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Music theory and general advice #1941311 08/12/12 09:24 AM
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krixx Offline OP
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Greetings my fellow humans!!! laugh *First post*
I have recently began my musical venture and have a question:

1. at which point in my training should i begin to learn dedicated music theory? before i start physical practice, during physical practice (example 5 days mainly physical prac with theory recaps and 2 days reserved for mainly for theory with some slight physical practice) or should i get a basic/intermediate understanding of how to play before starting to learn dedicated theory? Also any other helpful advice anyone could give me would be greatly appreciated! smile

Apologies if this is not entirely comprehensible, the time is almost 12.30am here and i am quite weary :P

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Re: Music theory and general advice [Re: krixx] #1941401 08/12/12 12:00 PM
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jotur Offline
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Hi, krixx, and welcome. The ABF is a great place for asking questions and sharing your piano adventure!

For me, learning theory is integrated with playing. When you first start, of course, the theory is laying the very basics of what you're playing - the names of the pitches you're playing and where they're located on the written staff, how to name the relative lengths of the pitches you're playing, etc. Learning your way around the piano keys all up and down the keyboard, and where they're located on what is now called the "grand staff" - the treble and bass together. All those things in basic piano-playing books.

But as you go along there's always more - learning to hear the intervals (difference of the pitches) and how they're named, and what they look like on the page. How they are put together in linear steps to form a scale, and how that scales is written on the staff, and how it's indicated as a "key signature", and all the customs of playing/writing it down if it's a pitch that's not within the basic scale of the piece you're playing. But to me, all of that is meaningful and useful and enlightening only if it's being played and played with at the keyboard. As theory outside of playing it's a fun puzzle, perhaps, but kind of goes nowhere. (I have a degree in math, and some higher level theory there feels that way, but much of it has been, ultimately, useful in describing the physical world and how it works, too.)

So I'd say there's no time when the "theory" isn't applied to the keyboard, at all levels. At each stage the theory will begin to be automatic - you'll know the interval and play it without having to name it, and the rhythms resulting from note lengths will be engrained. And then there will be more theory that can be worked out and will become automatic - chord names and usual patterns of chords, etc.

But if you read the jazz threads here you'll find that the process doesn't end laugh There's always new ways of arranging chords, new combinations of linear intervals that make scales, new ways of understanding/making music. It's way too much fun.

Having said that, I spend some time each week, but not every session, not playing pieces but physically applying "theory" - playing chord progressions in different key signatures, for instance. But in every practice session I spend time slowly playing a piece and recognizing the chords I'm playing and the progressions in that piece, so that it becomes an "aha" moment when I see it in a new piece and helps to more quickly learn the new piece. And a little more of that becomes ingrained each time.

Which is a long-winded way of saying I'd learn theory right along with playing, and spend a little time in each practice session figuring out the basic theory behind a piece and trying to recogninze it in several pieces, and then a couple of times a week I'd spend some time dedicated to practicing the theory - sight-reading, scales, chord progressions, transposing, whatever.

But there are those who do scales, etc, every day, and use them not just as theory excercises, but as ways to improve technique - finger dexterity, evenness of tone, rhythms, etc.

So I think theory is realted to playing. For me it's overwhelming to worry very much about extended jazz chords transposed to every key at this point, even tho some of them may be in pieces I play. But if I recognize a little more each time I go along, it's helpful.

I'm sure others will have different experiences from which you can take cues for what works for you!

Cathy


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Re: Music theory and general advice [Re: krixx] #1941481 08/12/12 02:25 PM
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You do the practical and the theoretical together, from the beginning.

Everything you are learning, try to 'keep up' in regards to your ears and brain.

Can you tell us what you've been doing so far to learn the piano and what you plan to do and what your end desires and goals are?

Re: Music theory and general advice [Re: krixx] #1941557 08/12/12 05:00 PM
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Brian Lucas Offline
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Agree with both of them, they go together. Think of theory as an understanding of what you're playing. Simple rote learning won't make you better. Understand what you are learning, and then physically apply that to the keys.

And ask for any help you need along the way.


-Brian
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Re: Music theory and general advice [Re: krixx] #1941694 08/12/12 10:10 PM
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krixx Offline OP
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Hey thanks a lot for the replies guys very helpful i really appreciate it! smile
Para Otras: this is my 3rd day of practice so far and i have just been watching instructional videos on youtube and learning from a book i have, so basically all i have been doing is learning the names of the keys, a few scales and a little bit about tempo and time signatures. Also trying to memorize all of the symbols and what note value they correspond to on the staff. I think its just my usual method of learning that compelled me to ask this question (i like to absorb a lot of theoretical knowledge before partaking in any activity :P ). As for my goals.. well i don't believe in aiming low in anything i would find it very discouraging to do so however, i am trying to approach this modestly. That being said i hope to one day (perhaps in the far future) be composing my own music on the piano and maybe even for groups of instruments.. My "short term" goals would be being able to play some Chopin or Beethoven perhaps. At the moment i am only interested in classical/romantic (hopefully the correct terms) music.
smile

Re: Music theory and general advice [Re: krixx] #1943548 08/16/12 03:26 AM
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MaryAnn Offline
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a little, but not completely, OT: I just read about the melodic minor scale and my head exploded.

Re: Music theory and general advice [Re: krixx] #1943553 08/16/12 03:34 AM
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Together? You need theory to create an interpretation of a piece.


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Re: Music theory and general advice [Re: krixx] #1943559 08/16/12 03:45 AM
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Krixx,

If it is only your third day, stop worrying so much. I will tell you now that worrying about piano will make your playing and learning WORSE. RELAX. It is supposed to be FUN.

What book do you have? Why are you doing scales so soon (there are more important things in the beginning!)?

Don't bother trying to memorize EVERYTHING all at once. Take your time. You don't need to know that incalzando means to get faster and louder if none of your songs are even remotely that expressive yet. Focus on learning things sequentially and within reason.

That said, I would never call 'some Chopin and Beethoven' short-term goals. Beethoven wrote many teaching pieces, but you probably are not thinking of those. Chopin's works are early-advanced as well. Take your time to develop your skills. Those are NOT short-term goals!

Focus on technique and repertoire, and make sure you become a very competent and able reader.

If you are interested in composing your own music, you should learn as much about theory as you can, and then go to a Composition forum and begin to speak to actual composers. There are many good texts out there but they won't be able to teach you everything. You should also expose yourself to other styles, not just Classical and Romantic. Baroque, Contemporary, Jazz, Blues - everything you do will provide a learning experience. You should also begin to research and experiment with improvisation RIGHT NOW. IMMEDIATELY. That is ESSENTIAL to becoming a good composer. It doesn't have to be jazz either, which is what most people usually assume. You can improvise in any style.

Re: Music theory and general advice [Re: krixx] #1943890 08/16/12 01:37 PM
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I learned some of it before playing, then studied more of it as I play.

Re: Music theory and general advice [Re: krixx] #1944888 08/18/12 03:47 AM
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krixx Offline OP
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Para Otras! laugh

Being pedantic is just my style however i will try to take your advice and relax lol. The book i have is just a general guide on playing the piano for beginners, your standard training manual id assume.

What do you suggest i focus on mainly? What will i need to know before i can start to experiment with improv?

The scales are just in between practice when i have 5-10 minutes spare and i assumed that practicing them would aid my technique.
As for my comment about goals what i meant was i have only two goals in mind currently and learning to play some classical pieces would be the shorter term of the two (1-2 years?) in comparison to being able to compose music which would take a lot longer to learn how to do id imagine.

Re: Music theory and general advice [Re: krixx] #1945663 08/19/12 04:38 PM
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Nicholas Mihaila Offline
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If you're not learning them at the same time for whatever reason, I think it'd be better to start off with some theory. It really is important.


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Re: Music theory and general advice [Re: krixx] #1950137 08/27/12 11:54 PM
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alsoTom Offline
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Interesting thread. I am enjoying the read.

Re: Music theory and general advice [Re: krixx] #1950234 08/28/12 06:12 AM
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