#1
What do I need to know to be able to write songs, figure out other songs, and generally be considered a competent musician? So far I know the major scale, can read music, partly understand and can use the circle of fifths, and mostly understand basic intervals and chord structure. I know this sort of thing is subjective (you could write songs if you only knew the key of C for example) but I'd like to know what the general standard is.
you got soul, or so you say. hey, i say you don't!

Quote by Sol9989
#2
I don't think there is a "standard", but here are some good things to know. Some I realize you said you already know.

The Major Scales and its relative minors
The Minor scales and its relative majors
Triad formulas
The key signatures
Rhythm symbols and what they mean
Common time signatures (4/4, 3/4, 2/4, 6/8)

those are the main things I can think of..
#3
I think the point is just to learn as much as you can/want. Anything you learn will make you a better musician.

I would say the MT FAQ sticky is a pretty good standard.
My name is Andy
Quote by MudMartin
Only looking at music as math and theory, is like only looking at the love of your life as flesh and bone.

Swinging to the rhythm of the New World Order,
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
#4
^yeah he's right. that sticky has a ton of information. I can't believe I forgot it.
#5
as much as you can / want. There is no standard. Great music has been written by people with no knowledge of theory whatsoever, as well as by people that are educated.

Take it as far as you want. It seems like your interested in it... .why not take some lessons. There is alot to music theory, and youll get more out of it if you have some direction/ guidance.
shred is gaudy music
#7
Quote by Paul Tauterouff
You want to learn and understand all of the modes of the major scale and how to harmonize them to make chords. That will help your songwriting and make it easier to learn songs.

learning the modes definitely takes your writing and improv to the next level, but that's not really needed at first. I think a complete understanding and knowledge of the major scales and they key signatures is much more important.
#8
Quote by GuitarMunky
as much as you can / want. There is no standard. Great music has been written by people with no knowledge of theory whatsoever, as well as by people that are educated.

Take it as far as you want. It seems like your interested in it... .why not take some lessons. There is alot to music theory, and youll get more out of it if you have some direction/ guidance.


I back this post 101%
#9
I don't think you need to learn formal theory to be able to write songs, but you'll need it to understand what's going on, i mean, why certain things sound good or sound bad in a particular song.
Besides being a guitar player, I'm a big fan of the guitar. I love that damn instrument. Steve Vai

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#10
Quote by GuitarMunky
as much as you can / want. There is no standard. Great music has been written by people with no knowledge of theory whatsoever, as well as by people that are educated.

Take it as far as you want. It seems like your interested in it... .why not take some lessons. There is alot to music theory, and youll get more out of it if you have some direction/ guidance.
I only back this post 1%

The songs that were written by people who did not know theory what so ever were written by taking little bits of other peoples songs or were complete flukes. IE: the chords that were used, the melody that was used, the licks that were used and so on. People who write like this don't know why their songs sound good, they just do.

Music theory is just knowing what sounds good. And before anyone says it, Jimi Hendrix did indeed know theory. From studying his songs, he knew what chords were and he knew about pentatonics.

But yeah, if your interested, theory is something increadibly usefull to learn.
        ,
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[U]       /|_     `-’       |      [/U]
[U]      //| \      |       |      [/U]
[U]     | \|_ |     |     .-|      [/U]
      *-|-*    (_)     `-’
        |
        L.
#11
Quote by demonofthenight
I only back this post 1%

The songs that were written by people who did not know theory what so ever were written by taking little bits of other peoples songs or were complete flukes. IE: the chords that were used, the melody that was used, the licks that were used and so on. People who write like this don't know why their songs sound good, they just do.

Music theory is just knowing what sounds good. And before anyone says it, Jimi Hendrix did indeed know theory. From studying his songs, he knew what chords were and he knew about pentatonics.

But yeah, if your interested, theory is something increadibly usefull to learn.

Only 1%? It seems like you are only disagreeing with half a sentence, and only because of a technicality.
My name is Andy
Quote by MudMartin
Only looking at music as math and theory, is like only looking at the love of your life as flesh and bone.

Swinging to the rhythm of the New World Order,
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
#12
Quote by Ænimus Prime
Only 1%? It seems like you are only disagreeing with half a sentence, and only because of a technicality.
Alright, 2%
        ,
        |\
[U]        | |                     [/U]
[U]        |/     .-.              [/U]
[U]       /|_     `-’       |      [/U]
[U]      //| \      |       |      [/U]
[U]     | \|_ |     |     .-|      [/U]
      *-|-*    (_)     `-’
        |
        L.
#13
Quote by demonofthenight
I only back this post 1%

The songs that were written by people who did not know theory what so ever were written by taking little bits of other peoples songs or were complete flukes. IE: the chords that were used, the melody that was used, the licks that were used and so on.

lol? the beatles? pink floyd? johnny marr? most great artists that revolutionized music in one way or another knew 0 music theory.
People who write like this don't know why their songs sound good, they just do.

that's the whole point. most famous musicians did not know music theory.

Music theory is just knowing what sounds good. And before anyone says it, Jimi Hendrix did indeed know theory. From studying his songs, he knew what chords were and he knew about pentatonics.

source?
#14
The Beatles and Pink Floyd knew "0" music theory?

Right.
He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt.
He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice.


Remember: A prudent question is one half of wisdom.

Click.
#15
Quote by v1cious
that's the whole point. most famous musicians did not know music theory.

What a ****ing stupid thing to say. Got anything to back this "fact" up with?
#16
I'm really against the whole "Hendrix didn't know theory" arguement being brought up in the learning theory arguement....

Yes, I personally believe Hendrix knew some theory.... but at the end of the day, how are we to know???

Clandestine1, like others said, learn as much as you like, you can never know too much, just don't let it overpower you!
#17
Quote by v1cious
lol? the beatles? pink floyd? johnny marr? most great artists that revolutionized music in one way or another knew 0 music theory.

that's the whole point. most famous musicians did not know music theory.


source?


shut up fool, if they knew no theory right they would even be able to play guitar/bass/sing, you need to know theory just for rhythms

and they obviously did, with the masterpieces they were throwing out.

Shine on you crazy diamond a 15minute fluke? I dont think so

regarding back to the posters original question leanr as much theory as possible
#18
Try not to turn this into an argument of which artists knew there theory. To TS it's up to you how much you want to learn. It's not going to make you any less creative, in fact it'll be helpful because you'll know what goes together.
When life gives you lemons just say fuck the lemons and bail



Quote by Duffman123
The first time I saw his name I thought it said cunt Seanula >_>

True story.
#19
Quote by Resiliance
The Beatles and Pink Floyd knew "0" music theory?

Right.

when i say theory, i don't mean basic chords or the position of notes on the fretboard. i am talking about scales, modes, circle of fifths, etc.

Quote by bikersbasin
shut up fool, if they knew no theory right they would even be able to play guitar/bass/sing, you need to know theory just for rhythms

you are just using "theory" synonymously with "music." yes, you need to learn MUSIC to play MUSIC, but you don't need to know all of the scales (i.e. what most people understand as "theory") to be able to make good music, which is what my argument is.

even johnny marr agrees with me.
Q: You haven't had any formal theoretical training, yet your harmonic ideas are quite sophisticated.

A: The older I get, the more I realize that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I try to avoid an overly theoretical approach at all costs. I like putting in parts that I don't understand, parts that just sound good by ear. On the Talking Heads' "Cool Water" [Naked], for example, I tuned a Gibson ES-335 12-string to an atonal drone against the track at David Byrne's encouragement. I didn't know what the tuning was, so I was playing all kinds of shapes that I never would have gotten into. We miked it acoustically, without an amp. I try to avoid thinking about scales, keys, and anything like that. I really like the idea of not knowing what I'm doing. Ultimately, I end up with something more original, a little more from the heart than the head. I know it doesn't work for everyone, but it's convenient for me because I'm quite a lazy person [laughs]. But that's one of the things I'm looking forward to about getting old and grey -- I'm going to learn what I'm actually doing. But I think it would be the kiss of death to my songwriting if I did that right now.
http://foreverill.com/interviews/post87/antihero.htm

and they obviously did, with the masterpieces they were throwing out.

no. possessing knowledge of music theory does not mean you will write a masterpiece. if that was true, music professors would be the ones making awesome ****ing CDs and beating off groupies, and we all know that is not the case.

Shine on you crazy diamond a 15minute fluke? I dont think so

why does everyone assume that just because you don't know theory, everything you write is a "fluke"? most musicians wrote what sounded good to the ear. you don't have to know music theory to be able to know that.

Quote by kyrreca
What a ****ing stupid thing to say. Got anything to back this "fact" up with?

i already did. the beatles. pink floyd. rolling stones. i'm pretty ****ing sure john lennon didn't sit down with his guitar one day, and said, "hmm, im going to write a song in mixolydian mode!" most musicians just played the stuff that was in their head. keith richards woke up in the middle of the night with the riff for "satisfaction" already in his head. the examples are literally endless.
Last edited by v1cious at Nov 11, 2007,
#20
Quote by v1cious
when i say theory, i don't mean basic chords or the position of notes on the fretboard. i am talking about scales, modes, circle of fifths, etc.


you are just using "theory" synonymously with "music." yes, you need to learn MUSIC to play MUSIC, but you don't need to know all of the scales (i.e. what most people understand as "theory") to be able to make good music, which is what my argument is.

even johnny marr agrees with me.
http://foreverill.com/interviews/post87/antihero.htm


no. possessing knowledge of music theory does not mean you will write a masterpiece. if that was true, music professors would be the ones with a cult following, and we all know that is not the case.


why does everyone assume that just because you don't know theory, everything you write is a "fluke"? most musicians wrote what sounded good to the ear. you don't have to know music theory to be able to know that.


i already did. the beatles. pink floyd. rolling stones. i'm pretty ****ing sure john lennon didn't sit down with his guitar one day, and said, "hmm, im going to write a song in mixolydian mode!" most musicians just played the stuff that was in their head. keith richards woke up in the middle of the night with the riff for "satisfaction" already in his head. the examples are literally endless.


Thats most likely because John Lennon never wrote anything in the Mixolydian mode
#21
i already did. the beatles. pink floyd. rolling stones. i'm pretty ****ing sure john lennon didn't sit down with his guitar one day, and said, "hmm, im going to write a song in mixolydian mode!" most musicians just played the stuff that was in their head. keith richards woke up in the middle of the night with the riff for "satisfaction" already in his head. the examples are literally endless.

The song "And I love her" by the beatles modulates from E major to G dorian. I really doubt he stumbled on that per chance. just because you play stuff from your head doesn't mean you don't know theory. If anything, knowing theory allows you to play the stuff in your head.
#22
Quote by v1cious
i already did. the beatles. pink floyd. rolling stones.

Even if you were right in saying these people know no theory, they are not "most famous musicians". It's three bands.
#23
Quote by bikersbasin
Thats most likely because John Lennon never wrote anything in the Mixolydian mode

except norwegian wood?
#24
Quote by kyrreca
Even if you were right in saying these people know no theory, they are not "most famous musicians". It's three bands.

first of all, they ARE most famous. second, it's three bands that i picked out at random, and three out of three have been mentioned to have not had theoretical training in music. i can name many, many more.
#25
Quote by Spamwise
The song "And I love her" by the beatles modulates from E major to G dorian. I really doubt he stumbled on that per chance. just because you play stuff from your head doesn't mean you don't know theory. If anything, knowing theory allows you to play the stuff in your head.

and why do you "doubt he stumbled on that per chance"? just because you wouldn't have been able to write this without a significant knowledge of theory in your possession?

the writings of the beatles were quite sophisticated for their time because they used music in a way that it was never used before. the song that you mentioned, and i love her, has no obvious key signature, but rather a pedal point signature that switches back anf forth between the key of E and a relative minor of C#m. it ends on the parallel major of the key of F's relative minor, D. how are you going to tell me that a bunch of poor kids from liverpool knew the specifics of all that when they composed the song? it's simple. you won't. the beatles did not have knowledge of music theory, it all came from their heads.
Last edited by v1cious at Nov 11, 2007,
#26
There is an edit function, v1cious. Use it.


I think I've seen this thread in 100 forms and variants and it's always a theory vs no theory argument. My best advice to TS it to learn until you feel satisfied.

You'll find that you'll never feel 100% satisfied.
#27
You don't lose anything learning theory.
Besides being a guitar player, I'm a big fan of the guitar. I love that damn instrument. Steve Vai

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Roland Microcube
Digitech Bad Monkey
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MY VIDEOS
#28
Quote by El Cumanés
You don't lose anything learning theory.

...except your soul.
#29
Quote by El Cumanés
You don't lose anything learning theory.

that's arguable. i am quite happy with knowing a minimal amount of theory because i feel that doing the opposite would keep me from thinking "outside the box." i know it is not the same for everyone, but i also know that a lot of people think about it in the same way.
#30
Quote by v1cious
that's arguable. i am quite happy with knowing a minimal amount of theory because i feel that doing the opposite would keep me from thinking "outside the box." i know it is not the same for everyone, but i also know that a lot of people think about it in the same way.

A lot of people think like that, and do you know what they have in common? They don't know any theory, so they wouldn't know. A lot of people seem to think knowing theory means running up and down scales and playing music that sounds like exercises.

Try listening to Frank Zappa. That guy was further outside the box than all the members of U-G combined, and he had an incredible knowledge of theory. I dare you to find someone who has actually learned music theory and who feels it has impaired his/her creativity.
#31
Quote by v1cious
that's arguable. i am quite happy with knowing a minimal amount of theory because i feel that doing the opposite would keep me from thinking "outside the box." i know it is not the same for everyone, but i also know that a lot of people think about it in the same way.


You can't think outside the box without a box. Think about that.

Using the arguement that so-and-so didn't use theory is fallacious because

- It's not provable either way (that they did or did not have theory in mind)
- it's an appeal to convention if it is true.

Any form of "theory limits creativity" arguement is nothing more than an excuse for laziness. If you do not feel that theory is worth your time, don't learn it. But don't try to justify it as being better than putting the time in, and certainly don't try to persuade others.

THEORY WILL NEVER LIMIT YOU. YOU MAY LIMIT YOURSELF, HOWEVER.
#32
Quote by v1cious
except norwegian wood?


the mixolydian bit in the song was written by Mr George Harrison, so ha!
#33
Quote by Spamwise
The song "And I love her" by the beatles modulates from E major to G dorian. I really doubt he stumbled on that per chance. just because you play stuff from your head doesn't mean you don't know theory. If anything, knowing theory allows you to play the stuff in your head.


yeah plus, they were writing that as a tribute to latin romantic music i think, so they would have had to have known the theory behind it to write it!
#34
Just because artist x didn't know classical theory concepts by name didn't mean they knew no theory or just "stumbled upon it by chance", it's just subconscious. When I'm just noodling around or improvising, I don't know exactly what I'm playing, but I could name it if I wanted to.
If you could blow up the world with a flick of a switch,
Would you do it?

If you could make everybody poor just so you could be rich,
Would you do it?

With all your power,
What would you do?
#35
Quote by Nick_
You can't think outside the box without a box. Think about that.
yes, you can.

Using the arguement that so-and-so didn't use theory is fallacious because

- It's not provable either way (that they did or did not have theory in mind)

if i play something in my head and i do not know theory, yet when it comes out the song is in mixolydian mode, does it mean i know theory? no.


- it's an appeal to convention if it is true.

it's not an appeal to convention. my argument is that theory is not necessary to make good music. if theory did indeed help make better music, professors at conservatories would be the ones making ****ing awesome music, but they are not.

Any form of "theory limits creativity" arguement is nothing more than an excuse for laziness.

really? i suppose can provide some factual evidence that theory expands creativity, then? you could have not heard every argument for "theory limits creativity," to write it off simply as "an excuse for laziness" is as ignorant as implying that theory is essential to writing music.

If you do not feel that theory is worth your time, don't learn it. But don't try to justify it as being better than putting the time in, and certainly don't try to persuade others.

i'll stop trying to persuade others when you prove me wrong.

Quote by bikersbasin
the mixolydian bit in the song was written by Mr George Harrison, so ha!

no. george harrison did not compose anything for the song. he just provided instrumentation to fit the mixolydian feel of the song.

Quote by bikersbasin
yeah plus, they were writing that as a tribute to latin romantic music i think, so they would have had to have known the theory behind it to write it!

"yeah, led zeppelin wrote stairway to heaven as a tribute to rock music i think, so they would have had to have known the theory behind rock music to write it!"

p.s. no.
#36
how can you think outside of a box, without a box bieng there. theres nothign to think outside of if its not there :/
#37

i'll stop trying to persuade others when you prove me wrong.

Okay, for one the burden of proof is always on the person who makes the claim. Therefor it's your job to prove yourself right, not ours to prove you wrong. Secondly, music isn't a science. You can't "prove" something in music. Music theory doesn't tell you what you have to do. It tells you why things sound good and how you as a musician can replicate that sound. There's a reason it's called "music theory" and not "music fact."

It also bothers me when people say that theory takes emotion out of their playing. Emotion isn't something that you put into music, emotion is something that you take out of it.
#38
Quote by v1cious
yes, you can.


nuh-uh

do I need to draw a picture? without a box, there is no inside or outside.

You and I both know the limits of analogy. Don't get your knickers in a twist.


if i play something in my head and i do not know theory, yet when it comes out the song is in mixolydian mode, does it mean i know theory? no.


what are you getting at? Not having studied theory will not prevent you from hearing music that theory can explain. I have no problem with this.


it's not an appeal to convention. my argument is that theory is not necessary to make good music. if theory did indeed help make better music, professors at conservatories would be the ones making ****ing awesome music, but they are not.


A formal study of theory is not necessary to make good music. I don't disagree with that.

What makes you think that music professors don't make "****ing awesome music"? Aside from the point that you obviously can't value such a subjective descriptor as "***ing awesome" (And please don't try to quantify it as record sales), most professors at respected institutions have produced a good volume of work and many play in orchestras or symphonies professionally.



really? i suppose can provide some factual evidence that theory expands creativity, then?


clearly I can't and just in the same way that you have no factual support for theory limiting creativity.


you could have not heard every argument for "theory limits creativity," to write it off simply as "an excuse for laziness" is as ignorant as implying that theory is essential to writing music.


see? you try to justify it. No, I haven't heard every argument. No, that doesn't matter in the slightest. That part of my post was an opinion I hold based on experience.



i'll stop trying to persuade others when you prove me wrong.


When I figure out how to prove a negative I'll have bigger fish to fry then an internet discussion