Understanding Theory?

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Understanding Theory?

Postby Counterstriker » Sat Feb 19, 2011 2:30 pm

I've been getting very frustrated lately, I realize how much I don't know what I'm playing, I just remembered the shapes of scales and pretty much just noodle around until I find something that sounds cool.. I can barely read sheet music, I started playing piano when I was about 9 then switched to guitar at 11 - I'm 17 now, I always thought I could get by without knowing all the theory behind what I was playing, but now more than ever I see the importance of it all. I think I need to start from the beginning to understand it all, I have a guitar teacher but I don't like how she teaches me, I need to see how it's done before I can do it. Are there any good books to learn all the basics? Maybe online courses?

Thanks alot!
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Re: Understanding Theory?

Postby strumminsix » Sat Feb 19, 2011 2:49 pm

It's very important! I just started reading on line! I'd avoid the Jazz lessons at first,
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Re: Understanding Theory?

Postby tcsned » Sat Feb 19, 2011 3:09 pm

If you are still in school, do they offer a theory course? I took 3 years of music theory in high school and that was probably the most valuable classes I took, save an inspiring history teacher. Learning that stuff isn't a lot of fun and learning under pain of failure is the only way I got it. If that isn't available, I'd look into getting a intro to theory texbook for a freshman college class that comes with a workbook. Just reading alone on a webpage is not going to do it unless you do some work and interacting with the information. Writing it out helps to make things sink in. After writing it out, get out your guitar and play through things to transfer the information to your instrument. It takes time and effort but you'll get there if it's something you want to do.

I'd start with finding some simple melody lines and read through them and play them, depending on how well you're reading now, it can be as simple as "Mary had a Little Lamb." Then as you get better move on to more difficult lines and chords and such.
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Re: Understanding Theory?

Postby jackr » Sat Feb 19, 2011 4:42 pm

The more you know the more you will realize how much more there is to know. I am always learning. Great gutter players have an understanding of what they are playing.
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Re: Understanding Theory?

Postby Counterstriker » Sat Feb 19, 2011 6:37 pm

My school is adding a music theory class next year, so I'll be able to take it, plus it counts as AP credits so it'll look good for college :smile:

I know notes on the neck, but I my problem is assigning the written notes on the staff and actually playing it, I can do it. But it will take me a good amount of time, half the time I do it by ear and "fake" it :roll: I'm definitely going to invest in some books though!
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Re: Understanding Theory?

Postby mkaufman » Sun Feb 20, 2011 10:21 am

Theory knowledge helps tremendously when improvising. For example, playing different modes over a vamp adds color to the music and can take the music in different directions.

For example, I use common jazz substitutions (ie: F#mb5 <-> Am <->CMaj(7) or Bm7b5 <-> G7). This works for rhythm or lead. Knowing how to do this comes from learning theory.

Personally, I find theory easy (although I need to think long hard about the 7th mode of the melodic minor (altered scale)!) and sight reading impossible. I should have learned to read music when I was young. If I could only roll back the clock...

If you have an opportunity to take a theory class, DO IT!

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Re: Understanding Theory?

Postby tcsned » Sun Feb 20, 2011 11:27 am

Counterstriker wrote:My school is adding a music theory class next year, so I'll be able to take it, plus it counts as AP credits so it'll look good for college :smile:

I know notes on the neck, but I my problem is assigning the written notes on the staff and actually playing it, I can do it. But it will take me a good amount of time, half the time I do it by ear and "fake" it :roll: I'm definitely going to invest in some books though!

that's cool, it's good to see a school adding an arts program instead of cutting one.

Take the class, you won't regret it. I found that taking those classes in high school made a world of difference even though at times it was painful and tedious. It's especially good since a lot of it will be keyboard based and you'll have to go home and transfer it to the guitar. Not only will your retention be better and you'll probably get better grades but the process of transferring information will deepen understanding and make it easier to pick up new things. Plus, learning those knowledge transfer skills is as important to musicianship as the subject matter itself. If that makes sense. I wish I had known that back then I would've even gotten more out of it.
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Re: Understanding Theory?

Postby jahozer » Sun Feb 20, 2011 2:20 pm

tcsned wrote:If you are still in school, do they offer a theory course? I took 3 years of music theory in high school and that was probably the most valuable classes I took, save an inspiring history teacher. Learning that stuff isn't a lot of fun and learning under pain of failure is the only way I got it. If that isn't available, I'd look into getting a intro to theory texbook for a freshman college class that comes with a workbook. Just reading alone on a webpage is not going to do it unless you do some work and interacting with the information. Writing it out helps to make things sink in. After writing it out, get out your guitar and play through things to transfer the information to your instrument. It takes time and effort but you'll get there if it's something you want to do.

That is great advice. I had 3 years in high school and minored in it in college. The college courses were tough since they were independant studies, and not in a class. I had to realize bass (harmonize) lines according to 18th century theory. :? then present it to the professor. It was brutal. But I learned a hell of alot. and it really stuck.

OP, remember that theory and sight reading are two different things. It seems as though you are talking about both. Theory is more of whats going on, and sight reading is an acquired technique. Both are important, but theory is more so. You should at least be able to run through a chord chart and simple lead sheet, like a "Real Book".
I know standard notation, but dont really sight read it.
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Re: Understanding Theory?

Postby Octal » Sun Feb 20, 2011 7:39 pm

What about those of us who like books? What would you recommend?
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Re: Understanding Theory?

Postby tcsned » Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:35 pm

jahozer wrote:OP, remember that theory and sight reading are two different things. It seems as though you are talking about both. Theory is more of whats going on, and sight reading is an acquired technique. Both are important, but theory is more so. You should at least be able to run through a chord chart and simple lead sheet, like a "Real Book".
I know standard notation, but dont really sight read it.


Yeah, good distinction. You gotta be able to read the notes to understand theory. Sight reading is a performance skill, that's more of a "drill and kill" thing - do it a lot, then do it some more, then keep doing it regularly. The last part was my problem - when I was playing theater pits I needed to do it, I practiced so I didn't look like an idiot. When I stopped needing to do it I stopped practicing it. I know a guy who can sight read melody lines and improvise jazz chord melody parts to it that are crazy good - but he''s a mutant.
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Re: Understanding Theory?

Postby jahozer » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:27 am

Octal wrote:What about those of us who like books? What would you recommend?


See TCsends comments about finding workbooks. You really have to work through this stuff. Just reading a text book aint gonna do it.
Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is the best.- the girl from the bus
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Re: Understanding Theory?

Postby Tennessee Jedi » Mon Feb 21, 2011 7:43 am

Octal wrote:What about those of us who like books? What would you recommend?

Image
Just google his name .... lots of awesome stuff
Chord Chemistry is a excellent book .... Ted Greene ....
I just got done doing a round of lessons. Its about getting better as a musician .... gotta keep growing !
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Re: Understanding Theory?

Postby heavynylon » Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:46 am

Counterstriker, I understand your frustration. I've been going through a similar learning process over the past few years. I find that sight reading, music theory, ear training, and knowledge of the fretboard are completely separate skills. All of them are valuable and complementary. Sounds like your getting the ear training and fretboard feel from your noodling. A little theory would probably help. Reading music is a not essential, but it is a nice skill to have and it's really not that difficult.

You asked about books. Well, here are a few I have used:

Music Theory for Guitarists by Tom Kolb. Comprehesive discussion of theory.
Fretboard Logic by Bill Edwards. Not real theory, but a good presentation of scales as relates to guitar.
This is your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin. The book is about the effects of music on the brain, but it has a nice chapter on music theory.

You could probably read the first one and get your teacher to answer questions. If she has a degree in music, then she would surely have gone through lots of theory. And the music theory class sounds like a great opportunity. If only they'd had that at my school.
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Re: Understanding Theory?

Postby PRAYER » Mon Feb 21, 2011 2:55 pm

I have that chord chemistry book and let me tell you beginners: that is not a standard for you to aspire to.

that book is filled with page after page of ridiculously advanced fretboard formulas. it's the musical equivalent of a jacked up dude on the cover of a bodybuilding magazine.... don't get me wrong; the author is impressive.

so what advice can I give? hmm well first go to my soundcloud account to see if I even sound like I can back these ideas up (that's up to you to decide: soundcloud.com/unfolding) but here we go:

try reading *songwriting* books rather than crazy composition or advanced jazz theory books right now.

the songwriting book by Steve Citron ties a lot of otherwise abstract theory into a practical set of formulas that work in the real world for real beginner musicians.

so what should you do? focus on your muse, tonality, and making music that sounds good to YOU.

last i have to encourage you to avoid smoking weed and such while trying to learn these ideas, it doesn't help one remember. Peace!
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Re: Understanding Theory?

Postby Tennessee Jedi » Mon Feb 21, 2011 3:04 pm

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Last edited by Tennessee Jedi on Tue Feb 22, 2011 7:43 am, edited 2 times in total.
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