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Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,406
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,406
03/19/2010 2:16 am
Music Theory is the set of concepts that describes the nature of musical events. It is the process of mentally identifying the sounds that occur in music. We do this in order to build a consistent set of ideas to describe what happens in music.
Originally Posted by: Jarsew
To me it almost seemed like music theory was "key" to unlocking the door in becoming an amazing musician.
Music theory only tells you what is happening in a piece of music. It is a set of concepts that identify what happens, frames it in a common language & makes mental integration of musical events possible.

But, then you have to apply the ideas; you have to put the ideas into actual, physical practice on an instrument.

Consider, if you call the furniture store and say, "I want one of those things you can sit on."

And they deliver a couch. But you wanted a chair.

So you learn you have to be more specific in your conceptualization (identification, description & defintion) in order to be more precise in you communication.

You call them up again and say, "I want a chair."

This time they deliver a very nice wooden chair. But you wanted a metal one.

Do you see where this is going? :)

The more precisely you can indentify an object in reality, the more precise and powerful your concepts become. And the better you are able to think about your ideas and successfully act upon them.

Your talented friend obviously sees and hears fretboard patterns quite well & understands how those pattern result in sounds. He might not know phyrgian dominant from a 2-5-1 resolution, but if he hears one of these, he might be able to mentally classify it as "that particular shape on the fretboard" or "those three types of chords together".
Originally Posted by: Jarsew
But when I met my good friend, he kind of crushed that idea for me. All he did when he started the guitar, was learn just one key. The key of C. Once he knew his way around the fretboard in C, you move those same patterns up a whole step and now your in the Key of D, easy enough. He didnt need anything else.
As has already been pointed out here, the key of C major is music theory. And more, the knowledge (mental integration) that one can move this pattern around is yet another concept that forms part of music theory. In fact, it is a relatively complex one at that.
Originally Posted by: Jarsew
Overtime I start having the opinion that music theory was something people created to try and explain and solve the phenomenon of Music. But music cant be explained. You cant put a science or math equation on emotion.
Music does not equal emotion.

Music is an auditory art consisting of very organized (pitch-specific, melody, harmony, rhythm, & timbre) types of sounds.

Emotions are your mind's reaction to things you encounter based upon your values.

Music does not contain emotion. Music is highly, specifically organized sound moving through the air.

Music can evoke an emotional reaction in your mind.

So, when you hear a certain type of music that matches your values, you are pleased, you like it. And conversely, a piece of music that does not match your values, you are displeased, you don't like it.

And further, to simply say "there is emotion in such and such music", begs other questions.

The first one that always occurs to me is: which emotion? Joy, hate, hilarity, anger, envy, pleasure, pain, sadness, triumph?
I cant stand to listen to "experts" on musical theory (Satriani, Vai, Malmsteen, Dream Theater). Its dry. Sounds like it was an emotionless robot who simply put in notes into music equations and called it music.

You "can't stand it". That is an emotional reaction. You see? :)

Further, any piece of music can be analyzed by the principles of music theory. It sounds to me like you simply dislike certain types of complexity in music.
I am in the Key of C and have my root note be E. So what good does it do to call it E Phygrian? Why name it? What difference did it make?

So that you can better organize your thinking about music.

Why learn to read & spell if you can already speak? To better organize your thinking about language.

Suppose you are playing with another musician. You say, "Play some notes."

He plays some notes. You dislike them and say, "Hmmm, play some different ones, maybe some sad sounding ones."

He plays some other notes. It still isn't what you are after. You say, "Play some different ones, make them more sad sounding."

This goes on for a while until he plays a couple of notes that sound sad kind of like you want. You say, "Stop! Those notes! Play more like those." he plays more, but they aren't quite right.

This trial & error could go on for hours. But it could have been as simple as, "Hey, dude, use notes from the phrygian mode. They sound kind of sad in the way I am after."

Job accomplished. Make sense?
Supposedly (as I have read) a lot of Irish/Celtic/folk songs are written in Dorian? Well, so what? Does that change anything? I grantee half of those Irish guys didnt know what Dorian was and were writing in it, they simply just liked the sound! It fit their emotion at the time, and thats all there is to it.

That does not change the fact that they are playing in dorian. Obviously we started with sound, then the identification of the sound & system of naming the sounds comes after that.

The point here is that conceptualization is a good thing. Music theory is forming concepts about the sounds that are music.
Christopher Schlegel
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