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Should I be able to "read" everything on the piece?
#3040469 10/28/20 09:40 PM
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By "read", I mean at ANY point in the piece should I be able to identify what that part is like "oh this is a IV chord, this is an x progression, etc."

I've been self studying music theory during the C19 lockdown and slowly but surely I'm starting to get it as I apply it to pieces that I play. Without a teacher it's really hard to appreciate any theory I study if I can't apply it immediately and make it relevant. But every once in a while I experience a breakthrough like when I saw a series of chords and successfully identified them as just chords inversions going down the keyboard and suddenly the notes became "words" I can just read. It was amazing.

But there are times when I make use of more simple ways to "get" a section like "oh this part is just a two chords with 5th interval and I just need to move my hand position one step to the right". I mean it works to help me remember how to play that part but there was no theory behind it. But is that a correct approach or should I have known to "read" that part?

Just want to get some inputs to what extent people use music theory to learn a piece or if everyone is just kinda managing with their own tricks. Should I strive for complete comprehension of a piece with music theory?

I do like learning music theory I think it helps my brain give the learning process some structure that it can remember. It's just difficult sometimes when I'm reading theory and I have no idea how it is relevant to the pieces I'm actually playing at the moment. Doesn't really help that the lesson is always like "don't worry this comes up all the time in music."

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Re: Should I be able to "read" everything on the piece?
dcbluepiano #3040548 10/29/20 06:11 AM
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>Should I be able to "read" everything on the piece?


It is not clear what you exactly mean by "should"

>Should I strive for complete comprehension of a piece with music theory

In general, you don't NEED to use music theory. It is only a tool to help you understand the structure of the music. And as such it does not apply to all kinds of music.
IF the theory fits the music then it helps to do the analysis. Should is a bit too much, I would say highly recommended.
I play mostly classic music and then this theory should apply. So yes I apply this, especially if the chords start sounding weird, because there the composer is apparently having a special message deserving special attention.
Sometimes composers are deliberately stretching the theory and then you will have a very hard time to make up something fitting the theory. Then it's debatable how useful the resulting analysis is.

>But there are times when I make use of more simple ways to "get" a section like "oh this part is just a two chords with 5th interval and I just need to move my hand position one step to the right".

This suggests you want to use it while PLAYING the piece. That's not the point of music theory imho. There was another thread on this (a month ago?). Generally music theory does not help you to find the keys on the piano.


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Re: Should I be able to "read" everything on the piece?
dcbluepiano #3040557 10/29/20 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by dcbluepiano
By "read", I mean at ANY point in the piece should I be able to identify what that part is like "oh this is a IV chord, this is an x progression, etc."


But there are times when I make use of more simple ways to "get" a section like "oh this part is just a two chords with 5th interval and I just need to move my hand position one step to the right". I mean it works to help me remember how to play that part but there was no theory behind it. But is that a correct approach or should I have known to "read" that part?

Just want to get some inputs to what extent people use music theory to learn a piece or if everyone is just kinda managing with their own tricks. Should I strive for complete comprehension of a piece with music theory?

I do like learning music theory I think it helps my brain give the learning process some structure that it can remember.
If you want to learn theory to a high level by itself (because you enjoy it), that's fine.

But the bottom line is that knowing that a progression of two thick chords (say, in a piece by Debussy) is iiic7 - IV6/4 with two passing notes in contrary motion doesn't help you play the music, which is all about knowing what notes to play, how to play them with finesse and musicality (which of course includes voicing them, and balancing the individual notes in each chord or passage) and understanding what the composer was striving towards.

BTW, I'm talking classical music, not jazz.


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It's just difficult sometimes when I'm reading theory and I have no idea how it is relevant to the pieces I'm actually playing at the moment. Doesn't really help that the lesson is always like "don't worry this comes up all the time in music."
If your priority is actually learning to play (classical) piano well, you don't need to know much theory at all - and you most certainly don't need to analyze every piece you learn to play to the nth degree. With some music (like Für Elise wink ), you can easily (without consciously thinking about it) discern a specific harmonic progression while you're sight-reading through the piece. Common things are common, as your teacher already hinted. With others, you'll just end up knocking your head against a brick wall if you try to analyze it that way. Don't forget that many composers (including those with mediocre piano skills) compose at the piano and make up/invent sounds they like - including by trial & error - without analyzing what it is they're writing down.

How do you think Stravinsky 'discovered' chords like these?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR8wJUnGnaw


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Re: Should I be able to "read" everything on the piece?
dcbluepiano #3040584 10/29/20 09:01 AM
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Ideally, yes. But, it is too much to think about at performance time.

When you're reading you need to understand how notes on the page get interpreted by your hands on the keyboard. Or, if memorizing where do my hands need to be next.

It's quite shallow really. But, theory runs deep and is always there within the composition you're performing.

I think it is better for you as a musician, to have an understanding of how the bigger picture all fits together. It will play a more significant role in the long run. In the short run it may help in your appreciation of the composition. Analysis is done in the background though and as such I agree with earlier comments that there is no immediate pay back in terms of playing ability, at least in the near term.

Balance is important I think. Understanding how to do it does not imply you have to do it with everything you play. If it helps you get it under your fingers, that is great, but generally all this detailed analysis has no relevance at performance time. Simply because, it's too much information and the notes and chords keep coming.

Re: Should I be able to "read" everything on the piece?
dcbluepiano #3040611 10/29/20 09:59 AM
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In the beginning, most learners focus on the things that are written on the page: the clefs, key & time signature, tempo, dynamics and other markings.

Music theory is something that comes later. Part of learning music theory is picking up from a textbook and the other part is ear training. When a beginner look at the key signature and sees 2 sharps or flats in a piece, they just learn the notes. Not many would be able to tell if the piece sounded like it's in D, Bm, Bb or Gm.

Some people like myself tend to memorize a lot initially. Not a lot of effort spend on understanding the chord progressions or how a piece was arranged besides learning the notes and the markings on a page. If a song is written as a lead sheet with just the melody and the letters of the chords on top, we'd make more effort to turn a chord like Cm7 into actual notes C-Eb-G-Bb.

There are things we'd pick up easily like a theme in 1 key repeated in another key. For example: Mozart Sonata #16 in C first movement the theme starts in C. Half way down the same theme is repeated in F (with 1 flat). A lot of pop songs you hear the melody in 1 key and then change to another key. Sounds similar except that it is in a higher or lower pitch. And scale runs are easy to pick out. You see a passage of music that has a starting note and move up the scale or down the scale 1 note at a time such as C-D-E-F-G. Our ears pick up repeated patterns easily.

People who get into writing songs would know what is happening in a piece. A lot of songwriters don't read notations but would come up with interesting melodies & harmonies by ear.

Re: Should I be able to "read" everything on the piece?
dcbluepiano #3040615 10/29/20 10:07 AM
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It helps a lot for memorizing pieces. If you have an inclination for studying theory thoroughly it's a good thing. Just don't go into despair whenever you dont understand something. It takes time

Re: Should I be able to "read" everything on the piece?
dcbluepiano #3040637 10/29/20 10:59 AM
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Are you trying to substitute left hand chords for the score notes? If not are you able to play all the notes with both hands on the scores that you are working on?
Ian


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