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Where to learn music theory and harmony and not getting bored?

kessel

wagakki-electro-otaku
Hi,

I started playing guitar and making music 30 years ago and as much as I love music I could never become friends with music theory.

Nevertheless I always wanted to learn some more theory, specially harmony, to improve my compositions and arrangement skills, but the main problem I've always found is that every way I've found so far feels pretty boring to me.

I'm not a friend of nomenclatures, was never good with words, so my only way to learn these would be a method that keeps mixing what you learn with instant direct practices to what you just learned, I mean in a really constant way, because otherwise I'm not going to remember anything I learned in the theory just in a question of seconds.

This is a concentration problem I've had all my life and very often I can't even read a single line of a book or magazine without forgetting the first words in a row before even reaching the last words in that same line, so I need to re-read it several times. Wait a minute, what was I writing about now? I forgot... :P

Ok, to the point, what method would you recommend for someone like me who needs to practice almost every step in theory explanations to really learn them?

I've been thinking of subscribing to some online course as graphics and visuals do help me in this kind of process, but then again most of them will just put too much words and boring graphs I can't yet read.

I've tried the mDecks apps, some video tutorials on youtube, just took a look at an orchestration course at Udemy and was already bored by watching the course preview full of text and not a single real piano player to see in it... and I'm starting to think the only way might be finding a music teacher that is able to teach me the theory in front of a piano or other instrument I can directly play the notes I get explained while learning.

What do you think? Are other people like me here that might have found an amusing method to learn music theory?
 

wst3

my office these days
Moderator
I'm no fan of video classes, so I can't really recommend them. Ironically, I am now a fan of text books, but that was not always the case! So I can't really recommend them either.

So my intro to music theory was a self-paced study system that was being evaluated at a local university. One of my 7th grade teachers thought it would fun to let a few of us try it. He secretly hoped it would bomb, he was not a big fan of self paced study. It worked brilliantly! And it was fun, even for 12 year old boys - a tough crowd!

So I know such things exist, I just don't know exactly where one might find them - but you search can succeed. I will keep my eyes open as well.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
mixing what you learn with instant direct practices to what you just learned
this ^^ is a great way to learn theory. I think a lot of creative people struggle with concentration and for many like that, the best way to learn a new technique (writing rock piano parts, brass fanfares -- whatever) has been when it's needed RIGHT NOW!

If you've been playing 30 years, you already "know" a lot of theory but it does help to nail some things down by being able to describe as accurately as possible what you are already doing, analytically. Then you can learn to extend what you like about it and do "more of that."

Assuming you can at least write out chord changes, you could try a specific task. Maybe arrange a song for strings, some song you wrote and like?

For that you need to learn some theory, but not all of it all at once.

Does that appeal?
 
OP
kessel

kessel

wagakki-electro-otaku
this ^^ is a great way to learn theory. I think a lot of creative people struggle with concentration and for many like that, the best way to learn a new technique (writing rock piano parts, brass fanfares -- whatever) has been when it's needed RIGHT NOW!

If you've been playing 30 years, you already "know" a lot of theory but it does help to nail some things down by being able to describe as accurately as possible what you are already doing, analytically. Then you can learn to extend what you like about it and do "more of that."

Assuming you can at least write out chord changes, you could try a specific task. Maybe arrange a song for strings, some song you wrote and like?

For that you need to learn some theory, but not all of it all at once.

Does that appeal?
Sounds good, and it partly is what I want to do and even did already not long ago, I've taken a couple of songs I wrote with guitars, bass and drums and covered them myself with different instrumentations, not just doing the same thing but trying to readapt the parts to the new ones, like might be violins, cello, or even japanese koto and shamisen, the problem is that I do all this just by feel, I don't really even know which chords I am using most of the time.

But it gave me an idea that might help, and it could be when re-writing any of my guitar songs with some orchestral instrumentation I could start by finding out the chords and watching if my arrangements are even natural or possible with the new instrument.

A very important thing for me would be to find out which kind of human reactions get fired by different scales or harmonic rules. I made a short course on sound recording and I found very interesting to know why we hear middle frequencies the loudest and clearer or what kind of natural sensations we get from bass frequencies and such...

I would love to know which scales or harmony rules I can use to move people's feelings the way I intend to with my music and I think I've reached my limits as a composer without knowing those harmonic rules.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
I would love to know which scales or harmony rules I can use to move people's feelings the way I intend to and I think I've reached my limits as a composer without knowing those harmonic rules.
In that case, if you don't always know your chord changes but you do play guitar, suggest you buy one / several song books that include not just chord symbols but those graphic representations of how the chords are fingered on the guitar, like the one below:

image.png

Pick one of your favourite bands, or bands whose music you admire. It's a fast and fairly painless way to learn theory; if you already play pretty well, even faster.
 
OP
kessel

kessel

wagakki-electro-otaku
In that case, if you don't always know your chord changes but you do play guitar, suggest you buy one / several song books that include not just chord symbols but those graphic representations of how the chords are fingered on the guitar, like the one below:

View attachment 20223

Pick one of your favourite bands, or bands whose music you admire. It's a fast and fairly painless way to learn theory; if you already play pretty well, even faster.
Nice, good idea, I've started researching already, too bad my musical tastes are sometimes so rare and make everything more difficult to find, but that's a very good starting point, thanks
 

JohnG

Senior Member
that's a very good starting point,
If your taste is idiosyncratic, that makes it more of a challenge, but remember -- you don't have to get exactly your number one band, given that you're trying to learn chords.

If you want "traditional," you could do worse than Beatles / Queen / Rolling Stones. The Beatles in particular used chords that are a little beyond the I IV V IV ii V I variety.

If you want to go a little toward jazz or extended chords, Nora Jones is a bit that way, and John Mayer also extends the pop song vocabulary a bit as well.

I mention all these because I'm sure they are all available with the chord symbols.

Have fun!

John
 

handz

Senior Member
I am still looking for some on-point tutorials - focused on movie music approaches - cliches, chord progressions, modulations etc explained in a more "user-friendly" way. So far, I found very few such videos or articles.

What I love are such articles https://ask.audio/articles/music-theory-hollywood-scales-part-2

these work for me way better than studying basic theory. Wish there would be a site with only such articles focused on the practical use of various techniques with examples.
 

Garry

Senior Member
Sounds good, and it partly is what I want to do and even did already not long ago, I've taken a couple of songs I wrote with guitars, bass and drums and covered them myself with different instrumentations, not just doing the same thing but trying to readapt the parts to the new ones, like might be violins, cello, or even japanese koto and shamisen, the problem is that I do all this just by feel, I don't really even know which chords I am using most of the time.

But it gave me an idea that might help, and it could be when re-writing any of my guitar songs with some orchestral instrumentation I could start by finding out the chords and watching if my arrangements are even natural or possible with the new instrument.

A very important thing for me would be to find out which kind of human reactions get fired by different scales or harmonic rules. I made a short course on sound recording and I found very interesting to know why we hear middle frequencies the loudest and clearer or what kind of natural sensations we get from bass frequencies and such...

I would love to know which scales or harmony rules I can use to move people's feelings the way I intend to with my music and I think I've reached my limits as a composer without knowing those harmonic rules.
I'm a big fan of YouTube courses for music theory - which ones have you watched and ruled out, so we can get an idea of what might still be of interest?
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
Unless it's tied to your ears, music theory is always going to be boring!

The advice here is absolutely right, for that exact reason. Music theory isn't abstract, it makes total sense when you hear it.

And the reason isn't terribly profound: theory is just an explanation of practice.
 

Garry

Senior Member
It would be easy to recommend Rick Beato - probably the best subscribed music theoretician on YouTube, but personally, while I really like his channel and greatly support what he's doing, I often feel I need something intermediary to help me really fully appreciate the concepts. He covers a very broad range, but he doesn't work hard to help you understand - he leaves that to you! Sometimes that's good, and sometimes I'd appreciate a little more guidance.

So, the channel I would primarily recommend is Signals Music Studio: a fairly recent channel (July 2017), but already has over 220,000 subscribers. Since you're a guitarist, you'll probably like that he teaches, with guitar in hand, and always illustrating the concept both with side bar graphics and then playing what he's talking about directly on the guitar. He's a young guy, but already has a great technique in teaching: he really makes the concepts clear, understandable and instantly applicable. I'm also initially a guitarist, but tend to follow along on piano - his style of teaching is not at all specific to guitar technique, and makes it very easy to follow along with any instrument. It's watching his channel that has subsequently enabled me to get more from channels like Rick Beato and Mapping Tonal Harmony from mDecks (also recommended, but not initially).

Then of course there are Mike Verta's masterclasses, typically for $30 each - Mike also has a relaxed style like the guy from Signals Music Studio, but I find he takes MUCH longer to get to the point, and his teaching points could easily be greatly condensed. I have bought 6 or 7 videos from Mike, but have only watched a couple of them so far, as you need to have time to sit down and dedicate a few hours going through each. It's of course very instructive when you do find the time to do so, but I think its interesting that while I've only watched a couple of the Mike Verta videos, the releases from Signals Music Studio I find I watch immediately they're released.

Good luck, and enjoy the journey.
 
OP
kessel

kessel

wagakki-electro-otaku
I'm a big fan of YouTube courses for music theory - which ones have you watched and ruled out, so we can get an idea of what might still be of interest?
Actually I haven't used youtube for that purpose yet, the videos I've used so far were from guitar and piano online courses (jamplay and music2me), but I barely used them because I always preferred the practice lessons. I watched a couple of the mDecks videos but they're usually related to their app.

Unless it's tied to your ears, music theory is always going to be boring!

The advice here is absolutely right, for that exact reason. Music theory isn't abstract, it makes total sense when you hear it.

And the reason isn't terribly profound: theory is just an explanation of practice.
Yes, I guess what I need is just to have my guitar or keyboard in my hands while learning the theory just to apply it directly, which for me is the best way to memorize what I learn, but I also think it must make a lot sense when learned because I notice it when listening to some musicians.

Some musicians show clearly that they know theory in their works and I want to get to that point where you know the rules but are not a slave of them, which in my opinion is the highest a musician can reach in these terms.

It would be easy to recommend Rick Beato ...

So, the channel I would primarily recommend is Signals Music Studio: ...

Then of course there are Mike Verta's masterclasses...

Good luck, and enjoy the journey.
Thanks for the wishes and tips, I know Rick Beato's channel and I think he is not showing everything he can there but maybe in his website, I guess the channel is also a way to get paying customers, which I totally understand, and I also guess he will show more when buying courses directly from his website, maybe worth a try some day.

I didn't know about Signal Music Studio so I subscribed to it already and will start watching the videos tonight when I get home. Your description on Mike Verta let me think that it could be interesting as a further step when I learn at least the basics on the other channels, so I guess I'll start with Signals Music Studio channel and see how far I get.

Thanks to everyone again for the help
 

Garry

Senior Member
Actually I haven't used youtube for that purpose yet,
Ah, in that case, this post I made a few months ago might also give you some other sources you could find useful (includes, but not exclusive to music theory). YouTube can be a great resource for music learning.

I know Rick Beato's channel and I think he is not showing everything he can there but maybe in his website, I guess the channel is also a way to get paying customers
His primary revenue is through selling 'The Beato Book', which I think is fair enough and it's reasonably priced; recently he's also set up 'The Beato Club' (as an alternative to Patreon), but that's pretty recent, and I don't think he restricts his content to behind this paywall - he really just promotes this as a transparent and independent way to fund the channel; he promotes this heavily during the live sessions, but not so much during the tutorials he provides. My main issue with his channel is the content can be quite dense, and he assumes a lot (he taught for over 30 years, so I think he's used to his audience already being well versed), but that's fine - he's addressing a specific niche comprising those already coming with a reasonably advanced knowledge of music theory, so my inability to keep up is more about me than him. Still, I think you'll find the other recommendation much more approachable. Let us know how you go.
 
OP
kessel

kessel

wagakki-electro-otaku
Ah, in that case, this post I made a few months ago might also give you some other sources you could find useful (includes, but not exclusive to music theory). YouTube can be a great resource for music learning.


His primary revenue is through selling 'The Beato Book', which I think is fair enough and it's reasonably priced; recently he's also set up 'The Beato Club' (as an alternative to Patreon), but that's pretty recent, and I don't think he restricts his content to behind this paywall - he really just promotes this as a transparent and independent way to fund the channel; he promotes this heavily during the live sessions, but not so much during the tutorials he provides. My main issue with his channel is the content can be quite dense, and he assumes a lot (he taught for over 30 years, so I think he's used to his audience already being well versed), but that's fine - he's addressing a specific niche comprising those already coming with a reasonably advanced knowledge of music theory, so my inability to keep up is more about me than him. Still, I think you'll find the other recommendation much more approachable. Let us know how you go.
Great list of youtube channels, I went it all through and already subscribed to most of them, thanks.

Yeah, that with Beato is something I really can understand, maybe I didn't put it correctly as I'm not a native English speaker, but what I meant is that I could understand him not wanting to give every piece of his knowledge just for free on youtube.

At some point it is the most reasonable thing that both parts take some profit out of it, the teacher gets paid, the learning people get additional knowledge. And Beato already shares a lot of knowledge for free actually, I really like many of his videos.
 

MartinH.

Senior Member
It would be easy to recommend Rick Beato - probably the best subscribed music theoretician on YouTube, but personally, while I really like his channel and greatly support what he's doing, I often feel I need something intermediary to help me really fully appreciate the concepts. He covers a very broad range, but he doesn't work hard to help you understand - he leaves that to you! Sometimes that's good, and sometimes I'd appreciate a little more guidance.

So, the channel I would primarily recommend is Signals Music Studio: a fairly recent channel (July 2017), but already has over 220,000 subscribers. Since you're a guitarist, you'll probably like that he teaches, with guitar in hand, and always illustrating the concept both with side bar graphics and then playing what he's talking about directly on the guitar. He's a young guy, but already has a great technique in teaching: he really makes the concepts clear, understandable and instantly applicable. I'm also initially a guitarist, but tend to follow along on piano - his style of teaching is not at all specific to guitar technique, and makes it very easy to follow along with any instrument. It's watching his channel that has subsequently enabled me to get more from channels like Rick Beato and Mapping Tonal Harmony from mDecks (also recommended, but not initially).

Then of course there are Mike Verta's masterclasses, typically for $30 each - Mike also has a relaxed style like the guy from Signals Music Studio, but I find he takes MUCH longer to get to the point, and his teaching points could easily be greatly condensed. I have bought 6 or 7 videos from Mike, but have only watched a couple of them so far, as you need to have time to sit down and dedicate a few hours going through each. It's of course very instructive when you do find the time to do so, but I think its interesting that while I've only watched a couple of the Mike Verta videos, the releases from Signals Music Studio I find I watch immediately they're released.

Good luck, and enjoy the journey.
Thanks for the recommendation! I watched two videos from signals music studio and liked them a lot. Very condensed and helpful! I also really like the Mike Verta Masterclasses that I've watched. So far I have seen zero overlap between the two, they might complement each other well.
Rick Beato's videos never quite worked for me, I'm probably not in the skillgroup they're aimed at.
 

Leon Willett

Active Member
The only music theory that will not seem boring to you is music theory that directly impacts your ability to make your music sound the way you want.

If something bores you, it's a sign that either a) it doesn't help you make your music sound the way you want, or b) it does, but you don't realise it.

Boredom happens when you hold the opinion that "this isn't worth it".
 
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