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Thread: More elementary theory stuff

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    Quote Originally Posted by mcarp555 View Post
    Theory is a great subject to study, but you have to work at it. My first year at it (in high school), I was completely dumfounded on a constant basis. I forgot about it over the Summer, and when I went to junior college in the fall (as a music major), I found that it had sunk in. I had a good working grasp of it, at least on paper. I couldn't sight-sing and my sense of rhythm was rough, but I could analyze a score and feel confident in it.

    You need to focus your attention on learning and understanding the notes on the treble & bass clefs. That's where all the understanding of chord theory is played out, so if you can't decipher the alphabet, you'll never be able to read.
    I think it is sinking in some. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this thread, I enrolled in the artistworks school, with bluegrass guitar under Bryan Sutton. It also includes basic music theory and advanced music theory, At the end of the lessons, there is a 20 question quiz that you have to score 80% on. I managed to pass that, so something must be clicking. I've looked at the first lesson in advanced music theory, and it was a general look at counterpoint. Bluegrass and fiddle tune rhythm have a lot of walks up and down between chords. I could hear what was happening, but I never knew that the walk from G to C had a name, and that I have been using dissonance, neighboring tones & suspensions all along. It'd kind of cool to know that there is a name for what I've been doing by ear, and it actually has validity within a musical setting. It's funny, though. I haven't really done much with the Bluegrass school. But, purely by chance, I saw a button that said "quiz". This was immediately after joining and I was still just cruising the site and seeing what was there. I passed the intermediate section w/o even having looked at any of the instruction. I DO intend to, but it sort of helps me feel a little better that I haven't totally wasted all this time in my musical desert. It has been fun, so far. And, I really do appreciate you letting me bounce my difficulties off you. You've cleared several things that puzzled me already.
    Last edited by Mark the Magnificent!; 07-24-2017 at 08:05 PM.

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    Happy to do so. Helping you also helps keep me sharp on it.

    It's long been my experience that anyone who is halfway competent on guitar uses theory naturally, without knowing it. But many of them fall for the single biggest misconception about music theory, that it's a set of "rules" they have to follow. Theory is not prescriptive; it doesn't tell you what you can or cannot play. It's descriptive; it explains what you're playing and why you're doing so. So yes, you use dissonance, neighboring tones, suspensions, major/minor/diminished chords and all the rest. Play along in the key of C and suddenly throw in an Eb? Theory does not bar you from doing so.

    People like yourself, who learn the instrument first, then come to theory much later, may struggle and feel like theory is the 'enemy'. But once you start to see how it provides support for whatever you want to do, you become more comfortable with the idea of working with it to guide you into becoming a better player. Keep at it, and build upon your successes. Any questions you have along the way, I'm just one of many who will try to answer them for you.
    Mike
    Militant Left Hander

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    New question. I'm now digging into counterpoint. The instruction says there are 5 species, the first writing a whole note melody against a fixed line they call a cantus firmus. It doesn't allow any dissonance and must start and end on the tonic, with the 2nd to last measure having a leading tone. 2nd and 3rd species can use half and quarter notes, respectively, with rules for when you can use consonant or dissonant notes. 4th seems sort of like the reverse of 2nd, and 5th is sort of an amalgamation of the other 4. I sort of kind of get it in a general way. I'd like to hear demonstrations that maybe my ears could discern. The demonstration on the teaching site is kind of hard to follow, in large part because it is done on a keyboard, and my brain has to try to convert to guitar layout on the fly, and I don't have the reading skills to do it at present. What I hear is a lot of things I hear and enjoy in classical pieces. Can anyone give me examples in popular music where these species are used? It would be really cool if the examples were in Beatle songs, because I know that body of work very well. I really want to get this stuff. It leads to so many different ways of getting from one place to the other on the fretboard, and I can hear all sorts of possibilities to deepen personal things I might be trying to write.

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    Beatle songs on the whole, don't actually use a lot of counterpoint, except in the interplay between the lead vocal and the backing vocals. And what you'll find is that when counterpoint is used in these situations, it's rarely if ever a single 'species'. Some good examples that came immediately to mind were Michele, Here, There and Everywhere (you can really hear the leading tone in the penultimate measure at the end of each verse) and Because. I would also suggest the interplay between the violins and cellos in the instrumental-only version of Eleanor Rigby from Anthology II. This is counterpoint the way Bach used to do it, with dynamic interweaving lines (possibly your species 5). Things like the whole note melody over a cantus firmus are more often associated with medieval plainsong (but Michele comes close).

    George Martin, as celebrated as he (justly) was as a producer, was also a highly competent arranger; his backing scores for Beatles songs and his work on their background vocals was second to none. You could do a lot worse than to study his arrangements. I think, Mark, at some point you're going to have to sit down with some basic scores and dissect them to really understand the interplay between parts. And that will entail being able to read the scores. Like I said, without a strong understanding of the musical alphabet (the notes on the grand staff), you're going to struggle with some of these higher-level concepts.

    And Happy birthday Mark! You're doing well for 114!
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    Last edited by mcarp555; 07-27-2017 at 06:52 AM.
    Mike
    Militant Left Hander

  5. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark the Magnificent! View Post
    I have chugged my way through the presentation OK, until I hit Clefs. I understand that different instruments have different registers, so clefs are used to get the written notes into (or at least close) to the standard musical staff. But, the explanation of which clef does what, and how to determine which is appropriate to find the right octave, etc, is as clear as mud to me. Can anyone provide a "Clefs for Dummies" explanation to me? It also presented something I hadn't thought of, namely, that a keyboard is a much easier device for visualizing scales and modes. Only, I don't have one. Any recommendations on one that wouldn't break the bank, but that would also be more than a toy and could be used in my home recording efforts, which I assume means MIDI capabilities. Any explanations that might make the light bulb come on would be much appreciated!! Thanks in advance!!
    Hi, Mark - I've only just learned theory, too. I used an online course with University of Edinburgh and other online sources. I read through the thread quickly and I didn't see the guitar clef mentioned. The one with the the tiny 8 under the treble clef? Are you aware of that one? It shows that the guitar is displaced an octave. It's not always used, but I do think it's important for the learner to know that the middle C on the simple clef in notation is not what you hear when you play that note on the guitar. The middle C is the one you hear on the B string 1st fret on guitar in standard tuning.

    For the keyboard, you don't have to have one, a virtual one or a picture of one will show you what you need to understand the fundamental theory, but when I was learning this, I used an M-Audio controller. With a controller, the keyboard, itself, doesn't make noise. It's hooked to the computer with USB and all the sound comes from software. I used TruePiano software which is quite good and cheap. The whole setup is very useful, easy, and cheap and can be upgraded as you go with better software or with a better controller. It can easily be used to input notes in notation software or to record or to play live. In fact, Billy Joel was using a Kawai controller and Synthogy software, not a piano, in his later years of touring.
    "It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing, or to dance, while the music was being played."

    Lefty Acoustics

    Martin 00-15M
    Taylor 320e Baritone

  6. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by mcarp555 View Post
    Beatle songs on the whole, don't actually use a lot of counterpoint, except in the interplay between the lead vocal and the backing vocals. And what you'll find is that when counterpoint is used in these situations, it's rarely if ever a single 'species'. Some good examples that came immediately to mind were Michele, Here, There and Everywhere (you can really hear the leading tone in the penultimate measure at the end of each verse) and Because. I would also suggest the interplay between the violins and cellos in the instrumental-only version of Eleanor Rigby from Anthology II. This is counterpoint the way Bach used to do it, with dynamic interweaving lines (possibly your species 5). Things like the whole note melody over a cantus firmus are more often associated with medieval plainsong (but Michele comes close).

    George Martin, as celebrated as he (justly) was as a producer, was also a highly competent arranger; his backing scores for Beatles songs and his work on their background vocals was second to none. You could do a lot worse than to study his arrangements. I think, Mark, at some point you're going to have to sit down with some basic scores and dissect them to really understand the interplay between parts. And that will entail being able to read the scores. Like I said, without a strong understanding of the musical alphabet (the notes on the grand staff), you're going to struggle with some of these higher-level concepts.

    And Happy birthday Mark! You're doing well for 114!
    Sadly, reading the scores is a truly tedious process for me. It's almost as though I have to translate from the page through a mental "guitar filter" (Oh, that's a D. 4th string open) but for each note. There currently isn't any way I could actually read it and play it at the same time. I liken it to walking and chewing gum. There are those of us for whom that creates a serious challenge! I don't really care that much about the latin names of things, etc, but I would like my ears to recognize the things I hear and be able to find them, should I need them. The instrumental only Eleanor Rigby, I think, is more powerful than the released track w/vocals, albeit in a different way. I'll keep plugging away at it, but it's hard to learn new tricks when you are 114

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    Quote Originally Posted by SunnyDee View Post
    Hi, Mark - I've only just learned theory, too. I used an online course with University of Edinburgh and other online sources. I read through the thread quickly and I didn't see the guitar clef mentioned. The one with the the tiny 8 under the treble clef? Are you aware of that one? It shows that the guitar is displaced an octave. It's not always used, but I do think it's important for the learner to know that the middle C on the simple clef in notation is not what you hear when you play that note on the guitar. The middle C is the one you hear on the B string 1st fret on guitar in standard tuning.

    For the keyboard, you don't have to have one, a virtual one or a picture of one will show you what you need to understand the fundamental theory, but when I was learning this, I used an M-Audio controller. With a controller, the keyboard, itself, doesn't make noise. It's hooked to the computer with USB and all the sound comes from software. I used TruePiano software which is quite good and cheap. The whole setup is very useful, easy, and cheap and can be upgraded as you go with better software or with a better controller. It can easily be used to input notes in notation software or to record or to play live. In fact, Billy Joel was using a Kawai controller and Synthogy software, not a piano, in his later years of touring.
    Which clefs were mentioned came from the online study area curriculum I am trying to comprehend, so any lapses were in my not mentioning them. On the keyboard idea, good suggestion. The demonstrations in the online thing are all on keyboard, and it is distracting, as I have to try and mentally transpose what they are trying to demonstrate into "guitar".

  8. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark the Magnificent! View Post
    Sadly, reading the scores is a truly tedious process for me. It's almost as though I have to translate from the page through a mental "guitar filter" (Oh, that's a D. 4th string open) but for each note. There currently isn't any way I could actually read it and play it at the same time. I liken it to walking and chewing gum. There are those of us for whom that creates a serious challenge! I don't really care that much about the latin names of things, etc, but I would like my ears to recognize the things I hear and be able to find them, should I need them. The instrumental only Eleanor Rigby, I think, is more powerful than the released track w/vocals, albeit in a different way. I'll keep plugging away at it, but it's hard to learn new tricks when you are 114

    This is a separate learned skill. I'm just starting on it myself. Over in classical guitar world (such as http://classicalguitardelcamp.com/) when they talk about "learning the fretboard," what they really mean is learning to read and play in time from a score. There's lots of support for learning this if you care to.
    "It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing, or to dance, while the music was being played."

    Lefty Acoustics

    Martin 00-15M
    Taylor 320e Baritone

  9. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by SunnyDee View Post
    This is a separate learned skill. I'm just starting on it myself. Over in classical guitar world (such as http://classicalguitardelcamp.com/) when they talk about "learning the fretboard," what they really mean is learning to read and play in time from a score. There's lots of support for learning this if you care to.
    I'm beginning to think that having learned to play the guitar by ear, such as it is, is interfering with my ability to actually learn to read musical notation. I'm thinking that maybe finding some beginning keyboard instruction would let me better learn to read music, since I would be using it as a roadmap to find my way around on a different instrument. It may be that a part of my problems are that I don't know exactly what I do want/need to learn, and am too impatient to go through the process. Maybe it's just too much self examination The big thing, though, is I'm not really into learning another fiddle tune, although I enjoy them and try to work out versions of them when I play them with other people. I am more after the "whys" of how things work. It may be that my musical education is in a similar point to a young child where every time you tell them something, they ask "Why?" Anyway, I'm giving it a rest for a day or two to see if some of it can sink in, and if I can recharge for another foray into it. Mike may have nailed it, though. I learned to play by ear, and when it comes to theory later on, theory is the enemy!

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    Well, I do agree that you may be too impatient, and possibly too wedded to trying to run everything through your 'guitar filter'. Being able to think in keyboard terms would be very beneficial, but it might also be good to think about theory divorced from any instrument at all. Understanding the notes as they appear on the grand staff and their almost mathematical relationship to one another is possibly fundamental to grasping theory. Then you can translate it to whatever instrument you play.
    Last edited by mcarp555; 07-29-2017 at 05:46 AM.
    Mike
    Militant Left Hander

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