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theory over rated

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by helterschecter, Aug 5, 2011.

  1. helterschecter


    May 2, 2011
    Iv taken lessons for over a yr now and iv learned some theory. My question is do I really need to learn all the scales or should I just learn to play the songs I want to play..which happens to be the reason that I want to play bass in the first place
  2. Emm9T


    Sep 28, 2009
    Holiday, Fl
    Do you want to be a good bass player, consistently able to land paying gigs, or do you want it as a cool hobby with minimal effort? Don't expect to get out of the garage much if you don't want to learn theory.
  3. paganjack


    Dec 25, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    It really depends on what you want out of it. Learning theory WILL help you understand the music better, even if you can play it at the same level anyway.
  4. theoryisoverratedsoisspeellingandgrammeritisforloserswithnooriginalthoughtjustoldguyroolsforloosers
  5. helterschecter


    May 2, 2011
    To be honest I'm not looking to be a world class bassist but on the other hand I do want to be a good bassist. I'm not really looking to write my own music at the point either. I do undestand some theory such as the major and minor scales. I feel that I know the minimum basics. But I guess my question would be wouldn't it be more practical to learn theory thru playing? Just and honest question and I appreciate any feed bad positive or negative..thank you
  6. RedLeg

    RedLeg Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2009
    Kaiserslautern, Germany
    Nov Shmoz Ka Pop?
    if you are already a virtuoso with gods ears and technique that rivals Adam Nitti (that guy is a beast) and groove that is on par wooten miller and clark, theory is overrated. but as was previously stated, do you want to be professional or amateur (in the strictest definition)?

    P.S. carl h., i saws what ya dids dere. clever allegory!
  7. helterschecter


    May 2, 2011
  8. bThumper38

    bThumper38 brian ebert

    I just play any random note that I feel like. The band really digs it.
  9. Throwing out random stuff might work, but a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters still haven't typed anything of any use yet. You need to know what goes where, and why or it sounds weak.

    The point of theory is knowing what will sound good, and why.
  10. Billnc


    Aug 6, 2009
    Charlotte NC
    Learn as much theory as you need to accomplish your goals as a player.
    The more you know, the quicker you learn songs though. The quicker you learn songs (and the ones you like) the more you gig, the more bands you can play in at one time.
  11. mstott25


    Aug 26, 2005
    Guntersville, AL
    I'd encourage you to just learn the songs then. Theory will come in stages, you don't just "learn" theory as if it's a sandwich you can eat or a level you can complete. Theory is just a system we use to describe and communicate ideas about music. You need to learn enough theory so that you can play the songs you want to play.

    Who's to say how much theory you need to learn? We pursue music because we love it, we shouldn't arbitrarily place academic constraints on ourselves. If and when you encounter something that fascinates you and you want to figure it out, learning theory will be no problem. Right now I'm sure it feels somewhat like pulling teeth which means you're not seeing the value of it and you're not going to get as much out of it.

    For all of the grammatical analogies above, the OP stated that he wanted to play songs, he didn't say that he wanted to become a music teacher. Just because you can comprehend that last sentence does not necessarily mean you can point out the antecedent, anaphor and coreference in that sentence. If you can point out those grammatical labels, does that necessarily mean you understand that sentence better than someone who cannot?

    I have studied theory and will continue to do so because I'm fascinated by what I encounter, I do not however have any illusions about my knowledge of theory being any more important than, say my ear, or my tone, or my rhythm. It's just one piece of the puzzle, it's not everything.
  12. GeoffT


    Aug 1, 2011
    Let's say someone is very interested in physics and how objects interact with each other. There's 2 ways to learn about it, study the theories of physics or learn by observation and testing. Both methods will work, learning the theory will be faster (since those theories were developed by people who used observation and testing over a period of time). Even faster than just learning the theory would be to do both simultaneously (actually seeing the theories in action).

    Theory is not that difficult. If you know major and minor scales (and how they are constructed) you already have the basis for chord tones/arpeggios since they are built from those scales and modes are built from those scales as well. Quite often, the hardest part of learning a new subject is getting past the idea that it is difficult to learn.

    It does require some time and effort, you just have to be willing to do it.
  13. In my very limited opinion, advanced theory (relative to where you are) will be more effective if you have some solid musical knowledge and experience to apply it to. Learn what you can and what you are interested in, and then find a teacher who can help teach you theory that will apply to what you know, and take you a step farther.
  14. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    Glen Cove, NY
    If you just want to play songs, then you don't need to know harmony ("music theory" kinda makes it sound inaccessible or more complex than it really is). It sure would make it easier to learn said songs though.
  15. pnut166


    Jun 5, 2008
    +1 what he said. Maybe.
  16. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Fusion Cats Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Mstott25 raises some good points.
    You don't *have* to learn theory.
    If you do, it *should* help you understand why the basslines to songs you like work, and why certain notes work (and why certain other notes might not work) in those songs. That, in turn, helps you to understand how to create a good bassline for other songs.

    But if your current goal is "learn to play these 10 songs", then just learn them, feel satisfied, and then look for your next challenge.
  17. If you are going to play by rote - what is written on the sheet music you do not really need a lot of theory.

    The songwriter has already used theory to put on paper what sounds good. All you have to do is play what has been written.

    Now if you want to do something beyond playing by rote, then theory will be important to you.
  18. Bufalo

    Bufalo Funk in the Trunk Supporting Member

    Jan 6, 2005
    Harrisburg, PA
    Lean the basics. It will help you learn those songs you want to play much, much easier, and you may find that someday you DO want to make your own music. Why limit yourself?
  19. To my knowledge, no one who has learned some theory, no matter how little or how much, has ever wished that they hadn't. It just makes the process of learning so much more efficient and faster in the long run. It gives you access to centuries of accumulated knowledge without having to re-invent the wheel for yourself figuring out what sounds good.

    It makes learning stuff off albums easier/quicker
    It makes communicating with other musicians who know theory so much easier.

    When you write stuff it makes coming up with parts easier.

    Contrary to popular belief it doesn't lock you into "rules" that you HAVE to play certain things.
  20. There is a part of musical education that is tied to learning theory, and that is ear training. I sub in a very eclectic band with over 2000 songs at their disposal. This encompasses most every genre out there. Many of the songs I have never heard of before, plus many are songs I've heard but never played. I'm the first call sub because I can hear the progressions on the fly, and can either nail them, or get a pretty good bluff going. ;)
    This happened because of two things. First, I studied theory and learned how chord progressions fit together, and second, I studied the relative pitches so I can hear and recognise progressions. For instance if the singer/rhythm guitarist goes from root to sixth, I know and can hear that the next chords will likely be the second and fifth.
    This is not going to help hugely if you're happy being a three chord rock n roller the rest of your days, but is pretty much essential to being a good, working player able to cover many styles and genres.
    Your choice.

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