Learning Theory

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by cassanova, Aug 6, 2005.

  1. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    As some of you know, like pacman, gard, jazzbo, durrl, i have some knowlege of music theory, but IMO its not nearly enough. I have a new bass, its a 6 string and I want to learn music theory in and out. Id take music theory 1 at my college, but they dont offer it at the campus I go to, Id have to drive a lil over an hour away for that, and well, its not an option.

    Im treating myself like I'm a beginner again. Whats the best place to start learning theory. I know my scales and arpeggios, and the basic stuff like that, but I need a much deeper understanding of it the way many of you do. Wheres a good place to start my reborn quest?
  2. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
  3. Pcocobass


    Jun 16, 2005
    New York
  4. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    cassanova, what do you think you're missing? What blanks are you trying to fill in? What concepts are you trying to wrap your head around? To what end will this theory be?
  5. DeanG


    Jul 30, 2005
    I know you said it isn't an option but I'd drive an hour and get theory 1-4. I knew more than most and still picked up quite a bit.
  6. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    There lies the problem Phil. I dont know what Im missing. I know barely enough theory to get by. Just enough to wing it through a tune with a decent, yet solid line if need be but ask me to throw down a funtional walking line for jazz standard and I'm lost though. (Make sense?) To what end will this theory be? I dont know, until I feel I'm at a professional level like Pacman, Durrl, Jazzbo, and some others here are with theory.

    Look man, if I said its not an option, then its not an option. I'd do it if I could but right now I just cant.
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Have you checked out the walking bass article on my site? It's only a beginning, but those are some decent first steps to take, and they can get you up and playing, at which point you'll have more specific questions.

    BTW, I think the function of theory is as a temproary crutch for those times when your ear runs up against a brick wall and can't get through. Eventually, you want to simply HEAR everything, but sometimes you have to program your ear with your brain in order to be able to turn the brain back off again.
  8. I'd get a keyboard - they're relatively cheap these days - to explore chord sounds and voicings etc. musictheory.net ain't bad too. The book mentioned is good. Theory can tell you what to expect and what options you have but you really got to hear them. There's been a long and acrimonious debate here about stellar talents who never knew any theory and did it all by ear - let's call him Chet - but without whacking a hornets nest IMHO it is fair to say you'll probably expand your horizons quicker if you have theory but you have to give yourself the chance to hear the learning and learn the hearing. Even Miles worked things out on a piano and encouraged other players who became stellar too to do likewise. Again, IMHO you learn quicker if you have to make the sounds yourself and if you can just explore things for yourself than just play back a training tape or whatever - band-in-a-box say. Everyone will pile in if htey disagree so no worries there! Meanwhile I'll beat a safe retreat :) !
  9. In the same vein, experiment with a guitar if you have time. Learning guitar chords and a few songs was a big help for me to see relationships between notes I hadn't been aware of previously.
  10. While "The Jazz Theory Book" is a good tool I never really learned much from it. I could never play the examples (little keyboard skills), and it didn't help me understand the relationships between chords and whatnot. Anyway, I figure if all of the theory comes from classical music (and I assure you it does; McCoy Tyner, for example, took his inovative chord voicings and accompiniment stlye from french impressionists) its good to learn classical theory to understand how western music works. Then go look at Mark Levine's book to fill in the gaps that classical theory may not have filled (but I don't think there are any). I would suggest getting the textbook for first year classical theory and go through it as though you were taking the class (as in do the excersises etc). For learning walking bass, just apply this theory in addition to what you've heard in music you listen to.
  11. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Don't blame the tool...
    With this I wouldn't agree flat-out without more information. Or, probably at all. As jazz is a harmonically rich and improvised environment where 'classical' isn't, jazzers would be the obvious choice to me to learn basic theory and how it is applied in our neighborhood. Then, later on it'd be a great study to dissect a composer from the other side that you like (or hate) to find some new material.
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I'm with Ray on this - I've met a large number of people on Jazz courses etc. who have a got a lot out of this book - I'm no keyboard player but with a little perseverance, I was able to play a fair few of the examples and I have constantly referred to the book in conjunction with Jazz lessons.

    Maybe in isolation you aren't going to get so much out of it - but that applies to any books. It's really all much easier when you have teachers and/or people to play with, to put this stuff into practice.

    As to keyboard skills - there are many software or hardware-based things which allow you to program in keyboard parts, loop them and really hear those chords....:)
  13. nypiano


    Feb 10, 2003
    I think the book written by Michael Longo THEORY AND MUSICIANSHIP FOR THE CREATIVE JAZZ IMPROVISER is a winner. I read it when I was subtantially advanced many years ago and got something out of it. The formatting, graphics etc (unless he updated it) isn't the sexiest but the actual information on the history of scale development, the basketball analogy of harmony, boiling down harmony for bad sheet music, shortcuts for ear training are unmatched in other materials IMHO. Or it least it comes at it from a different angle.


    The other thing is. what don't you know? I bet I could tell you if you post a couple of questions
  14. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000

    Yes I have, I have it bookmarked too.

    BTW, I think the function of theory is as a temproary crutch for those times when your ear runs up against a brick wall and can't get through. Eventually, you want to simply HEAR everything, but sometimes you have to program your ear with your brain in order to be able to turn the brain back off again.

    Im trying to get to the point of being able to hear everything again, dont get me wrong, I can hear certain things in my head, especially the lower notes that Ive always used. The higher notes well in my bassline construction, I'm not hearing them as much, but I am starting to hear them now. I just wanna get my brain reprogrammed for all this **** to the point where I can shut it on/off and just hear everything I wanna play again.
  15. nypiano


    Feb 10, 2003
    As I read through this from beginning to end I can't help but think some type of interactive blogging page or board where members can post sample bass lines to sample tunes in some type of decent manuscript software like finale or band-in-a -box where everybody gets to throw in their 2 cents. A lot of interaction and learning. Something like "The Shed" with sub links with the names of tunes with posts by members underneath. They can post, edit, hear etc.

    It all tends to get very verbal and open ended with words. Cassanova was really talking about constructing good on the fly lines over jazz standards--he can't do that to his satisfaction. But it took a while to ascertain that--because his perception was that he lacked theory and ergo this was not providing him with the insight into some type of method/madness to doing this better over any jazz standard. If I were to guess it's that tunes that move around a lot or the opposite: 4 bars of open C major (Instruction: "walk!") Easier said than done.

    Granted Chris mentioned his primer on walking lines but it's a question of whether Cassanova is going to be drawn into it cyberwise. But what prompts people to post is usually a specific tune or situation where they felt like "Gee I really don't do this so well". When you can attack the exact tune which bothers you, things fall into place more.

    The reality is he may be frustrated at his own ability but maybe he's not as far off as he thinks. Sometimes one can run away to the general when in fact they need a very specific thing. Perhaps he already knows that these simplistic type of walking lines will all work over D-7 G7 Cmaj:

    Root connecting
    D A D(8) A G D G B C

    D E F F# G A B D C


    D A F A G B G F E G G(8) B Cetc

    And all the half step sub variation stuff that have an alternate connection to a target pitch

    But then again maybe not :confused:

    If someone says they don't know how to fake a walking line well enough on a standard there must be some pieces missing. I don't think he'd be complaining that it's just that he can't play like PC does. So, if that's the case you guys need to flesh out what he would do--then make a specific recommendation. Theory would only be introduced if he asked "And how did you know to do that?"

    It's probably the case that you have 3 animals:

    ..oh yeah walking

    Walking is neither but close to them and requires a sort of methodology to bring them together-- plus lots of nice little tricks, pull offs, open strings, harmonics. This may or may not involve certain harmonic theory that encompasses it. It may just be about being a good architect at lines.

    Brain is sort of searching for quality on the fly by shape of line, variety of interval, arriving at good target notes. And you want the ability to do that instinctively. This no different then any other functional role when you wanted to be creative and functionally supportive without having to think too much.

    For example when I was doing a lot of organ left hand bass gigs, some tunes were harder than others. For example I was confronted with I Remember April with all that "G" . After the gig, I started shedding alternative lines and trying to get them into my physical (on the fly) concept so I didn't feel like a joke comping and playing solos over this automoton moronic repeating bass line over G over and over again.

    Just a thought (perhaps too many.. as usual)
  16. TJC


    Jun 28, 2002
    Los Angeles

    I also recommend Levine's 'Jazz Theory Book'.

    But as the Renzo Piano said earlier, if you have specific questions, someone here might be able to give more specific answers.
  17. My critisism of "The Jazz Theory Book" is this (if I remember correctly): it gave you a lot of information but I had trouble putting it together. I learned that dominant seventh chords are four note chords with root, 3, 5, b7 etc, but I did not learn, until I learned about voice leading and counterpoint, how chords related to eachother and created tension and released it, or how to harmonize melodies (what chords they can imply). The Jazz Theory Book has this, but it has a lot of holes which makes it so that you can understand what is going on but not play/compose it (for me anyway). In classical theory you don't get to advanced bits like seventh chords, modulation, and all that until much later than in Levine's book, that way you truely have internalized the more basic stuff before going on to the more advanced stuff. You understand what changes when you add in that seventh chord, where it sounds good to resolve and why so that your not just playing with seventh chords. rant rant etc
    Note: I am a jazz musician and primarily improvise all my music so this is not classical musician bias, though it is definately biased.
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think the main point I was making and maybe Ray as well(?) is that no book in isolation can do all this and you need to integrate this into lessons/workshops/ playing with other people etc. - no book can replace interaction with others.
  19. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I admittedly haven't read all the posts here, slap my wrist..

    I've been 'using' really basic music theory for about 4 years now, and have been becoming increasingly aware that some of the real fundamental, basic stuff was missing. I know this is because I have never followed a prescribed pattern to my learning and I didn't study music or learn any instruments at school.

    So, I've decided, over the next two years, to study electric bass to grade 8 and music theory to grade 5 (these two criteria also happen to be what you need to teach in schools in the UK).

    I've bought books full of music theory excercises, and the accompanying reference book from grade 1 to 5, and I've got stuck in.

    I ploughed through 1&2 last weekend (they're like moosikul crossword puzzle books really) and found them easy-ish. Now I'm on grade 3 and it's a little getting harder.

    The reason I mention this is because the grades, from 1st impressions, seem very well balanced. They cover note values, rhythm excercises, key sigs, meters, writing and reading in both bass and treble clef. And they get preogressively harder as you move therough the grades.. introducing keys with more #s/bs, more ledger lines, transposing from treble to bass, writing chords, correcting note groupings in written phrases, composing four bar rhythms and melodies, working out and altering time sigs, etc, etc, etc.

    The books themselves, all of them, cost me £25 in total, I'm sure you'll be able to get them for something close to that? I think it's an easy and good start point.

    Is the jazz theory book a good start point for msuic theory? [/rhetorical question] :)
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Hi there Howard - hope the tour went well/was fun!!?

    I think the Jazz Theory Book has helped me, but this has been in conjunction with regular Jazz classes with Geoff Simkins at Sussex Uni. - this has reinforced things for me and it helps to have the opportunity to ask the question you want.

    Geoff is really good in that we discuss theory - but also he will actually play stuff and show you how this applies - so he will play a solo, just using chord tones, or incorporating whole tone scales, diminished scales etc etc. :)