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Learn music theory when just starting off?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by MeTHoD-X, Jan 23, 2005.

  1. Alright, I know nothing at all about playing an instrument. I bought a bass a few weeks ago and I’m just wondering if I should start by learning music or stick to reading tab. I was planning to start off with tab, and eventually, when I become better, learn music theory.

    To be honest, music theory sucks. It just takes all the fun out of playing. Makes me not want to play.
  2. You will feel the need for learning music theory later on anyway, so I think it's not that important to learn it now, certainly if you don't enjoy it. If it isn't fun at first, chances are you'll grow tired of playing, which would be rather foolish :) . If you don't want to be limited to playing the root note all the time, you'll want to learn music theory eventually so playing can remain fun. Learning always works better if you think what you're learning is interesting, so learning music theory now could do more damage than good (I'm not saying it will).
    There are of course people on this forum who are far more knowledgeable about music theory than I am, but that's just my opinion.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    If you don't know any, how do yoiu know it sucks? Or is it just that anything you don't understand or can't do sucks?

    Certainly, it's your life and you can do whatever you want. But it may be more productive to stop thinking of learning to become a musician as a series of sequential steps ( first I learn this, then I learn that, then I learn this other thing) and try to find a teacher who is going to put together a program that is going to CONCURRENTLY work on a lot of skill sets: conception and understanding of what you are hearing (ear training and theory) and the ability to identify, locate and execute on your instrument what you are hearing (technique). The amount of work you need to put into these areas is solely determined by what kind of musician you want to be. If it's not about being a musician but just playing bass when you feel like and not trying to get any deeper, then you don't have to work very hard at all.

    "Fun". I love it when people talk about this. You play any sports? Throw the baseball around with yer pops or buddies? Some people do. Some people have fun getting together every once and awhile and have a pickup game of baseball. Cause they have fun doing it. And they have that fun without doing ANY work on strategy, fitness, play coordination etc.
    Randy Johnson has fun playing baseball too. And he has a whole panoply of coaches, trainers, pre season games, warm ups, physical therapy, computer analysis of his physical approach etc. All designed to help him realize his fullest potential as a baseball player.
    So he can have fun.

    In 20 years, when you look at a picture of yourself now, holding a bass, and realize that you would have really liked to still be doing that or would like to have gotten somewhere with it, how much fun is that gonna be?
  4. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    ^What he said.

    I started learning theory when I was a about 3 to 3 and a half. It certainly didn't take the fun out music. It's a great thing to learn and it'll help you out A LOT more than tab does. Tab is a substitute for an ear, there is no substitute for notation.
  5. In everything you do you should consider both the science and the art. Just like being a good writer. Some of the greatest authors bend and break the rules of grammer, but they still use those rules to structure sentaces to drive their creativity. It's the same with music. Science without art is stale, art without science lacks direction. Theory is essentially the science of playing music. If you wanna be all you can be you should learn it.
  6. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Learning music theory will only take as much fun away from playing bass as you allow it to. There is theory behind everything.
  7. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I didn't take lessons or study theory when I first picked up bass. Even so, I was able to progress very nicely. But after two years I realized I'd become stuck in a rut. So, I took a basic theory class in college, and then took private lessons from a guitarist who showed me how to apply scales/modes/chords over the entire fretboard. That got me out of my rut.

    I'm still a hack at jazz. If I ever feel like playing jazz, I'll take more lessons. I know jazz lessons would help me be a better player in other genres, but I continue to improve without lessons.

    My point: I'm not going to tell you to take lessons if you don't want to take 'em. Just realize that you'll be *severely* limited if you decide not to, just as I'm extremely limited in jazz because I haven't studied it much.
  8. Alright, you've convinced me. I'm going to learn music theory. I have eMedia: Bass Method 1 which is a CD that teaches beginners how to play bass. It doesn't bother with tab and only focuses on music theory. Anyone here ever use this program?

    Also, I have Band-In-A-Box 2005. Does this have any application for a beginner whatsoever? Anyone here have experience with this app?

    What's a root note?

    Very true. This is what convinced me.

    Thanks for the advice everyone. :bassist:
  9. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    Here's why you learn theory:

    There are 6 zillion songs that follow the basic I-IV-V progression.

    If you knew what that meant, you would have just learned 6 zillion songs.

    If you knew how to work a I-V line over the progression I just mentioned, you could be gigging in a country band tonight. Know the right scale and you'll be in a blues band tomorrow.

    A little theory goes a long way.
  10. Timbo


    Jun 14, 2004

    Perfect right?
  11. Any decent free sites that teach you music theory (one that's geared toward a bassist)?
  12. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    Its not geared tward a bassist but start here:


    Im sure by this time tomorrow someone with better links will post, but thats a great beginners site for anyone. Props to the creator as well.
  13. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003

    Learn theory.

    Learn the notes on the neck.

    Learn the notes on the treble clef.

    Learn the notes on the bass clef.

  14. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    Are you confusing theory with standard notation?
  15. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Actually, I thought it was fun; the only subject I liked in high school(studied on my own, no music department in my lame private high school).

    In college, it was cake, too. Damn, I'm getting college credit for this?! This is great!!
  16. Kevjmyers


    Dec 10, 2004
    Boulder. CO
    As important and vital music theory is, if you don't have "it"...a severe exercise in futility.

    I believe music theory is fun too.
  17. My left hand is always curved. I can't play with my fingers straight and stretched out for the life of me. Does this mean I I'm destined to be a ****ty bass player?

    I have long fingers... so I don’t know why I can't play it properly.

    This is how I play:


    This is how I should be playing:


    It just doesn't seem possible. Soooooo hard. :help:
  18. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Not every task is immediately possible. Don't worry, it will be.

    Scrape your money together and take at least 2 or 3 lessons.

    "But I don't have the money for two or three lessons!"

    Yes, you do.

    Skip McDonald's next time and make your lunch at home. Skip buying that new CD or two for a little while and put it toward the lessons. Skip that trip to Blockbuster or the cinema for a little while and use that money. Hell, what does it cost to see a movie nowadays? And unless it's "Sideways", it probably sucks anyway, so there ya go.

    For years on this site I've stressed how important it is for a beginner to get at least 2 or 3 lessons under his/her belt. You may be doing things incorrectly technique wise, (as it seems you've already stated), that can be corrected now. Do you know how much money and time you'll spend correctly those problems later on?
  19. I kinda just figured it out actually. I just have you keep my left hand palm away from the neck of the bass more. With my thumb stretched across the middle. That seems to help a bunch. I'll still need more practice doing it this way though.
  20. Erlendur Már

    Erlendur Már

    May 24, 2000
    Apparently Jazzbo beat me to replying to your post, MeTHoD-X. He's a lot better than I am, so it's probably a good thing. ;)

    Anyway, if you practice, you will get better. And a teacher will definitely help.