“I could do X, Y, and Z amazing things…

…if only I knew music theory.”

How often have I heard players say something along these lines. That if only they knew Jazz theory, their lines would have weight and meaning.

Conversely, people also commonly misattribute these ideas to great players: “Coltrane must have a technical explanation for every note he played and their roles.” This flawed perception usually continues:”So I must know all the reasons and explanations for using a note before I can meaningfully chose a note”

WHAT? Hold the train folks. Or hold the ‘Trane. Let’s back up a second.

Music is about feeling. It is about scratching at itches deep inside your self. In your soul if you will. Many great players don’t think of convoluted reasons for their notes. They just sound good to the performer, or something along the lines of those notes were the color notes of the chord or just made sense by the melody.

I will say there is a great way to use music theory and a reason to know it, and let’s just start with that.

Music Theory is a language for reaching a mutual understanding with

The names of the western scales, chords and pitches give players a way to specify a set of pitches common to the piece of music, and to delineate harmony and melody. This is your key or tonal center. Homebase if you will. Then, added in to that are names and symbols to describe the rhythm or duration of the pitches. Together, they form a systematic way to talk about musical ideas as well as to quickly and efficiently communicate musical material to other people.

One of the best ways to communicate amongst musicians is to use the languages of music theory.

Now about the other face of music theory, the so-called “rules” aspect.

Music theory has no rules for music. It is not the rules of music and it is not a guideline for how to write music.

Music theory is an explanation of the common musical practices and tools that explain a set of music that people have written.

The music that people wrote may arbitrarily seem to adhere to specific sets of rules and guidelines in how the music moves and is executed. It may also involve some techniques and not others. Or certain instruments and not others.

There are many music theories, which are comprised of various instruments, tuning systems/intonations, languages, patterns, ideas, intervals and even tools and techniques.

Music theory for Electronic Dance Music is going to be functionally different than the music theory of Classical Greek music.

A music theory attempts to explain and analyze the characteristics and tendencies that make that type of music uniquely itself, although they may share characteristics with other styles.

For example, many styles of music use bowed instruments such as violins or spike fiddles; but how they are used will vary greatly.

Turkish Classical music uses different tools and practices than European Classical music uses.

There are Jazz theories, Pop theories, Regional and diverse local music theories of many cultures. Blues theory, metal theory, rock theory..

All of the theory is written AFTERWARDS. It is written to explain the exciting music that has come about from beautiful souls putting new and old ideas together to conjure up new approaches to sound and music.

Music and Music theory are a little dance: Creative people play new ideas, techniques, blendings and variations. New or altered tools and rules and perspectives come in to the mix.

I write this to encourage you to make YOUR music now.

Don’t worry what rule set your music adheres to.

It hurts nothing whether it is specificly mambo or specificly pop or specificly blues or jazz.

You are that beautiful soul. That creature, that person who can and perhaps will make that new inspiring music, or start that new infectious style.

Once you do what you do, people can begin to explain and decode it in to words and symbols, in to music theory!

Write your music – don’t worry about the rules – and we can find ways to explain it later.

However, whatever music you make or wish to make, I urge you to consider learning the language of the music.

Knowing how to talk about the music and its parts will empower you to communicate your ideas to the people and the performers.

What will your new genre or music theory be about?

Don’t let the “rules” hold you back!!

Until next time, Play some theoretical notes

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