The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #77548   Message #1384204
Posted By: JohnInKansas
21-Jan-05 - 08:45 AM
Thread Name: Basic Music Theory Question
Subject: RE: Basic Music Theory Question
Someone asks "where's the best place to go wading on this beach?" and they get thrown into a motor launch, hauled twenty miles from shore, and thrown in the water. Then someone puts a foot on their head and pushes them under so "they'll know they need to work real hard."


I would suggest:

If you don't already know how to read music, at least to the point of being able to recognize tunes, I would urge that you spend some time practicing that. Many people get by without it, but it makes it much easier to discuss "more advanced" theory. If you can, it's worth spending some time practicing how to write at least the melody lines for songs you're familiar with.

Learn to recognize the Major Key Signatures when you see them on a score.

Learn the conventional names of chords you use when you play them in the tunes you know now.

Play with as many people as possible, and look for someone who seems to have a good, and helpful, attitude and at least a little more knowledge than you do, and ask questions. The "more knowledge" is probably not too essential, because "studying" with someone of comparable skill can be quite beneficial. Just avoid "idiots with theories" - unless it's obvious they're especially gifted.

Visit a good retail outlet and look for a few books that "make sense" to you. Book stores are seldom productive here. They have lots of "fan books" about musicians but generally not much about music. It's worth spending a little time browsing since sometimes they make an error in stocking.

If one is available, a music store, especially one that trades with music teachers, may be of help. If you're really lucky, a store of this kind may have someone with some teaching experience who can talk to you about what you need and can make recommendations. Even a brief face-to-face can make it a lot easier to make appropriate suggestions.

When you know the common names of the chords you use in your favorite key(s) and have some sense of why those chords are "better" than others, and why they come in particular sequence in common songs, you may want to look for some "theory" about transposing to other keys. Others may disagree, but for learning it sometimes is helpful just to use a capo, and learning how to know where to put it is a good first step toward understanding transpositions.

Each thing you "learn" will lead to new things you want to know. Later, each previously "learned" thing that you "understand better" will lead to slightly different things you want to know. The path may get pretty tangled, but the next step you need will usually be pretty obvious, once you get started.