Why music theory is important -but not the usual reasons

davidKOS

not posting these days
May 28, 2012
16,816
California
In support of what you guys are getting at, get a load of this. A lot of the blame for unskilled players getting so much AirPlay and, therefore, popularity, lies with hipster journalists feting the noise players over the amazing players.

The rock critics have been trashing progressive music since the mid-70's when they decided that bands they used to like such as Yes and Jethro Tull were no longer cool.

The critics loved the then new Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, the punks, etc.

Much had to do with the rise of cynical materialism and the attitudes of the Rolling Stone editorial staff.
 

tumeniguitars

Strat-O-Master
Sep 22, 2011
953
Los Angeles
The rock critics have been trashing progressive music since the mid-70s...

Much had to do with the rise of cynical materialism and the attitudes of the Rolling Stone editorial staff.

RS has been thrashing Rush for years and only recently started publishing news about them that doesn't ridicule or marginalize in some way. Best part? Rush didn't need their - or any other critic's - approval.
 

StratMike10

Dr. Stratster
Silver Member
Apr 8, 2010
12,353
Florida
I have to say I'm leaning towards what MW13068 is saying.

Creation of art comes from innate talent, not from knowledge of theory.

Without the talent, all the theory knowledge in the world will not help you create art.

But if you have the talent, you can create the art, independent of your knowledge of theory.

As far as Picasso vs. Cobain...
I don't listen to Cobain, but when I do/did, there is a gut feeling that says... There is something big here, there is power to move many hearts.
When I see Picasso, I think (non-flattering statement) and laugh at Intellectuals :)
 

stratman in va

Most Honored Senior Member
Jul 27, 2012
8,830
Virginia
I have to say I'm leaning towards what MW13068 is saying.

Creation of art comes from innate talent, not from knowledge of theory.

Without the talent, all the theory knowledge in the world will not help you create art.

But if you have the talent, you can create the art, independent of your knowledge of theory.

As far as Picasso vs. Cobain...
I don't listen to Cobain, but when I do/did, there is a gut feeling that says... There is something big here, there is power to move many hearts.
When I see Picasso, I think (non-flattering statement) and laugh at Intellectuals :)

I think talent plays a part, as well as hard work, perhaps even discipline / persistence to keep going. The Beatles did not put out Rubber Soul and Revolver the first or second time they hit the studio. George Harrison kept writing and put out a 3 disc album early in his solo career.
 

mw13068

Most Honored Senior Member
Gold Supporting Member
Jul 29, 2009
6,950
Ithaca, NY
This discussion has me thinking about what "talent" is.

Miriam Webster says "Natural aptitude or skill" -- Concise enough. But the question is: are you born with talent, or do you develop it because you're intrested in something and practice at it.

There is no doubt that some humans are born with an innate understanding (abnormal to most others) of music, math, language, etc. but they don't make up the whole set of those people who others consider "talented."

Can "talent" be the result of study (whether formal, or not) and practice?

It seems to me that anyone who has worked at something long enough to be proficient would seem "talented" to an observer who has an interest in the 'something' but doesn't have the same proficiency.

Conversely, someone who was extremely skilled at something that the observer had little interest in, perhaps wouldn't seem so talented.

Is "talent" a property of the skilled person, or an observation of the interested observer? I'm starting to think that talent has more to do with the observer.
 

stratman in va

Most Honored Senior Member
Jul 27, 2012
8,830
Virginia
"Conversely, someone who was extremely skilled at something that the observer had little interest in, perhaps wouldn't seem so talented."


I had not thought of it that way, but I think I see the point .... for the longest time I though golf was boring, then I got out and tried it in the late 1990s. It takes skill to put that ball where you want it to go.
 

TrevorMarshall

Strat-O-Master
May 13, 2011
673
Phelan, CA.
Agreed but you can't compare the two as far as grunge and classical go.
Two entirely different spectrums. I play a ton of blues and folk stuff and have the the theory down pretty decent, but I absolutely love playing in grunge bands. They're more free than anything else. I mean really, you never have to worry about playing well or singing on pitch, you just go as heavy and loud as you can. It's a really freeing thing that more structured music just can't give you.
 

nhsdpl

Senior Stratmaster
Apr 21, 2012
4,190
West Australia
This discussion has me thinking about what "talent" is.

Miriam Webster says "Natural aptitude or skill" -- Concise enough. But the question is: are you born with talent, or do you develop it because you're intrested in something and practice at it.

There is no doubt that some humans are born with an innate understanding (abnormal to most others) of music, math, language, etc. but they don't make up the whole set of those people who others consider "talented."

Can "talent" be the result of study (whether formal, or not) and practice?

It seems to me that anyone who has worked at something long enough to be proficient would seem "talented" to an observer who has an interest in the 'something' but doesn't have the same proficiency.

Conversely, someone who was extremely skilled at something that the observer had little interest in, perhaps wouldn't seem so talented.

Is "talent" a property of the skilled person, or an observation of the interested observer? I'm starting to think that talent has more to do with the observer.


Interesting.

Let's look at "talent", and as an example I'll use something very close to home; your posts.

When it comes to the mechanics of writing, you have an ability to use words that clearly and concisely convey your point of view; you also do it with a fair degree of consistancy, ruling out the blind/beginners luck argument.

I would argue that you are the most talented writer on this forum.

This is my opinion, the opinion of an observer.

So where does this talent come from?

Perhaps you are a journalist, an editor, maybe you work in advertising, and this talent is something that you have aquired and honed over many years; perhaps you are a brick layer, a salesman at an electrical appliance store, a chartered accountant, and this talent is innate.

Now comes the interesting part.

How do you feel about your posts?

If you think that on the whole your posts are generally coherent......yes I know, everything can always be made better.........and relevant to the topic at hand, then talent is the property of a skilled person.

If you think that I'm FOS, and your posts amount to little more than gibberish, then talent is the observation of an observer.

Cheers.
 
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OwnYourTone

Strat-O-Master
Nov 25, 2012
801
Kansas City
To add one more facet to the talent element that plays into our musicianship, perhaps there is what I will call, meaningful talent. I am pondering if there's talent that is sensed by the listener and musician alike that somehow gifts both individuals with a connection - be it a mere appreciation of the music, an idea or emotion, etc? In the back of my mind, this is what I long for as a musician. To put it the best I can, I long to think and feel that my music is good somehow and I long for others to think the same, not out of ego, but out of 'blessing.' Not sure if that makes sense?
 

guitarman60

Senior Stratmaster
Mar 2, 2013
1,018
Kentucky
I knew you would get some "Cobain mail" over this but, I agree. I'm an old fart but I'm also a Guster fan. I can't say much about the last half of Nirvana songs because I can't get through the first half.
 

NEStrataholic

Senior Stratmaster
Feb 8, 2012
1,914
Massachusetts
The OP posited that one has to know theory in order to know how to break it to create something new that is actually good The collective response has been that you don't need any knowledge of theory to write great music.

Since we can analyze certain kinds of music using theory to fully understand what makes it "work", theory has value in developing existing styles or slightly breaking rules to incrementally advance music.

But what of music that doesn't come from theory? It may not be analyzable by current theory at all. It can still be great.

So, of what value is theory really anyway?
 

mw13068

Most Honored Senior Member
Gold Supporting Member
Jul 29, 2009
6,950
Ithaca, NY
If you think that I'm FOS, and your posts amount to little more than gibberish, then talent is the observation of an observer.

Well, my wife tells me it's rude to argue with someone giving you a compliment, so I won't argue. Thanks. :)

Asynchronous communication (writing, email, forum posts) are definitely my favorite form of communication. Mostly because in real-time, I have mixed results. When speaking to real live people, I tend to stammer (um, err, ah,) if I'm the slightest bit nervous. "Small-talk" is the worst!

In writing, I get lots of time to think, compose, edit, and proof-read before hitting the 'send' button -- so I take full advantage of it.


Of course this supports the theory that talent can be acquired through study and practice, since language is a learned skill. That's a comforting thought.


I am pondering if there's talent that is sensed by the listener and musician alike that somehow gifts both individuals with a connection - be it a mere appreciation of the music, an idea or emotion, etc? In the back of my mind, this is what I long for as a musician. To put it the best I can, I long to think and feel that my music is good somehow and I long for others to think the same, not out of ego, but out of 'blessing.' Not sure if that makes sense?

Yep. I defintiely think someone is more talented if they can cause me to have an emotional reaction (as long as it's a positive one) to their work.
 

davidKOS

not posting these days
May 28, 2012
16,816
California
The collective response has been that you don't need any knowledge of theory to write great music.
........
But what of music that doesn't come from theory? It may not be analyzable by current theory at all. It can still be great.

So, of what value is theory really anyway?

That's where you guys may be slightly missing the point - even "music that doesn't come from theory" can be analyzed. All music can be analyzed and studied and even codified.

Then the theorist will figure out why the music in question "works". It may not be based on the old functional harmony, which is why you may call it "music that doesn't come from theory" - but since theory is AFTER the fact, any music can be broken down into its parts for study.

Perhaps a "new" theory will be developed to explain what happened, but pretty much any tonal music can be analyzed under the rules Paul Hindemith worked out in the classic book "The Craft of Musical Composition: Theoretical Part - Book 1"

The Craft of Musical Composition: Theoretical Part - Book 1 (Tap/159): Paul Hindemith: 0073999691658: Amazon.com: Books

Frankly it can handle almost any music, from medieval chant to the most modern music.

What you guys are thinking of is "functional harmony", the basic rules of music from Bach to the Beatles.

Even those examples of music that breaks the rules of functional harmony can be analyzed with the tools from CMC.

A taste of CMC:

http://www.hsiaolanwang.com/lecturenotes/NewHarmonicResources.pdf

"The system was intended to accommodate principles of not only traditional tonal music,
but any type of 'meaningful' music."
 

stratman in va

Most Honored Senior Member
Jul 27, 2012
8,830
Virginia
That's where you guys may be slightly missing the point - even "music that doesn't come from theory" can be analyzed. All music can be analyzed and studied and even codified.

Then the theorist will figure out why the music in question "works". It may not be based on the old functional harmony, which is why you may call it "music that doesn't come from theory" - but since theory is AFTER the fact, any music can be broken down into its parts for study.

Perhaps a "new" theory will be developed to explain what happened, but pretty much any tonal music can be analyzed under the rules Paul Hindemith worked out in the classic book "The Craft of Musical Composition: Theoretical Part - Book 1"

The Craft of Musical Composition: Theoretical Part - Book 1 (Tap/159): Paul Hindemith: 0073999691658: Amazon.com: Books

Frankly it can handle almost any music, from medieval chant to the most modern music.

What you guys are thinking of is "functional harmony", the basic rules of music from Bach to the Beatles.

Even those examples of music that breaks the rules of functional harmony can be analyzed with the tools from CMC.

A taste of CMC:

http://www.hsiaolanwang.com/lecturenotes/NewHarmonicResources.pdf

"The system was intended to accommodate principles of not only traditional tonal music,
but any type of 'meaningful' music."

many years ago, I learned some music theory from book ( in the school library) with a title like that - "Bach to the Beatles" I think its out of print, would love to find a copy of it again. IIRC, it made a lot of sense.
 

davidKOS

not posting these days
May 28, 2012
16,816
California
many years ago, I learned some music theory from book ( in the school library) with a title like that - "Bach to the Beatles" I think its out of print, would love to find a copy of it again. IIRC, it made a lot of sense.

I read it too, good book. There are also several series on the Beatles' music in theory terms, among them:

Alan W. Pollack's Notes on ... Series

Alan W. Pollack's Notes on ... Series

The Harmonic Language of the Beatles

Oxford University Press: The Beatles As Musicians: Walter Everett
 

abracadabra

Most Honored Senior Member
Oct 5, 2009
5,532
UK
I like that it has covered some pretty sensitive ground without either side getting into a slanging match. these type of threads in the past have been a little ugly. people seem a lot more reasonable in this.:)
 


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