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Theory 101 Checklist ??

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by AFRO, Sep 20, 2010.

  1. AFRO


    Aug 29, 2010
    OK, I have been lurking on the site for a few weeks now, and I have learned a thing or two already. I am going the "Teach Yourself" route to learn more about Music Theory... so I can expand my music knowledge (I have come to the end of my "Tab" path... and it has been good top me, but not as rewarding as I thought...'cus as you know TAB = Shortcut.. so thus the learn theory light went off; and now I want to know the right path of theory)

    If you would, could you all in the know construct a list of criteria that one should know -as it pertains to the process of what/how you were instructed when you began your music theory path. (perferably in a chronological order. dont skimp on the details or High/Low pts either, anything will be beneficial)

    I do know some scales, and the modes. more fingering then anything else..but I do some drills for them to get to know them.. starting to scratch the surface of Chords and Progressions...

    I took a Keyboarding class a few years ago (but do not own a keyboard) so I have the begining workings on how to read music.. which is another goal of mine that I am working on.

    My primary weapon is my 5string..(almost have the fretboard down, but I am still working on that too..the site reading exercises have been helping)

    again ANY thing will be of value. but if you get time please post what got you started, and what you would reccomend to someone going my route.

    The reason I would like an "Order of Operations" is there is so much information on here; drills/scales/progressions/chords..the like..that I have become a bit scatter-brained and need to focus my efforts a little.

    Thanks again and cheers!
  2. Just keep doing what your doing........

  3. guroove


    Oct 13, 2009
    Buffalo, NY
    The first thing I remember learning, theory-wise is the circle of 5ths. It helps to identify what key a song is in by the key signature.

    For me, the most important reason for learning theory was being able to communicate with other musicians. That meant learning the names for the different chords, and what notes composed the chords. It's also just as important to know what mode goes with each chord.

    Other than that, you probably understand time signatures, and what makes a good bass line. There are really only a couple drills that I ever practiced on the bass. One of them was running a 2 octave arpeggio starting with F on the 1st fret. The fingering isn't standard, but you can find it by searching for "Jaco Pastorius Modern Electric bass."

    The other one is the ascending - descending arpeggio drill in key. You start by doing a single octave major 7th arpeggio, let's say G major 7th. Then you play an A minor 7th arpeggio descending, and so forth. The whole time, you stay in the key of G major. It's very important to get your ears to understand what it sounds like to stay in key.
  4. Get a keyboard.

    While you can learn the theory of theory without any instrument at all, no instrument on earth makes theory make sense like a piano.

    Melody and harmony are defined by the relationship of notes to each other and NO instrument on earth shows you as literally what those relationships are better than a piano keyboard.

    So step 1 for me would be to get a cheap-o keyboard that has at least a few octaves (more than 2) so that you can take the lessons you find and see what they mean in the clearest way.

    Believe me - I am primarily a bass player (as are many here) but when it comes to demystifying music theory, set the bass aside and grab a keyboard. The same rules apply across the board (no pun intended), but if you really want to understand what it all literally means - not just get a book definition and find a limited way or two that it makes sense on the bass - do all your theory work at a piano keyboard and shave the time to understanding theory in half!
  5. Beller


    Aug 8, 2009
    Statesboro, GA
    Guroove, I hadn't thought about the circle of 5ths in years, thanks for the memory, you're right on, that's a good place to start. Ditto tZer. The keyboard opens concepts no other instrument can match.
  6. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    hey it's time for JTE& Mambo4's standard cut n paste response!
    Music theory can seem like a quagmire to the beginner, and it's hard to know what's really useful.
    add to that the fact that academic theory is rarely taught from the view of what is useful and practical to a working contemporary bass guitarist.
    I'd say that the real meat of theory lies in how chords are constructed from and relate to scales.
    It is far more useful to understand chord construction than to memorize all those "Scales A and B go with chord X" formulas.

    I'd say the logical progression learning music theory is this:

    1.) Learn the major scale, and how it's constructed
    2.) Learn how basic chords are built from the major scale
    3.) Learn how to harmonize the notes of any diatonic major scale by building chords / stacking thirds.
    4.) Learn arppegios/chord tones
    5.) Learn to look at common chord progressions as "numerals" (eg, I-IV-V ect) to understand how the chords relate to the song's key.
    6.) Learn the Natural Minor scale (a/k/a Aeolian mode) and the dominant scale (a/k/a Mixolydian); And learn how these relate to the major scale (i.e.; its the V and vi mode)
    7.) Understand how other 4 modes of the major scale are derived (less important to memorize these other modes at first)
    8.) Dive back into modes for more detailed ideas about what "goes" with what chord.

    And to expand on the first two points above...

    I. Do you know the major scale- that is-
    A. You know the whole-step and half-step formula for making a major scale
    B. You know how to figure out the notes in any major key, using the correct enharmonics
    C. You know what it sounds like- you know what the next note will sound like before you play it
    D. You can find it and play it over two octaves ascending and descending in any key

    II. Do you know how to build the basic chords- that is, you KNOW
    A. A major chord is 1 3 5
    B. A minor chord is 1 b3 5
    C. A 7th chord is 1 3 5 b7
    D. A minor 7 is 1 b3 5 b7
    E. A major 7 is 1 3 5 7
    F. A diminished chord is 1 b3 b5 bb7 (and you understand why it's called the bb7, not the 6)
    G. An augmented chord is 1 3 #5

    III. You understand and know the chords that come from the scale when you harmonize it- that is you KNOW not only that the chords are:
    I Maj7
    ii min7
    iii min7
    IV Maj 7
    V 7
    vi min7
    vii min7 b5 (or half-diminished)
    BUT, you know WHY!!!

    IV. You can work out how to play the arpeggio over two octaves ascending and descending the chords in any key. You don't have to memorize them (heck, I hate memorization), but you can figure them out and they make sense.

    V. You know how a ii V I defines a key center

    Bass playing is basically a matter of knowing what to play over various chords. It may seem daunting at first, but my practical experience (bass in pop/rock) has been that I mostly use Major, Minor, and Dominant 7 related bassline patterns, usually based on chord tones and pentatonics. Even if you're playing some guitar oriented riff-rock, each riff is going to imply a chord of some kind.

    85%+ of the time, you will be going from root note to root note as the chords change. The trick is learning how to do it with a groove and feel that is stylistically appropriate to the song. The best way to reach stylistic understanding is to learn songs you like and pick them apart to see how the bassline relates to the chords. I cannot emphasize this idea enough: The answer to this common question is to LEARN AND ANALYZE BASS LINES BY THE MASTERS. Once you undertand what Jamerson (for example) did with a particular set of changes, these ideas become added to your tool set, to use, change, blend and create your own voice.
    JTE & Mambo4
  7. Listening and analyzing/getting familiar..
    Singing/playing a major scale (number degrees)...

    THEN the stuff noted above.
  8. Plus 1 to Mambo4's post. Here is my cut and paste stuff. This will take you in 6 steps through the basic concepts of music theory. http://www.ibreathemusic.com/forums/showthread.php?t=11975

    Print of step # 1 and all the sites it will take you to. Find an easy chair and start reading. Ask questions here.

    When you've got this go to step two. Yep, print off all the material you are led to and find that easy chair again. Ask questions here. I think theory is best taken one step after the other. I also think the logical path follows the steps I've outlined.

    Keep going. When you finish those six steps then there are some great articles waiting for you here.

    Expect to spend several months on this journey. Somewhere during this study of music theory you will want to start writing your own bass lines. www.studybass.com has been a great help.

    I found this to be very helpful also. http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?p=9372867#post9372867

    Good luck.
  9. AFRO


    Aug 29, 2010
    Gentz (and Ladies if applicable)
    Thank you.

    I am glad you took the time to post. Old news for you is still valuable and fresh news for me..This should be a nice wind for my sails.

    I'll see what I can do about the keyboard, I do feel like it was the best tool to explain music with..but being large and/or cumbersome..I'll just say not my top choice...so in the meantime I will get to know my fretboard.

    I will Grind hard on the Circle; Acending and Decending..until I can play it with my eyes closed.

    Props if you posted!

  10. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    I have a small, 29 key Casio POS keyboard that I would have to give away to get rid of it. Believe me, it's fine for learning the basics. A 73 key Fender Rhodes or anything else is not necessary.

    I have also take Theory classes in the past, so this is based on experience.

    GET A KEYBOARD! :D It's difficult to deconstruct chords/melodies without one. You also get free ear training out of the deal.

    Good luck.

    Here are a few links to check out:
    ~Newbie Theory
    What's "Theory"?
    Intro to Theory website-easy to follow
    Easy understanding of chords
    Music Theory for Practical People book
    Online Visual Beginning Theory, ear trainer

    Beginner's Bass Clef tips
    "Name that note" online SN game
    Downloadable read "bass clef" software
    Online bass clef audio/visual trainer
    print bass clef flashcards/staff paper

    ~Ear training
    Test your ear
    Free downloadable ear trainer (basic/advanced) Solfege. Xlnt program
    Trainers/tutorials. Music theory, ear training, read music, chords, intervals, etc.
    Online Visual Beginning Theory, ear trainer
    Discussion of Solfege

    ~Sight Reading
    Bass clef to fretboard translation. Memorize this first
    1 Learning
    Sight reading source material
    Transcribe/read transcriptions free online

    Learning basic theory
    Intro scale & chord theory
    3rds & 7ths?
    Tri Tone Substitutions
    Theory links list
    Theory (from the DB side of TB)
    Useful music theory info with audio

    Learning "modes"
    Reason for modes
    Using modes
    Putting it all together (scales/modes)
    Key signatures/Circle of 5ths/Cycle of 4ths
    Circle/Cycle of 5ths/4ths (spreadsheet format)

    p.s. Please use standard font/colors next time.
  11. Your last statement ("The reason I would like an "Order of Operations" is there is so much information on here; drills/scales/progressions/chords..the like..that I have become a bit scatter-brained and need to focus my efforts a little.") makes me think you would benefit from some sessions with a good instructor. You are right, there is a lot of information concerning theory, and a person can really get wrapped around the axel (or tuning peg, if you will) trying to sort it all out. Without a structured approach, you could be in for some frustrating practice time. Dedicated time with a tutor can help you get the focus you need and lay out a game plan that will help it all make sense.....it has for me.
  12. thomashawk


    Jun 29, 2010
    New York, NY
    You're already getting some amazing information here, so instead of repeating any of it, I will suggest an amazing theory textbook that was tuned on to me by a happenin' young piano player on Blue Note.

    "Harmonic Experience: Tonal Harmony from Its Natural Origins to Its Modern Expression" by W. A. Mathieu

    The second thing I will add is develop your ear. No concept in music theory is applicable in any real way until you can hear it.

    Have fun!
  13. sedgwick1489


    Dec 29, 2009
  14. sammyp


    Aug 20, 2010
    NB, Canada
    1. intervals

    2. Major Scales

    3. Pentatonic scales

    4. chord / arpeggio formulas and construction

    5. harmonizing the major scale to form the 7 chords of a major

    6. relating the 7 major scale chords to their respective modes.

    7. walking bass lines - start with blues!

  15. Classickbass


    Aug 15, 2010
    Kingston, TN
    + to the infinite power
    I will not bore you with the details of my personal journey but tZer is dead on. I started playing piano and taking lessons March 31 of this year and I have learned more about theory in 6 months on piano than the previous 4 combined years of bass playing.:D
    Every time I learn some new theory on piano I play it on bass immediately, while still sitting at the piano, to see how it corresponds to the bass guitar. Try it, you'll see.:bassist:
  16. BillyIVbass


    Sep 24, 2008
    Gear Reviews Guitar World Online
    Keep at it, relax (theory isn't something you can master in a summer), read as much as you can and try to apply theory in all aspects of your playing.

    Ex. if you're playing a 4 chord rock some, be able to name the key, the notes in the major scale as well as be able to spell out a triad of each chord.

    Really plug away at learning your fretboard.
  17. Whew, where to start...

    First I have a question: Do you specifically want to learn music theory as it pertains to bass or just music theory in general or a mixture of both, where you learn theory and then understand it on your specific instrument?

    Some basic music theory items that I would start with are as follows:
    1. Learn basic music symbols and how to read both bass and treble (and probably middle-C) clef.
    2. Learn what intervals are and how to properly build AND label them.
    3. Learn about triads. After you understand the basic building blocks of chords (that is, intervals), investigate the most basic chords: triads (most notably major, minor, and diminished triads).
    4. Join a beginners' music theory class at your school if one is available, whether you're in high school or college. And if you're in neither, then skip this step... But otherwise, it will be hugely beneficial. Yes, I know you said you want to "teach yourself," but having a teacher and being forced to sit down and do homework and actually get stuff working in your head in terms of problem-solving is SUCH a better way to learn than just blazing through concepts online and then realizing you only retained about 10% of what you read the day after.

    Finally, I saw someone say that the best way to learn music theory is to do so either directly on or visualizing a piano. I disagree. I never visualize anything music theory-related on the piano in my mind. I imagine it all on bass. I am an undergraduate music student whose true passion, I've found, is music theory. You don't have to imagine it on the piano, although it is the most conventional way to learn it.

    Hope all this mumbo-jumbo helps. :)

  18. +1 on the keyboard. They are not expensive and very, very useful for theory study.
  19. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005

    Psht. Nowhere did you mention modes and circle of fifths.
  20. Actually, I wouldn't learn modes before any of the things I mentioned above, although I would learn about scales (major, natural minor, melodic minor, and harmonic minor) somewhere in there; I just forgot to mention that. Thanks for reminding me. :)

    And yes, key signatures / the circle of fifths -- also important.
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