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Theory questions that make me nuts--

17 Oct 00 - 05:43 PM (#321194)
Subject: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: M. Ted (inactive)

Someone recently nominated me to be the resident music theory expert, since I tend to jump in anytime there is a question related to theory--(of course I jump into other things as well, but my comments on music theory are usually useful) I am going to take advantage of this dubious and probably underserved honor to air a couple complaints I have--

First--People ask questions like "What is this chord" or "what is this kind of chord", when they really don't want a musical analysis(and usually don't understand the discussion that they start anyway) when they really are having a problem figuring out what chord to play at a given place in a song (several of you are guilty of this--I won't mention names, but read what comes next carefully!!)

Don't ask a music theory question--name the song, post the chords that you have, and let us know which ones are giving you the problem--

Second Complaint--Posting chords above the words does not tell people where the measures begin and end, and makes it very hard to count these songs out and play them--best way to post them is to make some sort of designation that shows chords and measures--the general way is to use one slash mark for each measure /DD/AA/GG/DD and to allow two chords two the 4/4 measure(one for the "One and Two and" one for "Three and Four and", even when both chords are the same. You can do this, even if you have pasted the chords above the words-- simply stick slash mark in at the end of each measure-just make sure you have enough slash marks for every measure in the song(even if you only put one chord in, people will know to play it for a full measure)

Third Complaint--People who post stuff that they got from those stupid chord finder programs--If you don't know the answer to a music or chord question, and you can't play the song, your answer is just going to confuse someone who is already lost--

Fourth, not exactly a complaint, but--remember that this forum (or any internet forum) is not a substitute for music lessons--It is very hard to write out all the information that one needs to play a song, and even then, you would have to learn how to turn what was written out into a playable piece--TAB only works when you use it to follow a recording, since there is seldom anything in the way of metric notation--at any rate, this stuff is not self-explanatory, it needs a lot of work, and a fair amount of musical knowledge to get it--If you are a beginner, or you are trying to learn a new style of music, or a new instrument. and especially if you are self-taught, don't expect that your problems can all be solved with a discussion thread--

17 Oct 00 - 05:53 PM (#321205)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: Peter T.

While I revere your knowledge, and admire you for jumping in, you are being a tad harsh. As an at least one time offender, I am usually asking for a chord, and also happy to get as much information as possible about augmenting in general -- because I am not sure what I am asking. I know one should ask questions as specifically as possible, but one of the virtues of this place is that idiots like me, who don't even know the right question to ask can circle back and ask them again. What was Socrates' big problem: it wasn't the answers, it was that people wouldn't ask the right questions. It takes a lot of knowledge to ask the questions the right way.
yours, Peter T

17 Oct 00 - 06:03 PM (#321218)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: Matt_R

Also, when someone asks for chords for a song, 9 times out of 10 they actually KNOW how the song goes. Let's face it, if you've never heard a song before, not amount of lyrics/chords combinations will tell you how the song goes. Personally, I find the DDDAAAA//// thing VERY annoying. I've been reading lead sheets for a while now (3 years). I don't even put chords over the words any more, I just write them in a little box off to the side of the lyrics. I can pick up a lead sheet for a song I haven't heard in 5 years, and I can instantly start playing. The DDAA/// only really works for beginners, who do one strum per beat.

17 Oct 00 - 06:46 PM (#321279)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: M. Ted (inactive)

You will be surprised to learn, Matt, that Jazz players typically keep extensive files of just this sort of chart--as to people knowing how a song goes, well, maybe they do, and maybe they don't--A lot of people think they know the melody til it comes down to playing it, then they discover that they are a little unclear about the bridge, or overlook a keychange, or play a fifth when the melody goes to a third, and end up in the wrong key for the last measures--I have heard some fairly reputable musicians make these mistakes--inevitably, they say, "That was a really great tune, I gotta learn the music to that for next time"

I will point out that you can generally drop the chart for a tune in front of a good musician and they can play it, whether they've heard it before or not--And anyone who plays a melody instrument ought to be able to read the melody off of a lead sheet--

PeterT--I am sorry if I seem a bit harsh, I am really trying to help people get the information that they need and want--Your questions about augmented chords are answered in every basic music theory class on the first day that they discuss intervals and chords--I am not trying to give you a hard time, especially since you are one of the few serious music students around here--

I will admit, that I sometimes get very despondent when I encounter people who have invested a lot of time and effort in music, and yet do not know the basics, even to the point of insult and arguing with people who try to explain things--

17 Oct 00 - 07:03 PM (#321295)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: McGrath of Harlow

People learn different ways, but so often we find it hard to actually believe it is true.

There are people for whom understanding the theory is an important foundation that they need to be standing on to learn the practice.

And there are other people who work competely the other way way round, for whom talk about theory is just confusing unless they can be enabled to see how it comes out of the practice.

It's as basic a difference as between being left-handed and right-handed. Being left handed used to be at one time just seen as an affectation that children had to be forced out of for their own good. In the same way in a sense you still get people who have this gut feeling thta the way they learn is the only real way anyone can learn.

And that is as true of the practice leads to theory people as it is of the theory leads to practice people.

17 Oct 00 - 07:08 PM (#321299)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: Mary in Kentucky

In support of Peter for saying the things I wanted to say...If I knew the questions to ask, I could find the answer. I love learning about theory, but since I did not major in music, I was not allowed to take a music theory course even as an elective! And I agree with Matt, I prefer to see chord symbols above the lyrics; it's much cleaner. As far as names of chords, that's just in order to communicate with other people. I can read the piano notation or score in order to know which notes to play in order to sound good.


PS Just last month I FINALLY got my hands on a music theory textbook given to me by the grad student who taught music theory at a nearby college. It is very poorly written and a big disappointment, much like the college electronics lab course I taught and found that the "official" textbook was atrocious.

17 Oct 00 - 07:14 PM (#321309)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: DonMeixner

My address is Don 45 Clinton Street Jordan, NY 13080

If I can help in any way with the chords to a song or an optional way of playing the same thing, drop me line. I'll be glad to abuse my copier priviledges at work for you. I was a beginner at one time too.

Maybe we need a Mudcat Forum and a Mudcat Plus! Forum. Just to the "Us'es" and the "Them'ses" from wasting each others time.


17 Oct 00 - 08:32 PM (#321367)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--

Chord finder programs been belly belly good to me...

17 Oct 00 - 08:35 PM (#321371)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: M. Ted (inactive)

Don, why don't you get a copy of "The Ultimate Broadway Fakebook" from the Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation, glom onto page 114, "Look to the Rainbow" by E.Y. "Yit" Harburg, and Burton Lane, and figure out an nice guitar arrangement of it for Mary--transpose it from Eb to Db flat(she seems to like that key), and stick a nice into--check her thread for the chord that it is supposed to start on--Oh, and send Matt a copy too, but, just stick the chords over in the margin--

17 Oct 00 - 08:51 PM (#321384)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: M. Ted (inactive)

Guest, I am sure you will have no trouble working out a nice little guitar arrangement for Mary, using the program that you have so kindly linked us to--you don't even need to buy the book, just get the notes from the MIDI file at Mary's thread, and pop em into the program--EZ as pie!

17 Oct 00 - 09:17 PM (#321406)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: DonMeixner

18 Oct 00 - 01:19 AM (#321553)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: Helen

Mary in Kentucky,

Try this wonderful online music theory site:

Gary Ewer's "Easy Music Theory"

It's a great start, and very easy to understand, very well laid out with graphics & sound files as well. Another Mudcatter recommended it on a thread at least a year ago and I re-visit it every now & then to brush up on theory or learn new stuff.


18 Oct 00 - 07:21 AM (#321655)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: Mary in Kentucky

Thanks Helen. I checked out three lessons, and though I think I'm beyond most of the theory there, I'll take the tests to make sure. The site appears to be well-written, and I really appreciate that.

And since I don't have $40 to burn, the next time I'm in a music store I'll steal a peek at the Ultimate Broadway Fake Book to see if my chord selections were the same. The catter who requested them was pleased and graciously thanked me.


18 Oct 00 - 09:45 AM (#321728)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: M. Ted (inactive)

This kills me, absolutely--You, who are always posting questions and requests for such things, think that buying a good music book is "burning money"--I'll save you the trip, Mary, the chord selections that you made were not the same, since the piece is in Eb, not Db-I hope you transposed it--

18 Oct 00 - 10:36 AM (#321766)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: Marion

Hello M.Ted. There are three things I'd like to say here.

1. The honour of being our theory expert might be dubious but it is definitely not undeserved. I for one have found your postings to be very helpful and confidence-inspiring, whether answering a question from me or from somebody else. Thank you, M.Ted.

2. I very much agree with you that writing chords separately with some kind of system that indicates timing (I find the RUS system works well for me) is more useful than writing the chords over the lyrics. Sometimes chord changes occur when nothing is being sung, or a beat before the word, or things like that... and it can be hard to generalize chords written above the first verse into the other verses.

3. I have a feeling that I'm one of the names you're not mentioning, because of the Cm7sus thread I started. I didn't start that thread to find out what chord to play; I did have a chord I was playing, although I ended up switching to the progression you suggested. I started it because the chord name didn't jive with my basic understanding of chord construction, and this bothered me. I didn't understand (or struggle hard to figure out) everything that was posted in that thread, but I did pick up an idea that is probably very important from the discussion: that chords don't exist in isolation, they have be thought of in relation to the surrounding chords and the overall key (this from what you said about suspensions and what Happy Farmer said about the harmonic function of a chord).

When I had an injured hand I spent some time studying basic theory, but I haven't been able to make a link yet between what I learned (names and categories of intervals, names and kinds of scales, etc.) and how to play my instruments better. I am not studying theory systematically now, but through things like the Cm7sus thread and my own observation that a "G tune followed by a Em tune works better than a G tune followed by an A dorian tune", I am slowly absorbing ideas about how theory relates to playing. As Peter said, it takes knowledge to ask questions properly, and my ignorance is still a little too general. But I expect that next time I hurt my hand and open my theory book again, a lot more things will click - due in no small part to the discussions here that are going over my head but brushing it lightly on the way by.


18 Oct 00 - 10:41 AM (#321771)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: GUEST,Mary in Kentucky

18 Oct 00 - 10:41 PM (#322372)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: Mark Clark

I'm currently in Orlando at a big conference so I can't do too much from my hotel room on my business laptop. However, back at home, I've already downloaded Mary's MIDI file and used the latest Finale 2000 rev. to create a score. I'd have posted it for Mary already but I wanted to have Finale drop in the chords first.

My intent was to place the files on the Web space my ISP provides and make a link to it for Mary to follow. I'll try to get it done this weekend when I'm back home. If that won't be too helpful, let me know now and save me the trouble.


      - Mark

18 Oct 00 - 10:53 PM (#322380)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: Matt_R

I have so many chord & lyric pages that I'm just full of sheets.

18 Oct 00 - 11:06 PM (#322393)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: Sorcha

Well, ya know Ted, that some people just don't get the connection between math and theory. Or between math and logic. Or between logic and theory. I have a lot of trouble with math, but very little with either theory or logic. It doesn't do any good to get upset with people who don't get one or the other, you just have to try and find a new way to explain it.

I was told once that music is nothing except a combination of math and physics..........seems to me to true for the most part, except for the "from the heart" part.

Patience is a virtue, and I STILL don't understand either algebra or physics............but I can play music, and get people to enjoy it. Isn't that the most important part, even if a chord is wrong now and then?

18 Oct 00 - 11:41 PM (#322429)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--

Chord finder programs help those who help themselves.

Help yerself!!

18 Oct 00 - 11:54 PM (#322437)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: Mary in Kentucky

Thanks Mark. I've already written the chords from that particular midi file and sent them on. (I can see the score from my version of Cakewalk, just can't print it out.) So you probably shouldn't go to too much trouble. I am curious though as to how Finale would put chords to it. It seems that the midi is one that is "recorded" rather than "step-sequenced" so the score is a bit difficult to read. I had to use a combination of reading, listening, and running downstairs to the piano to even duplicate the midi. I also wrote out a particular arrangement of "Amazing Grace" for another catter that was extremely easy once it was written out, but reading the midi score was so difficult that much of it was just done by listening and hand notating the notes. I kept telling myself that Beethoven only had pen, ink and manuscript paper!

You can PM me that address. And thanks for your trouble. What I'm saying is, yes I'd like to see the chords, but it's just for my curiousity about Finale, and there's certainly no hurry.


19 Oct 00 - 12:35 AM (#322454)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: IvanB

M. Ted, I, also, tend to think you are being a tad harsh, especially since much of your harshness (in this thread at least) seems to be directed at Mary in Kentucky. You take great delight in shooting her down on the key of Db, since it's listed in your very authoritative source as being in Eb. But, in the thread in question she stated that she was transposing from a MIDI. Having loaded that MIDI into NoteWorthy, I came up with a file that had a key of 5 sharps - seemingly, B major. But the tune tended to modulate several times and the first rendition of the melody certainly had a tonal center of c#, making C# dorian a more likely key. So Mary's choice of Db would appear logical, especially given that she was using different software which may have put the key signature in Db.

19 Oct 00 - 12:44 AM (#322455)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: M. Ted (inactive)


I'd like to see the Finale 2000 version--

If I seem a little harsh, I'm sorry--It's been a really bad week, and my patience and other such things are worn to a frazzle--

Mary--a good notation software program comes up with a much cleaner and more readable score than a sequencer program--the sequencer generally is a literal representation of what you have played--mine often renders a 1/16th note and a dotted eighth rest when what would be written are staccato quarters--Only thing is that the notation programs have tended not to be quite as good as advertised, and, at least til now, tended to require a bit of cleaning up--I am very curious to see how Finale 2000 does--

19 Oct 00 - 02:03 AM (#322484)
Subject: RE: Theory questions that make me nuts--
From: M. Ted (inactive)

Well IvanB, my source is "authoritative" to the degree that it was published by the publisher who was authorized to do so by the owner of the copyright on the music. This MIDI file comes from who knows where, and could have been actually played in a different key, then transposed, either by the file creator or by someone else----But my comment was really aimed at the idea that Db is a fairly peculiar chord for folk arrangements--

To that point,show tunes and standards tend to be written in Eb more often that Db--

I will point out that, by your own analysis, whatever key signature your Noteworthy program showed, the tonal center was C#, which is the fundamental in the key of Db--

Marion, your thread was perfectly fine--I remember it well, since I ended up learning about three different ways of playing the tune during all the discussions. My recollection is that your printed arrangement showed a suspended fourth chord for all of a measure, when there should have been a major chord there for part of the measure--