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Do/did you take music theory?

  • yes

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  • no

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Right now, I'm considering taking music theory classes, but I'm already very busy. Does anyone here take music theory? Does it help you (improvising, etc.), or can you usually get all of that from your sax teacher? Should I take it?
thanks!
 

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I'm currently in my first ever theory class right now (college course), and in the first two weeks my understanding of music has been greatly expanded. I'm not quite seeing an effect on my playing yet, but once I really get this stuff down I'm quite certain I will. It's one thing to practice scales, it's a total different thing to truly understand them.
 

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And these days I get to teach it. I didn't enjoy learning it at first, until I realised the insights it gave me into how music worked, and the power it gave me to play mind games via music.
 

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Music theory is the nuts and bolts of everything we do. IMO, it's important to not only know what to play but why you're playing it and why it works. I did 4 semesters of theory, 1 semester of jazz theory, and 2 semesters of jazz composition/arranging in college. I'm sure I'll do more in grad school. I have a very easy time analyzing compostitions, solos, whatever and incorporating what I learn from those into my improvisational vocabulary.

Knowing what I know now, I believe that if I hadn't acquired the foundation that theory provides, I'd just be skimming the surface of a lot of the music. I look back to when I was in high school. Yeah, I could play the notes on the page, but I really had no idea what was going on, even within my own part. Now I know.
 

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Theory only approximates the real thing, but it can't hurt! :)

I really think it's beneficial. The more you can cognize, the more you'll remember and the easier it will be to apply.
 

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I'm currently taking Theory II at my college (freshman). It has given me a different perspective on the concepts that I've been working on for years. Not so much answers, but clarifications.
 

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I've never taken any theory classes. I just left it up to my first teacher to fill me in as needed during the course of learning sax and arranging in my first four years.

The primary focus was on developing the ear and playing, with any theory presented as an aside where necessary, which was not very often and he was a very good player and arranger. I really liked that approach.
 

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In theory, there is no difference between practice and theory. In practice, there is.

I kind of did it backwards... I learned just enough to get me going at first, then internalized what sounds worked over what chords without really understanding why they worked.

Now I'm trying to go back and justify what I'm playing.
 

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I'm still struggling with the first phase!

But looking forward for the second base (sorry, ...phase!)
 

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I think the value of knowing why something works is debatable when you know it works or doesn't work because of how it sounds to your ears intuitively. All the same, I'm taking theory now in order to gain something, some kind of insight into the music, after eschewing theory for years. Theoretically (hardy har), more knowledge can't ever hurt, and at the very least, I'm gaining a means to talk to other people about music, when they approach it in a completely different manner than I do.
 

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edhara said:
Man, if second base is still a theory for you, you seriously need some practice! :D
Hopefully, I’m hitting the second base regularly.

On the other hand getting some proficiency in sax playing is still a significant challenge. I’m a late bloomer and quite far away from feeling comfortable playing the sax (but most willing to go ahead and improve).

We could say that (currently) the sax is still abusing me!

But as a yell or chant taken up in battle (practice) I’ve always in my mind my teacher’s directive: don’t let your instrument abuse you!
 

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Except for the rare genius, I would say some knowledge of music theory is essential if you want to improvise. I started out with very little theory, first as a kid, just reading the notes off the page (which is how it was taught at the time), then later "playing by ear" when I started improvising and playing in a blues band. I wasn't very good and didn't get far. Finally I took a couple of theory classes and it made a huge difference. I understood for the first time what the chord changes were all about, etc.

Theory alone won't do the job, of course, and many concepts will seem difficult to apply, but knowing how harmony/chords/scales work is too important to skip over.
 

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Self-taught. I've read a lot about it, though. Theory is essential for arranging and composing. It also helps in conducting when the conductor hears a clam, looks at the score and sees the clam is in the score. Helps find the right note if you can parse the chord from all the other notes being played at the same time.

Understanding theory adds to your ability to understand why your improvisations do or do not work. It is not the path to improvisation, however, only a road map that documents the path.

You can never learn too much. Except maybe about your sister.
 

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Al Stevens said:
You can never learn too much. Except maybe about your sister.
:sign5:

Never heard that before, really good.
 

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edhara said:
I kind of did it backwards... I learned just enough to get me going at first, then internalized what sounds worked over what chords without really understanding why they worked.

Now I'm trying to go back and justify what I'm playing.
I think that's the way it should be. Taking music theory should be kind of like taking an English class where you work on grammar and spelling (rules, and how the rules get broken). That class works a lot better if you already speak English and know how it sounds!
 

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DukeCity said:
I think that's the way it should be. Taking music theory should be kind of like taking an English class where you work on grammar and spelling (rules, and how the rules get broken). That class works a lot better if you already speak English and know how it sounds!
Ah yes, "the rules".

Music theory gets itself a bad name when ill-informed and unimaginative people insist on blind adherence to "the rules". These rules are not universal truths written in flaming letters in the sky, but merely descriptions of past practices. Ultimately good music is good because it sounds good, and that is not necessarily due to either following or not following past convention. For music to sound original it must part from convention to a certain extent, but the further you depart from convention, the smaller your audience/market is likely to become.

Knowing music theory should be empowerment to make a wider range of informed and intelligent choices in music, not being bound in historical shackles.
 

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What Stefan said.
 

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stefank said:
Knowing music theory should be empowerment to make a wider range of informed and intelligent choices in music, not being bound in historical shackles.
Hooray! Historical shackles. Spot on. That sends me in search of yet another metaphor in my continuing quest to explain what you just said to the washed few.

Chord symbols on a lead sheet are like ground elevations on an aviation sectional chart. They tell you what you need to know to keep from flying into the sides of mountains, but they don't dictate altitudes above those elevations that you must choose.

Okay, that's lame. Don't get me started. Get me stopped.
 
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