Music Theory . . . Necessary?

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Rognvald
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Re: Music Theory . . . Necessary?

Post by Rognvald » Sat Feb 10, 2018 2:02 pm

ronjazz wrote:
Sat Feb 10, 2018 2:52 am
The study of theory from the jazz perspective really works well on the guitar, since most theoretical examples can be played on the guitar, most likely the same with "legit" theory. I feel that it helps interpretation to be able to utilize the theory to shape a phrase or choose the dynamics. It can also assist in memorization, knowing the architecture of the structure from a tension-resolution point of view. And how can it hurt to know more than less? It's also fun the hear the "changes" in a tune or piece.


Yes. When I choose a piece of music for performance, my first goal is to understand what the composer wanted to say. I look at the title, for example, "Lagrima"--which means "the tear" in Spanish. I know immediately that it is not a dance, will undoubtedly have a somber melody, will likely require rubato and interpretative nuances and, most likely, will not be played allegretto. I, then, do a quick mental "read through" noting the dynamics, tempo, embellishments, etc. to get a deeper flavor of the piece. Next, I find the melody, determine the chord progression, key changes and only then will I begin to pick slowly through the piece. The reason this is important, to me, is that it gives me a quick picture of the journey I will take with this piece of music. And, then the real fun begins when you begin your path of discoveries that will ultimately result in a finished performance. My point is that a performer that approaches a piece of music from this perspective will undoubtedly give a more interesting and accurate performance of the composer's wishes than one who merely "learns the notes." As a former saxophonist who was an obsessive devotee of Jazz Music for most of my early life, I quickly realized the importance of knowing where the music is going. And, even though saxophone is a linear instrument--playing one note at a time, no respectable improvisation could exist outside the chord progression of the song. If you didn't know the changes, you couldn't improvise(note: unless, of course, you played "Free Jazz" where melody and harmonic structure are ignored/inconsequential and that's another story). These skills are sorely lacking in many CG's I have known including some with degrees in Music. However, they are the bread and butter of the CG's that bring magic through their strings. Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

chiral3
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Re: Music Theory . . . Necessary?

Post by chiral3 » Sat Feb 10, 2018 4:15 pm

Rognvald wrote:
Fri Feb 09, 2018 5:26 pm
Andrei,
When playing in ensembles with other guitarists, I would say, for example, "Let's start from the Em7th chord and build slowly to the A diminished" and they would look at me with a blank stare. Also, many CG's I know have admitted that they have never studied theory ergo, my original question. Playing again . . . Rognvald
Maybe they just don't want to go to A dim. Maybe they want something like II7-V-I in D and that's what the blank stare is all about :D
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Rasputin
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Re: Music Theory . . . Necessary?

Post by Rasputin » Sat Feb 10, 2018 4:25 pm

Rognvald wrote:
Sat Feb 10, 2018 2:02 pm
My point is that a performer that approaches a piece of music from this perspective will undoubtedly give a more interesting and accurate performance of the composer's wishes than one who merely "learns the notes."
I expect you're right there, but those are by no means the only possible approaches. I doubt that there are many people who literally just learn the notes, because I can't see why someone like that would be drawn to music in the first place.

It seems to me that theory is often seen as supporting the second approach - just on this forum, for example, you will find the difference between a player who subtly manipulates the rhythm as a way of shaping the phrases, and a player who bashes on like some beatbox, being described in terms of the second player being more rhythmically accurate. You will also find comments to the effect that observing the written time value precisely is playing correctly, and that musical and interpretive considerations live in a separate world, beyond the reach of any objective or formal explanation. How did we end up in a situation where a player who uses rhythmic devices effectively is perceived as being less good, rhythmically speaking, than a player who is totally oblivious to them, and where playing music correctly can be contrasted with playing it musically - as if playing musically was incorrect? Thinking just about rhythm for the time being, I think views like these stem from the idea that, theoretically, there is supposed to be a fixed tempo and the notes are supposed to align with it, and that's where theory stops - the rest being mystical. On that view, theory runs out before the music really starts - so perhaps it's not surprising that so few people should be interested in theory, or that the theory of music we have should be so unimpressive. Is it possible to change this outlook, do you think, and if so, how?

Rognvald
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Re: Music Theory . . . Necessary?

Post by Rognvald » Sat Feb 10, 2018 5:38 pm

Rasputin wrote:
Sat Feb 10, 2018 4:25 pm
Rognvald wrote:
Sat Feb 10, 2018 2:02 pm
My point is that a performer that approaches a piece of music from this perspective will undoubtedly give a more interesting and accurate performance of the composer's wishes than one who merely "learns the notes."
I expect you're right there, but those are by no means the only possible approaches. I doubt that there are many people who literally just learn the notes, because I can't see why someone like that would be drawn to music in the first place.

It seems to me that theory is often seen as supporting the second approach - just on this forum, for example, you will find the difference between a player who subtly manipulates the rhythm as a way of shaping the phrases, and a player who bashes on like some beatbox, being described in terms of the second player being more rhythmically accurate. You will also find comments to the effect that observing the written time value precisely is playing correctly, and that musical and interpretive considerations live in a separate world, beyond the reach of any objective or formal explanation. How did we end up in a situation where a player who uses rhythmic devices effectively is perceived as being less good, rhythmically speaking, than a player who is totally oblivious to them, and where playing music correctly can be contrasted with playing it musically - as if playing musically was incorrect? Thinking just about rhythm for the time being, I think views like these stem from the idea that, theoretically, there is supposed to be a fixed tempo and the notes are supposed to align with it, and that's where theory stops - the rest being mystical. On that view, theory runs out before the music really starts - so perhaps it's not surprising that so few people should be interested in theory, or that the theory of music we have should be so unimpressive. Is it possible to change this outlook, do you think, and if so, how?

Thoughtfully written, Rasputin and there's nothing with which we really disagree. My point about theory and performance is that I want to be the magician on stage with the biggest bag of tricks and knowledge of theory is one of them. Also, for the record, I am an interpretive player who is not afraid to imprint my musical personality using the composer's framework but, I have never attempted to rewrite the artist's work. The fastest way for me to leave a concert is when I'm listening to a monochromatic metronome. I always hope there are some paper bags in the lobby. Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

D.Cass
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Re: Music Theory . . . Necessary?

Post by D.Cass » Sat Feb 10, 2018 6:41 pm

I have to agree that classical guitarist as a whole are not that steeped in theory. However, all the good players I know are. It would be hard to believe that any fill in the blank would renown guitarist can’t spell a chord or doesn’t understand what a cadence is. There is a reason why theory and ear training is a two year requirement in any music school.

What theory allows for is understanding of piece without having to play it first or listen to a recording. I first look for the I chords and the V chords, the cadences. I know exactly what the phrases will be. Chords have importance in functional harmony. Not all chords or scale degrees are treated equally. The general rule of thumb in music is based on tension and release. Tension chords will be drawn out more either by playing louder or use of rubato, generally. This also effects nonchord tones or delayed resolutions. Understanding the rhythmic motive helps guide the rubato. For example, Choro No. 1 by Villa Lobos is predicated on the rhythm 1 d2a&d. The chain of 16th notes will be grouped together, there is more to that tune than mentioned. Another example, is Etude 1 by Brouwer. The whole piece is based on polyrhythm. If rubato is used in the wrong spot it destroys the whole rhythmic idea. Harmonic example, Allegro Solemne by Barrios. The first 3 measures are all working to the D major chord and it resolves on beat three.

What theory allows us to do is understand the composition of a piece. It is the grammar and syntax to music. Understanding the grammar allows for a deeper and more meaningful approach and hopefully more meaningful performance.

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Larry McDonald
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Re: Music Theory . . . Necessary?

Post by Larry McDonald » Sat Feb 10, 2018 11:44 pm

Only for creative artists. Theory is not necessary for "re-creative" copyists.

-Lare
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ronjazz
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Re: Music Theory . . . Necessary?

Post by ronjazz » Sun Feb 11, 2018 4:25 am

Interesting, Lare, that so many of them even copy the interpretive rubatos. Of course, some of the greats might actually prefer that, it seems, at least from watching them teach. Anyway, theory is not even that hard. It's a lot easier than English!
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Rognvald
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Re: Music Theory . . . Necessary?

Post by Rognvald » Sun Feb 11, 2018 4:13 pm

Larry McDonald wrote:
Sat Feb 10, 2018 11:44 pm
Only for creative artists. Theory is not necessary for "re-creative" copyists.

-Lare
by ronjazz » Saturday 10 February 2018, 22:25 pm

Interesting, Lare, that so many of them even copy the interpretive rubatos. Of course, some of the greats might actually prefer that, it seems, at least from watching them teach. Anyway, theory is not even that hard. It's a lot easier than English!


Back in my R and B/Jazz days we called them "parakeets." Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

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MartinCogg
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Re: Music Theory . . . Necessary?

Post by MartinCogg » Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:28 pm

Rognvald wrote:
Fri Feb 09, 2018 6:14 pm
...and I hope we don't get sidetracked with thread drift..... Playing again . . . Rognvald
Rognvald wrote:
Sat Feb 10, 2018 12:37 am
Those of us who are in the "Arts" whether it be Music, Writing, Dance, or Visual Arts are really no different from those in the practical trades: carpenters, bricklayers and electricians in that in order to gain true competence one has to master levels of accomplishment that are real, provable and repeatable. And, whether it is done formally in the case of a classically trained musician or on the job, as is still the case with some Jazz players, the levels must be attained nonetheless. Because to play music at a very high level, one cannot rely on intuition, instinct, perspiration and inspiration solely unless you were born Beethoven, Bach or John Coltrane and even these luminaries followed the tried and true path of a tradesman albeit with much faster and profound results than their contemporaries. So, if one attempts true artistry, it is more than heart and soul but rather talent, experience, and the hard work of a tradesman who knows every aspect of his work. It is only then that we have the ability to communicate something special: not mundane, cliche, soppy, or theatrically gymnastic but the essence of a sentient human being that communicates through Art. Music theory . . . necessary . . . absolutely in every instance. Playing again . . .Rognvald
As a mere amateur guitarist, Rognvald, I don't feel invited to declare my thoughts on your
'Music Theory... Necessary' topic -
but if you don't want it to be sidetracked with any thread drift then don't yerself go putting
Art in general, nor the Visual Arts in particular, on the table... and speaking of tables,
nor neither carpenters...
:sage:

celestemcc
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Re: Music Theory . . . Necessary?

Post by celestemcc » Sun Feb 11, 2018 11:02 pm

Knowing theory helps for simple practical purposes too... no one seems to have addressed this. I nearly always interpret the harmonies of a given piece I'm playing. I don't always write it down, but it's there, I see it, and I use it. Many of us guitarists learned to play chords, open and barred, in various inversions, before or while we started serious study of the instrument. Virtually everything we play is just a series of chords with melody line in there somewhere. I use the harmony for memorization and fingering shortcuts... "Ah, third inversion E major chord going to first inversion B minor," and my fingers move to that "shape" more or less automatically when I'm reading. It helps me memorize a passage. And it gives the "dots on the page" a coherency, as someone stated above, everything's connected; I can find the phrases via the cadences. Our ears of course do that as well, but again, it's a help with memorization, to me: "the modulation from D minor to F major takes place here,". I admit I'm a person for whom it helps to see as well as hear it, but every resource helps. Theory's one of them...
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Rognvald
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Re: Music Theory . . . Necessary?

Post by Rognvald » Mon Feb 12, 2018 1:24 pm

MartinCogg wrote:
Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:28 pm
Rognvald wrote:
Fri Feb 09, 2018 6:14 pm
...and I hope we don't get sidetracked with thread drift..... Playing again . . . Rognvald
Rognvald wrote:
Sat Feb 10, 2018 12:37 am
Those of us who are in the "Arts" whether it be Music, Writing, Dance, or Visual Arts are really no different from those in the practical trades: carpenters, bricklayers and electricians in that in order to gain true competence one has to master levels of accomplishment that are real, provable and repeatable. And, whether it is done formally in the case of a classically trained musician or on the job, as is still the case with some Jazz players, the levels must be attained nonetheless. Because to play music at a very high level, one cannot rely on intuition, instinct, perspiration and inspiration solely unless you were born Beethoven, Bach or John Coltrane and even these luminaries followed the tried and true path of a tradesman albeit with much faster and profound results than their contemporaries. So, if one attempts true artistry, it is more than heart and soul but rather talent, experience, and the hard work of a tradesman who knows every aspect of his work. It is only then that we have the ability to communicate something special: not mundane, cliche, soppy, or theatrically gymnastic but the essence of a sentient human being that communicates through Art. Music theory . . . necessary . . . absolutely in every instance. Playing again . . .Rognvald
As a mere amateur guitarist, Rognvald, I don't feel invited to declare my thoughts on your
'Music Theory... Necessary' topic -
but if you don't want it to be sidetracked with any thread drift then don't yerself go putting
Art in general, nor the Visual Arts in particular, on the table... and speaking of tables,
nor neither carpenters...
:sage:

Martin,
Intelligent human dialogue does not exist in a vacuum. Collateral references are part and parcel to weaving a philosophic assertion or explaining subject matter. I don't really understand the purpose of your post was but it certainly doesn't, in my opinion, enrich or contribute to the serious discussion at hand. Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

mainterm
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Re: Music Theory . . . Necessary?

Post by mainterm » Mon Feb 12, 2018 5:18 pm

To the OP (or anyone else who cares to clarify this): what *precisely* is meant by the Capitalized term "Music Theory"?

Is everyone in agreement here on what this super-vague term means? I suspect no.

Is the ability to distinguish a bass and treble clef a "music theory" skill?

Lawler
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Re: Music Theory . . . Necessary?

Post by Lawler » Mon Feb 12, 2018 5:44 pm

mainterm wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 5:18 pm
To the OP (or anyone else who cares to clarify this): what *precisely* is meant by the Capitalized term "Music Theory"?

Is everyone in agreement here on what this super-vague term means? I suspect no...
Good point. Oddly, the term is often used to describe conventions of staff notation or fundamentals of ear training.

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MartinCogg
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Re: Music Theory . . . Necessary?

Post by MartinCogg » Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:20 am

Rognvald wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 1:24 pm
MartinCogg wrote:
Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:28 pm
Rognvald wrote:
Fri Feb 09, 2018 6:14 pm
...and I hope we don't get sidetracked with thread drift..... Playing again . . . Rognvald
Rognvald wrote:
Sat Feb 10, 2018 12:37 am
Those of us who are in the "Arts" whether it be Music, Writing, Dance, or Visual Arts are really no different from those in the practical trades: carpenters, bricklayers and electricians in that in order to gain true competence one has to master levels of accomplishment that are real, provable and repeatable. And, whether it is done formally in the case of a classically trained musician or on the job, as is still the case with some Jazz players, the levels must be attained nonetheless. Because to play music at a very high level, one cannot rely on intuition, instinct, perspiration and inspiration solely unless you were born Beethoven, Bach or John Coltrane and even these luminaries followed the tried and true path of a tradesman albeit with much faster and profound results than their contemporaries. So, if one attempts true artistry, it is more than heart and soul but rather talent, experience, and the hard work of a tradesman who knows every aspect of his work. It is only then that we have the ability to communicate something special: not mundane, cliche, soppy, or theatrically gymnastic but the essence of a sentient human being that communicates through Art. Music theory . . . necessary . . . absolutely in every instance. Playing again . . .Rognvald
As a mere amateur guitarist, Rognvald, I don't feel invited to declare my thoughts on your
'Music Theory... Necessary' topic -
but if you don't want it to be sidetracked with any thread drift then don't yerself go putting
Art in general, nor the Visual Arts in particular, on the table... and speaking of tables,
nor neither carpenters...
:sage:

Martin,
Intelligent human dialogue does not exist in a vacuum. Collateral references are part and parcel to weaving a philosophic assertion or explaining subject matter. I don't really understand the purpose of your post was but it certainly doesn't, in my opinion, enrich or contribute to the serious discussion at hand. Playing again . . . Rognvald
So thread drift is allowed then... the purpose of my post? -
as one utterly addicted to certain musics (with jazz absolutely not being one of them... except 'free' jazz)
I'm curious about the topic you've posted, but I'm not a professional musician...

then along comes your 'collateral' paragraph on the Arts in general etc., and, speaking as an artist....

I'll come back to that later, but first, whilst I've still got a foot in the door - questions -
Rognvald wrote:
Fri Feb 09, 2018 5:26 pm

When playing in ensembles with other guitarists, I would say, for example, "Let's start from the Em7th chord and build slowly to the A diminished" and they would look at me with a blank stare. Also, many CG's I know have admitted that they have never studied theory ergo, my original question. Playing again . . . Rognvald
Did/do you find these theoryless guitarists to be musically inferior (to yourself) in terms of actual performance
of scores in hand (i.e. not talking, but playing) or did/do some of them manage to deliver the goods despite
their 'shortcomings'?

As judged by your own estimation of course.

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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: Music Theory . . . Necessary?

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Tue Feb 13, 2018 9:02 am

MartinCogg wrote:As judged by your own estimation of course.
Lol Martin. With that attitude you wouldn't have fared well under R's masterful tutelage back in the day when education was "proper". You'll be giving us Brits a bad name - I thought that was my job.

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