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theory over rated

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

  1. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    You can learn the very basics of harmony in an afternoon. No kidding. With the right teacher. It ain't hard.
  2. Bassmunnky


    Jul 3, 2004
    New York and Philadelphia
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball MusicMan Guitars
    Do You Need Theory To Play Bass?

    Hell No. Any monkey can play bass. And Make alot of money doing it. Sheer luck helps alot in those situations for sure. Getting eaten by a Shark is also possible.

    Would you like to work in situations where reading was required or, being able to sit in with musicians who do know a little bit about theory (gee..not a bad thing), maybe get a reputation, like Will Lee, or Neil Stubenhaus, or Bryan Bellar?

    Sure, learn some theory. It will make you a better player, regardless of those who think it won't, and it make the words 'Professional Musician' actually mean something.

    Would you go to a DOCTOR, that posed the same question about his career? Do I have to go to Med School to take out a Kidney?

    NO...You can have a Kidney removed in India by a Farmer.
  3. Once you put your mind to it, you can learn a lot - period. The biggest stumbling block tends to usually be one's own ability to commit.

    A lot of people come in here to genuinely ask questions about music - theory, technique, etc. and really want answers that mean something. In other words, they are interested and are listening.

    Then there are people who just want validation for their lack of desire or willingness to add learning music theory to their own to-do list. They usually front-load their "question" about theory with a lot of tell-tale language that exposes this. Words like "over-rated" or anecdotes (not antidotes) about some dude they know who shreds but can't outline a C major triad and is DAMN PROUD OF IT!

    Whatever... Theory is useful if you learn it and use it. It's not if you don't. Whether it's necessary or not is entirely subjective.
  4. baileyboy


    Aug 12, 2010
    My theory is this horse is dead.
  5. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    You could always start with the songs you really want to play an d later on, if you are interested learn the theory that follows the songs.
    Remember that theory is useful to understand what goes on in music and not the other way around.
  6. You seem to be saying that a Romainian who doesn't speak a word of english get nothing out of Lennon or Dylan. You totally underestimate their "sound".

    Hip hop/rap "artists" sell millions. In theory, what do they know. What does our Romanian friend get out of their work??
  7. teleharmonium


    Dec 2, 2003
    Exactly... and let's look at the mechanics of this reverse snobbery for a minute.

    The anti theory guy is using an imaginary composite personality that he created from his perceptions (which are obviously colored by insecurity and/or jealousy) - in other words, snobbery from other people that he may well have invented, or at least embellished - as justification for his own reverse snobbery by which he negatively judges people that "know theory" and claims a hierarchy where the people who don't "know theory" are on top instead of on bottom, based on a few (non representative and possibly embellished or misunderstood) examples.

    I assume there really are guys that are snobbish about knowing music theory. But I also know that guys that don't know it tend to be very thin skinned; they tend to perceive that they are being slighted just because someone else is playing well on different terms than theirs.

    The basic problem here is that perceived, possibly non existent bad behavior from other people is being used to justify their own real world bad behavior.

    We should all know that music theory knowledge exists in lots of forms and that there is no simple hierarchy of musicians that comes out of it. It relates to what musicians think and do, but so do lots of other things.

    If you think not "knowing theory" makes you better than somebody else, you at least as wrong as the guy that thinks that "knowing theory" makes him better than you - if not slightly more because you're devaluing work you haven't bothered to do and writing it off as class based identity politics instead of just doing it.

    There is no exclusive class of people that work on music theory. Anybody can do it. We all do it.
  8. lsabina


    Sep 3, 2008
    I show this to my theory non-believers.
  9. Hey you... stop making sense!
  10. Mayers

    Mayers Guest

    Sep 28, 2007
    Well Flea just got a big +100 in my book for doing this.

    It makes me think that ... many people play mosic only to be famous and make money ... so if illetrate people make money why learning is important ? No one seem to learn music for the sake of being the best they can, it is only to have more money or they think ... well being illetrate let me play 100 top char and if I learn theory I will play jazz and/or classical or something like obscure prog music that no one want to hear.

  11. It seems that many here think of the term theory at different levels or degrees and this may be where some of the misunderstanding lies in this thread. Learning your instrument is part of a complete background in musical theory. So is understanding how to build chords. Being able to read (concert staff or tab) music. Understanding timing and time signatures and the importance of rhythm and harmony used together. Knowing what modes are and how scales shape melody and give us the building blocks to improvise. All of this is theory but many of us (including myself) aren't at expert level with ALL of the different aspects of theory. It doesn't make us bad musicians but I for one recognize often that in improvisation and in writing I could use a stronger theoretical background. Knowing that major key signatures make for happy sounding songs and minor keys are commonly used for sad songs, that certain chords work well for transitions etc. etc. etc. This is VERY VALUABLE in creating a certain "feel" to your music and makes the writers job of taking a concept from idea to notes to music much easier.
  12. I must admit that I never took a bass lesson in the 35 years I've been playing bass. HOWEVER, I did take piano lessons for several years prior to taking up the bass. The music theory I learned in piano was easily translated to bass and definitely made me a better bass player. A little theory can go a long way. It may not be so important in playing covers as you can always get tabs, though I'd argue that for more complicated pieces, tabs may not be all that helpful if you don't understand the time signatures, keys, etc behind them. A little theory definitely helps when writing music.
  13. Gaius46


    Dec 15, 2010

    At the end of the day everyone has to learn at least some music theory. If you learn a scale or an arpeggio you are learning theory. If you noodle around and find a couple of sounds that sound good together you are learning theory.

    The only question is whether you want learn theory on your own or have someone who already understands some theory teach you. Being taught is usually faster and less frustrating.
  14. GeoffT


    Aug 1, 2011
    I'm sure there are at least a few people who could be compared to Dylan and Lennon in parts of the world that use languages other than English. Can you name them without doing an internet search? I'm not discounting the harmony at all, just saying their genius and what set them apart was in the passion with which they performed and the emotional content of their lyrics. Who would listen to Bob Dylan singing bubble-gum pop lyrics over the same harmonies? Jimmy Fallon has a few very funny examples of this imitating Dylan, Neil Young, and Bruce, they are funny for that very reason. And take Imagine, while the harmony and melody are excellent it is the lyrics that really make the song connect with people.

    Hip hop and rap are all about the rhythm and counter-rhythm. You very rarely see successful rappers/hip hop artists who don't have "flow" or great rhythm behind their lyrics. It could easily work in a language you don't understand. The only way one could get away with having weak to moderate rhythm skills would be to have lyrics that connect on an emotional level.
  15. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    Actually, I never said that theory in general was not useful to me. I said "I'm sure it would have value, but not critical to the task at hand." That's a very different statement.

    The more I think about it, I actually think there are 2 types of musical theory... the intellectual and the intuitive.

    The intellectual is what's formally learned... the rules, procedures, terms, etc. And the intellectual type of theory is generally learned through a form and structured learning process such as a classroom environment with a teacher.

    The intuitive is what's learned "on the job" so to speak. Over the course of the famous 10,000 hours, one learns what works and what doesn't. And when to apply something, or not.

    Just how it is for me.... I play bass in primarily original music projects. A wide range of genres. I may not be able to explain in words what I'm doing or why, but I'll let my music and phrasing and timing speak for itself... I actually do know what I'm doing... just can't put it into words.

    And just for the record.... I think learning the intellectual form of theory to have much value... but depending on ones situation and goals, learning it may have limited value.
  16. BioDriver

    BioDriver A Cinderella story

    Aug 29, 2008
    Austin, TX
    I'm having a hard time fathoming the idea of writing, let alone playing, music without even a basic knowledge on theory. Do you know that the third fret on an E string is a G? Congratulations, you're using theory.
  17. teleharmonium


    Dec 2, 2003
    I disagree as to the nature of their appeal. The fact of their worldwide fame regardless of the local language IMO speaks to this (much more so for Lennon than Dylan, which makes sense considering that the instrumental music by the Beatles and by John solo is much better than the instrumental music backing up Dylan... IMO).

    I was a Beatles fan by about age 6. It was the music that mostly brought me in. The appeal of the lyrics came later as I could relate to more of them.

    I can name off the top of my head some great lyricists that use other languages, but what is great is subjective, and I happen to have unusually eclectic tastes which come from me being a serious record collector as well as a musician.
  18. My mailman might have the greatest tenor voice or pitching arm on the planet, but the reality is that he never discovered or developed either (I’d guess). As for hip hop/rap, I disagree with you about its center. While the computer generated rhythm accompaniment is prominent, the lyrics are paramount. Replacing the lyrics of a best selling rap recording with a Shakespeare sonnet would not have the same appeal to its public. I think we’d both agree that melody and harmonic structure- born or defined by theory- is way down the list.

    The beauty of instrumental music, be it Mozart or Mingus, it that has to stand alone as music.
  19. MegaSwing

    MegaSwing Your Obedient Bassist® Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2002
    Baltimore, MD USA
    Without at least some background in theory, players become 'guessers' at what's going to work musically and why. Some definitely do this better than others. However, as an unschooled player, when you get thrown into the ring with people who really know what they're doing theory-wise, the communication between the players becomes way more difficult. There is no honest argument against knowing what you're talking about, regardless of how musically you play. All knowledge is progressive: learning something basic opens the door to all kinds of greater discoveries.
  20. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Oh dear me, I didn't mean to suggest that YOU SAID it was of no value. I apologize for my awkward wording. I think both of your posts are very fair and correct in what you are saying.

    Also, I know what you mean about knowing what you're doing, but can't put it into words. It's like before I learned "formal" theory I knew how to play piano in my mind, but couldn't describe it to anyone else.

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