What "Music Theory" REALLY Is... imho...

stratology

Strat-Talker
Apr 8, 2007
367
Ireland
What I find to be most believable is that you did indeed acquire the term "chord" from somewhere other than yourself (as well as the "concept" of what it is)

Learning the term 'chord' and understanding the music theory underpinnings of what exactly the term means are two entirely different things.

'Chord' means
- you play 3 or more notes at the same time
- the underlying principle of choosing the notes is stacking 'same name' intervals - stacking 3rds is extremely common, you can also stack 2nds (-> clusters) or 4ths. Quartal voicings are quite popular among jazz players. I quite like the sound of stacked 5ths, which I think of as '1-2-5' voicings.

Lots of guitarists play 'chords', but are either completely unaware of the underlying music theory principles, or have some idea, without full, comprehensive understanding.

Many beginning players learn how to play something like a 1st position C cowboy chord, or 1st position F barre chord, and don't even realise that each one has only 3 different notes, which are duplicated to taste (like 3 F notes, 2 C notes, in the 1st position F barre chord..).


So you can learn something by rote, but you may or may not choose to learn the theory of what you just did there afterwards.

Learning by imitating something by ear, by imitating something you see (observe or read), or by learning how it's constructed are different ways of learning.
 

AxemanVR

I appreciate, therefore I am...
Silver Member
Feb 8, 2014
5,855
Minnesota USA
Learning the term 'chord' and understanding the music theory underpinnings of what exactly the term means are two entirely different things.

'Chord' means
- you play 3 or more notes at the same time
- the underlying principle of choosing the notes is stacking 'same name' intervals - stacking 3rds is extremely common, you can also stack 2nds (-> clusters) or 4ths. Quartal voicings are quite popular among jazz players. I quite like the sound of stacked 5ths, which I think of as '1-2-5' voicings.

Lots of guitarists play 'chords', but are either completely unaware of the underlying music theory principles, or have some idea, without full, comprehensive understanding.

Many beginning players learn how to play something like a 1st position C cowboy chord, or 1st position F barre chord, and don't even realise that each one has only 3 different notes, which are duplicated to taste (like 3 F notes, 2 C notes, in the 1st position F barre chord..).


So you can learn something by rote, but you may or may not choose to learn the theory of what you just did there afterwards.

Learning by imitating something by ear, by imitating something you see (observe or read), or by learning how it's constructed are different ways of learning.
`
I respectfully disagree...



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walter01

Strat-Talker
Jan 28, 2022
136
United Kingdom
`
I recall you mentioning playing "chords".

Did you invent the concept of a "chord" yourself (as it relates specifically to music) or did you acquire that term from somewhere else at some point? (that was a rhetorical question of course).

What I find to be most believable is that you did indeed acquire the term "chord" from somewhere other than yourself (as well as the "concept" of what it is), so it is as clear as the azure sky on an unfoggy UK day that you did in fact learn some music theory along the way - perhaps not a lot - but at least "some".

Btw, music theory is musical knowledge that has been passed on, whether it is written down or not (how the knowledge is passed on is irrelevant)...


`
You have lost me buddy. Alls I know is that I have earned a good living PLAYING music without being able to READ it. To just be able to jam with other musos is a gift that I have enjoyed all my life. What is your musical story Axeman? I would be interested to know. Show us some of your guitars. J’ai joué en France pendant les derniers vingt ans, et je sais que la musique est aimée dans le monde entier! In other words, all the world loves music. Just go out there and play it dude! Don’t let too much theory get in your way.
 

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AxemanVR

I appreciate, therefore I am...
Silver Member
Feb 8, 2014
5,855
Minnesota USA
You have lost me buddy. Alls I know is that I have earned a good living PLAYING music without being able to READ it. To just be able to jam with other musos is a gift that I have enjoyed all my life. What is your musical story Axeman? I would be interested to know. Show us some of your guitars. J’ai joué en France pendant les derniers vingt ans, et je sais que la musique est aimée dans le monde entier! In other words, all the world loves music. Just go out there and play it dude! Don’t let too much theory get in your way.

Just so we understand each other…

If you reread my first post of this thread, I pretty much made it clear that I use the term “music theory” as a “generic description”, one which I believe should fall under the much more important concept of “music knowledge”.

The whole point of this thread is that people keep getting stuck on that “music theory” label for some reason. In fact, a lot people are so opposed to the idea of “music theory” that they practically deny its very existence.

That’s why I implied that I wish we could all just refer to it as “music knowledge”.

The only reason I use the term “music theory” is because It’s a universally accepted label that “generically” describes what people are already accustomed to thinking about music.

Anyway, if you truly think you have never acquired any “music knowledge” from any outside source in your lifetime, then who am I to contradict you?…


 
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stratology

Strat-Talker
Apr 8, 2007
367
Ireland
I pretty much made it clear that I use the term “music theory” as a “generic description”, one which I believe should fall under the much more important concept of “music knowledge”.

So your theory is that theory is not necessarily theoretical. :)
 

Butcher of Strats

Senior Stratmaster
Feb 28, 2022
1,181
Maine
No I was not around in the Middle Ages when European fretted instruments were developed, but I've read many reliable books about the subject and taken many classes and workshops presented by people that know more about it than you or I do.
First off I’m not arguing, and I do value music theory highly while not having formal training.
I might be below average in my understanding of the working of music, but I have some.

WRT not having been around in the middle ages, once again I’m not looking to argue and feel free to assume I’m a deluded Heathen if you have formal beliefs, but it’s possible we were around in the Middle Ages and just dint remember!
Maybe not but possible.

Instincts, natural talents or tendencies, science can only guess at the origins. Guess too much and you’re a charlatan.
The first time I was even in the same room with a violin as a teen, it was a carpenter who was my boss and an antique dealer who was a friend. I was learning guitar at the time so got that excited look and the guy handed the fiddle to me.
I‘d only seen them played on TV and maybe at a couple of dances but had no interest and didn’t pay much attention.
Anyhow, the thing attached itself to me, I made some involuntary movements, and out came what was obviously music.
Nothing I knew, something like classical, and strident.
I almost dropped it and the other two guys looked startled, thought I was faking not being a fiddle player.
Now and then I share this story and get one or another all condescending explanation, but I was not figuring it out, it was like being possessed.

That was just a freak event, I went and bought a $50 fiddle that afternoon which I turned back into a pumpkin with (beginner).
That was not the only time or way I’ve experienced Deja Vu either, which leads me to be open to the possibility that we may indeed live life after life.
This of course simply being scientific observation and not any institutionalized belief system.
If one has doctrine they believe, one might decide they got a divine gift, or that it falls under the mystery of how in heck goes DNA contain art and music, the nature vs nurture conundrum where others insist we can helicopter parent our own little Einstein.

Just sayin’!
 

walter01

Strat-Talker
Jan 28, 2022
136
United Kingdom
Just so we understand each other…

If you reread my first post of this thread, I pretty much made it clear that I use the term “music theory” as a “generic description”, one which I believe should fall under the much more important concept of “music knowledge”.

The whole point of this thread is that people keep getting stuck on that “music theory” label for some reason. In fact, a lot people are so opposed to the idea of “music theory” that they practically deny its very existence.

That’s why I implied that I wish we could all just refer to it as “music knowledge”.

The only reason I use the term “music theory” is because It’s a universally accepted label that “generically” describes what people are already accustomed to thinking about music.

Anyway, if you truly think you have never acquired any “music knowledge” from any outside source in your lifetime, then who am I to contradict you?…


Your favourite player should always be you. Keep on posting.
 

walter01

Strat-Talker
Jan 28, 2022
136
United Kingdom
`
I recall you mentioning playing "chords".

Did you invent the concept of a "chord" yourself (as it relates specifically to music) or did you acquire that term from somewhere else at some point? (that was a rhetorical question of course).

What I find to be most believable is that you did indeed acquire the term "chord" from somewhere other than yourself (as well as the "concept" of what it is), so it is as clear as the azure sky on an unfoggy UK day that you did in fact learn some music theory along the way - perhaps not a lot - but at least "some".

Btw, music theory is musical knowledge that has been passed on, whether it is written down or not (how the knowledge is passed on is irrelevant)...


`
When I started playing my first real guitar in the mid-50’s, I had no clue what a chord was, so I made up my own fingering, which I still use. My dad told me how to tune the guitar (Hofner Senator) as he got the notes on the back of a cigarette packet from his workmate, who wrote it down for him. I haven’t a clue to this day what they are. All’s I know is that they work. Try it for yourself. What more?
 

Baelzebub

Dr. Stratster
Nov 1, 2019
14,367
State of Disbelief
Everything related to music is an evolution and no single person, no matter how talented, can claim to have done it all on their own.

If one were to look at the most memorable music throughout the ages as "inventions" (non-Bach related of course), well, then someone like the Scott Joplin sure came up with a doozy when he syncopated his way through the "Maple Leaf Rag".

No doubt the idea didn't just appear out of thin air for him, and his inspiration was surely the result of generations before him, as well other contemporaries of his time.

While whatever it was that sparked his brilliance may be difficult to fully quantify, the influence he has had on countless generations after him is unquestionable...






`

That's one of the reasons Memphis is one of my favorite cities. It's the place where all the poor people, regardless of race or national origin brought their flavor and it all combined to make new forms.
 

PonyB

Senior Stratmaster
Nov 3, 2020
2,126
above ground
When I started playing my first real guitar in the mid-50’s, I had no clue what a chord was, so I made up my own fingering, which I still use. My dad told me how to tune the guitar (Hofner Senator) as he got the notes on the back of a cigarette packet from his workmate, who wrote it down for him. I haven’t a clue to this day what they are. All’s I know is that they work. Try it for yourself. What more?
Well, you would want a great deal more if your aspirations were to improve on the instrument.
Communicating with other musicians would be slow and tedious without knowing the notes on the fretboard.
Limiting yourself to 'blues' or rock is fine, but it's not hard to understand that knowledge is key to opening many doors that will remain locked to those opposed to learning.
 

AxemanVR

I appreciate, therefore I am...
Silver Member
Feb 8, 2014
5,855
Minnesota USA
When I started playing my first real guitar in the mid-50’s, I had no clue what a chord was, so I made up my own fingering, which I still use. My dad told me how to tune the guitar (Hofner Senator) as he got the notes on the back of a cigarette packet from his workmate, who wrote it down for him. I haven’t a clue to this day what they are. All’s I know is that they work. Try it for yourself. What more?
`
The first stringed instrument I remember playing was a ukulele. I plucked a few notes and they sounded alright, but I didn't spend the next 50 years settling on that.

At some point I, like you, was exposed to the "concept" of a "chord" and in turn was made aware that playing certain notes together can result in a pleasing sound.

Lots of people don't know what notes they are playing, but they at least know they're playing a “note” a “chord” or a “scale”.

So, even if it's done in the smallest of ways, I, like you, learned from the wisdom of others and incrementally grew in musical knowledge and understanding. And learning "something" is still "learning" - even if it's something that seems easy to understand.

After all, even if you weren't specifically aware of the term "chord" before you played one, you certainly heard music that used them. Am I wrong? To do something that someone else has already done isn't doing something new.

And the very moment you understand the "concept" of what a "chord" is, then you have crossed the threshold of gaining "specific music knowledge".

The same goes for the "concept" of tuning a musical instrument “correctly” (even an idiot can twist some knobs)…

So, your old man got the notes to tune a guitar and somehow explained it to you.

I have no idea what you mean by "I haven’t a clue to this day what they are" but, F.Y.I., from the low string to the high string, E-A-D-G-B-E is the "Standard Tuning" pattern for an average guitar - oops, heaven forbid, but now you at least "have a clue" after all these years!

Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks?

Anyway, you obviously didn't figure it out entirely on your own. You were still showed "something" and that “passing on of musical knowledge" is what I'm talking about:

Some guy passed it on to your dad who, in turn, passed it on to you. So you did in fact learn “something” from someone else.

How many other "somethings" have you learned throughout the years?

You can deny learning all you want, but it seems reasonable to assume that you somehow learned quite a few "somethings" along the way - and I'm betting if someone mentions "playing a note, chord or scale", that you at least know what that means...


`
 
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Roger66

Senior Stratmaster
Double Platinum Supporting Member
Jun 21, 2021
1,257
Port Hueneme
I seem to faintly remember that it had something to do with how the letters were drawn, with h being the same as a squarely drawn b with the bottom line missing.



Edit:
so that was, kind of, half right, or maybe mostly wrong.. :)

In the Middle Ages, there were two variants of the note, 'b rotundum' and 'b quadratum', so one b drawn round, which is Bb today, and one note drawn square, which became H, because that was the closest symbol in print presses of the time. The B (meaning Bb) note was introduced to avoid a tritone between F and B in diatonic parallel 4ths movements, and replace it with the more consonant F to Bb (perfect 4th).
Wow, That's cool. That totally makes sense!
But I'm glad that's not the case today! It's a pity that my Music teacher didn't explain it that way!
She also said that using parallel 4ths and 5ths all the time wasn't 'proper'! Boy, the whole class had fun teasing her about stuff like that. It was a Great Class though, My favorite by far!
 


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