Music Theory - Does it matter?

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Van Cleef
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Post by Van Cleef » Thu Mar 19, 2009 2:20 am

all the most technically skilled musicians i know are the least creative...
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Post by Drdos » Thu Mar 19, 2009 2:52 am

<blockquote id="quote"><font size="2" face="Verdana" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Van Cleef</i>
<br />all the most technically skilled musicians i know are the least creative...
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></font id="quote"></blockquote id="quote">I understand what your saying, but I can also tell you that some of the most technically minded musicians in history made Music History. JS Bach for one.... OK here's a more modern player. Stanley Jordon....OK here's another Chic Chorea, Steve Vai is a Theory Monster....
Vince

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Post by Ohara » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:06 am

There is a difference between knowing theory and actually knowing how to use it. I have fogotten most of the theory I learned when I started playing as realistically I don't use most of it nowadays. I get the most mileage out of knowing what chords are available to use in what key you are playing in. As for soloing, I find that I honestly only use four pentatonic scale aproaches depending on if it is a major or minor and what type of song (how I want the solo to feel when it is played). As far as the obscure chords like the Fmaj79b13diminished I honestly don't play any songs that a chord like that would come up in so I don't bother retaining that kind of information. I look at my brain like a glass of water, if you put too much knowledge in there well quite frankly some knowledge is gonna spill out, which is probably what happened with most of the music theory that I used to know.
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Post by Taronja » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:25 am

i dont know jack..

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Post by airforce_brian » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:32 am

Obviously you don't need to know theory to play guitar, but it will definitely benefit any guitarist. Some people are creative and original, and others aren't. Theory isn't going to change that. What theory does do is open up your instrument and make it easier to get across what you are hearing in your head.

How bad does it sound when you hear somebody playing a lead and they play a note that is out of key? No matter how good you are playing wise, playing wrong notes will make you sound bad. There are some notes out of key that will sound good, and if you know theory you will know how and when to use them.

Anybody who says that they know absolutely no theory and they can still do smoking leads: you just don't realize that you are using theory. You are most likely finding a note that sounds good, and working out from there based on your experience, and you end up playing out of a scale, you just don't know what scale it is or why it works. Knowing theory just speeds up that whole process, and can pretty much eliminate error.

To each there own though. I know theory has benefited my playing and creativity, and I think if everyone took the time to learn a little they would realize that it would benefit them too.
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Post by LeonC » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:38 am

Technical wizards who are uncreative are not uncreative because they know theory. They're uncreative because they chose to apply what they know in only rote, superficial ways. Most of them view technique (as opposed to theory, BTW) as an end in and of itself, when <i>making great music</i> is the end that most of us are hopefully shooting for.

Anyway, you don't need theory to be creative. You don't need to learn highly structured theory to get in a band or to write songs. You don't even need it to become a great player per se. There are plenty of examples of cats who make great music and don't know the names of modes and can't tell you the difference between harmonic and aeolian minor scales or what the flatted 5th in the key of D is, etc.

But that being said, knowing--and more importantly, <i>applying</i>--theory will probably make most people stronger, more diverse and more flexible players who are better at a wider range of music. It can enable you to learn more and communicate with other musicians faster (which can be handy on certain types of gigs). Most people who succeed as sidemen and session players probably know a good deal of theory. The trick is to not think of it as an end in and of itself, but as a tool that enables you to understand what you're doing (e.g., how to solo over songs that change keys in different parts) and communicate more effectively.

How far up the theory ladder am I? Pretty far. I certainly have areas of weakness but I know all the basic stuff...diatonic scales and modes, chord structure (maj, min, dim, aug, 7ths, half-dims, altered chords, substitutions, etc.), chord scales, inversions, pentatonics, slews of three and four-note arpeggios, blah, blah, blah.

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Post by Bandeapart » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:44 am

3 chords is all you need.
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Post by Drdos » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:49 am

<blockquote id="quote"><font size="2" face="Verdana" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by LeonC</i>
<br />Technical wizards who are uncreative are not uncreative because they know theory. They're uncreative because they chose to apply what they know in only rote, superficial ways. Most of them view technique (as opposed to theory, BTW) as an end in and of itself, when <i>making great music</i> is the end that most of us are hopefully shooting for.

Anyway, you don't need theory to be creative. You don't need to learn highly structured theory to get in a band or to write songs. You don't even need it to become a great player per se. There are plenty of examples of cats who make great music and don't know the names of modes and can't tell you the difference between harmonic and aeolian minor scales or what the flatted 5th in the key of D is, etc.

But that being said, knowing--and more importantly, <i>applying</i>--theory will probably make most people stronger, more diverse and more flexible players who are better at a wider range of music. It can enable you to learn more and communicate with other musicians faster (which can be handy on certain types of gigs). Most people who succeed as sidemen and session players probably know a good deal of theory. The trick is to not think of it as an end in and of itself, but as a tool that enables you to understand what you're doing (e.g., how to solo over songs that change keys in different parts) and communicate more effectively.
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></font id="quote"></blockquote id="quote">right on Bro well said!
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Post by Van Cleef » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:54 am

<blockquote id="quote"><font size="2" face="Verdana" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Drdos</i>
<br /><blockquote id="quote"><font size="2" face="Verdana" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Van Cleef</i>
<br />all the most technically skilled musicians i know are the least creative...
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></font id="quote"></blockquote id="quote">I understand what your saying, but I can also tell you that some of the most technically minded musicians in history made Music History. JS Bach for one.... OK here's a more modern player. Stanley Jordon....OK here's another Chic Chorea, Steve Vai is a Theory Monster....
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></font id="quote"></blockquote id="quote">

for sure - obviously - that's why i said 'the musicians "I know"

so....music history lesson 101 aside - I'm talking about people I know who studied music, can learn a song in 5 seconds, who teach music and can noodle to buggery - -- - not one of them can write an interesting song that doesn't sound like whatever's currently in their cd player...


but - having said that - Steve Vai is an excellent example of what I'm talking about... endless ubernoodling - to me is pretty boring (in my opinion! caveat caveat disclaimer etc)

edit: and yes - it is important to differentiate between 'technique' and theory... good point LeonC - technique obviously being the practical application of theory
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Post by LeonC » Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:03 am

<blockquote id="quote"><font size="2" face="Verdana" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Van Cleef</i>
<br /><blockquote id="quote"><font size="2" face="Verdana" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Drdos</i>
<br /><blockquote id="quote"><font size="2" face="Verdana" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Van Cleef</i>
<br />all the most technically skilled musicians i know are the least creative...
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></font id="quote"></blockquote id="quote">I understand what your saying, but I can also tell you that some of the most technically minded musicians in history made Music History. JS Bach for one.... OK here's a more modern player. Stanley Jordon....OK here's another Chic Chorea, Steve Vai is a Theory Monster....
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></font id="quote"></blockquote id="quote">

notice how i said 'the musicians "I know"

I don't need music history 101 lol- I'm talking about people I know who studied music, can learn a song in 5 seconds, who teach music and can noodle to buggery - -- - not one of them can write an interesting song that doesn't sound like whatever's currently in their cd player...


but - having said that - Steve Vai is an excellent example of what I'm talking about... endless noodling - to me is pretty boring (in my opinion caveat caveat disclaimer etc)

<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></font id="quote"></blockquote id="quote">

Yeah, but did you ever hear Larry Carlton? Pat Martino? Earl Klugh? Robben Ford? Karl Verheyen? George Benson? Or any of a thousand other guys who know gobs of theory but are amazing players and play with a lot of soul, feeling and musicality? I agree, Steve Vai is more about technique than great music (IMO, of course), but again...it's not because he "knows theory". It's because his style is just to make painful faces and go ****-****ity-****, plinkity-plinkity-plink :D.

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Post by Van Cleef » Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:13 am

sure - but i don't know where you got the idea that i was ever talking about theory? i was talking about technical skills!

sorry to drag the subject off topic - - but it's not really 'that' off topic

ps i bet malmsteen knows gobs of theory... LOL
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Post by LeonC » Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:20 am

<blockquote id="quote"><font size="2" face="Verdana" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Van Cleef</i>
<br />sure - but i don't know where you got the idea that i was ever talking about theory? i was talking about technical skills!

sorry to drag the subject off topic - - but it's not really 'that' off topic

ps i bet malmsteen knows gobs of theory... LOL

<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></font id="quote"></blockquote id="quote">
Understood, and I'm no fan of his either. I'll take one last swing at this dead horse though: the reason I don't care for Malmsteen and the like isn't because they know theory, it's because they make music that has little appeal to me. Nor do I like George Benson because he knows theory. I like GB because his playing is so musical and soulful and his playing is astounding not only in technical terms but also in terms of his feel, his melodic phrasing, tone, etc.

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Post by LeonC » Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:27 am


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Post by Van Cleef » Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:31 am

indeed - and I feel the same way when I hear Phillip Glass' piano solos...

or when i hear Miles deliberately hit a note imperfectly...

or when i hear j mascis when he's at the top of his game ... the method in his madness...

some musicians have that unholy gift of (a) theory, (b)technical skills and (c)creativity...

others can become massively famous from being just one or two of those things

some conduct and write magnificent concertos or film scores (a), some do in-store noodling demos on line 6 amps in front of pimply anemic teenage boys (b) and others just choke on their own vomit way too young (c)
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Post by RockerAIC » Thu Mar 19, 2009 5:11 am

<blockquote id="quote"><font size="2" face="Verdana" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Van Cleef</i>
<br /><blockquote id="quote"><font size="2" face="Verdana" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Drdos</i>
<br /><blockquote id="quote"><font size="2" face="Verdana" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Van Cleef</i>
<br />all the most technically skilled musicians i know are the least creative...
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></font id="quote"></blockquote id="quote">I understand what your saying, but I can also tell you that some of the most technically minded musicians in history made Music History. JS Bach for one.... OK here's a more modern player. Stanley Jordon....OK here's another Chic Chorea, Steve Vai is a Theory Monster....
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></font id="quote"></blockquote id="quote">

for sure - obviously - that's why i said 'the musicians "I know"

so....music history lesson 101 aside - I'm talking about people I know who studied music, can learn a song in 5 seconds, who teach music and can noodle to buggery - -- - not one of them can write an interesting song that doesn't sound like whatever's currently in their cd player...


but - having said that - Steve Vai is an excellent example of what I'm talking about... endless ubernoodling - to me is pretty boring (in my opinion! caveat caveat disclaimer etc)

edit: and yes - it is important to differentiate between 'technique' and theory... good point LeonC - technique obviously being the practical application of theory
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></font id="quote"></blockquote id="quote">

Theory does not equal songwriting skill like you said. If you go too into theory and technicality you end up like Dream Theater, which is a band that essentially plays for musicians and does things just to satisfy their own desire to keep things interesting. Technically great? Yes. Great songwriters? No.

The other part of it is that most lead playing is quite boring when you eventually listen to enough of it. When you get past the Vai's, Malmsteen's, whoever elses and the novelty wears off, you realize that a lot of these guys are not the best songwriters. Satriani is one of the few that can write good songs in a variety of styles. He is a good songwriter in my opinion, but most of those guys are not.

I think it's very difficult to have your own lead style that is unique and identifiable. And good as well. If you can do that, you really have something.

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