#1
Ok, so I have played guitar for a couple years now and loved it up until a little while ago...
I USED to be able to just sit down with a guitar, jam on it, and make something awesome out of nothing, no theory, no anything. I've never had an instructor, and loved how I was able to make songs without anything holding me down. I started learning theory and everything went to s***, My playing sounds all technical, I cant just "make" stuff anymore, I'm confused and non-motivated. I guess what I'm getting at, is, will theory take me to were I can pull the music I can hear in my head out? Or did theory lie to me and is still driving me into a corner of technicality and bull**** (sorry about all the theory hatred, but I HATE THEORY....)
#2
Uh...

You have COMPLETELY the wrong idea about what theory is. It's knowledge to help you achieve what you want to create, not restrictions to hinder your creative flow.

My guess is you've only learned the very basics, and haven't branched out enough in chord theory, the use of nonharmonic tones, and ear training.

At the beginning, everything can sound very technical, but eventually you'll realize how it all fits together and allows for maximum creativity.
#3
You're just stuck in a rut. I doubt it has anything to do with theory. If it has however, consider theory as a tool you use, not as rules you follow blindly.
#4
Theory killed my father and raped my mother

No dude. If you knew theory, it can only HELP you. What you are now lacking is inspiration or creativity on your own part. That makes no sense at all, and I know alot of kids that use the "but then I won't get creative because Ill know what to do" line as an excuse to not learn theory. Its not gonna damage your creativity, and in fact it will ADD to it, and will help you to write songs how you want them, and show you how your songs are made, so you can add harmonies, etc, and save you time.

Its like the Scientist thats never gone to school, never picked up a book, and doesn't know what google is: "I have deduced that the earth isn't flat" I mean no ****, but if you read a book you would have found that out quite early, and saved you many years of frustration leading to something you could have just known.
#5
The earth...not flat?


If you continue with that propaganda I'm gonna have to report you.
#6
Theory will just carry ur skills further and make it more easy t come up with new stuff imo
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#7
Everyone hates theory, but for it to work you need to practice, and you need to learn ALLOT. It's just something we need to do. Even when you played with no knowledge of theory, you were still playing something that theory can be applied to, even if a person is strumming a chord and doesn't know the name of it, it still has a name and a scale that can be played over it, you know what I mean. Just keep at it.
#8
Theory has never gotten in the way of my songwriting. You are having writers block, so to speak, and theory has nothing to do with that. Give it some time and it will pass. In the meantime, study more theory. Remember, music theory is meant to teach you how and why, not tell you what and when.
#9
hm. Good advice. I am stuck in a rut creatively, know BASIC theory, still trying to pick up my aural skills, and have been using it as a necessity. +1 UGers, thnx for the advice guys ill try and not be so distraught, now I just need to find my motive... again... (where did I put that thing?)
#10
Theory is just experience written down... Think about that for a second.
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He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice.


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#11
Quote by Resiliance
Theory is just experience written down... Think about that for a second.
Even better, think about it for two seconds.
#12
Quote by JesusVSMegaman
hm. Good advice. I am stuck in a rut creatively, know BASIC theory, still trying to pick up my aural skills, and have been using it as a necessity. +1 UGers, thnx for the advice guys ill try and not be so distraught, now I just need to find my motive... again... (where did I put that thing?)


listen to ur fav song thats just makes u wanna jump around ur room and play airguitar n **** just totaly flip out and have fun
Quote by ealtdharkon
Sorry to break this to you, but you "hardcore" fans don't HAVE mosh pits.
You have epileptic line dancing.


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Well... I AM a virgin, afterall...
#13
Quote by david_highland
Everyone hates theory


i don't, i quite enjoy the ideas in it.

but yeah, like resi said, it's basically lessons about music that people have already learned. so instead of trying to figure out 500+ years of musical knowledge on yer own you can learn from dead guys who already did that stuff for you.
#14
Quote by z4twenny
i don't, i quite enjoy the ideas in it.

but yeah, like resi said, it's basically lessons about music that people have already learned. so instead of trying to figure out 500+ years of musical knowledge on yer own you can learn from dead guys who already did that stuff for you.


that one made me laugh I guess I dont hate theory anymore...
#15
Try learning about chord progressions if you don't know about them and cadences, when you combine these ides your song writing will improve dramatically!
Quote by cakemonster91

*chuckle* A peanut. With a face.



Go to your staff paper and re-write this song a half step down so on the paper it'll be like you have a "C" just move it down to a "B#"




Know your theory, then play like you don't.

#17
Of course there's a chance that you're an idiot savant, and yes learning something very diligently may stick your brain into not thinking outside the box. I remember reading an interview with Thom Yorke where he said that the other guys in the band studied theory, but they don't want him to because they want that one guy who is untouched by that stuff and learns all his theory from his OWN experience. That's the only real difference, that the experience you get by studying theory is largely somebody else's unless you go the next step and actually practice compsition a lot.

But it's a very tiny percentage of people can actually be "hurt" by theory, which is very subjective anyway because I can't tell how good the stuff you thought was great and spontaneous really was...most likely you're just going to learn how to write that secondary dominant instead of wondering what that sound you want is.

For the most part, it's just music lessons that should give you material you didn't think of before, not prevent you from following instincts on what is good music. Let's not pretend that it's impossible for it to stifle some creativity, but overwhelmingly more likely, if you haven't discovered some genius in yourself already, it will do the opposite.

and hey, it's also damn interesting.

Edit: a further point. It's absolutely true that some of the greatest songwriters ever, especially in rock, didn't study theory. I'm not going to say they didn't KNOW theory, but the vast majority of their knowledge was gleaned from observation and invention, rather than studying already written knowledge. Of course, whatever they learn themselves will have been explained in some theory book somewhere. The point is that nobody can know all theory, and since theory is presented in a certain way, somebody who discovers it on their own will likely be picking and choosing random theory ideas in a non-traditional order. Thus, it's less likely they'll develop in the same way as 10 people who learn the same theory from the same book.
However, this should just make you more proactive to, having mastered the basics, obtain a wide range of theoretical knowledge.

Additionally, you may argue that the rockers most often associated with vast theoretical knowledge are often not the same level of songwriters that the theory-less guys are. This is often true, and there are multiple reasons at work for this, none of which should make you stop learning theory:

1) The geniuses are going to be recognized, and they are going to feel no need to study what other people have done when they're writing new stuff. However, within a number of years their material will form new theory. Does this somehow make it bad to learn?

2) The people who learn a lot of theory may want to use it all, and overdo a lot of exotic ideas that are very difficult to combine in any really musical manner. It's asking a lot of somebody who studied for 20 years to write a 3 chord folk tune, but if you don't force complexity where simplicity is required, it will not stop you from writing the next "Blowin in the wind".

3) People who learn a ton of theory may start to forget what they discovered for themselves early on. The solution to this is to recognize what you are doing early on, and write it down. Then see where it fits into theory, or describe in whatever way you can what you were doing. This is developing your own sound, but also documenting it, which will help you organize yourself and write better songs.
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Last edited by sirpsycho85 at Sep 7, 2007,
#18
Mere intellectual understanding of theory is only a beginning, and sometimes this can hinder you when you are trying to play or be spontaneous. It takes time and a lot of practice to really integrate your understanding of theory into your playing. I think this partly explains the difference between those of us who "know" music theory intellectually and those who have really absorbed it and "get it", having made the theory so integral to their tool kit that it is expressed through play spontaneously.
#19
It sounds more likely that you've developed a more critical ear. My guess is you've briefly touched on theory and even that little bit of knowledge has shown up your previous efforts for what they really were.

Keep at it, theory only helps, it doesn't hinder you one bit.
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#20
Going on the analogy that one guy made on UG a few days ago:

You can't write a book if you don't know the language.
And you can't write a book if you don't have a story.

Theory and creativity work together in this way. LEARN IT! You need it.
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#21
Quote by JesusVSMegaman
Ok, so I have played guitar for a couple years now and loved it up until a little while ago...
I USED to be able to just sit down with a guitar, jam on it, and make something awesome out of nothing, no theory, no anything. I've never had an instructor, and loved how I was able to make songs without anything holding me down. I started learning theory and everything went to s***, My playing sounds all technical, I cant just "make" stuff anymore, I'm confused and non-motivated. I guess what I'm getting at, is, will theory take me to were I can pull the music I can hear in my head out? Or did theory lie to me and is still driving me into a corner of technicality and bull**** (sorry about all the theory hatred, but I HATE THEORY....)


You have some good points, and whether people want to admit it or not, they have probably experienced some of the same.

When you learn theory, it makes you think about what your doing. You begin to analyze what your doing, instead of just doing it. This can actually be a hinderance, especially at 1st. The problem comes from overthinking about it. Forcing yourself to write something "thoeretically correct", rather than writing what sounds good to you. Just remember if it sounds good.... it probably can be justified with thoery.

I will say though, that theory can be very rewarding to understand. I would recommend continuing your study of it, but take some time away once in awhile, and just play like you used to... dont think, just play. A balance between study.... and playing for fun, should take you in the right direction.
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Sep 7, 2007,
#22
Quote by david_highland
Everyone hates theory, but for it to work you need to practice, and you need to learn ALLOT. It's just something we need to do. Even when you played with no knowledge of theory, you were still playing something that theory can be applied to, even if a person is strumming a chord and doesn't know the name of it, it still has a name and a scale that can be played over it, you know what I mean. Just keep at it.


I don't hate theory, and I don't understand how can you make that statement.
Theory really helped up my songwriting.
Don't look at it like it's something awful you need to do. I enjoy implementing theory in my songwriting and experimenting with it.
Quote by Johnljones7443
my neew year reslosutions are not too drikn as much lol.

happy new yeeae guyas.
#23
^ Same thing here. I was surprised when he spoke on my behalf.
#24
Quote by yawn
^ Same thing here. I was surprised when he spoke on my behalf.


Yeah, but it all comes from how you understand the theory. If wrong learned theory locked threadstarter in box positions and strict holding to keys, he should really relearn it. I seen this before. Those guitarists are just afraid to go out of key, because it's ''wrong''.

Or maybe, the threadstarter is got it all correct, but he's coming to some kind of crisis and blaming the theory for this.
I really can't understand how some musician can hate theory.
Quote by Johnljones7443
my neew year reslosutions are not too drikn as much lol.

happy new yeeae guyas.
#25
Too true, theory can only help.

But I think the TS problem is that he dosen't undestand theory, but is knoledgable about theory. He knows how, but not why.

You've got to realise that theory just tells you what sounds like what and when with what feeling.

There aren't too many musicians that DONT break theory. Most of them do on a regular basis. So start breaking the rules.
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#27
Quote by DarTHie
I don't hate theory, and I don't understand how can you make that statement.
Theory really helped up my songwriting.
Don't look at it like it's something awful you need to do. I enjoy implementing theory in my songwriting and experimenting with it.



What I meant was everyone hates having to learn theory, I thought more people would have gotten that. I'll explain everything I say in explicit detail from now on. What I was saying in the previous sentence is, that I'll be much more clear when trying to convey a thought by going into more detail, okay....understand, okay...
#29
Quote by yawn
^ I thought learning theory was fun...


Yeah, me too.
I simple love implementing something I just learned in my playing and experimenting with it.
Maybe we are music geeks?


And to david_highland, it's not like you have to explain everything now, just be careful when you are using words like everybody, nobody, I never, I always etc.
I never actually found learning theory to be pain in the ass, maybe somewhat confusing when I was a noob.
Quote by Johnljones7443
my neew year reslosutions are not too drikn as much lol.

happy new yeeae guyas.
#30
Quote by Resiliance
Theory is just experience written down... Think about that for a second.

Banging on a trash can
Drumming on a street light
#31
Quote by GuitarMunky
You have some good points, and whether people want to admit it or not, they have probably experienced some of the same.

When you learn theory, it makes you think about what your doing. You begin to analyze what your doing, instead of just doing it. This can actually be a hinderance, especially at 1st. The problem comes from overthinking about it. Forcing yourself to write something "thoeretically correct", rather than writing what sounds good to you. Just remember if it sounds good.... it probably can be justified with thoery.

I will say though, that theory can be very rewarding to understand. I would recommend continuing your study of it, but take some time away once in awhile, and just play like you used to... dont think, just play. A balance between study.... and playing for fun, should take you in the right direction.



I completely agree with you when you say "This can actually be a hinderance, especially at 1st. The problem comes from overthinking about it. Forcing yourself to write something "thoeretically correct", rather than writing what sounds good to you."

I've just recently gotten past (at least a bit) that little feeling that's saying, "Don't play that. It's not 'theoretically correct'!" Like Munky said, there are times when you need to just have at it, and there are times when you need to actually study what you are doing.
#32
You have to wear two hats as a guitar player. Your practice hat and your
playing hat. They are two completely different activities with different goals.
To boil it down: think MORE when you practice, think LESS when you play.

I'd have to define what I mean by "think" here because I'm not implying you don't
think while playing, it's just a different kind of thing altogether.
#33
Quote by edg
You have to wear two hats as a guitar player. Your practice hat and your
playing hat. They are two completely different activities with different goals.
To boil it down: think MORE when you practice, think LESS when you play.

I'd have to define what I mean by "think" here because I'm not implying you don't
think while playing, it's just a different kind of thing altogether.

...But Friedman said "the more you think the better you play," and Friedman is the living god of guitar
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[U]        |/     .-.              [/U]
[U]       /|_     `-’       |      [/U]
[U]      //| \      |       |      [/U]
[U]     | \|_ |     |     .-|      [/U]
      *-|-*    (_)     `-’
        |
        L.
#34
Quote by demonofthenight
...But Friedman said "the more you think the better you play," and Friedman is the living god of guitar


Melodic Control is good, but there's a few things he said I wouldn't necessarily
take to the bank.

It comes down to the last thing I said, defining thinking. There's the kind of
thinking you do when solving a math problem. That's very linear and slow.
Then there's the kind of thinking you'd do, hmmm ... say to ... compose a
picture or painting, or create building architecture. Kind of logic vs emotional,
problem solving vs creative type of thinking. Doing a lot of the former, frees
you up for exploring more of the latter.

If you were playing, you wouldn't want to start pondering musical theoretical
concepts. Your playing would probably stop in its tracks. You want to be
able to already know those concepts cold. Then your creative thinking can
make stuff up with them and play around with them. That happens on the spot.

I assumed most people take "thinking" to mean the logic kind.
Last edited by edg at Sep 8, 2007,
#35
To boil it down: think MORE when you practice, think LESS when you play.


Amen.

The point of practice is to think of all the theory concepts playing mechanics etc. so much so that when you are actually playing the subconscious can take over those processes.
#36
Theory is a Language in which you can describe music to yourself and others. It should not be a restriction. Be creative! Even if you write something that may not seem to make any sense at all, there's always a reason it sounds that way. Even the oddest of things fall into theory somehow. Hopefully that helped.
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#37
Theory is your toolkit. It allows you to understand why some stuff sounds right and other stuff doesn't and to do things you never would have thought of before. Think of it this way- before theory, you had a basic paint kit- one shade of each color. Theory gives you the deluxe kit with three or four shades each of blue, green, red, yellow, etc. Could you blend those shades from the basic kit? Yeah, but it's a hell of a lot more work, both to get the shade in the first place and then to duplicate it later. Or like you can get by with just a crescent wrench, but some stuff is a hell of a lot easier if you've got a socket set. Borrowed chords are a good example. They're like the weird sizes in a socket set- something you may not use much, but damn, they come in handy sometimes.
Brevity is the soul of lingerie.
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#38
I quite like theory as well and how everything fits together and how everything works.

but i agree with what the above user said "it explains wahts written down..."
when ppl say that theory can stunt your creativity i think its just a load of bs. thats like saying knowing the alphabet too well makes you not write as well...it doesnt make sence
#39
I love theory because of the emotional themes it presents. If I had a terrible experience I would know exactly how to write it out, which nonharmonic notes to use, why the chord progession is particularily dissonant and maybe add a Lydian intro in there with quick flashes of Phygrian, sort of the "calm before the storm" with some foreshadowing. If I had an awesome day maybe I'll use Mixolydian, get some soul influences with loose harmonies in fifths and octaves, and do a lot of blues pentatonic fills with bent-into major sevenths and major thirds thrown into the mix. If it's a dream sequence I could do a lot of Lydian in free time, maybe with some Whole Tone if it gets a bit bizzarre. And all that's really just basic information on the modes, but it's using them to their actual compositional, musical, and emotional potential, which is what the whole point of it is.

It frustrates me sometimes saying someone 'hates' theory because they feel restricted, and then all they can play is some I-IV-V chord progressions over and over - not that there's anything wrong with that, I do it all the time, who the hell doesn't? But if they only turned the light on and saw that there was more then a screwdriver in the toolshed, who knows what they could build. And although a screwdriver could be pretty damn versatile, the powerdrill was invented for a reason.

There, there's my analogy for Music Theory, all the cool kids are doing it >_>