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dragnmastr85

Music Theory Sources

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dragnmastr85    122
I am trying to strengthen my knowledge of music theory. I have been pointed to several books but I want to make sure they are within my scope. I don't think I need a beginner book, as I have been playing music for at least 13 years. I really want a book that will help my composition. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks!

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Dannthr    511
The classic is Rameau's "Treatise on Harmony" but if you want something advanced, you might want to check out Arnold Schoenberg's "Theory of Harmony" which will survey some but still get to 20th century tonal harmony.

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John Rodriguez    132
I think that if you have a good grounding in the fundamentals of theory the best way to expand on your knowledge is score study. I think that you can learn more by going through various composer's most popular works and actually seeing how they use harmony than by studying the the more academic technique of it.

John Rodriguez

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_Pez_    122
There are plenty of advanced theory books and papers out there to read, but composition is a very different animal; Remember some jazz musicians write without knowing any theory at all!

Advanced theory is helpful (depending on what sound you're trying to get), but when all is said and done it's just an instrument or a tool, not a 'direct' means of composition. You should use it but try to get inspired and experiment with what you can do with it, throw the rules out where it sounds tasteful.

If you want something to start you off with composition I recommend taking either the natural minor or major scale, and learning which triad lies on each degree of the scale (all of the degrees will be either major or minor, apart from one which is diminished), then building up some simple chord progressions after that.

And to make a mole hill out of a mountain:
You should also learn which 7th 'triad' lies on each degree of the major and minor scales. Then learn about modulation and key change, and when you're done with the natural minor and major, you should learn all of the above for each of the modal scales, then the melodic and harmonic minor.

It is possible to learn to recognize and understand all this stuff by taking the theory approach, but to be honest you will learn a LOT faster by doing your own simple compositions and just experimenting with stuff, just keep it simple at first and try to understand in terms of theory whats going in to it.

I use all the techniques above when I'm writing, they're fantastic for writing classical but with the modal scales you can also write some really abstract and obscure stuff. Don't forget that you can derive a whole different set of modal scales from the ascending melodic minor!

Melody and harmony aside, you might find it helpful to learn a little bit about form and drum rudiments, or perhaps you don't suffer from rhythmic block like me :P

Happy writing duder, if you need anything explained just post Qs

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_Pez_    122
OH btw, theres plenty of short articles on each of the individual items mentioned above, personally I recommend a little light reading until you understand the concept, followed by thorough experimentation; I'm native to the piano but I like to use guitar tab programs to do my composition experiments

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Muzo72    349
Quote:
Original post by _Pez_
Remember some jazz musicians write without knowing any theory at all!


Actually, jazz musicians often have some of the most advanced practical theory knowledge. You need that to be able to improvise in the traditional jazz style. They may not articulate it in the same way as classical theorists, but it is just as developed.

Learning jazz is actually a great way to get a handle on music theory. Learning to play from a set of chord changes will give you a very solid basis in how harmony functions. Transcribing (writing down) music from recordings will also help in this area.

To learn voice leading, (how different notes move from one chord to another) the traditional classical approach has been to study Bach chorales. They are four-part (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) vocal hymns with no accompaniment. You can pick up books of Bach's chorales for pretty cheap.

However, probably the best method is to take a class or some private lessons. That way you will be sure you get a solid foundation and plug any holes in your existing knowledge. From that foundation you can build your creative skills.


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_Pez_    122
Quote:
Original post by Muzo72
Actually, jazz musicians often have some of the most advanced practical theory knowledge. You need that to be able to improvise in the traditional jazz style. They may not articulate it in the same way as classical theorists, but it is just as developed.


By majority yeah of course, no disrespect to jazz theory, but there are lots of awesome virtuoso players from both ends of the spectrum that get by without knowing a shred of theory; playing in an almost imitative way as they've developed a library of all the progressions and changes, you can get results this way without knowing anything about note leading or chord construction. I can think of a lot more jazz players who threw out the book and just played the 'wrong' notes on purpose (ie without any respect for the rules of theory), who got very confused when people listened to their pieces then tried to explain the underlying theory to them. I guess the point I was trying to make is that theory is just one not at all exclusive method to compose with, it's not a means of composition.

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Dannthr    511
You don't have to know theory to write music.

However, what you have to understand is that when you do write music, you're referencing, intentionally or not, an aesthetic language that is hundreds of years old.

So you can either make the decision to UNDERSTAND what you're doing or not. It is, afterall, just a 'theory.'


Oh, and I totally second Muzo's score study suggestions.

There are many score study books that you can get a hold of that will have accompanying audio works to listen along with. I highly suggest studying with a recording so you can marry the concepts to the sounds in your head.

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facher83    124
An underestimated sub-topic of music theory is "Counterpoint".

If you are interested in writing melodies that are really catchy and stick in your head, and are easy to sing/hum, then Counterpoint is a good topic to learn.

Basically, it describes good tendencies in melody writing, as well as harmony writing, how to use 'leaps', where to go from leaps, how to avoid bad phrases, what is good and bad, etc etc.


I've always been under the mindset that while theory does not teach you how to write music, it certainly strengthens your tools to plan ahead and fix your own errors. When a music track doesn't quite work, knowing your theory can pinpoint exactly what's wrong with it. The easiest phrase (to those that know what I mean), "Aha! parallel fifths! No wonder!" Without that knowledge you might never notice, or take many times longer to figure things out.


Chord progressions is also a must - a moving bass line, or bass lines that really drive a piece, is essential to variety and consistency. Learning how dominant V chords resolve and how to voice-lead is a great tool to have.

Theory is all natural sounding, and is often a "duh" concept - but it's simply being put into words and writing.

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brianb5    122
I think the book you would want is based squarely on the kind of music you want to write. Jazz / classical / rock each have their own languages. They intersect and share, but don't really stand on the same principals or have the same rules about what 'sounds good'. Classical is the hardest to define in this way, as the techniques have changed so much from the common-practice period to today.

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