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I went to college for music and I also teach, but I am very much against following conventions.  I would say that music theory is good to know so you can quantify what you created after the fact and relate it to another musician so you can have a band play and not take an eternity to get everyone to play the piece of music.  It actually frustrates me to work with other guitar players and bass players who I have to walk through fret numbers and strings with.  I just want to be able to say "play a B flat minor" and they know what to do without needing every note tabbed out.  I also prefer to work with vocalists to whom I can say "sing the 3rd above his note" and there's and understanding of what's being asked of them.
There is also the idea that music theory is really just the study of how the ear perceives  a cluster of pitches (a harmony), and knowing if a pitch is going to be missed if it isn't there.  Additionally, in mixing, music theory is important because it can help answer questions like "why does this bass noodling sound like garbage under these complex chords that the guitar player is doing"

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I played with a guy (no Names) that was heavy into music theory.  He is a great player and we wrote very complicated music.  The problem is that after a while it all had the same metronome soulless sound to it.   He would always tell me I couldn't write this or that a certain way because his training said these things were technically illegal. 

We all need a little theory in order to write decent music, but too much and only a guitar teacher will want to listen to your 15 minute opus with 45 parts to it. 

Remember what Salieri said : "You have to give them a good bang at the end so they know when to clap."

 

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9 hours ago, Hiwatt said:

I played with a guy (no Names) that was heavy into music theory.  He is a great player and we wrote very complicated music.  The problem is that after a while it all had the same metronome soulless sound to it.   He would always tell me I couldn't write this or that a certain way because his training said these things were technically illegal. 

We all need a little theory in order to write decent music, but too much and only a guitar teacher will want to listen to your 15 minute opus with 45 parts to it. 

Remember what Salieri said : "You have to give them a good bang at the end so they know when to clap."

 

The soulless sound found in a lot of technical metal music is what drove me away from death metal.  Being complex for the sake of complexity accomplishes very little.  I think that too many people view music theory only in the traditional sense of a scientific method of generating music, rather than simply as another concept from a collection of ideas that one can base their music on.

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I can't get behind this idea that "too much" theory is detrimental to songwriting ability. The best, most expressive, most capable musicians that I personally know are also the most educated. I really can't think of a single one who didn't either go to school for it or work really hard to gain the knowledge on their own. It's not some kind of forbidden fruit that will ruin your ability to express yourself; I'd say it's the opposite. Plenty of people lack imagination, and it's definitely easy to lead yourself down the garden path and think what you're writing is good when it's not, but that happens regardless of what you know about theory.

Anyone's distaste for a certain writing style is a separate issue. I usually hate anything in harmonic minor, I really detest Picardy thirds, hearing the chorus modulate up by a whole step at the end of the song makes my skin crawl, and there's only so much of that minor-key i-VI-i progression I can take out of any given "melodic" or "atmospheric" black metal song before I throw in the towel. There's also a whole list of other purely sonic things that turn me off, as well as some other biases. I have a whole host of reasons why I don't personally enjoy most modern tech death, but "too much theory" isn't one of them.

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On 1/3/2019 at 12:39 PM, FatherAlabaster said:

I can't get behind this idea that "too much" theory is detrimental to songwriting ability. The best, most expressive, most capable musicians that I personally know are also the most educated. I really can't think of a single one who didn't either go to school for it or work really hard to gain the knowledge on their own. It's not some kind of forbidden fruit that will ruin your ability to express yourself; I'd say it's the opposite. Plenty of people lack imagination, and it's definitely easy to lead yourself down the garden path and think what you're writing is good when it's not, but that happens regardless of what you know about theory.

Anyone's distaste for a certain writing style is a separate issue. I usually hate anything in harmonic minor, I really detest Picardy thirds, hearing the chorus modulate up by a whole step at the end of the song makes my skin crawl, and there's only so much of that minor-key i-VI-i progression I can take out of any given "melodic" or "atmospheric" black metal song before I throw in the towel. There's also a whole list of other purely sonic things that turn me off, as well as some other biases. I have a whole host of reasons why I don't personally enjoy most modern tech death, but "too much theory" isn't one of them.

I think the problem comes about when the musician makes exhibiting their knowledge of theory/technical capabilities as the end of their music rather than as a vehicle for expressing something.  That is not to say that doing so is intrinsically bad, it is merely another aesthetic that one can like or dislike based upon their own taste.  For instance, while I dislike most tech death that I have heard, I love Mayhem's "Grand Declaration of War."  I thought that by incorporating technicality into their music, they were able to highlight how they were reinventing their sound after the death of Euronymous.  I think theory is like a tool that one uses when expedient, but can exchange when something else would work better for a given situation.  There is never too much or too little theory, only good and bad uses of it,

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Yes dude, thats always been my problem, Im a LEAN player now, always trying to fix or improve old riffs or twist each new riff into existence by some unseen hand, theory is great for learners. But playing a guitar is like brushing a yard, you can brush any way you like.

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I don't think excessive meanderings in music is connected with music theory. We find that sort of thing all over the place. Imagine for instance someone who's really good at wood carvings, leading him to get off on "decoration" rather than focusing on what that thing was originally meant for ... to such an expent that you dare not even touch the fucking thing. It's overdone. Out of your league. Many people get too good for their own good. It's a freakish technical brilliance sort of thing, which is unrelated to theory.

Personally, I approach music theory in a somewhat Pythagorean manner. ("There's mathematics in there!") It's useful for a lot of mind loops you have to jump through in order to figure out what's what when you start researching all that which lies beyond the more reptilian response of either liking or disliking something based in whether or not it's pleasing you in the here and now. Not all people are built for theory though. Many prefer to judge life and everything purely on the "pleasure principle". They see no point in trying to understand what's going on at a level that doesn't interest them anyway. 

Not being a musician myself -- I just like to play with instruments and "make sound" -- my curiosity tend to move in the theoretical direction. For instance, I had a great time figuring out all the weird and cool things you could do with a Mini-Moog, back when that was a bit of a novelty. The "theory" bit would have to be that it forced me to start thinking in ADSR terms ... which never really left me since. (To be sure, there's a lot of sustain going on in the world of metal.)

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Since my accident I've found writing riffs to be easier. Beforehand largely due to the guitar teachers I had everything had to be theoretically proper. Having to some extent lost knowledge of the theory side of music (I would say I still understand it but can no longer explain it) I'm just focusing on whether or not something sounds good. For example I've found that a bridge I was working on sounded perfectly fine when played in E standard but didn't work in C# so I dropped the chords in favour of the root notes.

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I came across a character called Shredmaster Scott on YouTube ... who had a right interesting video on how to interpret Crazy Train as if it had been made by Bach. He goes through the entire structure and provides ample link material. This might just interest the more structurally inclined axemen. Fascinating stuff either way.

 

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