#1
Im 18 and I've been playing acoustic/electric for a few years. I mostly play classic rock, as I'll just listen to a song and try to figure it out. If I cant, I will resort to the tab for it. I know some of my pentatonic scales, and I can improvise over some basic chords, but nothing special, just some nice jam sessions. I can't read sheet music, I don't know theory, and I have never written a song.

I read several posts similar to this, and there are just so many recommendations, and there are good and bad reviews about recommendations. Any more advice on where to read/write and learn music theory would be great.
Last edited by lleeoo66 at Jan 4, 2016,
#2
I think the most important things to understand theory wise are keys and chord functions. Scale degrees/intervals are also good. Theory is there to give you explanations for sounds, so that it's easier to process the sounds you hear in your head and also understand what happens in other people's music. When learning about theory, remember to also use your ears. You want to know how the theoretic stuff sounds like.


How to write songs? You just need to get a musical idea. Do you hear sounds in your head? That's really how you get a musical idea. Well, you can get one by just noodling around with your guitar.

When you get a musical idea, try to play it on your guitar. If this is hard, just record yourself humming it. How to make it a full song? Well, look at how your favorite songs are structured. They may have a verse, a chorus, another verse, another chorus, a bridge, a guitar solo, another chorus. Something like that. That's a pretty common structure. Doesn't mean you have to use that. The main point is that your song has some kind of a structure and you understand what a structure is. You usually repeat the same idea a couple of times in the song to make it sound coherent. But there are also songs that progress all the time.

After you have got one musical idea, think how you could continue it. The musical idea can be anything. It can be a guitar riff, a chord progression, a melody, a bassline, a drum beat... Whatever. But yeah, there's really no secret formula to write a song. You will learn how songs are usually structured by listening to many songs and analyzing them. You may notice that many times the verse is based around one musical idea. For example it has a 4 bar chord progression and a 4 bar melody that repeats a couple of times. Maybe there's some variation to it.

Transitions are an important thing when it comes to songwriting. You want it to sound coherent. You will hear whether two ideas work together or not. It's all about listening to the sounds in your head.

Another good idea to start with songwriting could be using free samples and loops to build a song (if you have a Mac, it has a GarageBand which comes with many different kind of loops - a very easy way to make your own music - but I'm sure free loops can also be found online). That way you don't really have to come up with new musical ideas but you'll learn about structuring a song.
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
#3
For me, I don't find there is any "songwriting theory" at all, really. There are the sort of general basics, like section construction, which can differ quite a bit, but is essentially verses choruses bridge, and built climax at the end.

Definitely knowing harmony and chord function is a good thing, but that is just naming sounds, not how to use them. The songwriting, at the end of the day is just you, and what you want to hear. That's it, and Idk how to turn that into theory. Why are you thinking what you're thinking now? how did you create that thought? Idk either. Things occur to us. Why do I imagine a certain melody, or decide to use a certain chord? Idk, it comes to me, or maybe it can be a happy accident, or a number of things like a section of a song I'm learning, or some piece of theory inspires me, and I build a song around it, or any number of things.

It's never analysis and logic for me though. I know my harmony and chord function, quite well, in my own quirky way also, but I never use that to songwrite. i never think, "ok, so I'm gonna write in dorian, and I'll start with a i, and then I'll go for a subdominant and then a dominant and then back to the i, because that's a logical order for function to work in", or anything like that. I think the sounds I want, and then play them. I might know right away, "oh ya, that sound I want is a V7, which is this chord here" and that makes it all easier, because otherwise I could hear the sound I want in my head, but then would have to hunt it down, hitting other chords, wrong ones, and then losing my train of thought. That's not awesome, but you can still write like that. I write songs sometimes, and then I look at it after, and it's a theory conundrum, to me. Like that song in my signature, is a little bit odd theory wise, it's got some chord borrowing, it uses a dom7 for a I, and does a number of weird things, which all have names, but none of those decisions were made because some theory logic led me there. If I used theory that way, i think I would never have been able to come up with that song. But, it would also have been tough for me if i didn't know theory at all, because theory lets me understand my instrument, so that I can more easily find where the sounds I want are located. It doesn't tell me what sounds to want though. It's not instructions on how to write songs.

So, I would definitely learn theory, idk in what specific order, because I don't know you specifically, but I would do that, but also, you can write songs right now. You have everything you need for that already. Theory makes you more sort of powerful of a musician, but it is not how to write great songs. You could right something great just with very few chords you already know. It's not really in the progression, the number of chords, which chords, how much you do or don't stick to the key, or anything like that. It's the specific feel, and how your melody and rhythm, and progression all work together to make something cool. The magic that makes music great isn't in the theory. That's why you can't objectively quantify music and measure which songs are better than others. It doesn't work that way. It's more of an emotional feel thing. Just like you don't judge food by how many ingredients there are, how long it took to prepare, how technically difficult it is to make, or anything like that. You just taste it and either you like it or you don't. And if you're mixing a sauce, you don't need to know salt theory to season it correctly, you can just do it to taste. sticking to some salt logic, might mislead you and result in a bland end product.
#4
Songwriting is distinct from music theory. If you intend to study music theory in order to learn how to write a song then it may help you...or it may not.

If you want to write songs then start now. One of the following might be a starting point:

1)Pick up your guitar (or instrument) play a chord or two or a chord progression and repeat over and over and over. Try to listen in your head to imagine a melody that goes with what you're doing. Start humming the melody out loud. Make the humming into vocalizing vowel sounds (think Jack Black or some jazz scat singer keep it simple enough but try out different vowels and vocal sounds till you find something you like. Then think of some words here and there that might fit the sounds. Slowly fill in the rest of the words until you have whole lines - it doesn't matter I they make sense or not. Just keep going until you have a enough lines that sound kind of complete in some way then think if you just need a refrain or chorus which could just be a single line repeated or two lines repeated. You don't even need to change the chord progression if you don't want to just come up with a new melody. If you want to change the chords then just change one of the two chords or change both chords by the same amount.

Or

2) Sit down with a pen and paper and just write something that has some rhythm and that you can imagine some melody to. It could be a story, or it could be something that is a whole lot of free association writing that doesn't seem to really make sense when read literally (there are lots of songs that make no sense at ally from a lyrical perspective) Then sing the melody, if you can play the melody that is even better. If you can't find the melody then try starting with just saying the words in different ways. Say them in ways that accent different words. Accent can affect meaning so consider what you're doing. Then start to draw out syllables and start to sing and make it all fairly natural. When you have your melody. Find some chords that fit that melody. To do this you really have to use your ears. If you have been figuring out a lot of songs by ear then this could work for you. There are familiar chords that always seem to go together so if you find the first chord then you should have some good starting points in your attempts to find the next chord. If it doesn't sound right try another chord

3) Take a song you know and play around with the chords changing a little bit here and there, change the rhythm, change the tempo, change it up until it starts to sound a bit different. Then sing the song in a different and interesting way. Replace the words with vocalizations, cut syllables out, hold some notes longer, sing it like you're crying it, or in a sarcastic way - ham it up and go over the top. Try starting the lines in different places. When you have something that you think sounds interesting then take a completely different song and then write some words to that new song.

Whatever you do - write. Keep writing. Write with a pen and paper or on a computer without your instrument on a regular basis spend time each day doing it. Sing regularly as well as practicing your instrument. You don't have to be a great singer to write songs but you do have to be able to sing your ideas so that if you get a great singer and you're writing all the songs then you need to be able to sing it for them.

You will only learn to write through actually practicing. There are some "methods" and books and lessons etc that you might be able to find but most songwriters ultimately are quite natural and learn through exposure to songs and try to copy what they hear - but put their own unique spin on it.

You could try joining the songwriting group http://groups.ultimate-guitar.com/mozartfactory/ They are a good bunch of people that support and encourage each other to write songs regularly with the aim of becoming better songwriters. They welcome new members and are a positive and supportive bunch of people (all skill levels welcome).
Si
#5
Well, there's the part of music theory that talks about song sections? In classical theory (and beyond), that'd be learning about form.

To get into theory, it might help to listen to songs you really like. Break each song down to its sections, then its chords. How do the chords relate to each other? You'll grab quite a bit of functional theory that way, and you're always free to ask questions.
Glad to cross paths with you on this adventure called life
Quote by Jet Penguin
lots of flirting with the other key without confirming. JUST LIKE THEIR LOVE IN THE MOVIE OH DAMN.
Quote by Hail
you're acting like you have perfect pitch or something
#6
Bit of self promotion - I write articles for my music school website introducing music theory concepts to students. See if some of these articles help.

ALSO, really interested to see what topics you would like me to cover in future articles.

Notes - http://www.essm.net.au/understanding-music-notes/

Major Scale - http://www.essm.net.au/major-scale/

Chords - http://www.essm.net.au/chords/

See if those help gain some understanding.
Visit my music school site for advice on gear, music theory and lessons.
www.essm.net.au
#7
Quote by lleeoo66
Im 18 and I've been playing acoustic/electric for a few years. I mostly play classic rock, as I'll just listen to a song and try to figure it out. If I cant, I will resort to the tab for it. I know some of my pentatonic scales, and I can improvise over some basic chords, but nothing special, just some nice jam sessions. I can't read sheet music, I don't know theory, and I have never written a song.

I read several posts similar to this, and there are just so many recommendations, and there are good and bad reviews about recommendations. Any more advice on where to read/write and learn music theory would be great.

Knowing music theory won't help you write songs - except in the sense of being able to arrange your material, notate it, and know the names of what it is you're playing. It won't give you ideas or inspiration (other than common, generic ones). And it won't necessarily improve any of your own inspirations.

IMO, the best tips for songwriting are:

1. Have some ideas. Stuff you actually want to sing about, that could become lyrics. Little melodic phrases, or interesting chord changes, that you might find while noodling around. Keep experimenting, and record your noodling - you never know when a cool idea will turn up, and you might forget it (if you can't write it down!) No need to know any theory here. Just go by ear and trial and error. (Obviously only a tiny percentage will be any good. Knowledge of theory won't increase that percentage.)

2. Study great songs. Pick songs you like and take them to pieces, especially the bits you like most. Analysing songs will soon reveal the basics of formal construction, as well as common kinds of chord changes, and how melodies work with chords. (Naturally you need to learn to play melodies of all kinds, to give you a vocabulary from which to construct your own.)
There are common changes - which sound familiar, generic, maybe boring, but are important to know, as the bread-and-butter of songwriting - and there are more uncommon ones, which sound surprising, dramatic, etc (to varying degrees). You can always hear the difference any time you listen to songs. So pay attention, all the time! Listen analytically, not just for enjoyment.
Theory knowledge may help here, in that it will help you identify the common changes, and predict where things might be going. But remember that the greatest pop songwriters did not study theory; many of them could not even read or write music. That doesn't mean you shouldn't! But it does suggest you don't need to (other skills are more important).

Watch out for exciting effects that are nothing to do with melody, chords or rhythm - such as studio effects, or arrangement/orchestration effects. These are not generally part of the composition, of the song itself; they're decoration, embellishment.
E.g., a track that has a great mood might not get that effect from the content of the song (its melody, scale, chords or rhythm), it might just be the way it was recorded. You need to be able to distinguish that kind of thing. A great song is one you can strum on an acoustic guitar (and sing) and it still sounds great. The most memorable and successful songs tend to be surprisingly simple.
Last edited by jongtr at Jan 5, 2016,
#8
As mentioned above, awareness of song structure can help ... and also awareness of phrase structure. Listen to some of your favourite songs, and listen to how the vocals are phrased rhythmically on the verses and the choruses, for example. Here a phrase may be one line of a verse, or one line of a chorus . See what you notice in terms of very similar rhythms being used, with different words, and how the note choice may be varied. You'll soon realise that this is occurring all over the place, and its goal is to add memorability to songs (even unintentionally)

Its entirely possible to pre-plan a song, by thinking of its structure, and then thinking of rhythms to use for phrases, if you're initially stuck for a melody. Then add the note choice to the rhythm to give you melody. I've used this approach many times, both as a discipline to make me create more music, but also because it overcomes writer's block (for me).

Theory will help you understand how to put together chords with the melody.

This lesson may help you: https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/the_basics/using_intervals_for_emotion_-_part_2.html
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Jan 5, 2016,
#9
Knowing theory will help you analyze other people's songs which in turn helps you with writing your own stuff. If you know what other people are doing in their music, it's easier to structure a song. But the ideas themselves come from you. There's really no secret formula.

So does knowing theory help? Yes and no. Theory itself doesn't give you ideas. But then again, learning about new theoretic concepts may give you inspiration. It makes you aware of certain things. And of course analyzing other people's music helps. But you can definitely get new ideas without knowing any theory.
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
#10
Theory does help me, but it always has to start from somewhere, from an idea (like MM stated). I just sort of hear things and write them down.

But where theory really helps me, is organizing the fragment of melody/or whatever else into something more complete. This is where things such as voice leading, chord functions, musical texture (do you want it to be more polyphonic or just have some background chords supporting it, etc) and form come in handy.

In my opinion the toughest part in composition is making a convincing continuation in the piece, which basically means that the structure makes sense and the parts flow well into each other. If you for example go through multiple keys and in the end you want to repeat the first part, which was in a completely different key, knowing about modulation (how to change key) will help you A LOT.
#11
Really, though - you can just be fabulous and just modulate into a different key because you feel like it! ;D



(also known as unprepared modulation)
Glad to cross paths with you on this adventure called life
Quote by Jet Penguin
lots of flirting with the other key without confirming. JUST LIKE THEIR LOVE IN THE MOVIE OH DAMN.
Quote by Hail
you're acting like you have perfect pitch or something
#12
Yeah, of course, but sometimes it won't work and will feel too sudden. As always, it's all about the context.

That's both the strength and weakness of it. It gives a great sense of energy for the piece, but might feel awkward in some places.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Jan 5, 2016,
#13
Modulating out of something is one thing, being able to modulate back, is another.

Kind of like a segue in normal speaking also. It's one thing, to just let your ideas meander and flow one into another, and another thing entirely to segue specifically into something you have pre-planned.

I agree with elintasokas, theory for modulating could be helpful for that also, so you know options for modulating from any key to any other. I'm not really so expert at that though really, but I do have sort of tricks I use. I often let the melody lead me through changes also. Then I'll find the harmony that supports where I feel like the melody should go. But this specific thing can sometimes be kind of a bit of a pain for me.
#14
Quote by Elintasokas
Theory does help me, but it always has to start from somewhere, from an idea (like MM stated). I just sort of hear things and write them down.

But where theory really helps me, is organizing the fragment of melody/or whatever else into something more complete.
Exactly, me too. However....
Quote by Elintasokas

This is where things such as voice leading, chord functions, musical texture (do you want it to be more polyphonic or just have some background chords supporting it, etc) and form come in handy.
... I find this kind of thing too often results in generic sounding songs.
My problem is stopping my theoretical knowledge coming in and suggesting how things ought to go, or what ought to follow. Because that's the way they usually go, and I want something more distinctive.
I have to try and maintain the strength of the inspiration, to hear things - and maybe even play them - before I know what they are.
Quote by Elintasokas

In my opinion the toughest part in composition is making a convincing continuation in the piece, which basically means that the structure makes sense and the parts flow well into each other.
I agree, but I try to do that intuitively, by ear and trial and error. That in itself is difficult, because theory is always trying to butt in....
Quote by Elintasokas

If you for example go through multiple keys and in the end you want to repeat the first part, which was in a completely different key, knowing about modulation (how to change key) will help you A LOT.
Yes, theory will get you out of that kind of fix!

IOW, there's a balance between the "soul" of the song, if you like (its identity, inspiration and essence) and the theoretical clothes we can dress it in. Those clothes should enhance and display, not restrict uncomfortably. Those "clothes" should not just be a standard "suit" like 1000s of others - unless of course we want the song to "fit in" seamlessly within a particular genre, which sometimes we do. The theory then gives us useful templates to work within.

In general I try to be led by ear, and only resort to theory when my ear fails me. But usually when that happens it simply means the song is not much good - not worth pursuing (at least not until better ideas occur to me).

I don't mean there's an opposition between a "good song" and "good theory" - on the contrary, "good" songs always obey theory (of some kind); but more instinctively than consciously.

That was what I meant above about learning from songs themselves. If you do that, you pick up the theory rules embedded in them naturally, organically. It becomes a second language, to know how chord changes and modulations work, because you've seen it all in practice so many times. There should be no need to study theory itself, as a separate topic - except as a way of (a) feeling more knowledgeable about what you're doing (because you can name it all) and (b) being able to discuss it with other musicians. Naturally those things are important - but not to the songwriting process itself, IMO.
#15
Quote by jongtr
That was what I meant above about learning from songs themselves. If you do that, you pick up the theory rules embedded in them naturally, organically. It becomes a second language, to know how chord changes and modulations work, because you've seen it all in practice so many times. There should be no need to study theory itself, as a separate topic - except as a way of (a) feeling more knowledgeable about what you're doing (because you can name it all) and (b) being able to discuss it with other musicians. Naturally those things are important - but not to the songwriting process itself, IMO.


I'm a big believer in the wash on/wash off theory I think You're suggesting. As it worked for Me. I learned guitar,singing and songwriting because of joining this Amazing Site in 2008. I first learned to strum from the Tabs/chords section.But then got frustrated sometimes when the songs I wanted to learn were not posted. So I decided to try and work them out and post them Myself. I did this at a frustratingly slow pace but was successful (to a point) as I still feel the bridge isn't correct on my 1st. he he. After awhile it got easier for Me to work these songs out.I took what I learned and suddenly found Myself writing My own. I can't explain it.It just happened. I've wrote nearly 30 songs and always go back to Transcribing songs and posting and will continue until the end.

Just a Hobbyist
#16
Quote by lleeoo66
Im 18 and I've been playing acoustic/electric for a few years. I mostly play classic rock, as I'll just listen to a song and try to figure it out. If I cant, I will resort to the tab for it. I know some of my pentatonic scales, and I can improvise over some basic chords, but nothing special, just some nice jam sessions. I can't read sheet music, I don't know theory, and I have never written a song.

I read several posts similar to this, and there are just so many recommendations, and there are good and bad reviews about recommendations. Any more advice on where to read/write and learn music theory would be great.



What are your options that would work for your situation?

Are you looking for more free, teach yourself approaches, or is a private teacher an option that you could look at?

Best,

Sean
#17
Quote by lleeoo66
Im 18 and I've been playing acoustic/electric for a few years. I mostly play classic rock, as I'll just listen to a song and try to figure it out. If I cant, I will resort to the tab for it. I know some of my pentatonic scales, and I can improvise over some basic chords, but nothing special, just some nice jam sessions. I can't read sheet music, I don't know theory, and I have never written a song.

I read several posts similar to this, and there are just so many recommendations, and there are good and bad reviews about recommendations. Any more advice on where to read/write and learn music theory would be great.


Reading sheet music, learning music theory and songwriting are 3 different things though they sometimes overlap.

Reading sheet music won't help you with songwriting, music theory does. However songwriting is a skill in itself which you need to develop aside from music theory.

Music theory explains why things are happening and may give you ideas. Your ears have probably noticed for instance that G7 followed by C sounds good. Music theory explains why, and suggests other chord progressions that are going to sound great together.

So yes, learning music theory definitely helps.

However songwriting is mostly learnt by doing. Sit down with your guitar and a piece of paper and come up with a small riff, keep it simple at first. Or a short chord progression you repeat over and over again. Try to sing a melody over it. Record it, and if you came up with some cool lyrics, write them down.

Online you can learn about song structure, but the best way to learn structuring songs is analysing the music you love. Do your favorites start with the verse then go to the chorus? Is there a bridge somewhere, do they have a guitar solo?

PS: To do so you do NOT need to know how to sing. I'm a songwriter and I can't sing. I just come up with melodies over chord progressions, sing them the way I could to my band vocalist and he does the singing. I just show him the tune.
#18
Quote by Robert Callus
Your ears have probably noticed for instance that G7 followed by C sounds good. Music theory explains why, and suggests other chord progressions that are going to sound great together.


I actually don't really find it does. I find it's more like someone's ears noticed G7 followed by C sounds a certain way, and named that, and that's it. And then other chords have other roles based on the sort of common "pull" that they have. But it's not really explaining why there is a pull, or lack thereof, really, just saying there is, and naming it.

I mean, you could talk about notes moving up a half step, or staying constant, but, I don't really find that's what theory does, or it's not really its purpose. I think that chromatic action probably happens a lot more than people think, and it is a common "explanation" as to why one chord sounds good followed by another, because why else? Which is not wrong, necessarily, but not much of an explanation, and not really useful for making music, because I don't have time to sit there and look at the individual notes and build chords based on moving some of those chromatically to make a new chord.

When it comes down to it, the real true "why" is biological. It's about us. Vibrations are just vibrations, but the way our brains work, we create this relationship based off of what we hear, and we create this sort of context for sounds, and some of them create a strong feeling of pulling us toward another chord, or we perceive these relationships a certain way. Why? Idk, seems like an odd thing to evolve, to me.
#19
Quote by Robert Callus
Reading sheet music, learning music theory and songwriting are 3 different things though they sometimes overlap.

Reading sheet music won't help you with songwriting, music theory does.
I disagree. You can learn a lot about songwriting by copying what other songwriters do.
Less by reading theory.
Theory describes a whole lot of formulas and options - true - but doesn't tell you how they sound.
Listen to some songs, hear sounds you like, read the sheet music to find out what they are. A more direct and (IMO) more successful strategy.
Quote by Robert Callus

However songwriting is a skill in itself which you need to develop aside from music theory.
True.
Quote by Robert Callus

Music theory explains why things are happening
Well, in the same way that a street map "explains" a city.
I.e., depends what you mean "explain".
Music theory is not interested in "why" music is put together the way it is. Only in "how".
Quote by Robert Callus
Your ears have probably noticed for instance that G7 followed by C sounds good. Music theory explains why,
It does? I must have missed that section....
Quote by Robert Callus

and suggests other chord progressions that are going to sound great together.
Yes, in the sense of "commonly agreed", or "familiar". Useful of course, but "sounds great" is in the ear of the beholder. A lot of perfectly by-the-book chord sequences sound dull, or cheesy, hackneyed.
- which doesn't mean that more unusual sequences are "breaking rules", of course. If it sounds good, you can bet music theory will cover it somewhere.
Quote by Robert Callus

However songwriting is mostly learnt by doing.
....
....
the best way to learn structuring songs is analysing the music you love.
Agree 100% .
#20
Quote by lleeoo66
Im 18 and I've been playing acoustic/electric for a few years. I mostly play classic rock, as I'll just listen to a song and try to figure it out. If I cant, I will resort to the tab for it. I know some of my pentatonic scales, and I can improvise over some basic chords, but nothing special, just some nice jam sessions. I can't read sheet music, I don't know theory, and I have never written a song.

I read several posts similar to this, and there are just so many recommendations, and there are good and bad reviews about recommendations. Any more advice on where to read/write and learn music theory would be great.


What is your situation?

Can you afford lessons, get a teacher? Can you take music classes?

I think that the recommendations should be appropriate for your situation, and goals.

Best,

Sean
#21
Quote by lleeoo66

I read several posts similar to this, and there are just so many recommendations, and there are good and bad reviews about recommendations. Any more advice on where to read/write and learn music theory would be great.


It's like in forums all the time. A lot of people have differing opinions. If you want to learn how to songwrite, I would say that a good start would be to find someone that knows how to songwrite and ask them to help you out and teach you.

There are always lots of points of view in every forum, but they are not all coming from expert players and writers. That's really the only way I can think of to separate the better opinions from the less good ones. Find someone that can do what you want to do, and ask them how. But that will likely not be free like a forum. You get what you pay for right? For free, you get a bunch of conflicting opinions which some might be great, and some might be poor, and you don't know which is which.
#22
Quote by jongtr
I disagree. You can learn a lot about songwriting by copying what other songwriters do.
Less by reading theory.
Theory describes a whole lot of formulas and options - true - but doesn't tell you how they sound.
Listen to some songs, hear sounds you like, read the sheet music to find out what they are. A more direct and (IMO) more successful strategy.
True.
Well, in the same way that a street map "explains" a city.
I.e., depends what you mean "explain".
Music theory is not interested in "why" music is put together the way it is. Only in "how".
It does? I must have missed that section....
Yes, in the sense of "commonly agreed", or "familiar". Useful of course, but "sounds great" is in the ear of the beholder. A lot of perfectly by-the-book chord sequences sound dull, or cheesy, hackneyed.
- which doesn't mean that more unusual sequences are "breaking rules", of course. If it sounds good, you can bet music theory will cover it somewhere.
Agree 100% .



I'm referring to the actual reading of notes, as opposed to for instance, tabs. Yes, you definitely need to learn songs - oops, I had missed that pretty much important thing out - but it doesn't make a difference whether you learn them reading sheet music, tabs or by ear
#23
Quote by fingrpikingood
I actually don't really find it does. I find it's more like someone's ears noticed G7 followed by C sounds a certain way, and named that, and that's it. And then other chords have other roles based on the sort of common "pull" that they have. But it's not really explaining why there is a pull, or lack thereof, really, just saying there is, and naming it.

I mean, you could talk about notes moving up a half step, or staying constant, but, I don't really find that's what theory does, or it's not really its purpose. I think that chromatic action probably happens a lot more than people think, and it is a common "explanation" as to why one chord sounds good followed by another, because why else? Which is not wrong, necessarily, but not much of an explanation, and not really useful for making music, because I don't have time to sit there and look at the individual notes and build chords based on moving some of those chromatically to make a new chord.

When it comes down to it, the real true "why" is biological. It's about us. Vibrations are just vibrations, but the way our brains work, we create this relationship based off of what we hear, and we create this sort of context for sounds, and some of them create a strong feeling of pulling us toward another chord, or we perceive these relationships a certain way. Why? Idk, seems like an odd thing to evolve, to me.


You're correct. I gave the impression music theory explains "why" things sound the way they do. Actually theory explain "how it works".

On songwriting, I did find theory very helpful though. I don't write songs literally by the book but knowing theory did help me understand the process as well as help me generate ideas "what if I replace the 5th chord by the 3rd..." kind of
#24
Quote by Robert Callus
You're correct. I gave the impression music theory explains "why" things sound the way they do. Actually theory explain "how it works".

On songwriting, I did find theory very helpful though. I don't write songs literally by the book but knowing theory did help me understand the process as well as help me generate ideas "what if I replace the 5th chord by the 3rd..." kind of


Theory definitely helps me write as well, but usually more in a different kind of way. I do that as well sometimes for sure, but where it really shines for me, is if you think of something you want, a sound in your mind, theory can help you find it quickly.

For single notes, it's not so bad, you can trial and error, and you might be off a bit, but it quickly narrows it down. But chords is another story. You either need to do that with a few notes one after the other, and if you don't know chord grips, that will be tough, or just guess chord grips you think it might be. Sometimes it's not so bad, but theory helps me out that way quite a lot. On piano it's not so bad also, I can think of the 3 or 4 notes I want, pick them out one at a time, not so bad. On guitar, you do that, and you realize you can't play those 3, so you have to play the 7th in a certain spot, and the 3rd somewhere else, otherwise your hands can't do it. It's more difficult that way. On piano, there is one of each note, so if you want that one, just press it, easy.

So, I definitely recommend anyone that wants to songwrite, to learn about harmony for sure. It 's not necessary, because functional harmony isn't "follow these steps and you will have written a great song." It's not even that, with choose your own adventure options. It's not paint by numbers. It's just naming stuff, which helps for writing. You could paint by numbers it though, and even follow all the most popular and common trends in harmony, and that could be fun, but a great song is a lot more than just a progression anyway.

It's like naming colors. You can name colors, and name mixes of colors, and talk about complementary colors, and all that kind of stuff, but a painting is a lot more than that. Most of them anyway, some are actually very much just that, and even really expensive ones, which I don't understand, but anyway.

Right? you wouldn't place a blue stroke next to an orange one, just because orange and blue. You would place a stroke next to another one, depending on what you're painting. But you might know about orange, what it's called, and how to make it, and same for blue, and you might know the effect of putting them close together, and you might want that effect, so you might choose a blue background for the orange you're painting, or something like that. And you might audition colors knowing a few different combinations, wondering which you'd like most, just like your example, also.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Feb 9, 2016,
#25
Quote by fingrpikingood
Theory definitely helps me write as well, but usually more in a different kind of way. I do that as well sometimes for sure, but where it really shines for me, is if you think of something you want, a sound in your mind, theory can help you find it quickly.

For single notes, it's not so bad, you can trial and error, and you might be off a bit, but it quickly narrows it down. But chords is another story. You either need to do that with a few notes one after the other, and if you don't know chord grips, that will be tough, or just guess chord grips you think it might be. Sometimes it's not so bad, but theory helps me out that way quite a lot. On piano it's not so bad also, I can think of the 3 or 4 notes I want, pick them out one at a time, not so bad. On guitar, you do that, and you realize you can't play those 3, so you have to play the 7th in a certain spot, and the 3rd somewhere else, otherwise your hands can't do it. It's more difficult that way. On piano, there is one of each note, so if you want that one, just press it, easy.

So, I definitely recommend anyone that wants to songwrite, to learn about harmony for sure. It 's not necessary, because functional harmony isn't "follow these steps and you will have written a great song." It's not even that, with choose your own adventure options. It's not paint by numbers. It's just naming stuff, which helps for writing. You could paint by numbers it though, and even follow all the most popular and common trends in harmony, and that could be fun, but a great song is a lot more than just a progression anyway.

It's like naming colors. You can name colors, and name mixes of colors, and talk about complementary colors, and all that kind of stuff, but a painting is a lot more than that. Most of them anyway, some are actually very much just that, and even really expensive ones, which I don't understand, but anyway.

Right? you wouldn't place a blue stroke next to an orange one, just because orange and blue. You would place a stroke next to another one, depending on what you're painting. But you might know about orange, what it's called, and how to make it, and same for blue, and you might know the effect of putting them close together, and you might want that effect, so you might choose a blue background for the orange you're painting, or something like that. And you might audition colors knowing a few different combinations, wondering which you'd like most, just like your example, also.


You sum it up pretty much correctly especially with the colors comparison.
#26
Long, yet somewhat late reply inbound.

Songwriting and theory are two separate things. The latter explains why the former works the way it does, not dictating the way it should be. That's where many people who are new to theory get confused.

Songwriting is typically either done as some of the following:

1) Noodling around on your instrument of choice until you have a basis to build a song off of. Whether it's a guitar riff to the song, the beginning of a melody, or any other idea you came across through noodling on your instrument of jamming with others.

2) An idea that you have in your head. Whether it's how the bass line should go underneath a chord line or that sick riff that you hear in your head, it can be whatever you hear it your head.

Theory basically tells you why the piece sounds the way it does. Essentially, you can have an explanation as to why something sounds good. You can use theory knowledge to analyze a song that you like and base something of your own creation off of it. Theory will give you hints as to what some common "pleasant" sounding ideas are, but you shouldn't use the hints as strict guidelines to write. Sure, you can have a I-V-vi-IV chord progression and you'll be fine. It's also perfectly fine to use chords and notes outside of a diatonic key.

Theory Explanation #1: Take for instance the verse progression of Sweet Child of Mine in conjunction with its vocal melody. The melody is played over a D-C-G-D chord progression. The melody resolves around a D note, making the key D major. The chord progression "looks" like a typical I-IV-V in G major, but in the case of the song, it's a I-bVII-IV-I in D major. The C chord, although not part of a typical D major scale, makes for another interesting harmony option.

Theory Explanation #2: Even then, you can look at the progression of the chorus to Sweet Child of Mine. It's a A-C-D-D progression. This may look unorthodox, but it's a V-bVII-I in D major. Again, it takes a borrowed chord from another scale.

Theory Explanation Summation: Despite analyzing he verse and chorus to a popular song, the boys of Guns N Roses didn't sit down at their house and say "Okay, let's theoretically write out what our song would be." They had an idea to the song, worked on it, and came up with the structure of it. It wasn't until after they finished writing that people would analyze it to see why it sounded the way it did.

As stated by everyone else, theory should never be used as a crutch to write music. People who say that theory limits your creativity are those who either don't understand theory or weren't that creative in the first place.
Skip the username, call me Billy
Last edited by aerosmithfan95 at Feb 9, 2016,
#27
^ we had a long discussion on that song a little bit back, actually.
Glad to cross paths with you on this adventure called life
Quote by Jet Penguin
lots of flirting with the other key without confirming. JUST LIKE THEIR LOVE IN THE MOVIE OH DAMN.
Quote by Hail
you're acting like you have perfect pitch or something