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An alternative to theory

Discussion in 'Tab & Music Forum' started by guitarface, Mar 7, 2018.

  1. roger@pennyflic

    roger@pennyflic Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    60
    Jul 4, 2013
    melbourne
    Goodness, I think it was dreadful

    Again, I did not see it as a discussion on theory per se but more as a general discussion as to whether it is necessary in the pursuit of guitar playing. Is there another way to learn. As for your confidence in my knowledge of the subject, well clearly I have very little knowledge of the subject. But if you have listened to any of the tracks I post in the Jams or the Challenges you will know I am quite fond of 2 and 3 part harmonies. I find it interesting that with all the talk of scales and modes and such (and you don't get any "likes" when you contradict that) no one has ever said, "well, if you don't know any theory, how do you do that"?

    Music theory to me, evolved secondarily to music. I don't think the 1st cavemen beating out a rhythm gave much thought to simple/compound time or waltz time. I don't think the 1st instrument was played any other way than, "hey that sounds nice". I believe the theory followed as a way to explain what was happening and if you are into that well, good for you, I applaud your pursuit of knowledge. For me however, I have never really got past that, "hey that sounds nice" stage. It sounds nice cuz it sounds nice.

    So, if you have that sort of mind that turns towards explaining sound then "cool", have fun, but I don't believe you become a great guitarist by applying mathematics (theory) to your playing.I believe you are much better served by applying your heart to it.

    Please David don't be put off by MY ideas. I love a good discussion.:):):)
     
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  2. fezz parka

    fezz parka Duke of DILLIGAF Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    59
    Apr 21, 2011
    Right behind you...
    I'm trying to say it's not what you see, it's what you hear. You can play the patterns you see, and not make music. But, I've listened to you play. You know theory, you just don't know how to verbalize it. Your playing shows a great knowledge of what should go where, and that's your ears, not your eyes.

    You know theory man. It shows in your playing. :)
     
  3. davidKOS

    davidKOS Musician, Composer, Teacher Strat-Talk Supporter

    May 28, 2012
    California
    That sort of was my point...fezz is often better at relating it.
     
  4. fezz parka

    fezz parka Duke of DILLIGAF Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    59
    Apr 21, 2011
    Right behind you...
    I'm not trying to be confrontational but theory is not just mathematics. Theory is about the relationship between intervals and scales and chords.
    The harmonies you like to play for example. Theory gives you a way to say I used 3rd.

    Harmony is building chords.

    You take the interval C. To harmonize it with a major 3rd, you play an E. To harmonize it with a minor 3rd, you play Eb. To make both a triad (chord) you add the 5, G. With the 3, its a C major chord. With the b3, it's a C minor chord.

    That's is theory at work. The numbers are identifiers. A C major triad is 1-3-5. You don't add the numbers, it isn't 9. It's the first, third, and fifth interval in the C major scale. :)

    The math part, at least for me, is simple fractions: whole notes, half notes, quarter notes etc. Making them fit in a measure. Counting. ;)
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
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  5. chrimturn

    chrimturn Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    41
    Jun 14, 2013
    Cincinnati
    I was a patterns guy forever. Mainly majors, minors and pents. I would turn my ear on, find the key or the relative key, and rely on the shapes I memorized to guide me up and down the neck. I didn’t pay attention to anything really. I just concentrated on the way I made the note that I was on sound, and where I was able to go to next. And sure, that’s all one really needs to know to be able to play something on this instrument. I felt like I was making progress. And I was very content with that.

    But after a while...years...(and just speaking for me personally) I got tired of cooking with the same recipe. Everything was getting stale. It all just seemed to have the same resolve. Not necessarily note for note...or from the way I played or expressed it. Even if it sounded different, everything just started sounding the same to me. The stuff I played and the stuff I listened to. The only difference was really the tempo. It was all just variations of the same stuff over and over. Just faster or slower, or in a different sequence. I could throw in as many tricks as I wanted. It didn’t matter. The flavor just wasn’t lasting long enough for me anymore. That’s what really made me start wanting to learn the ins and outs of the guitar. And that’s when I started searching for more ingredients. I guess you can say that my musical pallet or taste in music was shifting.

    I tried to learn new chord shapes and scale patterns. Diminished, augmented...stuff like that. I got the idea of when they should be used, but I was never really able to apply them. Simply knowing to flatten a 3rd and a 5th or just sharpening the 5 wasn’t good enough. Knowing how to play a m7b5 just didn’t cut it. Probably because it’s just me and I tend to have an OCD “need to know why” mentality with most things. I got into neo classical music, which led to ordinary classical, which led to jazz. I thought I could play, and thought of myself as an intermediate player. But then I realized the truth. I wasn’t even close. I was lost. Self taught and too many gaps that were left behind in the process. But hey, that’s just me. Stuff like this probably doesn’t bother other people. So I inevitably decided to go back to the very beginning and start over, trying to fill in those gaps and tie everything I knew together.

    And I have to admit that Theory is helping me tremendously. It may not be for everyone. It may not be necessary for someone to play the guitar. But I am certainly benefitting from it.

    And I also enjoy listening to your takes on the jams and challenges @roger@pennyflic
    I agree with what Fezz said. Your playing speaks volumes of what you may already know. I think I was just at the point where I really wanted to know exactly why I was doing what I was doing. If that makes any sense?
     
  6. fezz parka

    fezz parka Duke of DILLIGAF Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    59
    Apr 21, 2011
    Right behind you...
    You knew how...you wanted to know why. Why does the Bm7b5 resolve so nicely to Cmaj7? Why does it make a good sub for G7?

    What do all those Roman numerals mean? Lol
     
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  7. roger@pennyflic

    roger@pennyflic Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    60
    Jul 4, 2013
    melbourne
    Not sure about that.

    But for anyone following this thread let me explain how I learnt.

    I'll take a very small tangent first and explain that both daughters play piano (their mothers efforts not mine), the eldest has a Masters in piano accompaniment. In many ways it was gratifying to watch how they learnt - in the fact that they studied and analysed the great masters. This is as I have done (we all did it that way in those days), spending many many hours sitting next to a record player lifting and replacing the tone arm, wearing out the viynl and the diamond needle. Now though, we live in a golden age where the "early masters of the rock and roll" period are alive and performing, (well some of them anyway.) In addition we have this wondrous thing called youtube where you can simply type "how do I play stairway to heaven" and a 1000 people will try and teach you for free. No more wearing out that laser on the CD player. How wonderful, we get to study and analyse the early masters 1st hand, it don't get any better than that.

    Back to the story......
    When you learn those 1st 2 notes from "Alright Now"[free] you get your introduction to playing in A across the second fret. When you go up to the 9/10th fret for Kossof's lick that follows you have expanded your knowledge of the fret board. Work out "Johnny be Good" and now your playing across the 5th fret. You don't know what notes your playing or what A major is (that comes later) but you know it sounds cool. Each time you learn a phrase or lick it's in a different position and so the fret board starts to shrink. You sit at night "noodling" and start to see how you can join up that lick on the 2nd to a lick on the 5th. Again the fret board shrinks. You notice that the notes Clapton played in Layla are the same as those Jimmy Page played in "stairway" - albiet in a different place. Over time this all starts to appear as shapes on the fretboard and you notice that it doesn't matter what key you are in (cuz you've kinda figured out keys by now) the shapes are all the same. You don't have to know any theory to get to this point.

    The other MOST advantageous thing is that as a guitar player you only need to know one thing as far as playing in key goes. You know the places you need to be in to play in A so if you are asked to play in A# then play exactly the same thing but play it all up one fret. Ab ?, play it down one fret. This is the amazing thing about the physical makeup of a guitar and one of the reasons it has become so popular. Try changing key on a piano and watch all the shapes change, screw that man.

    Again, I am not arguing, if you get a charge out of learning music theory, great. in fact theory actually comes to you whether you like it or not, cuz you start to notice that when you play in F#minor it's in the same place as when you play Amajor. (something relative about those two things). The premise here though:- is there an alternative, YES there is an alternative to learning theory. That's how we all did it back in those days, just ask the early master of the rock and roll period, they invented it.

    Here's an aside. (seriously) Why do people bang on about Pentatonics?. There is seven notes in a key, why do you want to exclude two fo them before you have even figured out which ones sound good ? Seriously, I just don't get that.
     
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  8. fezz parka

    fezz parka Duke of DILLIGAF Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    59
    Apr 21, 2011
    Right behind you...
    What in the world makes you think I didn't do all of the above?

    I started playing 54 years ago. I had a teacher, but the other 90% of the time I was on my own figuring stuff out. Slowing the record player to 16 rpm to nick some licks. Playing it over and over again until I could play along. All that stuff is what we all did. It's not exclusive to you or those "masters", it's what we did in 1964.

    Now I can do this:



    Or this:



    Or this:



    :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
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  9. chrimturn

    chrimturn Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    41
    Jun 14, 2013
    Cincinnati
    I hear ya. Lol. And I still have a long way to go. I can remember playing with a group of guys a long time ago. Kind of similar to the post you said the other day about having it handed to you...

    I got over the initial nerves, and we played a few songs. Guys I was barely acquainted with through mutual friends. Then we started jamming. Everybody taking turns on a lead, stuff like that. Here came the nerves again. I felt like I had to think way too much all of a sudden. I got through it and thought I was in the clear. Fell back into the rhythm and all of a sudden one of them holds his arm up and throws up a 4. Oh crap! WTH is that!

    That was the first time I can remember asking myself / thinking if I really knew what I was doing. And if just knowing how was going to be good enough. The first time I knocked myself right off the intermediate pedestal.
     
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  10. roger@pennyflic

    roger@pennyflic Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    60
    Jul 4, 2013
    melbourne
    Love a good discussion.:):)

    But you see @fezz parka that is not the way I do it. There are other ways, and perhaps someone that came along later might observe that it sounded nice because of 3rd this or 5th that, but the essence here is that "it is not the way I work out my harmonies".
     
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  11. roger@pennyflic

    roger@pennyflic Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    60
    Jul 4, 2013
    melbourne
    Certainly not claiming exclutivity, I don't think I suggested that you did not learn that way - again just saying, there is an alternative to learning theory.

    love a good discussion.

    P.S. Look at the age of most of the people on this forum. We all started playing 50 years ago. LOL. If the arthritus don't get ya then gout probably will. LOL :):):)
     
  12. fezz parka

    fezz parka Duke of DILLIGAF Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    59
    Apr 21, 2011
    Right behind you...
    Doesn't Matter how you work them out. Theory enables you to do it, whether you know it or not. To deny that is just being stubborn. :)
     
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  13. Rudi

    Rudi Senior Stratmaster

    Apr 19, 2016
    Brisvegas
    I'm still doing this today. (with some more modern help)
     
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  14. fezz parka

    fezz parka Duke of DILLIGAF Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    59
    Apr 21, 2011
    Right behind you...
    I was in a session for a film score. I got the call because the other guitarist was double booked. The other guitarist in the session was Dean Parks. He had first book being the senior player. Great guy. I told him my sight reading was a little rusty. So he quickly wrote out a Roman numeral chart for me with the key and tempo. Had I just been a by ear player, I would have stunk up the place. We did a dry run, then nailed it on the first take. Did a safety that was even better. Had I not understood Dean's chart, I wouldn't have done so well. Theory helped me understand what was being played, before we played it.
     
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  15. chrimturn

    chrimturn Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    41
    Jun 14, 2013
    Cincinnati
    Really can be quite the benefit. It abbreviated your conversation and probably got things rolling a lot quicker.

    And now, me looking back to when the guy did something so simple as throwing up the 4. All I had to know was what all the chords were. That’s it. But at that time, I didn’t think that way. I just learned how to play the song. I didn’t give much thought to which chord was what. Everybody went to the 4, and I’m standing there in duh mode.
     
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  16. fezz parka

    fezz parka Duke of DILLIGAF Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    59
    Apr 21, 2011
    Right behind you...
    It was a big budget Hollywood picture. We were on the Newman scoring stage at Fox. Time is money. Worked a half hour, got paid the three hour minimum. :)
     
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  17. chrimturn

    chrimturn Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    41
    Jun 14, 2013
    Cincinnati
    Pay me. Especially on a Sunday. We get a 4 hour minimum though.
    Cha-ching.
     
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  18. fezz parka

    fezz parka Duke of DILLIGAF Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    59
    Apr 21, 2011
    Right behind you...
    AFM has funny rules.

    I made scale. Dean made triple. LOL
     
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  19. Dadocaster

    Dadocaster Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Doing band, choir, playing guitar at home and at church I heard the results of theory all the time but did not have it taught to me. Was in a band in college that would arrange the 4 part harmonies in the chorus of our power ballads on the fly, just standing around singing together and I could do the same on christmas carols. Always able to play easy stuff that was blues based and simple slow changes. Unfortunately, my kid likes to write stuff using chords that he makes up, and he is a fan of dissonant chords. He wants me to be able to play over them and play them with him and a lot of times I can't even figure out what the root is. Then there is his infatuation with big band swing and jazz...

    At this point I understand a lot of the principles but not to the point where I can apply them on the fly, do analysis of chords to figure out what's going on, and to be able to comp competently. Would be nice to be able to do those things. Even if I don't learn that stuff, though, I will be able to play in a lot of situations and sound OK. With my fubar ears though, it would be nice to have that stuff backed up by more know how.

    The interval thing is something that I have used for a long time. It's just ear training/brain training that allows you to "know" an interval that you want to play and play it. It's helpful and sometimes it gives you a good clue what direction to go in.
     
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  20. chrimturn

    chrimturn Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    41
    Jun 14, 2013
    Cincinnati
    ?!? Now that’s the gig to have. Double booked plus getting 3x for 3 hours to have someone else do it for you? Talk about hittin’ a lick! ...dang
     
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