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Anybody else struggle with theory? Anyone NOT struggle? Anyone wanna help this guy?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Joe Nerve, Jan 26, 2019.

  1. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Most people here know that for the most part, I know what I'm doing with a bass. I've spent most of my life with a bass in hand, and learned lots by ear and feel. I know however that I'm limited because of my lack of theoretical knowledge, and I'm diving in for the 100th time to learn as much as I can.

    I have the book Music Theory for the Bass Player (Ariane Cap), and I'm moving forward with that.

    Right from the start, first exercise (counting notes ascending and descending, and then skipping 1, 2 and 3 notes) blew my brain to confetti. Its super frustrating to me, and I want to quit after 10 minutes. I'm starting to believe it has something to do with math anxiety, or me just NOT being wired that way. I didn't super suck at math in school, but at a certain point I was done. I quit with the sine, cosine, tangent stuff :) .

    Can anyone else relate to this?

    Has anyone conquered it?

    Does anyone have any tips for getting past it?

    Why does learning theory seem like climbing Mt. Everest to me?
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Song Surgeon slow downer. https://tinyurl.com/y5dcuqjg
    It's like learning to read at 45 years old.:cautious:

    Gotta learn them a-b-c's before you can read a novel.:thumbsup:

    Think about it, it took years and many hours as kids to become a competent reader.

    If you're this anxious just starting out there's a book you need to read, 50 Things to do before...:laugh:

    Seriously, maybe some CBT and hypnosis may help.

    But, Maybe you're like me, little of that stuff ever stuck to my brain after trying several times.

    I can remember lots of other stuff in detail but not that.

    Basically, some type of learning disability or something.

    As far as your musical situation, it seems you gotta do whatever it takes to get a handle on that stuff. It may take hundreds of hours of practice. You won't know until you put in the time. Patience is the key.

    Good luck.
  3. flojob

    flojob Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2011
    It might be more frustrating because even now it's not something you need. It might make some things easier to communicate or recognize or put in context, but not a necessity.
    You're gonna have to reframe the reasons you want to learn it.
    If it can be because you love the challenge, then the grind can be appreciated as part of the process. Maybe then the frustration is more affirmation that you are progressing.
  4. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    i learned a little theory as a tween a long time ago. when i thought about learning more a couple years ago, it was frustrating so i stopped.

    that being said, maybe it's the particular theory book / exercises and another book / CD / DVD would work better for you. i love scott from scott's bass lessons, but i find other teachers easier to listen to and learn from. just a thought...
  5. 'I know however that I'm limited because of my lack of theoretical knowledge' . . . . . . Joe, you're obviously a successful, working player. How do you think you're limited without theory?
  6. biguglyman


    Jul 27, 2017
    Rochester, NY
    Yes... to all of it. You articulated my situation also. I'm also not the greatest at math. That may have something to do with it.
    jfh2112 likes this.
  7. Yeah I thought the same as you about maths when I was at school. I thought it was just for 'clever' people.

    It gradually began to dawn on me though, that all the thinking about it had already been done, and maths was just a set of tools you had to get in your head, and then apply them to different problems.

    With this thought in mind, I then went to nightschool and did a maths class when I was 37, and discovered I was schitt hot at it.

    Do you understand the modes thing?
    jfh2112 likes this.
  8. I'm not saying it's the same for you, but for a lot of people it's because it involves effort, and most people are lazy.
    lowplaces and Kubicki Fan like this.
  9. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    IMHO music is conceptually way simpler than trigonometry. The problem is it requires you to hold and manipulate a lot of stuff in working memory. I think I am above average intelligence, but perhaps I have a below average working memory. Basically it's easy for me to understand music theory, but not easy to actually use it directly. In all actuality, I don't think many people can actually use theory directly while they play. Most people use theory indirectly like I do.

    So the process is you learn basic theory concepts, then you work the concepts on paper and apply them on piano, later you apply them on bass, finally you read music and work out the details slowly until they become automatic...this is basically the process I used when I was a music major...I went through theory 101, 102, and 201. So I learned formal theory in a classroom and then had some other musicians help me learn how to read and apply the chord notations in the Real Book 5th edition.

    You really learn the same information a whole bunch of different ways. For example you learn that a Cmaj7 chord is CEGB, you relate Cmaj7 to different keys/modes, you learn how Cmaj7 sounds in different inversions on the piano and do some composition work, you learn different Cmaj7 patterns on the bass, you build linear and arpeggiated bass lines over Cmaj7 with attention to key center/mode, etc.

    When you see a Cmaj7 chord on a lead sheet you slow down way below the tempo of song so you can think the chord from all of these angles and work it out. Overtime you become comfortable enough where you hear different patterns in your head that relates to the key center.

    Your probably frustrated because you want to go way faster than you can. I started learning this stuff back in the early 80s and sometimes when I get chord progression with altered changes I still have to spend hours working through a lead sheet to figure out how to play the right notes...it's not always easy even for someone who has been doing it for decades.

    My question is why do you want to learn theory now? It's a lot of effort and time, so you need a worthwhile goal. If you are going to continue playing the same type of music you have been successful playing without knowing theory, I have wonder what the possible benefit is.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2019
  10. RhynoRock


    Dec 19, 2012
    Fredonia, NY
    I'm in the same boat, however I think I'm starting at a point further back than you. My knowledge of anything related to theory was more or less ZERO for most of the 20 years I've had a bass in my paws, but I've had this desire to be a knowledgeable musician in the hopes of getting into professional session work if at all possible. So I went to studybass.com which has been an amazing resource and I started from the dead beginning. But I'm running into the problem of remembering things and having to go back over the lessons several times to burn it into memory, and I haven't even gotten that far into the study. Recently I discovered how chord progressions (like the II-V-I) are put together, after days of frustration trying to find out how they are constructed, and it's so simple I felt like a complete idiot for not being able to figure that out. Now I gotta go back and re-learn that so I can put it to working memory.

    I tend to overthink things like this, so I'm struggling right with ya man lol.

    Also, to add...I was removed from music class from 8th grade onward because my guidance counselor felt I would be a better car salesman...and our music teacher hated her job so there was no chance of getting lessons after regular hours...
    craigie, Engle, oZZma and 1 other person like this.
  11. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    I think that particular series of exercises is difficult at first for two reasons. First you are correlating a constant set of numbers (1, 3, 5, etc) with a changing set of letters (A, C, E and D, F#, A). Second, and more of a fundamental trip hazard, is everyone knows the alphabet forwards but few know it backwards, even G to A, at the same level of fluency...

  12. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    The answer to your question lies in repetition. Those of us that have gone to music school (very much like your math class) have been drilled to the point of fluidity.

    In many theory classes I was doing 90m twice a week of theory workbook homework. And I was one of the quick one's. Other folks were spending hours.

    IMO the answer to your question is that you would be well capable of learning theory like the rest of us.. With a stupid amount of repetition like the rest of us...

    EDIT: you will also benefit from someone to correct your work and explain concepts that may be difficult to understand at first.
  13. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.
    Hi Joe,

    What do you specifically need help with? I've always gotten over one hurdle at a time. I'm not a theory master, but I was a music major in college for a couple years. I know enough to be dangerous, possibly enough to help you over a couple of hurdles. Feel free to PM me.

    Or: Overlooked and underrated YT sources

    Thank you for your indulgence,

    deak21, HolmeBass, ErikP.Bass and 3 others like this.
  14. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    I think you are going to need to ratchet up your determination level.

    This is the theory struggle that I endure from time to time:

    “Whoa. This is a lot of work. I have played for over 20 years - why isn’t this easy? Damn. My skill level is reasonably high, why is it that I can only get through these exercises at 1/4 speed? Meh - I can already play, I don’t need to put myself through this.”

    So I end up putting the book away until another day. Rinse and repeat.

    You are definitely capable, tap into your competitive juices and beat the book.

    Good luck.

    PS when you figure it all out, send me a PM with all the shortcuts so I don’t have to keep re-starting this process :)
  15. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Thank you for supporting your colleague.
  16. 3bc

    3bc Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2010
    Chicago Burbs
    I learned a decent amount of theory when I was younger and stopped. A lot of it leached out of my brain from not being used. A year ago I started up at SBL and I actually really enjoy it. He has probably a least a dozen lesson plans (detailed 10-15 course lessons) on “functional theory” that makes learning easier and more enjoyable. Based more around the shapes of things that (ie chord tones) are exportable all over the fretboard. It makes it feel cheap and cheating to know how to play the 6th chord tone in G# without knowing the name of every note before I get there, but darned if I can’t do it anyway.
    barrenelly and Artman like this.
  17. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Joe, whatever you do, just, please, don't get a book called,
    Dmitri Tymoczko, Princeton University
    :roflmao: drool
    Just a short excerpt.

    QUOTE="Joe Nerve, post: 22247909, member: 10982"]Does anyone have any tips for getting past it?[/QUOTE]

    You should have not argued with Jeff Berlin. :rollno: :crying:
    :roflmao: :hyper:
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2019
  18. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013

    I think I'm really missing something here.
    You play easily that 6th chord immediately and you feel "cheap"(???)
    Are you PD-ing in Composition?
  19. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    P.S. I know I'm really missing something here. I'm a lone voice of "ignoramus"

    Yes, you are correct. My aging brain has dificulties memorizing those new Music Theory terms.

    From Arriana' officially published transcription at NoTreble.


  20. Playing live:

    - music theory helped me in learning / playing keyboards. I love the certain sounds of certain chords
    - music theory helped me very little playing bass. I love that feeling of playing from the heart, screw the math
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2019

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