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Another Theory Thread
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Another Theory Thread

Hey y'all, I've read a lot of threads here and I've seen some books recommended but a lot of answers I've seen in old threads are somewhat cryptic/gatekeepery/unhelpful as it pertains to the style of music I'd like to explore so I'm going to ask anyway. Please bear with my ignorance and also the fact I've been drinking.

I've been making music in one form or another for like ten years but I've never learned any theory, mostly just sampled stuff and played with loops and whatever. The past few years I've gotten more interested in electro/techno and although the music sounds simple, I'm having difficulty. Playing by ear and going with happy accidents is frustrating me in this style and I suppose its time I learn some theory.

Even though I've been recording and puttzing around for a decade I'm practically a complete beginner, 0 ear training and I know nothing of chords/scales/anything. My primary talent is ignorance, I guess. lol.

Anyway, sorry to be longwinded, but here is my question: what is a good resource to learn the basics of notes, scales, chords, and learning which combinations of those things work well together? Is there a book that will help me, without going into way more depth than is necessary? I could invest in a 88 key if necessary, but if i could work with just my keystep that would be ideal. I'm just sick of being trapped in 1 or 2 loops with no idea where to go next, or even what notes to play if I wanted to recreate/revise a pattern.

And when I say electro/techno, I mean Underground Resistance, James & Gerald projects, Paranoid London etc. I ain't over here tryin to be the next Skrillex or anything, I just want to make some groovy tunes.


Alright. Thank you. And sorry.
Old 1 week ago
  #2
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Praxisaxis's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by reflecting_pool View Post
Hey y'all, I've read a lot of threads here and I've seen some books recommended but a lot of answers I've seen in old threads are somewhat cryptic/gatekeepery/unhelpful as it pertains to the style of music I'd like to explore so I'm going to ask anyway. Please bear with my ignorance and also the fact I've been drinking.

I've been making music in one form or another for like ten years but I've never learned any theory, mostly just sampled stuff and played with loops and whatever. The past few years I've gotten more interested in electro/techno and although the music sounds simple, I'm having difficulty. Playing by ear and going with happy accidents is frustrating me in this style and I suppose its time I learn some theory.

Even though I've been recording and puttzing around for a decade I'm practically a complete beginner, 0 ear training and I know nothing of chords/scales/anything. My primary talent is ignorance, I guess. lol.

Anyway, sorry to be longwinded, but here is my question: what is a good resource to learn the basics of notes, scales, chords, and learning which combinations of those things work well together? Is there a book that will help me, without going into way more depth than is necessary? I could invest in a 88 key if necessary, but if i could work with just my keystep that would be ideal. I'm just sick of being trapped in 1 or 2 loops with no idea where to go next, or even what notes to play if I wanted to recreate/revise a pattern.

And when I say electro/techno, I mean Underground Resistance, James & Gerald projects, Paranoid London etc. I ain't over here tryin to be the next Skrillex or anything, I just want to make some groovy tunes.


Alright. Thank you. And sorry.
I'm a music theory teacher, so I can weigh in on this. If I were you, I would not make the very first move by looking for a book. I'd do several things instead (you will have to spend some money):

1) Find a theory teacher who you can get a few lessons from, preferably in person. This is where formally trained musicians pick up very basic groundwork comparatively quickly, even when theory is not their focus. If you never had formal lessons on an instrument (piano in particular), you really need a substitute. But you won't need years of lessons to get going. One hour-long lesson a month, for 3-6 months, depending on your needs, is enough to get you going. If you're not happy with what you get out of the first lesson, find another teacher. In Australia the rate is about $80 an hour (this can vary though). The kind of teacher who is most likely to give you good elementary stuff is someone who is some combination of composer/pianist/theory teacher. More and more are quite amenable to pop/electronic/etc these days, but avoid any old sticks in the mud who have no sympathy for your application. Be aware that teachers who have good traditional theory uncommonly also know much about electronic sound or physical theory in general. This isn't really a problem if you just want some groundwork in traditional theory. Make sure you carefully explain what you're trying to achieve and the kinds of things you'd like to learn about before having a lesson, so that they don't unintentionally waste your time and money.

2) In conjunction with the above, listen more, and more widely, and actively analyse. This is the only good substitute for the kind of learning that is latent in learning an instrument. Find a broad variety of music that you enjoy (not just techno), and analyse it to the best of your ability to discover the structures in it that please your ear. These might be rhythms, melodies, chords or something else. This often means sitting and a piano and duplicating the sounds that you're hearing on the record - this is one road into aural training. If you hit road blocks, ask your theory teacher (see above) to help. Indeed this provides some content for your lessons (as well as your own material.

3) There are a growing number of decent music theory resources on Youtube and elsewhere on-line. Make sure you exploit these. They are haphazard, varying in quality, but they are free and undoubtedly helpful occasionally. This is a decent one: https://www.musictheory.net/ [edit: this one is not free, but it is cheap].

If you do all the above, also try a book. The reason I say to avoid a book straight up is because the best music texts are late high school or college level, and assume some basics (as I said, most participants pick up these basics in their very early years). It's not impossible to learn the very basics out of a book, but working with an instructor will be (potentially) much more inspiring and efficient.

You can also ask basic theory questions here on GS and it's very likely you'll get some decent answers.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Everyone has their own way of learning, made worse by 90% of kids time in schools only purpose is to teach them they need to obey rules and authority.

People doing real science, that isn't happening in a classroom and neither is music. Most of what happens in a class has little to do with teaching.

With music you don't even need to accept 12 tones in a scale and 440hz tuning, 1/3 of the world doesn't either.

On a piano though, you do. So learn the coolest scale ever, the spanish gypsy scale!

In F#, the coolest key:

F#, G, A#, B, C#, D, E

And you need some sense of timing, learn what a middle 8 is (listen to some bands you like, most pop songs have one like PF Us and Them) and how many measures you need to pull it off.

Here's an example.

Old 1 week ago
  #4
Just in case anyone really truly doubts F# is the coolest key:

Old 1 week ago
  #5
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soundebler's Avatar
The circle of fifths is a basic theory about the relation between notes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle_of_fifths
Old 1 week ago
  #6
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
I’d guess the simplest, most basic and fastest way of learning just enough to get you writing chords and notes, is to buy a “piano chord book.”

It shows what keys to play for many chords. You can then say, pick 4 of them, and write one section, pick another 4, and write another. You can go off “what sounds good” and try different combinations out. Maybe a melody will come to mind...hum that melody, and find the first key on the keyboard, then the second, and so on. The notes in the chord will often guide you.

To ramp it up a little, the next step might be to go on a site like ultimate guitar (bear with me here) and search for songs that have “lyric and chord” versions.

Look up some cool songs, from different genres and eras, to see how they did things. The magic of harmony laid out before you. Cross reference the chords in your chord book...nick some bits you like, change the melody or the groove. There are transpose options on that site, so nudge it and make sure you are always starting in C, Em, G or Am.

Notice, we haven’t really learned any scary “theory” here...we’ve just learned some chords to spice up your music making. Theory would teach you “why” certain chords are doing what they are doing, and how to do really advanced sh*t, and can put many people off.

I do wonder, is it a reality that musicians are cryptic gatekeepers, or is music just actually, really hard?

Maybe it’s a bit of both.
Old 1 week ago
  #7
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Moonwhistle's Avatar
 

Like Praxisaxis said, get some lessons.

They'll tell you to buy a book like this to work through:

https://www.ameb.edu.au/theory-of-mu...k-grade-2.html

In the mean time search for "piano chord chart" and that should get you going.
Old 1 week ago
  #8
Gear Guru
 
fiddlestickz's Avatar
Remember pitch equals frequency. So if you don't know what pitch something is..? use a digital tuner to see what it is, and you can work back that way, it's not ideal but helps you over time hear what certain pitches sound like in techno tracks.

My daughter and I downloaded a tuning plug in from Waves the other night, you know the sort that a lot of vocalists use to correct their 'pitch' ..we were ahhing and ooohhing particular pitches to see what they sounded like inside this plug in, lining up with certain notes etc,..was interesting. I have basic understanding of theory but got lazy and didn't learn the whole thing properly, if I was you if you are going to do this, it will take a real proper effort but go all the way and then you'll be able to write whatever you want at the other end.
Old 1 week ago
  #9
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Praxisaxis's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by xanderbeanz View Post

I do wonder, is it a reality that musicians are cryptic gatekeepers, or is music just actually, really hard?

Maybe it’s a bit of both.
Things that seem elementary to someone who has done it since childhood can be tremendously daunting to a newcomer.
Old 1 week ago
  #10
Learning the circle of fifths is a worthy goal.

Too much theory though is sort of like learning how to play pool from a book.

Learning the Firth Of Fifth is another story.

Old 1 week ago
  #11
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Circuit Breaker View Post
If improvise theory not needed.
That’s a great joke!
Old 1 week ago
  #12
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When you find a theory video that works for you, watch the other videos on the same channel. Perhaps a few useful topics to search for tutorial videos on YouTube (prepare for much mindful listening and playing along, when you find the right videos):

1: How chords resolve. The concept of a "root" key, scale and chord, what that means. How to move away from and return to the root chord harmonically, to build up tension and release it. Look for videos on different ways to resolve chord progressions. Which chord progressions (sequence of different chords) and voicings (where you play the notes that make up the chord, if you double or omit notes) evoke what moods. Chord tips and tricks.

2: Counterpoint. How to keep different sounds from stepping on each other's toes (so you don't have to rescue with sidechain or eq as much). Look for videos about how to construct melodies and baselines, which are guidelines not rules, but it's good to know the common techniques and why.

3: How to build up tension and release through rhythm and structure. Syncopation. How to humanize a rigid beat. You could even study those how to make a bangin <your style here> beat videos to pick up tips. Look for videos that break down the structure of good electro and techno tracks, the different sections and when different elements are introduced and what the effect of this structure is.

4: Take a break and listen to your favorite tracks critically - what is special about each one, in particular? Filter play, bouncy bass, the way the notes weave together, off-kilter beat, uplifting feeling etc... whatever it is, search for videos about how to achieve that.

5: Another option is to pick up software that generates chord progressions for you, one that generates melodies based on those progressions, one that generates baselines based on the above, and one that generates beats in every current style. There's been a bunch of recent software that does this stuff, and some people on this forum have claimed success in using these tools as a means to learn the theory behind it. Wing it and learn as you go?

6: Or pay someone knowledgeable enough to cut through the stuff you don't need, and teach you music theory and practice tailored to the styles of music you want to make. Music teachers everywhere recommend this method.

7: Pay for an online course, and hope the quality is better than what you can get for free.

These are a few ideas off the top of my head: incomplete and meant to supplement others' comments. I'm out of time, have to go...
Old 1 week ago
  #13
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funny how all the people conversant with theory aren't very good at giving key insight

circle of fifths. and than what ?
Old 1 week ago
  #14
Gear Maniac
 

It's like programming: programmers generally can't explain it to newbies because they can't grasp the feeling of not having those fundementals/not knowing where you are in terms of pre-existing understanding. I speak as someone who's dabbled in music and some simple programming who's banged his head against the wall struggling to find tutorials to get to the next step.
Old 1 week ago
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by thehighesttree View Post
It's like programming: programmers generally can't explain it to newbies because they can't grasp the feeling of not having those fundementals/not knowing where you are in terms of pre-existing understanding. I speak as someone who's dabbled in music and some simple programming who's banged his head against the wall struggling to find tutorials to get to the next step.
Use the source Luke! Read the source code, its the only thing that's guaranteed to work.

RTFM only works for beginners. Trying to get help often means you are SOL, though to be fair learning how to ask the right questions is often the remedy.

That also is how most people who actually entertain, by playing live, learn: listening to the same song thousands of times and playing along.

And that's also why few people teach composition - imho what you really need to know - because the hard work is listening to songs you like and breaking them down.
Old 1 week ago
  #16
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by whatever17 View Post
funny how all the people conversant with theory aren't very good at giving key insight

circle of fifths. and than what ?
Hello

Is there something I did wrong? I suggested buying a chord book (which shows the keys) and then looking up some songs they liked and learning what chords are used...by simply looking in the book.

And then, perhaps humming a melody over the top, and slowly finding the notes you are humming on the keyboard to build up ear skills.

I don’t think the process can be simplified further, look at some things, slowly cross reference, listen to some things, slowly cross reference, build it up.

Anything less than that would be...err...completely stationary, not learning how theory works at all.
Old 1 week ago
  #17
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OP; as a fellow noob the only couple of things I'd add is:

1. There are some good android/ios apps for casually developing skills,such as identifying chords and intervals you like by ear, if you want to actively listen. I use "perfect ear"; good for burning time on train journeys!

2. I've not seen anyone else say it, I'd recommend a few more keys than 32 but you probably don't need 88 yet! More keys allow for more immediacy and experimentation with structure.


Quote:
Originally Posted by iksrazal View Post

RTFM only works for beginners.
I would definitely not hire you as a programmer!
Old 1 week ago
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by thehighesttree View Post
It's like programming: programmers generally can't explain it to newbies because they can't grasp the feeling of not having those fundementals/not knowing where you are in terms of pre-existing understanding. I speak as someone who's dabbled in music and some simple programming who's banged his head against the wall struggling to find tutorials to get to the next step.
Perhaps it's like that for some, but not all. I have been teaching children and adults from scratch for 13 years, and I would never try to teach them just in a text-based form.

The truth is that no single post on an internet form, or 50 posts for that matter, can really teach someone much of anything at all. It's a long process that has many steps and requires work on the student's end; more work than posting on gearslutz. No one is being a "gatekeeper" about theory - all the information is out there, and has been for centuries.
Old 1 week ago
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by lost_the_peace View Post
I would definitely not hire you as a programmer!
I live in Maui, you couldn't afford it anyways.

Even if you could, not everyone needs GPL powerpc bootloaders in C and assembly.

https://lists.denx.de/pipermail/u-bo...er/027436.html

Or advanced bash scripting:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/oflyyiqit9...rseLTC.sh?dl=0

For that type of stuff there are no docs or manuals to read.

There are books for music composition, I was fortunate enough to be taught composition by a local jazz artist in the 90's without a book. All on a chalk board.
Old 1 week ago
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iksrazal View Post
I live in Maui, you couldn't afford it anyways.

Even if you could, not everyone needs GPL powerpc bootloaders in C and assembly.

https://lists.denx.de/pipermail/u-bo...er/027436.html

Or advanced bash scripting:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/oflyyiqit9...rseLTC.sh?dl=0

For that type of stuff there are no docs or manuals to read.

There are books for music composition, I was fortunate enough to be taught composition by a local jazz artist in the 90's without a book. All on a chalk board.
Lol, cool story.

Did you follow a style guide when writing your "advanced shell script"? e.g.

https://bluepenguinlist.com/2016/11/...ting-tutorial/
Old 1 week ago
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by lost_the_peace View Post
Lol, cool story.

Did you follow a style guide when writing your "advanced shell script"? e.g.

https://bluepenguinlist.com/2016/11/...ting-tutorial/
What kind of guide is that without sed and awk? The Power Tools Unix books in the 90's that I started to learn with were 500+ pages of scripts.

Seriously, no bash guide shows how to do the bash arithmetic with decimals that is required in LTC timecode manipulation of sample time in 1/48000 ... see awk for that. ltcdump is Linux only, bash makes the most sense.

Since you quoted me and liked my story so far ... my Jazz teacher had an 80's hit covering Red Clay that got some air play.

I was allowed to analyze any song I wanted to, with his guidance. I chose this one just to be a smart ass. I can only find live versions unfortunately on YouTube. To his credit the guy liked it.

Old 1 week ago
  #22
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shreddoggie's Avatar
I am always surprised at these 'how do I learn theory' threads since they fail to address the most fundamental aspect of the whole dang thing: Curiosity

Its not about which vid you watch or which book you read or if you learn the circle of 5ths or whatever - it is about the actual act of doing it. Theory covers pretty much everything you can imagine - from how to sound like powdered wig cats in silk jammiez, to the folks from non-western traditions who play in all the keys after Z, to avant garde madmen with convoluted methods of making high art from incomprehensible chaos. Its all there - you just gotta want it dog.

If I put 'music theory' in the goo-hole I gon git tons o things to click on. and I can read them too. Maybe they'll mention something I never heard of and search on it and then I'll read that. Pretty soon I wanna try putting together the suggested combination of notes on my Timbre Wolf and BAM - its off to the races.

When I was a kid I thought Dizzy had the coolest goatee - just that little bit right under your lip. So I was into Dizzy. So I readed Jazz and tried to make hip voicings babe. It didn't make me sound like Bill Evans but it did propel me along. I remember reading about a cat named Webern and I thought, "WTH? Why does Mssr Weber have an 'N' on the end of his name? Better look into this..." not shortly thereafter I was interested in serialism. Diid this make my music sound like Xenakis? Nope - but it did help me keep it moving.

What is the point to all this?

Point is this: You shouldn't be asking 'what do I do?' we should be asking you - what are you doing? Its all out there and free nowadays - don't expect someone on a website to 'tell you' --- go out and find it. A couple of hours following links and watching vids and you will know what to do for the rest of your life.
Old 1 week ago
  #23
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People are mostly lazy. I know I am.

And yet......
Old 1 week ago
  #24
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by reflecting_pool View Post
Hey y'all, I've read a lot of threads here and I've seen some books recommended but a lot of answers I've seen in old threads are somewhat cryptic/gatekeepery/unhelpful as it pertains to the style of music I'd like to explore so I'm going to ask anyway. Please bear with my ignorance and also the fact I've been drinking.
Quote:
Originally Posted by reflecting_pool View Post
The past few years I've gotten more interested in electro/techno and although the music sounds simple, I'm having difficulty.

Quote:
Originally Posted by reflecting_pool View Post
And when I say electro/techno, I mean Underground Resistance, James & Gerald projects
God damn gatekeepers.. I just want to roll up drunk to a bulletin board, not contribute anything to the community, make a single post asking for the secrets to sound like some of the most legendary artists in underground electro/techno and have them handed to me.
Old 1 week ago
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iksrazal View Post
What kind of guide is that without sed and awk? The Power Tools Unix books in the 90's that I started to learn with were 500+ pages of scripts.
Maybe you're confusing a style guide and a scripting guide. In any case I was going to ask questions about mixed use of underscore notation and camelcase that looks inconsistent? Maybe it could've been a case of RTFM (in this case a style guide).

You've proven the point anyway by saying you did RTFM. It's not just for noobs, as you just insinuated.
Old 1 week ago
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by lost_the_peace View Post
Maybe you're confusing a style guide and a scripting guide. In any case I was going to ask questions about mixed use of underscore notation and camelcase that looks inconsistent? Maybe it could've been a case of RTFM (in this case a style guide).

You've proven the point anyway by saying you did RTFM. It's not just for noobs, as you just insinuated.
That book was from 1993, I was a noob then. I haven't read bash docs in 20 years.

There is no RTFM to use LTC timecode with FFMPEG and much less with bash, try googling it. I asked on the FFMPEG mailing list and got no reply.

That script btw created my latest video on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwMbQxiP75U

Coding style ... doesn't matter imho though most people choose one and stick to it. If you really want to know you can always look at the gnu bash code docs and use that style.

Back on topic ... I rethought the circle of fifths and it didn't do anything for me though everyone has their own way of learning, knowledge is always a plus. I think its attraction is it sounds catchy and looks good on paper. More cynically its easy to teach.
Old 1 week ago
  #27
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by iksrazal View Post
Everyone has their own way of learning, made worse by 90% of kids time in schools only purpose is to teach them they need to obey rules and authority.

People doing real science, that isn't happening in a classroom and neither is music. Most of what happens in a class has little to do with teaching.

With music you don't even need to accept 12 tones in a scale and 440hz tuning, 1/3 of the world doesn't either.

On a piano though, you do. So learn the coolest scale ever, the spanish gypsy scale!

In F#, the coolest key:

F#, G, A#, B, C#, D, E

And you need some sense of timing, learn what a middle 8 is (listen to some bands you like, most pop songs have one like PF Us and Them) and how many measures you need to pull it off.

Here's an example.

That looks like a B harmonic minor scale, starting on the 5th.
Old 1 week ago
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Channelizer View Post
That looks like a B harmonic minor scale, starting on the 5th.
5th measure? If you give me a time reference on the video, I have the Oasys next to me and I can play the notes out.
Old 1 week ago
  #29
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by iksrazal View Post
5th measure? If you give me a time reference on the video, I have the Oasys next to me and I can play the notes out.
I think they meant the 5th position in the scale.

F# is the perfect 5th of B, whether the scale is major or minor.
Old 1 week ago
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by xanderbeanz View Post
I think they meant the 5th position in the scale.

F# is the perfect 5th of B, whether the scale is major or minor.
Yeah just realized that ... its early here
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