long journey of understanding the way the different notes sound in succession. If I wanted to compose a song using all the knowledge i could find, what resources could I use? What does Bach know that I dont, other than experience being fluent in the language? What tricks does he know? I feel at this point, all I can do is brief myself on basic terminology and study and analyze individual songs by artists i enjoy and want to sound like.

That is just kind of disappointing to me. When I look at a comprehensive list of music theory sub categories, I tend to see a trend. It stops at augmented 6th chords, dominant chord substitutions, and random nonsense about different alterations of the basic scales and what chords those make.

I feel that all school is going to offer me in the future is here is a song/song segment, tell me what key it is in, the roman numeral analysis of the chord progression, and maybe a few other boring questions.
Last edited by jrcsgtpeppers at Aug 9, 2015,
#10
Quote by jrcsgtpeppers
If music theory only goes into a deeper understanding of the relationship between notes I dont feel there is much more to learn, aside from a life long journey of understanding the way the different notes sound in succession.
It's funny because this is both insightful and naive at the same time.

A life long journey of understanding the nature of relational sounds should be daunting enough of a task. It is, as you put it yourself, life long.

In contrast, more than a few wise men have said something along the lines of "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." If you feel that there is not much more to learn, well...


If I wanted to compose a song using all the knowledge i could find, what resources could I use? What does Bach know that I dont, other than experience being fluent in the language? What tricks does he know?

This is a tricky question to truly answer in a forum post. I can only tell you what does not do... employ tricks or "use" music theory in the manner that I described earlier.

That is just kind of disappointing to me. When I look at a comprehensive list of music theory sub categories, I tend to see a trend. It stops at augmented 6th chords, dominant chord substitutions, and random nonsense about different alterations of the basic scales and what chords those make.

That should be disappointing to you, because that is not the crux of what real understanding is about.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#11
I have always wanted to learn more chord substitutions. Augmented 6th, secondary dominant, and tritone substitutions are the only ones I hear read up about. I was always under the impression there would be a grand list of a hundred or so others, kind of like how percussion instruments have 40 rudiments. I expected music to be taught like math, a constant flow of new information, rather than a constant expansion on previous information via analysis of the creations of previous musicians.

Maybe that's the best part of music, the lack of law and direction. I just want more tricks on how I can break the rules. Sometimes when I hear a really good jazz pianist comp I think to myself, where are all those extra chords coming from, and how are they fitting into the key. Sometimes they play tritone substitutions, sometimes they just move the chord chromatically, or just one note chromatically, but I know theres more to it.
#12
Quote by jrcsgtpeppers
I have always wanted to learn more chord substitutions. Augmented 6th, secondary dominant, and tritone substitutions are the only ones I hear read up about. I was always under the impression there would be a grand list of a hundred or so others, kind of like how percussion instruments have 40 rudiments. I expected music to be taught like math, a constant flow of new information, rather than a constant expansion on previous information via analysis of the creations of previous musicians.
There is naturally a "list". The difference is whether you're learning the list itself or learning the idea which then forms the list.

I just want more tricks on how I can break the rules.
To be frank, these are cliches and common pitfalls. I don't think this mindset will ever lead you to what you're ultimately after.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#13
I want to learn to break the rules because if I understand my boundaries I can have more control and confidence in what I am doing. Knowing the rules is always the best skill. The ultimate goal is to compose music that I enjoy.
#14
Tricks are for kids

Don't ask yourself how you can break the rules, but try and start to figure out how and why those rules were written to begin with
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#15
Its all about organization and balance. I could do all the analyzing i want but I am trying to gain this knowledge thru others cuz its faster.
#16
I just don't think that will work. No shortcut you take will get you to where you wanna be with your understanding of music theory, you have to go the long way 'round
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#17
I just wish I had a mentor. A single entity that contains all the knowledge I can get, and I can work at. My college teachers were always really stubborn and wouldnt take the time to give me individual personal lessons/questions answer sessions.
#19
Quote by :-D at #33539784
maybe it's because you ask questions like "what is the linear algebra of music theory"


yeah


honestly I think the best way to get what you're after is to just keep writing music and developing your ear. practice being able to take ideas you hear in your mind and translating them to the guitar. another great way to practice this is to try to figure out how to play popular folk songs/nursery rhymes or whatever (pop goes the weasel, star spangled banner, etc) The faster you are able to figure out and play what you hear, the easier songwriting will become. Then you can use your knowledge of music theory to analyze and explain what you're doing, and then you will be able to use those new insights in your future compositions.


Think about it, what do you really need to know to write a song? Not a lot. You can write the greatest prog-rock opera or symphony of all time with no knowledge of music theory, IF you have a great ear and can find the notes on your instrument. Theory is just a way of explaining and understanding what is going on.
Last edited by MeGaDeth2314 at Aug 9, 2015,
#22
Quote by Xiaoxi

My suspicion was confirmed when I saw this earlier today:
http://www.businessinsider.com/lockharts-lament-math-education-is-wrong-2014-10


I read the full essay here: Lockhart's Lament

Although I agree with the direction of the argument, I don't agree with everything he says. For example:

SIMPLICIO: But don’t we need people to learn those useful consequences of math? Don’t we need accountants and carpenters and such?

SALVIATI: How many people actually use any of this “practical math” they
supposedly learn in school? Do you think carpenters are out there
using trigonometry? How many adults remember how to divide
fractions, or solve a quadratic equation? Obviously the current
practical training program isn’t working, and for good reason: it is
excruciatingly boring, and nobody ever uses it anyway.


I teach safety to gas engineers (i.e. people who install gas pipes, boilers etc.). Their lives and mine would be a little easier if they were better at arithmetic. You can say that school maths put them off learning it, but Lockhart's argument seems to be not to teach the boring stuff at all. That wouldn't help. You need a basic set of skills before you can appreciate the art.

SIMPLICIO: But people need to be able to balance their checkbooks, don’t they?

SALVIATI: I’m sure most people use a calculator for everyday arithmetic. And
why not? It’s certainly easier and more reliable.


He's forgetting that the beauty of mathematics is recursive, all the way down to simple number crunching. Relying on a calculator from day 1, you'd miss this. Eventually, of course, you could move forward and show students how to use a calculator creatively (beyond spelling out BOLLOKS upside-down).

His argument about the triangle in the rectangle, while convincing, assumes that the student already understands the concept of area. This is wrong. I remember a time before I understood area, and I've met adults who don't (and it's needed in several areas of gas engineering). This needs 'boring' visualisations such as dividing an area into squares of known size and counting them.

To appreciate maths needs a basic skill set. Afterwards you can get more artistic about it. The current problem is that the progression to seeing the artistic side never happens throughout the high school education process.

The tricky thing will be to decide what goes into the basic skill set and what doesn't. It depends on where you want to get to in the end. And if mathematics is only art, this is completely subjective.

Music is more obviously an art than mathematics. The same problems exist with teaching it. It seems that schools' curricula struggle to find 7 years worth of lessons, and so rely on rote study to fill the time.

You need the nuts and bolts but eventually you have to create something to maintain interest. My solution for both maths and music would be to interleave creativity with the boring formulae from the start.
#23
I always equated learning music theory more to learning a new language than math. you can use math to analyze relationships and such, but the actual process of learning it feels more like learning a language to me.
#24
I agree 100% with MeGaDeth2314. I just wanted to add 1 thing...in my humble opinion...theory is analogous to a painters palette. I.E. He or she could create a beautiful masterpiece with 1 or 2 colors of paint but having 20 or 30 just gives the artist that much more to work with.
#25
Quote by Xiaoxi at #33539628
It's not the breadth of information, but rather the way the information is presented. I have yet to see any source on the internet (or even most formal academics) present music theory in a way that is both organic and captures the essence of the "intuition logic" needed to truly understand the concepts in genuinely applicable ways.

It's funny that peppers framed this question as an analogy using math, because I think math suffers the same issue in an even more systemic manner. It's not unreasonable to say that most people don't like or truly "get" math, myself included. After a painstaking process of truly internalizing the essential concepts of how music works, I realized that math is the same way. The people who are the math geniuses of the world literally do not see math the way that it is conventionally taught. It that were the case, it would be impossible for these people to understand math as a unified and logically driven concept. They would not have enough true understanding to further its possibilities.

My suspicion was confirmed when I saw this earlier today:
http://www.businessinsider.com/lockharts-lament-math-education-is-wrong-2014-10

That's true of a lot of fields. Lots of film and graphic design classes are similar, getting students to shoot for technique or write the alphabet in a specific font over and over, instead of giving them the gut understanding of how it all works.


That's a cool article, I'll have to look up that essay.
#26
I've thought about this since I watched Leonard Bernstein's lecture series called The unanswered question (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntmTQ8J7m5Y) some weeks ago. The thesis is that music has an universal grammar behind it, like a language like English, Latin or mathematics. In music, one can find analogies for alfabets (a scale), words (a note row), sentences (a song or a movement), chiastic structures. I know that the analogies can seem far fetched. The same analogies can be made with painting, architecture and so on. Music is defined as the poetic transformations of basic ideas (like motives and so on) or something like that.

On a different side, in model theory one speaks of 'languages', like the language of group theory, the language of euclidean geometry and so on. http://lesswrong.com/lw/ix5/mental_context_for_model_theory/
In proof theory is a proof equivalent with a program.

So my ultra abstract musing is: writing poetry is analogous with writing music, writing proofs, making a sculpture, programming,...

I don't pretend to be an expert in any of those fields, but that's the gist of some clever ideas that I know that exists out there.
Last edited by niqolaise at Aug 9, 2015,
#27
So what advice would you give to someone like me who doesn't know any music theory?
My experience of playing music has been learning other people's songs and looking for patterns within music that I associate with different sounds. How can I learn to compose my own? How can I expand my knowledge of music as a whole? How do I create something that isn't totally derivative?

Rote memorisation doesn't work, but if you're a mere mortal who doesn't intuitively "get it", how else can you learn?
Last edited by sashki at Aug 9, 2015,
#28
Quote by sashki
So what advice would you give to someone like me who doesn't know any music theory?

I'm not a good musician nor a composer, take my advice with a grain of salt.
I would say: sorry, but learn music theory.
Personally, I find it also instructive to listen what your favourite musicians have said about the creative process. For example, here is a video about Michael Hedges giving a master class about composition (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1cfIJZSqDA).
Analyse why your favourite musical pieces (or just any piece you here) 'work', what the main ideas and how those ideas are 'transformed' throughout the piece (playing it higher, permutation of notes, ambiguity...). For example, Beethoven's 7th symphony mvt 2 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uOxOgm5jQ4) has 1 big idea, but that one idea is masterfully transformed through the piece. Are there some principles behind it that make it succesful (violation of expectation,...)? Or you could take a piece you dislike and analyse why you dislike it (schoolboyish repetition without variation,...).
Last edited by niqolaise at Aug 9, 2015,
#29
I feel classical music(books) would be the best if you want to know everything about purely harmony.

Classical music is often called complex, but I'd rather say it's comprehensive.

Just by going through all the variations of functional and ornamental voice leading alone will at the very least makes you experience all the slightest of variations from going through even something as basic as a V - I movement.

Even if you don't like classical music itself, you will at the very least learn permutations of harmony to great degree.

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Last edited by xxdarrenxx at Aug 9, 2015,
#30
the set of pitches is a one dimensional vector space.

define addition by moving up (down) by x semitones relative to a notes position from middle c.

define scalar multiplication by moving up (down) by x octaves.

the proof is left as an exercise to the reader.
#31
Quote by Pastafarian96
which I assume also explains why I can learn and memorise a 6 page piece in less than a week but can't write a nursery rhyme level tune?

I need to start memorising again. I've got a bunch of songs that I'm just grinding through, but I've not touched up on any of them really, and playing from memorisation is just real nice.
it's all just coming back
it's all coming back

it's all coming back to me
#32
it's been years and years now and i still have no idea what xiaoxi's beef with theory is
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#33
(Am ⊗ C#) . F#
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#34
Quote by Acϵ♠
it's been years and years now and i still have no idea what xiaoxi's beef with theory is

From what I can tell his only beef is that it could be taught in a way that really makes sense and generally it isn't. Which, as someone who's been taught it somewhat properly, I definitely agree with.
Last edited by korinaflyingv at Aug 9, 2015,
#35
I hate to be that guy, but I think you're reaching the ceiling with how complex music can be. If you're comparing it to math.. well math is immensely more complicated than music theory.

Quote by Godsmack_IV
the set of pitches is a one dimensional vector space.

define addition by moving up (down) by x semitones relative to a notes position from middle c.

define scalar multiplication by moving up (down) by x octaves.

the proof is left as an exercise to the reader.


I hate u.

Let a key be one dimension and a scale of that key be the other. Letting the key of A=1, B=2 etc and each note in that scale the other dimension. An example (3,5)=(C,A) Or (1, 9)=(A,B).

Proof that this is a valid vector space is left as an exercise
It isn't
#36
Quote by Jehannum
I teach safety to gas engineers (i.e. people who install gas pipes, boilers etc.). Their lives and mine would be a little easier if they were better at arithmetic. You can say that school maths put them off learning it, but Lockhart's argument seems to be not to teach the boring stuff at all. That wouldn't help. You need a basic set of skills before you can appreciate the art.
I think that's a narrow group of people to which it does not matter whether they truly understand math. They simply need a specific set of technical formulas to use to do their jobs. This is no different than knowing a set of modes and how they can be applied, but that in itself has no bearing on understanding music.

Quote by MeGaDeth2314
I always equated learning music theory more to learning a new language than math. you can use math to analyze relationships and such, but the actual process of learning it feels more like learning a language to me.

Yes, music is like learning a language. But no matter the subject, I think much of what we learn are not taught well today.


Quote by sashki
So what advice would you give to someone like me who doesn't know any music theory?
My experience of playing music has been learning other people's songs and looking for patterns within music that I associate with different sounds. How can I learn to compose my own? How can I expand my knowledge of music as a whole? How do I create something that isn't totally derivative?

Rote memorisation doesn't work, but if you're a mere mortal who doesn't intuitively "get it", how else can you learn?

If you're seriously wanting to learn, I can offer lessons. I currently have a few students and they're on the right track. It does not take a genius to get it. Again, if you know your ABCs and can manage to count from 1-11, you will certainly understand in due time.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#37
Quote by Acϵ♠
it's been years and years now and i still have no idea what xiaoxi's beef with theory is


He's mad because he spent thousands of dollars to learn music theory at Berklee when he could have just learned it on the internet.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#38
Quote by theogonia777
He's mad because he spent thousands of dollars to learn music theory at Berklee when he could have just learned it on the internet.

****ing savage
#39
More like sour grapes lmao
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