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In a creative rut since learning more theory

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by zeppfan90, Jan 15, 2014.

  1. zeppfan90


    Mar 27, 2013
    I always knew my basic stuff. When to stay in certain keys, progressions, all the basic things most bassists or most musicians know. For the last 5 or 6 months I started to really dig deeper into all of it, also, I'm a music student so I sort of have to! And since then, I noticed a big drop in my creativity when I play by myself or jamming with other people because I keep wondering "can I play that?" "Is that technically correct?" I've started to sort of escape it just recently by sometimes not even worrying about it at all and doing what I used to do. Straight playing and having fun! Anyone else have experience with this problem?
  2. M0ses


    Sep 11, 2009
    Los Angeles

    As you've already discovered, it's you and your stupid head :smug: (just joking), not the theory. Keep doing what you're doing. Theory is really something you use when you have a problem; if the sailing is smooth, no need to worry about it. It can also be used to HELP get the creative juices flowing - if you're at a loss as to what to play somewhere, you can say, "ok, well, what are my OPTIONS?" and the nice thing about theory is that you almost never come up with just one answer, if you try hard enough.

    The thing is, you were using theory before to tell you what to play, even if it was a less complete knowledge. You've moved on to a revised version of theory, but there's no reason it needs to drastically change the way you hear or play music. Most of it should be reaffirming what you can already hear. And of course, break those damn rules any old time you like. We all do. They're really more like guidelines. Keep playin' what sounds good!
  3. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    Your in the middle of study mode so this stuff is foremost in your mind, your brain is on overdrive trying to integrate it. Just give it time and keep doing what you are doing.
  4. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    I feel that the goal of theory is to learn it so well that you don't have to think about it. It's like learning a foreign language. When I first started studying Spanish, I sounded very awkward. I am getting better, but I am still thinking alot about how to form sentences and conjegate verbs. The goal is to just speak the words without thinking about the translation. So, 'una ventana' means 'una ventana'... it doesn't mean 'a window'. This is the same idea with theory. I would suggest to anyone that they stick with it.
  5. Yes and yes again. Once the theory is internalized, you won't be thinking of it every step of the way.

    In the meantime, take the time to just sit and noodle. Try different things, like playing a trumpet line from a song, or fiddling with different double stops.
  6. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    I think that you are in the absorbing phase where you learn so much information and you try to use that information. At one point you'll stop worrying aabout it and just play.

    Theory is very handy when it comes to write music or just compose something that will work when you don,t ear something. It is also handy when someone put a music sheet in front of you and you understand what is going on.

    Also it is a false interpretation to think that you learn the rules and how to break them ... because music theory can explain every thing you so saddly no one breaks any rules anymore. You'll understand that when you will see and ear dodecaphonism and other modern classical music ...
  7. Dug2

    Dug2 Supporting Member

    Sep 24, 2011
    I too have a similar situation. Sometimes it even bothers me. But I know that theory and lessons are the way to get better. I just hope it clicks for us (op) sooner than later. Good luck with the journey man
  8. cleary


    Apr 19, 2013
    NSW, Australia
    I was thinking the exact same thing about my state this morning.
    I was into photography pretty seriously for a while and there was a graph of the photographers learning process with lines representing where you thought you were at, where you were actually at, and some photography specific fads along the way.

    For both photography and bass, I took away that I must be steadily improving regardless of what state I think I'm at.
    I'm steadily practicing the instrument and studying the theory.

    Maybe it's just a case of knowing about more things that I don't know, instead of not knowing what I didn't know (blissful ignorance :) )?
  9. There was a BP Mag interview with Flea back in '96 where he listed out exercises to expand your creativity. They're kind wacky

  10. ImNotJoel


    Jan 12, 2014
    Op I have had this happen and am kind of facing this too. I agree don't stop pursuing theory but I end up feeling confines in the rules of theory. Sometimes you can use theory to escape the "theory prison" for instance studying different scales and making a chord progression were they can work together. But that's not working for me now I'm stuck too...

    Some musicians with no theory knowledge sound really original through history we have seen it.Back in the day this experimental metal band I played drums for these brothers were the bass and guitar they had no theory knowledge but fused the 9 and 7 chords with I'm a diminished progression and had no clue what they were doing in a good way.
  11. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    Applying music theory to bass lines can be tricky. I always found that studying J.S. Bach 4-part harmony really helps in understanding the fundamentals of bass lines. They are pretty simple when you get right down to it. Take a song like Rock n Roll by Zeppelin - it's basically just 1/8th notes on the one (root). Very simple but very effective. Try not to let your increased knowledge of music theory interfere with laying down a good solid bass line.
  12. I believe that we all reach ' musical plateaus'...I have been one same one ..literally for decades...no further improvement.

    If its just a musical impass.. they come and go..
  13. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    @ OP:

    You need to immediately squash the idea that theory is "rules." Theory is mearly an explanation of music AFTER it has occurred. It's a way of conceptualizing musical concepts to yourself and others in an efficient way. Sure, using theory as a guideline is a great tool, just don't let it dictate what you play and don't play.
  14. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    One doesn't play theory. Theory merely tries to explain and organize what was played. Once you've internalized it (so you aren't thinking about it) it'll become easier for you to transpose keys on the fly ... ie, if you playing C-Am-D-G you'd know that you could transpose to F-Dm-G-C. You'll know the notes of chords so you can arpeggiate over them in any key. Theory opens you to possibilities, it does not restrict with you with rules.
  15. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    I have heard it said by some guys who haven't studied any music theory that they don't want to because they think it will destroy their creativity. It's just not so.

    Learning music theory is, at its most basic, the development of a vocabulary through which you can communicate with other musicians about stuff you already know from experience but don't know what to call it. It's not a set of rules; you can still play anything you want to. There's nothing you can come up with that there is no terminology that describes it.
  16. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    OP: Don't overthink it. Let it flow.