what is "theory"

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by qsoxy, Jun 25, 2001.

  1. qsoxy


    May 4, 2001
    Is 'theory' simply scales? I know the major and minor scale patterns...what other things are important to know, and what esle constitutes 'theory' that everyone keeps talking about?
  2. Chris A

    Chris A Chemo sucks!

    Feb 25, 2000
    Manchester NH
    Theory is not limited to scales. Theory is the relationship of notes to other notes. It includes keys, time signatures, chords, etc. A lot of theory happens away from an actual instrument. My college theory professor used the piano to illustrate his examples, but the class included wind players, rhythm section players and even singers. (Guess who most of my tutoring clients were). Theory is like learning the "rules" of music.

    Chris A.:rolleyes:
  3. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    well, in theory, theory and practice are the same thing, but in practice, that is rarely the case. :D
  4. I treat theory as the science of the art of music. Whether you decide to perfect your sight reading skills or not, you need some understanding of scales, chords, time signatures to enable you to better understand what you are playing and, most importantly, why!

    You'll have a hard time writing a decent walking bassline without any knowledge of chords & modes
  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Theory is an afterthought. It is simply our best attempt to explain the sounds of music. By explaining those sounds as thoroughly as possible, we are better able to recreate those sounds at will.
  6. i agree. music is a universal language, and music 'theory' is man's attempt to categorize and classify the phenomena he experiences while taking part in music. the same goes for the sciences.. Isaac Newton noticed that something funny was going on here on planet earth with gravity and all... then, after inventing the laws of the universe and calculus to prove them, he had created what we can call 'theory'. - off the point of music, but it relates well i think.
  7. So theory is all speculation and conjecture? Why bother? :p
  8. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    not speculation, the best explanation we can make to explain natural phenomena. when a phenomenon occurs which disproves the theory, a new one is needed, and constructed, to encompass the new discoveries.

    like pretty much all the rest of scientific thought. :D
  9. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    this is why it's not conjecture. From Webster's:

    The branch of a science or art consisting of its explanatory statements, accepted principles, and methods of analysis, as opposed to practice: a fine musician who had never studied theory.

    so there you have it.
  10. Music theory is like a Sara Lee apple pie. You buy it off of the freezer section and come home and heat it up and eat it. Now, if you look at the pie, and know exactly how it was made - what ingredients went in it - and why - and are able to duplicate it (or come up with a reasonable facsimilie thereof) from scratch - if your able to alter some of the ingredient's for the purpose of changing the flavor.... THAT'S THEORY. (Well, sort of anyway.)

    (Man, I think I've lost it.)
  11. what's the point? IMO theory is man's attempt to quantify that which he experiences in his environment... in this case, that environment is music. is there a point to doing this in music? maybe, maybe not. i fell theory is to music what grammar is to the english language. we don't need to know grammar to speak english, yet grammatical study allows us to speak english in a more perfect manner.
  12. Cornbread


    Jun 20, 2000
    Lawrence, Ma
    I think you're simplifying too much. Music threory is not simply musical "grammar"; it is also musical "vocabulary". Don't tell me you can get by in life without knowing ANY language's vocabulary. And we even need grammar to get by. How else would you have been able to write that post if you didn't know some grammar?
    In other words, one can play music without knowing music threory in the same way a child can communicate without knowing much vocabulary and grammar.
  13. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    By memorizing visual patterns and playing by ear.

    AKA Noodling around.
  14. cornbread is right. you've probably been speaking and hearing english all day, every day, for as long as you can remember. if you have been doing the same with music, then it is conceivable that you might have developed such an instinct that you don't need theory to explain what sounds good. but this is not usually the case. ;)
  15. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
    I think what can be called instinct or feel still implies some knowledge of theory. Such is so with a child that doesn't a noun from a verb, but still finds a way to speak in complete sentences. They know what makes for comminations. They just can't identify and label the parts, so it's like they know IT, just not the names of the parts.

    I find theory a fine vehicle for communicating with other musicians still even if I don't have math going on in my head for each note I play…God Forbid! It is easier to convey what you are trying to do to others if you have some basic vocabulary from the world of theory.

    I have on pal that I can explain the inter workings of a song to in a matter of seconds (he knows theory) while with some other folks it seems you have to go over the tune over and over just to get where you can play it once. Even though they can jam.

    A painter can paint a masterpiece without knowing the name of every color, but if he someone to help him do his thing, he better be able to express what he wants.

  16. Cornbread


    Jun 20, 2000
    Lawrence, Ma
    I don't think great musicians are constantly thinking about what scale/chord/mode they're playing - just as you don't identify every part of speech in a sentence as you speak or write it. The goal is to get to the point where everything comes naturally, WITHOUT having to analyze what you play before you play it. At least I think so(or that's what Ed's always saying :D )
  17. SlapDaddy


    Mar 28, 2000
    ..communicating musicial ideas with words..
  18. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
    Well put!

  19. Georgia


    Aug 29, 2000
    London baby !
    music theory gives you a better understanding of what you're playing. It also enables you to write music a tiny bit more informativly :D ;)
  20. <br><br>
    i agree that one cannot get by in life by knowing ANY language's vocabulary, but one doesn't need to study grammar in order to learn vocabulary - it is learned by time through listening and mimicking. the same is with music - one does not need to study music theory in order to partake in the language of music expressed through sound. <br><br>no, i wouldn't be able to write that post without knowing grammar, but at the same time, writing isn't a necessary function of my being competent in speaking and communicating the english language. writing is man's attempt to communicate english through grammar onto paper.. but writing isn't necessary for communication in english.. the same with music. <br><br>again, this is my opinion. i have studied a fair amount of theory in the past in a college curriculum and i feel that my knowledge of music theory and a decent ear enables me to play many styles of music with little or no rehearsal. so for me, theory has taken me to a higher level in my experience with music... i was merely pointing out above that theory is not a necessary part of the phenomenon we experience as music.