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Ugh... chords or scales first?
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King Of World
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27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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Ugh... chords or scales first?

I've been teaching myself piano and it's boosted my beats times a million so far, but I'm trying to get deeper into learning much more chords. I want to be able to eventually hear a song and play it and play with that kind of ease ya know? I just don't know how to get there since I'm only teaching myself (with the help of the internet obvz)

Scales I know: C major scale with correct fingering/crossovers BOTH hands (i can play with ease already)

Chords I know: All the basic major/minor Triads + all of their inversions (took me a while), I also know how to play major 7th chords now (not with inversions yet though), Starting to delve into flat chords and sustained chords etc...

So I'm at a sort of fork in the road right now ... should I be focussing on Scales or Chords??? I feel like the scales don't do anything for me and when I learn new chords I become so much more creative right away with my compositions. If you think I should learn scales plz explain what I can even use them for. And remember I'm ultimately trying to get "there" and by "there" i mean to be able to hammer out ANY melody I hear in my head right away.
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27th January 2013
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I'm aiming to do the same but it takes years of practice. In particular, to play by ear you need to be able to distinguish chord-types and scales as they are played (ear training). That's on top of learning to play proficiently.

I started by learning the chord formulas and scale formulas. This has given a large vocabulary to work with. Application of this to the keyboard/guitar is a slow process, but it does get faster and more enjoyable over time. Keep your end goal in sight at all times, because I guarantee there will be plenty of frustration along the way. Keep at it!

Maybe even book a couple of music lessons to get all your niggly music theory questions answered?
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27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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I started with guitar and it really screwed up learning the piano for me. With guitar everything is shape oriented, learn one chord shape or scale pattern and you can transpose it up or down the neck.

I approached the keyboard the same way and beat myself up because I couldn't remember all the different chord and scale shapes. Eventually I came across a tutorial that taught scale and chord construction via formula rather than shape. This made my life SO MUCH easier because when I knew I wanted a note I would just put my finger on it and then build out the scale or chord from formula rather than a predetermined pattern(like a guitar). It made music go much more quickly because I didn't have to break out a book of chords or scales when I got stuck on something.

That is probably a really obvious thing to figure out, but it was a really big forehead smacking a-ha moment for me.

I agree with JarlyWarly 100%. worry about the formulas and work on applying them as you write and play rather than spending a bunch of time trying to memorize the shapes of everything.
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I recommend learning both chords and scales equally, the more you try and "seperate" them the more you limit your musicianship. I've met many guitarists in my life they call themselves "lead" or "rhythm" guitarists.. All of it is still playing. Learn them both and you will be ahead of the game. And yes, learning to play and instrument does take time, that's what separates Artists from Musicians..
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27th January 2013
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They're sort of one in the same. The nice thing about keys is how scales is in a generalized way are squashed together as opposed to say guitar. To me guitar is more of a pattern where that next desired note could be a long ways away.
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If you can do a C scale with both hands, you're ready to learn some covers. Could be classical, jazz, pop, techno, doesn't matter. Learn songs by ear, sheet music, or even midi files which often have drums, can be converted to sheet music or used with a daw piano grid.

IMHO theory is good but the effort learning to play anything from somewhere else will help you improve quicker.
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The middle ground between chords and scales is arpeggiation: it's a useful (and fun, I find) exercise to learn to arpeggiate each chord up and down over two octaves. Melodies mostly move in a mixture of scalewise (seconds) and chordwise (thirds and fourths), and scalewise melodic phrases generally trace out chords on the stronger beats.
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I started teaching myself and practicing all of the major and minor diatonic scales, along with chords at the same time. That got me so far and I decided to just take piano lessons. I know far more than what I learned on my own and I can now easily improvise melodies in different keys. Reading sheet music is also a bonus. My teacher is excellent. He studied music for eight years with multiple degrees, and plays for symphonies in the US.
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Like jarlywarly mentioned, I'd learn the underlying formulas and then that will help with constructing whatever you want.

I also wouldn't necessarily put aside learning other scales; finding scales you like is really helpful for composition.
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27th January 2013
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Find a piano teacher that can teach you to play the music you like. I had the good fortune of finding an instructor that was into the same records I was and cannot stress the importance of this enough.

Learn to play major and minor scales in all twelve keys, without looking at your hands. Learn to practice chord progressions and the chord inversions. Take time to listen to those chords as you play and develop the ability to discern chord qualities. Try picking up sheet music that is just finger exercise (Hanon?) You can certainly teach yourself all of these things, but finding a great teacher is really where it's at.
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scales first, then broken chords.
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Quote:
I feel like the scales don't do anything for me and when I learn new chords I become so much more creative right away with my compositions. If you think I should learn scales plz explain what I can even use them for. And remember I'm ultimately trying to get "there" and by "there" i mean to be able to hammer out ANY melody I hear in my head right away.
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Like jarlywarly mentioned, I'd learn the underlying formulas and then that will help with constructing whatever you want.
Yep.

Knowing the chords or a scale doesn't help if you don't understand their harmonic relation to the key you are in.


You should focus on the basic theory, not individual scales....Once you understand
the pattern of whole and half steps for major, minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor scales, and the basic structure of any type of chord, you can start on any note and know what to do for a given scale or chord.

My theory knowledge was sketchy at best - my only formal music education was as a drummer, so I understood rhythm, but staff notation, key signatures and all that were kind of a mystery. I didn't understand why the same note would be a flat sometimes and a sharp another time...I would look at the circle of fifths, and I could see there were patterns and relations but grasping them was just.. out... of... reach. So I spent years just hacking it out by ear.

I started taking some classes in basic theory at my local CC. I'm in my third semester of theory now. Frankly I didn't start putting it all together until a couple weeks into the second semester. Little light bulbs started to click, and chord and scale theory started to fit together like two sides of a zipper...And now I know why I like ending a phrase on a plagal cadence....and what a plagal cadence actually is.

When I found myself actually reading a string score in a copy of Sound on Sound, I was kind of surprised I actually knew what they were doing.
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I lucked out and had a teacher who taught me how to build chords through formula.

Once you learn the scale, you can build any chord by understanding what their formulas are. You can then begin to build more complex chords by knowing the interval/degree of the note within the scale, i.e. 9th = 2nd degree up an octave, 11th = 4th up an octave, etc.
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I'm still practicing and learning; always will be.

I think.. intervals, per scale type, first. Then apply those intervals to diff root notes/key sigs and chords.

Once you memorize the intervals and its' formulas, then you can apply it to any root-note/key/chord/scale.

Then, circle of fifths.
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Are there any resources that are specific to synth playing? like learning chords and scales, but offering tips for which chords / scales to practice for leads, basses, pads, etc? also taking polyphony (or lack thereof) into account?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stevism View Post
Are there any resources that are specific to synth playing? like learning chords and scales, but offering tips for which chords / scales to practice for leads, basses, pads, etc? also taking polyphony (or lack thereof) into account?
I know I've seen books for "keyboard" playing, but those tend to be more pop oriented (at least from skimming them in stores).

But insofar as lead, bass, pads, all of those translate from piano playing. So I would think any lessons on piano would come in handy for synths. The underlying theory isn't any different.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stevism View Post
Are there any resources that are specific to synth playing? like learning chords and scales, but offering tips for which chords / scales to practice for leads, basses, pads, etc? also taking polyphony (or lack thereof) into account?
Huh?Play around until it sounds right. There are only so many scales in western music.

For the most part, you're probably going to stick to the same scale. So, you wouldn't need different scales for different instrument parts. Now, you might have different instruments playing different modes (degrees) within the scale, but it's still part of the tonic (root / 1st note).

Learn the formulas. I started with guitar, and still suck at piano. But I can sit down, figure out the fingering of the scale, and build chords from there.
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Well yeah I know that piano playing is a solid basis...just wondering if anyone had ever approached it from a synthesist point of few
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stevism View Post
Well yeah I know that piano playing is a solid basis...just wondering if anyone had ever approached it from a synthesist point of few
The only thing different in my experience is a function of playing mechanics (i.e. limited polyphony, weighted piano keys vs semi-weighted/unweighted synth keys, different expression options like aftertouch, mod wheels, etc).

Insofar as music theory goes, it's all the same.
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Originally Posted by shponglefan View Post
The only thing different in my experience is a function of playing mechanics (i.e. limited polyphony, weighted piano keys vs semi-weighted/unweighted synth keys, different expression options like aftertouch, mod wheels, etc).
this is exactly what I'm talking about

less about the theory, more about how to tailor practicing techniques and drills to fall in line with the unique features offered on most synths
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this is exactly what I'm talking about

less about the theory, more about how to tailor practicing techniques and drills to fall in line with the unique features offered on most synths
I don't think I've come across anything specific, other than basic instruction on what a mod wheel does, aftertouch, etc. I think it comes down to just learning the specific instrument, especially since implementations of the same thing can be somewhat different depending on the synth.

For example, pitch bends on my digital piano, Juno 106, and Prophet 08 are all different enough that a technique used for one would not necessarily translate to the other. So I have to learn the specific use and limitations of each. Only way to do that is just practicing with the individual instrument.
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very true. oh well, just a thought. thanks
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very true. oh well, just a thought. thanks
On the bright side, it's a perfect excuse for hours of noodling around on a sunday afternoon.
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Quote:
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...just wondering if anyone had ever approached it from a synthesist point of view
You might be interested in Composition for Computer Musicians by Michael Hewitt. This concentrates on composition/ arranging/ "orchestration" more than basic theory, which is arguably the area where using synths & DAWs makes the biggest difference. He's also written Music Theory for Computer Musicians, but I haven't looked at that.
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Learn your intervals first. Learn to recognize them by ear. Ascending and descending.
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Chords ; scales and... PROGRESSIONS CHORDS !!!!!!!!


PEACE


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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rimwolf View Post
You might be interested in Composition for Computer Musicians by Michael Hewitt. This concentrates on composition/ arranging/ "orchestration" more than basic theory, which is arguably the area where using synths & DAWs makes the biggest difference. He's also written Music Theory for Computer Musicians, but I haven't looked at that.
this looks exactly like the sort of thing i was thinking about, thanks! I'm definitely going to get it and read it!
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Everything is based on scales, including chords. Absolutely do scales first and you'll find melodies, chords and everything else will come based on that. The reverse cannot really be said; there's a reason every piano course in the world begins with scales, and never gets away from them.

Plus, chords are a lot less necessary than you may think starting out. You hear epic lines using them, but chords take up a lot of space in a track and need to be used sparingly. You get tons more mileage out of a mix by layering and interspersing mono lines.
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