Learning music theory

Talk about things that are not necessarily related to music or the guitar.
Whiteagle
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Re: Learning music theory

Post by Whiteagle » Wed Jul 05, 2017 9:06 am

Andrew Fryer wrote:
Tue Jul 04, 2017 8:32 am
Whiteagle wrote:
Mon Jul 03, 2017 9:50 pm
Andrew Fryer wrote:
Mon Jul 03, 2017 2:38 pm
Cheapest is best. ISBNs: -
1854724460
1854724479
should be able to get them for a cent each from the big river
Hi Andrew. I don't understand this message. The link doesnt seem to work.
They aren't links. I couldn't be bothered with all the commercial censoring going on on delcamp.
Go to the big river and copy and paste the ISBNs one at a time into its search box.
Or look them up in Abebooks.
Thanks Andrew. Went sailing down the river and found them. I was amazed by how many theory related books there are. Trying to find a workbook with answers and the pickings become very slim.

PeteJ
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Re: Learning music theory

Post by PeteJ » Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:43 am

Whiteagle - If as you say you're interested in how music works then all the recommendations here are useful but I would suggest writing music as the best way to learn. In particular the tried and tested method of harmonising Bach chorales in his style. Or just very simple guitar pieces or even simple melodies. Writing makes you aware of not just how things are done but also why, and it's fun.

Whiteagle
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Re: Learning music theory

Post by Whiteagle » Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:51 am

PeteJ wrote:
Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:43 am
Whiteagle - If as you say you're interested in how music works then all the recommendations here are useful but I would suggest writing music as the best way to learn. In particular the tried and tested method of harmonising Bach chorales in his style. Or just very simple guitar pieces or even simple melodies. Writing makes you aware of not just how things are done but also why, and it's fun.
Hi PeteJ. Yes I am interested in composing. Have just started to do a little bit. wouldn't know how to go about harmonising Bach chorales in his style though.

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Steve Kutzer
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Re: Learning music theory

Post by Steve Kutzer » Wed Jul 05, 2017 1:08 pm

Rasputin wrote:
Mon Jul 03, 2017 10:37 am
Whiteagle wrote:
Mon Jul 03, 2017 10:23 am
Any recommendations about material available online are also welcome.
I heard this was pretty good: https://www.coursera.org/learn/edinburg ... theory#%20
I took that course and it is quite good. Might be a bit tough with zero knowledge coming in. Also covers bass and alto clefs, which I am unfamiliar with and made some of the work harder.

The price is certainly right!
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PeteJ
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Re: Learning music theory

Post by PeteJ » Wed Jul 05, 2017 6:18 pm

Whiteagle wrote:
Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:51 am
Hi PeteJ. Yes I am interested in composing. Have just started to do a little bit. wouldn't know how to go about harmonising Bach chorales in his style though.
I didn't mean you could jump straight in, but it's surprising how little one needs to know to do it badly and things can only get better. Also, it's dead easy to do in a score writing program. But maybe this is for later. First the basics have to be conquered, which is just a bit of a slog.

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fast eddie
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Re: Learning music theory

Post by fast eddie » Thu Jul 06, 2017 3:15 am

I spent my life in physics and in my last several years before retirement, I taught in several universities. So I am NOT a musician and know approximately nothing. But I do have enough sense to know it's a good idea to understand (to the extent possible) what you are doing. So I'm taking music theory lessons once/ week via video chat on my laptop. It's piano oriented but it's easier to see chords on the piano viz the guitar. Not sure where this will end up, but I want to have a better (not complete) understanding of music.
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Andrew Fryer
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Re: Learning music theory

Post by Andrew Fryer » Thu Jul 06, 2017 10:20 am

Well, when you say music theory, it's worth realising that what we call music theory is really only the theory of the Western musical tradition - even more specifically, it's all basically the theory of the perfect cadence (and to a lesser extent, the plagal cadence) and extensions thereof.
Before you get bogged down in harmonising Bach (which I've done, and it's stunningly boring), decide whether you really want to know about the Western tradition, or whether you want to know more about the wider world. For example, play an Emajor chord on a guitar, then slide those three fingers up one fret and play that, then play E again. What kind of cadence is that? Western music theory can describe that chord, but it does it very cumbrously, demonstrating that that's not what it's geared up to do, whereas in the East such things are OK, it seems, if they are based on an instrument's internal logic.
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Rasputin
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Re: Learning music theory

Post by Rasputin » Thu Jul 06, 2017 11:41 am

The negative harmony idea referred to above does belong in the Western tradition even if it is not the sort of thing you will be taught in the ABRSM syllabus.

The idea is that every chord can be rotated around the axis of the key to produce a corresponding chord which has the same destination but reversed voice leading.

That's not just a fancy way of saying you can approach any chord from either side, either the perfect cadence side or the plagal cadence side, because it has implications for the type of chord we expect to find on the plagal side, and its voice leading.

If you take the dominant seventh chord you find on the perfect side and rotate it in this way you end up with a minor sixth chord (minor third, major sixth).

A dominant seventh chord moves you anticlockwise around the circle of fifths, with the third rising and the helper note (here a minor seventh) falling. The minor sixth chord would therefore move you clockwise around the circle of fifths, with the third falling and the helper note (here a major sixth) rising.

Leaving the common tone in the bass is a common device which gives the impression that the chord above is just visiting and will soon be replaced by the chord which has the common tone as its root. This is the essence of the cadential 6/4 chord which you find all over the place. You can leave another note sounding as well – that’s just a suspension.

Thinking about this:
Andrew Fryer wrote:
Thu Jul 06, 2017 10:20 am
Well, when you say music theory, it's worth realising that what we call music theory is really only the theory of the Western musical tradition - even more specifically, it's all basically the theory of the perfect cadence (and to a lesser extent, the plagal cadence) and extensions thereof.
Before you get bogged down in harmonising Bach (which I've done, and it's stunningly boring), decide whether you really want to know about the Western tradition, or whether you want to know more about the wider world. For example, play an Emajor chord on a guitar, then slide those three fingers up one fret and play that, then play E again. What kind of cadence is that? Western music theory can describe that chord, but it does it very cumbrously, demonstrating that that's not what it's geared up to do, whereas in the East such things are OK, it seems, if they are based on an instrument's internal logic.
I actually think the principles above explain what is going on pretty well. If we are going to call it a cadence then it would be a plagal cadence E / Am6 / E, using the correct form of the subdominant according to the negative harmony principle, and the correct voice leading (OK, two of the inner voices cross - there are worse sins). It also uses the well-established device of leaving the common tone in the bass, as well as leaving B sounding throughout. This gives you an added major 9th on the Am, which works just fine on a minor 6th chord.

I don’t find that explanation all that convoluted - there are essentially three basic processes working together. To me, music is just different ways of combining a few basic processes that we grasp instinctively, and from that point of view it’s not surprising to find three of them going on at once. If something sounds at all interesting, there is bound to be more than one process involved.

I agree that a lot of what goes by the name of music theory is very underwhelming. As I see though the problem is not so much that what we call theory is the true theory of one narrow genre, as that it is a puny and underdeveloped theory that doesn’t really explain anything very well. I think this is largely because it deals too much in specifics and not enough in the general principles that can be extracted from them. This also has the knock-on effect that it can only be defended by insisting that it is only supposed to be the theory of one type of music, which is a pity if, like me, you think that all music is really the same.

PS I don't mean that AF is defending it - just that that is where the idea that it only applies to one type of music comes from.

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Re: Learning music theory

Post by PeteJ » Fri Jul 07, 2017 10:47 am

I'd say that music theory is music theory regardless of the style of music and that it doesn't need defending or attacking. We just need to decide whether to learn it or not and how much. The general principles will emerge if we keep going. If we include within it it psycho-acoustics then it covers all the ground. I struggle to understand how any musician could avoid learning it even if all they learn is the blues. It doesn't have to be Bach. We could learn about Indian ragas if we prefer, or stochastics, music concrete, subsonics or somesuch. It's all music theory.

As soon as we learn that a treble clef is a G we are learning music theory, so how can we do without it as opposed to just having more or less of it?

Whiteagle
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Re: Learning music theory

Post by Whiteagle » Sat Jul 08, 2017 11:07 am

PeteJ wrote:
Fri Jul 07, 2017 10:47 am
I'd say that music theory is music theory regardless of the style of music and that it doesn't need defending or attacking. We just need to decide whether to learn it or not and how much. The general principles will emerge if we keep going. If we include within it it psycho-acoustics then it covers all the ground. I struggle to understand how any musician could avoid learning it even if all they learn is the blues. It doesn't have to be Bach. We could learn about Indian ragas if we prefer, or stochastics, music concrete, subsonics or somesuch. It's all music theory.

As soon as we learn that a treble clef is a G we are learning music theory, so how can we do without it as opposed to just having more or less of it?
I am finding studying music theory is making me more aware of what is happening with the music.

stevel
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Re: Learning music theory

Post by stevel » Wed Jul 12, 2017 3:53 am

Whiteagle wrote:
Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:51 am


Hi PeteJ. Yes I am interested in composing. Have just started to do a little bit. wouldn't know how to go about harmonising Bach chorales in his style though.
I will say something another forum member has repeated numerous times:

Music Theory is DESCRIPTIVE, not PRESCRIPTIVE.

It DEFINES elements and classifies and categorizes them.

It can also define ELEMENTS OF THE STYLE and for pedagogical purposes, distills those as "rules".

In order for music theory students to harmonize a choral melody, they are generally taught a bunch of rules they must follow in order to get a decent facsimile *in the style*.

The rules change for each style. They are also necessarily incomplete.

The only way to really learn to compose in a style or like a composer is to immerse oneself in that style.

And I should warn that that style is 200 years old now. We could argue about its relevance but if you want to harmonize a melody like Bach for fun, by all means, delve into Bach's music, play it, tear it apart, and figure it out.

"Music Theory" isn't going to teach you that.

Ask yourself this: Which course did Bach take?

Most composers have a natural affinity for composing firstly, and secondly learn most of what they do from simply listening to and playing the music of others, then digesting it and regurgitating it, keeping what they like and eliminating what they don't like.

What music theory then does is come along and try to DESCRIBE what those composers did.

In some ways, yes, it does sort of tell you what you'd need to do to sound "roughly" like them, but the using "rule-based" composition methods results in "un-inspired" music.

IOW, you can follow the rules exactly and still come out with a piece that doesn't sound very interesting.

Probably the worst thing about theory study, besides people falling under the impression that it's "a bunch of rules to be followed" is that people tend to think that the theory that describes 200 year old music is applicable today. Sure there are people still writing (maybe unfortunately) in "archaic" styles but just as an example, if you go study Common Practice Period Music Theory, it's not going to help you write like Debussy, or Satie, or Stravinsky, or Takemitsu, or Palestrina, or Gesualdo, or Hildegard von Bingam, or Miles Davis, or Frank Zappa, or The Beach Boys.

You need to immerse yourself in the musical style you wish to compose, and learn to play as much of it as you can, and then you need to try to re-create it, using the existing works as a model, and slowly develop your own voice.

As for harmonizing a melody, it's a tool. But a composer needs many tools and a huge amount of music is not simply a melody that's been harmonized and in fact very few people write that way any more. In fact it's more of an instructional tool for theory students than anything else at this point. I'm not saying it doesn't happen and isn't a good skill, but just as many writers (if not more) "melodize a harmony" today.

Modern music is a different style. Some of it extremely different and some of it firmly rooted in the past. You can be anywhere you want along that spectrum, but traditional theory studies aren't going to help you much if you want to compose like Ligeti.

Rasputin
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Re: Learning music theory

Post by Rasputin » Wed Jul 12, 2017 9:12 am

stevel wrote:
Wed Jul 12, 2017 3:53 am
Probably the worst thing about theory study ... is that people tend to think that the theory that describes 200 year old music is applicable today.
It is. You are only saying it isn't because you have confused theory with style. The trouble seems to start here:
stevel wrote:
Wed Jul 12, 2017 3:53 am
What music theory then does is come along and try to DESCRIBE what those composers did.
That should not be the aim. We should be looking for the general principles that make what those composers did work. Otherwise you build in the wrong assumption that what works is just what we are accustomed to.

When you lift the lid on human languages you find that they all have the same underlying structure. The same goes for music. It is that underlying (and universal) structure that a theory of music should try to describe, not the much narrower conventions of a particular style.

If you start by trying to describe what composers in a given tradition did, you have mixed theory up with style and creative choice from the outset. They are not hard to separate - theory describes a world of possibilities; style is a habit of using some of those possibilities rather than others, or using them in particular combinations; creative choice is the individual path that the composer has found through the world of possibilities available within the style.

If you are only setting out to describe a style, fair enough, but I don't know why anyone would set themselves such a limited goal, and if that is the intention, it would be better to say so rather than claim to be talking about theory.
using "rule-based" composition methods results in "un-inspired" music.

IOW, you can follow the rules exactly and still come out with a piece that doesn't sound very interesting.
Of course, but again you are confusing theory and creative choice. Just as no theory of linguistics will tell you how to say something interesting, no theory of music will tell you how to compose something interesting. That doesn't mean that the theory of music is not rule-governed, or that styles are not rule-governed, only that composing is a creative activity that takes place in a world of possibilities defined by rules (much as dancing is a creative activity that takes place in a world of possibilities defined by the laws of physics and by human physiology).

PeteJ
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Re: Learning music theory

Post by PeteJ » Wed Jul 12, 2017 11:43 am

I'm with you here Rasputin. Music theory is maths, physics and physiology. Style is a matter of choice. Bach-style harmonisation is recommended to learners by me because it gives one generic skills in handling parts and harmonies that are directly relevant to almost all other styles. Melodic intervals, bass-lines, inner parts, counter-melodies, tension and relaxation, inversions, etc., this is just the language of music. I suppose one could choose to emulate a different composer but most ask too much or too little of the student.

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bert
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Re: Learning music theory

Post by bert » Wed Jul 12, 2017 1:46 pm

Whiteagle wrote:
Mon Jul 03, 2017 10:23 am
I am interested in any recommendations regarding good books to learn music theory. In particular I am interested in a workbook where I can apply the principles of music theory. There are some workbooks around but none of them seem to have an answers. A bit like doing a school maths book with no answers at the back to see if you are right or wrong.

Any recommendations about material available online are also welcome.
Not a book, but I like this site and the videos on youtube:http://sethmonahan.com/teaching.html

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Andrew Fryer
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Re: Learning music theory

Post by Andrew Fryer » Wed Jul 12, 2017 2:37 pm

Whiteagle wrote:
Mon Jul 03, 2017 10:23 am
In particular I am interested in a workbook where I can apply the principles of music theory. There are some workbooks around but none of them seem to have an answers.
Sorry, I skipped this bit of your request earlier. I'm just going to repeat what rasputin says, I suspect, but in the Seventies I remember using such workbooks, or they might have been old exam papers. I don't know if they had any answers in. ABRSM (the associated board of the royal schools of music) is a suitable source.
Go on Amazon and search for ISBN 1860969429 and it will allow youto look inside the book.
My advice, if the book contains no answers, is don't worry about it - if you go over these books enough times, you'll eventually see where you've made mistakes and be able to correct them. If you do grade 1 carefully then grade 2 then grade 3 then go back to grade 1, everything will be much clearer.
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