You are here

How to start out with very narrow music thory knowledge

Arrangement, instrumentation, lyric writing, music theory, inspiration… it’s all here.

How to start out with very narrow music thory knowledge

Postby Synderia » Thu Feb 13, 2020 8:38 am

Dear SOS Members,

I am new to this forum, sorry if this question was asked previously, but i want to start out with music theory with a very narrow knowledge. i know the keys on the piano but that was it. played piano and flute as a kid and i am currently studying audio engineering at uni. Already saw a couple good posts in this section, but i do not know where and how to start.
I am currently trying to learn the piano and guitar, so i can improve my digital production skills with more analog instruments.

thank you for reading!
Synderia
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Feb 13, 2020 8:29 am

Re: How to start out with very narrow music thory knowledge

Postby Eddy Deegan » Thu Feb 13, 2020 1:22 pm

Welcome Synderia :)

Everybody started out with very little knowledge once, so it's the only place to start!

You mention improving production skills and learning piano and guitar. All of these activities should improve naturally for a while as you spend more time working on them so my recommendation there would be to continue doing just that.

'Music theory' can mean different things to different people. If you are referring to an understanding of key signatures, time signatures, chord progressions etc. then enough of that to be useful should be gained as you learn the instruments.

On the other hand there is a much deeper (and quite formal) academic process regarding composition, harmony, melody, modes and much, much more besides.

As you are already learning two instruments (and studying audio engineering also) I would focus on those for the time being and come back to the deeper stuff once you have the basics such as key signatures, triads and so on which come as a natural consequence of learning to play an instrument.

Of course you can ask questions here while you are learning as well. There are also Sound On Sound guitar and keyboard forums which should be helpful as you learn, both of which have accomplished musicians frequently providing advice in them.

We're always happy to help where we can.

This is not to say it's impossible to take it all on together but there are certain things you need to understand before you can dive into the heavier duty theory and doing 'everything at once and then some' is likely to prove challenging.
User avatar
Eddy Deegan
Moderator
Posts: 4353
Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 12:00 am
Location: Brighton & Hove, UK
Some of my works.
Please consider supporting the SOS Forum Album project.
 

Re: How to start out with very narrow music thory knowledge

Postby The Bunk » Thu Feb 13, 2020 7:49 pm

Eddy Deegan wrote:
'Music theory' can mean different things to different people. If you are referring to an understanding of key signatures, time signatures, chord progressions etc. then enough of that to be useful should be gained as you learn the instruments.


I was thinking that there could be a very long answer to the question and possibly a short one and I think Eddy's got the short one. You'll just pick things up as you go so don't get too wound up about it and don't try and take in too much in a hurry. It will come.
User avatar
The Bunk
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1255
Joined: Sat Dec 29, 2007 1:00 am
Location: SW London

Re: How to start out with very narrow music thory knowledge

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Feb 14, 2020 12:25 am

Yup, same advice from me too. I'd add that you don't need any theory, nor even to be able to read music (notation). I'm not saying you shouldn't learn to read or learn theory* just that it is not a requirement. Much music is learned and passed around aurally and many great musicians can't read or, often even know what the notes are called but they have an extensive knowledge of harmony and scales.**

* I'm a guitarist, I can barely read notation but have pretty good theory.

** Most of the 'authentic' (i.e. ethnic Gypsy/Roma/Sinti) Gypsy Jazz guitarists can't read music they learn from their elders by ear but nobody would question their ability.
User avatar
Sam Spoons
Jedi Poster
Posts: 12790
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 1:00 am
Location: Manchester UK
Finally taking this recording lark seriously (and recording my Gypsy Jazz CD)........

Re: How to start out with very narrow music thory knowledge

Postby shufflebeat » Fri Feb 14, 2020 2:55 am

Be patient, often it can feel like you're making no progress and, just as you're about to throw the guitar at the wall you find you can do something new. For me, at least, development comes in steps (and slowly).

Organise your time well. Repetition and then good sleep are vital elements of learning, that's where neural pathways are organised that make behaviour (playing) intuitive.

Music comes first, theory is the result of what we have observed over the years about how we make sense of sound. Very few (very special) people will be emotionally engaged by music theory. Small children and whales do not study music theory but they make the most emotive sounds.
shufflebeat
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4769
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 1:00 am
Location: Manchester, UK
"Dancing Queen - feel the heat from the tangerine, ooh yeah!"

Do yourself a favour, wear earplugs at gigs.

Re: How to start out with very narrow music thory knowledge

Postby Eddy Deegan » Fri Feb 14, 2020 3:01 am

shufflebeat wrote:Small children and whales do not study music theory but they make the most emotive sounds.

I really like that thought.

I studied music theory in depth during my classical training many years ago and ended up opting out of much of it although I have a huge respect for it.

Some of the most emotional material I've ever created (and some of the best received) came from the heart, was freeform and not constructed according to the rules laid down in any book.

(The links are merely examples, I genuinely don't care how many listens they get nor do I seek to profit in any way from them.)

That said, in my case had I not had that training I think some of my work would have suffered as a result.
User avatar
Eddy Deegan
Moderator
Posts: 4353
Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 12:00 am
Location: Brighton & Hove, UK
Some of my works.
Please consider supporting the SOS Forum Album project.
 

Re: How to start out with very narrow music thory knowledge

Postby GilesAnt » Fri Feb 14, 2020 12:37 pm

Nobody needs theory, and most people get by making music without it.

Theory is simply a way of understanding and rationalising what is there. It isn't a set of rules about what chord goes where, etc. It simply describes what is going on, within a specific context, e.g. Western classical music. There are no rules of harmony, despite what you read or hear sometimes.

However. understanding the theory can open doors to developing your ideas further, and offer short cuts to getting a particular sound, style, or whatever. Understanding why a particular chord progression works so well will help you explore similar things more quickly, and enable you to rule out the obvious non-starters.
GilesAnt
Regular
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue Feb 18, 2003 1:00 am

 


Re: How to start out with very narrow music thory knowledge

Postby merlyn » Fri Feb 14, 2020 3:15 pm

If you know there are twelve notes you know some theory. If you know there are twelve major keys you know some more. If you know there are also twelve minor keys that's a good start. :D I would use the term 'theory' to refer to this level of basic knowledge. The term is more loosely used to mean 'anything that's not playing an instrument, anything that isn't making a sound'.

I would suggest that something worthwhile at this stage is ear training, which is really what studying 'theory' should achieve. I use an app for my phone --

https://www.perfectear.app/

The cycle of fifths is the basis of theory and gives an overview of everything at once :

Image

On the internet there are more elaborate versions with more information hung on them. The basic principle holds no matter what level of theory you're dealing with.

HTH
merlyn
Regular
Posts: 86
Joined: Thu Nov 07, 2019 3:15 am

Re: How to start out with very narrow music thory knowledge

Postby MannyBoy » Fri Feb 21, 2020 11:05 pm

Hi there! I have some thoughts regarding your intention to deepen/improve yourself musically via music theory (some already noted by others):

- It is always good to have a basic understanding of music theory for the simply freedom it gives you to explore musical ideas, and to be able to communicate with other musicians.
- The keyboard, in my opinion, is the best instrument to study if the focus is on theory (especially if you are a visual learner). I play guitar (40 years+) and it was only once I studied theory via the keyboard (three years ago) that my appreciation, understanding, and utilization of theory blossomed. It also made me a much better guitarist. My composing is much improved as well. I can explore ideas faster.
- Give yourself time to learn (years!). Start with understanding notes, scales, modes, chords, and the circle of 5th's. Triad chord knowledge (i.e.. C-E-G) is a fundamental skill of all music types. Most musicians can make and play fantastic music with just "basic" theory knowledge, no need for a PH.D!
- Studying the orchestra will give you vast information about instrument combinations and musical "balance" with regards to timber, tone, musical range, and even rhythmic ideas (even if you have no interest in classical or orchestral music). I believe even rap artist could improve if they understood theory and orchestral perspectives of musical form (I enjoy rap btw). Virtual instruments must be understood as real instruments if you are going to write realistic (and playable) music. Even a simply folk tune needs to reflect what a instrument can truly do/sound in real life.
- its fun!

Hope that helps! Happy studying and practice!
Manny
MannyBoy
Poster
Posts: 15
Joined: Thu Feb 20, 2020 11:58 pm

Re: How to start out with very narrow music thory knowledge

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sat Feb 29, 2020 9:51 pm

Synderia wrote:i am currently studying audio engineering at uni.

I'm sure a university course in audio engineering also offers classes in musical subjects. Take them.
Exalted Wombat
Jedi Poster
Posts: 5730
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 1:00 am
Location: London UK
You don't have to write songs. The world doesn't want you to write songs. It would probably prefer it if you didn't. So write songs if you want to. Otherwise, dont bore us with beefing about it. Go fishing instead.

Re: How to start out with very narrow music thory knowledge

Postby Synderia » Mon Mar 09, 2020 2:01 pm

thank you all for the shared knowledge, helps a lot :)
Synderia
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Feb 13, 2020 8:29 am

Re: How to start out with very narrow music thory knowledge

Postby aekoi » Wed Apr 01, 2020 9:42 pm

Hi. I teach guitar. Currently I'm doing lessons over Skype due to COVID. I'm happy to send you some tabs if that would help. I have free content on my FB and YouTube channels.


https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY69xP ... LX8dOGI_lw

http://www.facebook.com/guitarstudiocupar/
User avatar
aekoi
Regular
Posts: 272
Joined: Wed Jun 26, 2002 12:00 am
Location: Not of this Earth