Is Learning Theroy A Waste Of Time

Posts 1 - 25 of 99
  1. 66575
    BlaqhstarrMusic : Thu 9th Sep 2010 : 11 years ago

    Is it better to learn how music is written and played rather than just playing it by ear? This have been bugging me for quite some time now. My friend great musician but he can't read music. I asked him why he didn't take a course in music theory and he responded he has no time for that. We got into long debate on the subject and we seem to not come to agreement. So looper what is your take on this?

  2. 158799
    alividlife : Thu 9th Sep 2010 : 11 years ago

    Learn it.
    Then forget everything you learned.

    Theory is just the science behind all the melody. Take away theory you still have melody.

    I think it helps me, personally, because I can think of things from both my ear, my gut, and then logical points.

    12 notes divided into 6 creating your tonal pallet.
    then you have all the other things.


    C, D, E, F, G, A, B is the key of C.

    The circle of fifths...

    The scales I feel are really subtle things.. You can definitely get more feeling than "color" out of what scale you choose. And that's usually flatting or sharping the 3rd or III. Whatever way you want to look at it.

    You can write a song just from formulas.

    The messed up part, is that whether or not ... whether you know you are using theory or not... You are inadvertently doing it anyway.

    I personally feel that ... I wish there could be like an Update to music theory, as it's incredibly old.. I do find it interesting with the way that some synths using ASDR and envolopes.. and how DAW's use algorithms and ... well how this all happens digitally is really fascinating.

    Altho nothing has changed with the theory since maybe the 1800's.. I maybe completely off base here.

    I think it's just that extra edge!
    I mean.. Hell if you wanna get a professional job as a musician you need it. But even as a producer, it would look DAMN good on the resume.
    It would help you speak the language that all this noise is coded with.

    Music Theory
    Ear Training
    Relative Pitch
    Rhythm and co-ordination.. Yeah

    I am ranting.

  3. 158799
    alividlife : Thu 9th Sep 2010 : 11 years ago

    sry for the long windedness and double post but I also wanted to correct myself all music... it's 12 notes divided by 7 lol

    And this should explain why I am all for EVERYONE learning music theory lol

    The analogy is like a TV. Most people think if you learn music theory, it's going to cheapen the experience creating it, or that you will just be writing music from "formulas" which is not it at all.
    But the anology with the TV works like this.
    Relative pitch helps you FOCUS the TV screen (music)
    Pitch awarness helps you add color to the TV screen as you watch it.
    Theory is like reading the manual for the TV. Do you need it? nope.. But it helps to know how to turn it off and set the sleep timer I guess.. Set the clock! hehe
    And rhythm... well... damn.. maybe that's a bad analogy lol

    I should go to sleep. haha

  4. 111346
    Planetjazzbass : Thu 9th Sep 2010 : 11 years ago

    Learn it never hurts to go the institutionalised way and except the proven precepts of any given craft...learning is always liberating doesn't guarantee creativity though,that's a totally different topic.....bottom line is if you know musical theory you can walk into most musical situations and participate,without it,it's always going to be hit and miss...there are exceptions to ever rule though and there's a lot of great musicians that are very thin on theory...Like rock music for don't need much theory to get you going there but you do need some..and then there's Classical music..without theory you have absolutely no hope of playing it.

  5. 68743
    SaintHeretic : Thu 9th Sep 2010 : 11 years ago

    as someone that has a degree in music theory,audio production,digital recording and advanced theory,i will honestly say,if all your gonna do is produce hiphop and rnb,then no,its not worth spending the time and effort learning theory,but if you have ambitions to go beyond what normal hiphop producers do and know,then it is very much worth the time.

  6. 435773
    BrokenScythe : Thu 9th Sep 2010 : 11 years ago

    Thanks Saint, because you have solidified my desire to take theory next year.

  7. 220346
    Peres : Thu 9th Sep 2010 : 11 years ago

    You don't have to learn music theory ,but it would be good to,although most producers out there don't know music theory as they transitioned from being dj's to become producers. I would say if you want to be a real music producer i.e producing everything from hip-hop to a movie soundtrack learn theory.

  8. 308224
    theHumps : Thu 9th Sep 2010 : 11 years ago

    Learning music theory is not a waste of time. I really think you should ask the question this way: Why would I not want to learn the rules of how music works? In the end it only would benefit you and give you a new insight into how musical compositions are constructed.

    Alividlife makes some great points about knowing scales and progressions, Those and timings are an important part to well constructed songs. Even though I've written a song in 1 chord, knowing scales, I was able to make the song sound as if it had several chord progressions in it. It is useful but not manditory like PJB says, especially how we record these days.

    Ask youself this, if the info is out there to make me a better and more knowledgeable musician and producer, why would I ignore it? I would be stiffling my knowledge and skill to some extent, don't ya think. I know enough about theory that it comes into play all the time but I mostly don't realize I'm using it, the rules of music become a tool that help me construct the song, just like a plug in, ha.

    It could only help you in my opinion.

  9. 83445
    JohnBoutilier : Thu 9th Sep 2010 : 11 years ago

    I agree with pretty much everything said. Theory is important, but never let it get in the way of creativity. Knowledge is power, dogma is prison.


  10. 423821
    DeepMan : Thu 9th Sep 2010 : 11 years ago

    No, learning music theory is never a waste of time. But yes never let it get in the way of your creativity.

  11. 636839
    simmerdown : Thu 9th Sep 2010 : 11 years ago

    i think a basic understanding at least of how music is structured is extremely helpful, i know it has been for me.

    Interval training of thre ear is also amazingly helpful, one of my guides says that if you only learn one thing, this should be it. it lets you identify chord progressions by ear by learning the relative pitch of the notes, then once you find the starting point by trial and error your off and running following along with the tune

    in short though, yes, music theory...good

  12. 247253
    n0mad23 : Thu 9th Sep 2010 : 11 years ago


    But don't confuse the map for the territory. Music can be art, and in that sense knowing the rules is helpful so you know when to bend or break them. Breaking rules in this context only works if you understand why you're breaking them.

  13. 357283
    Marius9 : Thu 9th Sep 2010 : 11 years ago

    If music is art, and art is a paintbrush and canvas, then music theory encompasses all the correct brush strokes to evoke what you want.

    Have many successful artists never taken an art class? Yes. Have many successful musicians never taken a theory class? Yes.

    It's really all on you. I once listened to this incredible jazz trio at a bar a couple of years ago, and after their set, I talked to the piano player at some length, and in the conversation I explained that I had no idea about what he was doing in music theory terms. He told me he didn't either, despite playing classical piano since he was a kid, and that he went to school for theory, so it's more a hex on him for not being able to explain it to me.
    He told me he just played by feel. At that point, I realized this was not the first time I had this conversation with a talented jazz musician. It seems all the ones I have met play by feel and throw the theory "rules" out the window.

    So in my opinion, yeah, go ahead and learn it, it will help you out a lot, even when it comes to jazz, but remember, the strokes of the brush won't tell you what to paint or how to finish the painting.

  14. 366784
    yeshintae : Thu 9th Sep 2010 : 11 years ago

    it's just like high school my friend.

    Learn it, Apply it,
    Then Never Use it Again....

    Peace from LA

  15. 613736
    Seaside : Sat 4th Jun 2011 : 11 years ago

    I wanted to post something about this, but then I stumbled upon this old topic.

    I can't read music notes myself and first I thought I would be unable to make my own music, unless I would learn how to read music. However, this is NOT true.

    Theory is a good thing, but creativity and sensitivity compensate my lack of knowledge to a certain extend. I just use my ears a lot, what sounds good, what sounds horrible? Yeah, it will take longer in general to create something, but I don't know... is theory a blessing or a restriction?

  16. 636839
    simmerdown : Sat 4th Jun 2011 : 11 years ago

    if you are going with what sounds good, or right to your ear, more than likely you are hitting on established scales, chords etc...

    it is def not a hinderance, theory lets you skip the guessing game, and actually expand without wasting time to possibilities you would not hit on with trial and error...

    can you tell i think some theory is good? lol

  17. 229129
    CONEYISLANDRECORDS : Sat 4th Jun 2011 : 11 years ago

    Be a sponge man. Soak up as much knowledge as you can,... then apply it as you see fit for your needs.

  18. 158799
    alividlife : Sat 4th Jun 2011 : 11 years ago

    I ... was ... I dunno..
    I have been feeling really strange about music lately, and it's interesting to read some of my insane ramblings from months ago.

    But ... I think the only hindrance to learning theory is the fact that you have to learn it?

    To me.. it's.. just if I know what the Dominant 7th of a particular scale is before I am writing I already know where my anchor is if I would like to modulate my key?
    You know?

    If that doesn't make any sense to you... well.. it's just a "theory" lol

    To me, theory is very important not for the MIND or for the LOGIC.
    But the repetitive motions, that after time become second nature.
    Picture a kid kicking a soccer ball, who has had NO TRAINING.
    Now picture a kid who has been practicing soccer and strength training for years. Watch him kick the soccer ball.

    Ultimately you just got to do it man.

    I really like looking at guitars for music theory, because the patterns are almost always the same and it's based on the 4ths.

    Piano is just the entire orchestra laid out, and that can be kinda overwhelming.

    I will say from personal experience, the people that play stringed instruments generally tend to get music theory internally quicker than other instrument classes..
    But that's just my opinion.

  19. 158799
    alividlife : Sat 4th Jun 2011 : 11 years ago

    Errr the tuning structure of the guitar... it's based on the 4ths.

    but yea.. what simmer and ConeyIslands said lol

  20. 631823
    Mahloo13 : Sat 4th Jun 2011 : 11 years ago

    By learning it it will help you on the long run! But of course every time you write a song and then check the theory you are gonna notice something followed theory without even knowing it.

    Learn a thing or two about it it will be better.


  21. 612400
    SlapFarmer : Sat 4th Jun 2011 : 11 years ago

    Wow, this is all brilliant stuff..

  22. 157207
    StarTropix : Sat 4th Jun 2011 : 11 years ago

    I just started taking piano lessons and it has helped my understanding of music by so much already. Learning theory will help you unlock parts of your brain that will help you very much musically.

  23. 67443
    SLAPJOHNSON : Sat 4th Jun 2011 : 11 years ago

    I learn something new about music theory everyday! I then set about trying to apply it in a practical way so I can appreciate it's applications. We as musicians/ producers and in my case working professionally as a music teacher must keep striving for improvements to our craft and knowledge.

    Cheers, Slap...

  24. 158799
    alividlife : Sat 4th Jun 2011 : 11 years ago

    Yeah, haha, I can't tell if SlapFamer is being sarcastic or not.
    Gotta love the interwebs.

    Yeah, what do you notice about masters.. they ARE the music you know?
    And a lot of the "masters" have some form of music theory.
    It's tedious and very much a different language.. but it only has 12 letters and a couple consonants!

    I think it's more about training your body to react to music?
    It's not THEORY...
    It's like muscle memory.. When it comes down to improvisation, that's where the true voice of a musician is.

    You just gotta dig in, and soak it up, and years later you will forget what you don't need, and use what you do.

  25. 158799
    alividlife : Sat 4th Jun 2011 : 11 years ago

    err sorry SlapFarmer.. new keyboard

    But yea, learn everything about music. You love it?
    Why not right?

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