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  #41  
Old 03-08-2007, 03:02 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

you absolutly dont need theory training to play the drums well. But the thing is, you neeed to know theory. while dennis chambers may have never taken formal lessons, he could teach a master class at Berklee. you develop your own.

But for some, developing it on your own can take a little more time. And knowing notations like you would learn them in a music theory class would help you communicate musically

i would suggest taking music theory, it definitely doesnt hurt
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  #42  
Old 06-17-2013, 04:13 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

I believe it's a necessity to a certain extent. You should know how to basically count and communicate with your other band members to create more than just music. It allows you to add a complex pattern or sound to your music to create art. But it should not consume you.
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  #43  
Old 06-17-2013, 05:41 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

I don't care what other players do or don't do, know or not know - I don't care if they have theory down or not, use metronomes, rudiments, scales, get lessons, hold the sticks correctly, use the correct strokes, play tasteful fills, etc etc etc.

Bottom line: does their music make my ears happy or make me feel good in some way? Or not? I couldn't give a stuff about how they get there, including use of machines or quantising or whatever. If it works, it works. The fact is that great music can come from players who are taught, untutored, theoretical experts or clueless, etc etc.

People must follow their own path that feels right to them, even if it seems wrong / absurd / sinful / stupid to others. Bands come together and break up on that basis all the time. No judgement from me.
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  #44  
Old 06-17-2013, 11:44 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

Wow, impressive bump!

I'm largely in agreement with Anon; the sound is the thing that matters in the end.

However, to that end, I'm really of the mind that drummers in particular need to spend some time looking at music theory. The reason is that I think we can very easily get caught up in thinking a whole lot of about drums and not very much about what everyone else is doing or about compositions as a whole. Even some very basic study of theory concepts like timbre, pitch, melody and harmony can drastically change the way we approach our instruments and the way we create parts.
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  #45  
Old 06-17-2013, 11:48 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

All drummers should know at least some basic music theory - the black dots and squiggles on a sheet of music!!!!! Very few can get away with it all their lives if they want to get better at drumming. But I also hold to the argument that 'big ears' are just as important when learning.

As some one who spent years in a drum college I can vouch for the benefits and, uhum, frustrations of reading drum music and learning from sheet music.

But, basically, notes and rest are the 'words' we drummers speak. If don't know many notes, you haven't got much to say!!

Learn the basics at least!

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  #46  
Old 06-18-2013, 03:48 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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Originally Posted by khanedeliac View Post
Technique and theory can get in the way, because it keeps people in certain boundaries if they feel like " I cant do that becuase its not "correct" .
If it doesn't work, it isn't a very good theory!
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  #47  
Old 06-18-2013, 04:00 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

Music theory is important. By understanding how music works and how it creates the effects it does enables us as musicians to make better music, end of story.

That being said, there is one major problem (sorry) with theory. It is not based on how people hear. Music is not about which note goes in which order, or about how long you should hold this note relative to that one. Music is about how it affects the listeners.

In other words, formal music theory is all about the notes, but music is all about how the notes feel. In the present system, you study the notes enough so that later you can just feel them. This works, but how the music feels should be integrated at all levels of instruction and participation.

Emphasizing feel helps to alleviate problems of people worried if the music is 'correct' or not - the answer of whether it is correct is clear: Did it feel right?

This is the primary objection to music theory. Theory is nearly always taught in a way that focuses on the notes at the expense of feeling, and this is a very very good objection. I have a friend who has toured with Stevie Wonder, Erikah Badu, etc who never learned to read for the same reason.

But it doesn't have to be this way. The trick is to do both, and learning about the theory f how things relate enables musicians to express themselves more effectively. imho.

The other problem with theory is that rhythm is ignored.
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  #48  
Old 06-18-2013, 09:15 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

Working with people who don't know basic theory can be a real PITA. Makes communication so much more difficult. If a player has an issue with it that's his ego talking. I'd view it as an opportunity to learn and not something to be threatened by.

It's nice to be able to say something and make it work instantly instead of spending 2 hours full of misunderstandings with something.
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  #49  
Old 06-18-2013, 09:35 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

I'm going to have to go against popular opinion on Page 2 here. Sure, being able to read music might help you in a progressive band playing in swinging odd time signatures.

But none of the Beatles could read music early on. Jimi Hendrix couldn't read music. Lionel Richie. Stevie Wonder. Slash. Metallica. Stevie Ray Vaughn.

I don't think many bands, prog or otherwise, outsell musicians like that.

I think the music industry is rapidly progressing on some sort of elitist, dystopian path. There's this new school of thought doing the rounds, that if you're not from Berkeley (or perhaps a few other institutions), you're not allowed a leg in the door in the music industry.

It helps to be able to read music. But I'd rather play with a guy that knows what a situation calls for musically and how to add to it instead of an automaton that will just follow the path blazed by the rest of the herd he's following.

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  #50  
Old 06-18-2013, 09:43 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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Originally Posted by Reggae_Mangle View Post
I'm going to have to go against popular opinion here. Sure, being able to read music might help you in a progressive band playing in swinging odd time signatures.

But none of the Beatles could read music early on. Jimi Hendrix couldn't read music. Lionel Richie. Stevie Wonder. Slash. Metallica. Stevie Ray Vaughn.

I don't think many bands, prog or otherwise, outsell musicians like that.

I think the music industry is rapidly progressing on some sort of elitist, dystopian path. There's this new school of thought doing the rounds, that if you're not from Berkeley (or perhaps a few other institutions), you're not allowed a leg in the door in the music industry.

It helps to be able to read music. But I'd rather play with a guy that knows what a situation calls for musically and how to add to it instead of an automaton that will just follow the path blazed by the rest of the herd he's following.

- Reggae Mangle
I think you're partly right. Ideas trump technique and the rules every time. The people you talked about had (or have) great ideas. But if you're a working musician, being able to communicate with other musicians is a good thing. If you think learning theory, or reading in general is bad because it will kill the idea, I don't know if I agree with you there.

I especially don't agree with your statement that the music industry is on some elitist path. Have you listened to the radio lately? There's so much crap on the airwaves I call it 'lowest common denominator' radio. It's like if you're good you're locked out ;)

But then again, what do I know? I just play drums ;)
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  #51  
Old 06-18-2013, 10:01 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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Originally Posted by Reggae_Mangle View Post
I'm going to have to go against popular opinion on Page 2 here. Sure, being able to read music might help you in a progressive band playing in swinging odd time signatures.

But none of the Beatles could read music early on.
Why'd they bother to learn?

Anyway, music theory covers far more than reading music. You don't need to read music to think about how pitch, rhythm or timbre effect mood and emotion in the listener. I think this is much like the case of rudiments, to which Alan Dawson allegedly said, "“There are two types of drummers: those who play rudiments and know it, and those who play rudiments but don’t know it.” Substitute "music theory" for "rudiments" and it about sums it up.

If you're making a musical choice to play this instead of that to get a certain effect, your reasons constitute a kind of music theory. In such cases we're generally making a guess about how the notes we play are going to effect the composition and the listener. This guess -- or theory -- may be based in experience, intuition or formal study of particular musical theories.

When I say that I think drummers ought to study music theory, I mostly mean that we need to get out of the trap of always thinking about "how" to play and start thinking a lot more about "what, when and why" to play certain things. I mean that we need to start thinking more like composers and have some idea about what on earth the other people in the band are doing and how they view what we do.

Last edited by Boomka; 06-18-2013 at 11:00 AM.
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  #52  
Old 06-18-2013, 10:47 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

Elitist path?

You mean this stuff right?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbPED9bisSc

or this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dySlnmvXC4
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  #53  
Old 06-18-2013, 10:55 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

Yeah, in a lot of cases exactly the opposite is happening. It's possible to take someone with very little musical experience or skill and make them sound "good" using electronic devices. Every band has perfect time and all young drummers play perfectly even backbeats while every note is sung perfectly in tune...
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  #54  
Old 06-18-2013, 11:29 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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Originally Posted by Boomka View Post
Yeah, in a lot of cases exactly the opposite is happening. It's possible to take someone with very little musical experience or skill and make them sound "good" using electronic devices. Every band has perfect time and all young drummers play perfectly even backbeats while every note is sung perfectly in tune...
I would think the person writing the music, aka the producer, has to have some knowledge of music theory. I'm not saying a lot of it.....

Poor example here, Lady Gaga (can't believe I'm using her) is a classically trained pianist and went to TSOA. I'm sure she knows theory, she writes her own music, and she sells lots of records. Not to me, but you get where I'm going with this.....

Like others have stated, I feel that theory is good to know, even for us drummers, but theory doesn't give you feeling.....
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  #55  
Old 06-18-2013, 11:42 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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I would think the person writing the music, aka the producer, has to have some knowledge of music theory. I'm not saying a lot of it.....

Poor example here, Lady Gaga (can't believe I'm using her) is a classically trained pianist and went to TSOA. I'm sure she knows theory, she writes her own music, and she sells lots of records. Not to me, but you get where I'm going with this.....

Like others have stated, I feel that theory is good to know, even for us drummers, but theory doesn't give you feeling.....
Oh yeah, there are lots of examples like that as well. You're absolutely right, it's likely that someone in the production chain knows a little something about music theory whether the performers do or not. And whether or not it's as formal as Lady Gaga's training, there is some conception about how the parts of a band/tune fit together to deliver a message.
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  #56  
Old 06-18-2013, 12:47 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

This is another version of the "you need to be able to read" and "technique vs. feel" threads from about two weeks ago.

The answer is the same: If you're a great musician, whether you can read/know theory/have technique vs feel makes no difference.

But here in the real world that most of us inhabit, it's hard to think of a situation where more knowledge could ever be anything but another arrow in the quiver to use or ignore.

Is there honestly going to be a situation where knowing more of anything is ever a drawback?
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  #57  
Old 06-18-2013, 05:06 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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Originally Posted by Bo Eder View Post
I think you're partly right. Ideas trump technique and the rules every time. The people you talked about had (or have) great ideas. But if you're a working musician, being able to communicate with other musicians is a good thing. If you think learning theory, or reading in general is bad because it will kill the idea, I don't know if I agree with you there.

I especially don't agree with your statement that the music industry is on some elitist path. Have you listened to the radio lately? There's so much crap on the airwaves I call it 'lowest common denominator' radio. It's like if you're good you're locked out ;)

But then again, what do I know? I just play drums ;)
I, for one, think it's awesome to be able to read music. Or have any kind of knowledge :)

It might actually shock you how many of those guys that are on the airwaves are on Berkeley. Or win music awards and things. Just something I heard, something I heard on the grapevine...

I always wanted to go to Berkeley. Talent aside, I could never afford it. Hence, elitist, from an Oliver Twist perspective of the world. I mean, look at Dream Theater. All it took was Mangini for them to get a Grammy :o

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  #58  
Old 06-18-2013, 06:13 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

That does not take anything away from the achievement of winning a Grammy or being successful in the music biz. But there's hints of an "old-boy" referral system in place, similar to what was seen in the Army, and I have no clue whether that system is in vogue in the Army today or in the music industry.

I do agree though that quality is in the toilet. I mean, read music to play Justin Bieber tracks? Leaving aside the benefits of paying the bills...

I totally agree with Odd-Arne Oseberg anf Boomka. My point is not "don't read music, it's bad for you". It will definitely benefit you and help you understand some of the "relations" between "music" (similar to notes in sequences) and "art" (beautiful notes in sequences).

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  #59  
Old 06-18-2013, 06:14 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

I've always found that it can't hurt to know more about your instrument. Some things may be worth more than others, you gotta know the right things. But again, why not learn as much as you can about your instrument?
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  #60  
Old 06-18-2013, 07:06 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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Originally Posted by MrInsanePolack View Post

Like others have stated, I feel that theory is good to know, even for us drummers, but theory doesn't give you feeling.....
Bottom line: The feeling is what matters. Playing with feeling is both necessary and sufficient to make good music,

Music theory is designed to describe how music creates feeling but does an incomplete job of it. Knowing music theory gives musicians more tools to express themselves and play better stuff.

It does not say *anything* about the actual performance of music, yet. It restricts itself entirely to what can be written in staff notation - which is a form of data compression where more of the components of a good performance are lost.

But, in the limited scope that music theory has anything to say about (i.e. how pitches relate on paper) it is very useful and powerful. It also provides musicians with tools to communicate with other musicians and is more than worthwhile the effort to understand.
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  #61  
Old 06-19-2013, 02:46 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

Does knowing how to read and write hinder you from being able to think or speak?

Written music is simply a tool to communicate and share knowledge. If you can read you can read you can take advanntage of a huge amount of knowledge on pretty much any conceivable musical concept.

Obviously, the average person today seems incapable of any sort of independent thought, but that's about someting different, which usually stems from lack of knowledge as well. lol


Offcourse there is a problem with being totally dependent on a piece of paper, too. I remember back at university when I wanted to play a simple blues based rock tune and the drummer was almost shock that I didn't bring some written music. Some things is expected that a musician should be able to do spontaneously. I had also sent out an mp3 of the song long before, so if it was that important................

Certain skills should be expected of any musician with a bit of experience and more knowledge of any kind never hurt anyone except for the obligatory envious slander that sometimes ensues when someone gets really good at something. That's however a discussion for another day.
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  #62  
Old 06-19-2013, 02:50 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

My feeling about music theory is that, while it's no substitute for creativity, it does provide a solid framework for problem solving, i.e. if something doesn't sound 'right', a grasp of the theory can help explain why.
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  #63  
Old 06-19-2013, 10:59 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

If you want to be a drummer then NO you do not need music theory.

If you want to be a musician who happens to play the drums they ABSOLUTELY YES you need to know and understand music theory.
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  #64  
Old 06-20-2013, 01:40 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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I've always found that it can't hurt to know more about your instrument. Some things may be worth more than others, you gotta know the right things. But again, why not learn as much as you can about your instrument?
Exactly ...I am missing so much and believe I could learn a lot smarter and faster with with the knowledge of reading in my tool box...
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  #65  
Old 06-20-2013, 02:00 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

Theory is not at all necessary for a drummer to know. 'Feel', on the other hand, is.

Knowing some theory can help greatly, but you don't NEED it
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  #66  
Old 06-20-2013, 02:11 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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Theory is not at all necessary for a drummer to know. 'Feel', on the other hand, is.

Knowing some theory can help greatly, but you don't NEED it
That is my line of thought too. It's something that can supplement the learning process. But there is no substitute to the learning process itself. Theory can only get you so far. Practical application in the real world can be a substitute for learning by rote.

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  #67  
Old 06-20-2013, 03:06 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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Theory is not at all necessary for a drummer to know. 'Feel', on the other hand, is.

Knowing some theory can help greatly, but you don't NEED it
Quote:
Originally Posted by Reggae_Mangle View Post
That is my line of thought too. It's something that can supplement the learning process. But there is no substitute to the learning process itself. Theory can only get you so far. Practical application in the real world can be a substitute for learning by rote.

- Reggae Mangle
Can you define feel without reference to concepts which fall under music theory?
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Old 06-20-2013, 11:00 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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Can you define feel without reference to concepts which fall under music theory?
I don't think you can define feel WITH concepts of music theory, or really by any means that come to mind. Feel, to me, is not something you should have to learn. It's just something you have or don't have. Kind of like common sense.

When you're at a live show, and you see the one guy tapping his foot, way out of time, and sporadically - That guy doen't have feel. Sure, he can study theory as much as he wants, and he can spend all of his money on the best music teacher he can afford, but it's not likely that he will develop the kind of feel necessary to be more than just a mediocre musician.

I know this, because a very good friend of mine IS that guy. He took years of piano lessons, and has been playing music his entire life, but he still doesn't have the 'feel' for it. He knows much more about music theory than I probably ever will, but he cannot translate it over into playing, because he lacks that, almost instinctual sense of musicianship.
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Old 06-20-2013, 11:11 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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I don't think you can define feel WITH concepts of music theory, or really by any means that come to mind. Feel, to me, is not something you should have to learn. It's just something you have or don't have. Kind of like common sense.

When you're at a live show, and you see the one guy tapping his foot, way out of time, and sporadically - That guy doen't have feel. Sure, he can study theory as much as he wants, and he can spend all of his money on the best music teacher he can afford, but it's not likely that he will develop the kind of feel necessary to be more than just a mediocre musician.

I know this, because a very good friend of mine IS that guy. He took years of piano lessons, and has been playing music his entire life, but he still doesn't have the 'feel' for it. He knows much more about music theory than I probably ever will, but he cannot translate it over into playing, because he lacks that, almost instinctual sense of musicianship.
I agree with this. I too know a guy, guitar player, who spent years learning to play solos. He reads well, can talk guitar tech and theory, but can't play a basic riff to save his life. His solos are amazing, but what good is that if you can't play the rest of the song that leads up to the solo?
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Old 06-20-2013, 11:26 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

So, you're telling me you can't define "feel" in music?

Then how do we know good feel from bad feel?
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  #71  
Old 06-20-2013, 11:37 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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I don't think you can define feel WITH concepts of music theory, or really by any means that come to mind. Feel, to me, is not something you should have to learn. It's just something you have or don't have. Kind of like common sense.

When you're at a live show, and you see the one guy tapping his foot, way out of time, and sporadically - That guy doen't have feel. Sure, he can study theory as much as he wants, and he can spend all of his money on the best music teacher he can afford, but it's not likely that he will develop the kind of feel necessary to be more than just a mediocre musician.

I know this, because a very good friend of mine IS that guy. He took years of piano lessons, and has been playing music his entire life, but he still doesn't have the 'feel' for it. He knows much more about music theory than I probably ever will, but he cannot translate it over into playing, because he lacks that, almost instinctual sense of musicianship.
So the example of this friend of yours proves this situation to be true in all cases?

In the time the OP took to read this thread, he could have learned to count 16ths, play 20 chords in the key of C major, and learned a blues scale.

The rare exceptions that have limited knowledge of music theory are overwhelmingly from generations ago or don't last very long in the business. If the OP wishes to have this kind of "lottery ticket" success, then he should ignore theory.

If, however, he has a realistic idea of the expectations of the modern music world, has any desire to continue to perform with skilled players, wants to teach, or wants music to be anything more than a pastime or hobby, then he should learn theory, and lots of it. He should find a teacher that knows and likes to teach the theory behind the songs as well.

Learning to compose and arrange the latest pop tune does require theory, btw. Does anyone think the producers and engineers that work on those records don't understand harmony?

Does anyone realize how much theory that most big name drummers actually know?
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  #72  
Old 06-20-2013, 11:56 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

Necessity? No.

Helpful? yes.

Do I wish I knew more theory? Hell yes.

I took classes way back when, but I got so busy gigging, I never had much reason to apply them, so I've forgotten most of what I learned.
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Old 06-20-2013, 11:59 PM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

" music theory: a necessity for drummers?"


Yes.
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Old 06-21-2013, 12:32 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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So the example of this friend of yours proves this situation to be true in all cases?

In the time the OP took to read this thread, he could have learned to count 16ths, play 20 chords in the key of C major, and learned a blues scale.

The rare exceptions that have limited knowledge of music theory are overwhelmingly from generations ago or don't last very long in the business. If the OP wishes to have this kind of "lottery ticket" success, then he should ignore theory.

If, however, he has a realistic idea of the expectations of the modern music world, has any desire to continue to perform with skilled players, wants to teach, or wants music to be anything more than a pastime or hobby, then he should learn theory, and lots of it. He should find a teacher that knows and likes to teach the theory behind the songs as well.

Learning to compose and arrange the latest pop tune does require theory, btw. Does anyone think the producers and engineers that work on those records don't understand harmony?

Does anyone realize how much theory that most big name drummers actually know?
The fact that this is your response just proves that you didn't understand and/or take from my statement, what was meant to be the message.

Point is, nothing that you do in music REQUIRES the knowledge of music theory, but having that knowledge is extremely helpful. You don't HAVE to know theory to know how to count, or what chord sounds good with the previous one. It just makes it easier to communicate things, and makes the writing process faster. Gives you a better ability to improvise and make key and tempo changes and such, but some music just doesn't call for it.

While you may have an extensive knowledge of theory, musicians like Dave Grohl have made a much bigger impact on everybody's lives with their music than you likely ever will, and he has admitted to not using theory when writing music. Heck, he said this in a press converence:

“I’m not a director. I’m not a drummer. I’m not a guitar player. I fake all of these things. I never took lessons to do any of this shit. I don’t know — I can’t read music. I hold my drumsticks backwards. I don’t know what a director is. But I do know, if you sit down with a clear idea of what you want to do, if it’s in your head and you can actualize it or visualize it… well, then, you wind up with something that makes sense.”

You don't need it. It's nice to have, but you don't need it.

Last edited by TColumbia37; 06-21-2013 at 12:55 AM.
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Old 06-21-2013, 12:35 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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Does anyone realize how much theory that most big name drummers actually know?
Or better yet, how much theory do untrained musicians not know that they know? If you spend enough time with music, you will learn things that work and things that don't. But until you sit down and learn why, your practice is good but your understanding of the theory behind it is not.
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Old 06-21-2013, 01:00 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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Point is, nothing that you do in music REQUIRES the knowledge of music theory, but having that knowledge is extremely helpful. You don't HAVE to know theory to know how to count, or what chord sounds good with the previous one. It just makes it easier to communicate things, and makes the writing process faster. Gives you a better ability to improvise and make key and tempo changes and such, but some music just doesn't call for it.
Which is actually a form of theory. If you know that D works well with G, then you've actually learned some theory.

Quote:
While you may have an extensive knowledge of theory, musicians like Dave Grohl have made a much bigger impact on everybody's lives with his music than you likely ever will, and he has admitted to not using theory when writing music. Heck, he said this in a press converence:
I've got all of the time in the World for Dave Grohl. I absolutely have. If you are serious about becoming a professional drummer though, you have to learn theory - unless you rely on 'lottery ticket' success. The simple fact is that the majority of working musicians have extensive knowledge of theory and that is the case for a very good reason. It gives musicians a universal language by which to communicate musical ideas extramusically. If I say to you that 'play an A chord, then an F minor' and then ask you to change the F minor to an F minor 7 and then ask you to change the first chord to a G but to keep the same scale interval in the chord progression - which is a very common musical situation - without at least some knowledge of theory, you're stuffed.

As drummers, we operate outside of conventional melodic and harmonic theory and in Western music, our sense of rhythm and sophistication of rhythm is - in global terms - fairly basic. As a result, we as drummers think we can get away without learning basic theory and - quite simply - if you're serious about becoming a drummer, unless you are very lucky - you're not going to get anywhere unless you understand theory. No, it's not necessary in the strict sense of the word but it still amazes me that drummers consider themselves somehow different from other musicians when it comes to learning theory.
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Old 06-21-2013, 01:13 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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Which is actually a form of theory. If you know that D works well with G, then you've actually learned some theory.
That is, assuming that you know what chords you are actually playing. Almost anything somebody does musically can be broken down theoretically, but that doesn't mean that any amount of theory was used to create the piece.

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Originally Posted by BacteriumFendYoke View Post
I've got all of the time in the World for Dave Grohl. I absolutely have. If you are serious about becoming a professional drummer though, you have to learn theory - unless you rely on 'lottery ticket' success. The simple fact is that the majority of working musicians have extensive knowledge of theory and that is the case for a very good reason. It gives musicians a universal language by which to communicate musical ideas extramusically. If I say to you that 'play an A chord, then an F minor' and then ask you to change the F minor to an F minor 7 and then ask you to change the first chord to a G but to keep the same scale interval in the chord progression - which is a very common musical situation - without at least some knowledge of theory, you're stuffed.

As drummers, we operate outside of conventional melodic and harmonic theory and in Western music, our sense of rhythm and sophistication of rhythm is - in global terms - fairly basic. As a result, we as drummers think we can get away without learning basic theory and - quite simply - if you're serious about becoming a drummer, unless you are very lucky - you're not going to get anywhere unless you understand theory. No, it's not necessary in the strict sense of the word but it still amazes me that drummers consider themselves somehow different from other musicians when it comes to learning theory.
Don't get me wrong, I know basic theory, and I utilize it in my playing and writing, but I don't think for a second that I'm a better musician because of it. I just know that it makes getting to the end result quicker, and makes the communication of it easier.

And, statistically speaking, unless you are very lucky, you're not going to get very far even if you DO have an extensive knowledge of theory. You may have a couple of international tours, or have a stint of popularity and acknowledgement, but you're likely just going to end up as another one that just 'didn't quite make it'.
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Old 06-21-2013, 01:38 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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Originally Posted by TColumbia37 View Post
And, statistically speaking, unless you are very lucky, you're not going to get very far even if you DO have an extensive knowledge of theory. You may have a couple of international tours, or have a stint of popularity and acknowledgement, but you're likely just going to end up as another one that just 'didn't quite make it'.
You're confusing the heady World of Rock and Roll with my experience of music theory in general. As with any career, a good deal of luck will get you the best positions and there are plenty that fail at a music career even with traditional musical training. 'Success' as you describe it, though, is a very narrow definition. Your definition assumes that playing music will be your sole - or at least major - source of income. For most musicians, this is not the case. Most musicians that I know (and I know a fair few, believe me) make their livings from teaching or lecturing. There are a maybe one or two that my brother (a serious Pianist) knew that are also performers but to make a viable career from music does not mean that you have to go on international tours.

I went to University and my degree (Music Technology) ran in parallel to the music degree. Within those that completed the music degree, those that spent the time perfecting their knowledge of theory (it was already a prerequisite) and worked hard with their instrument were universally those that came out of the degree with the prospect of a career in music - performing or otherwise. At least in the UK, most school music teachers will have to have a high level of theoretical expertise - otherwise they can't get the qualification to teach in a school (for better or for worse). I can corroborate this because my ex-girlfriend and at least three other people that I know are now teaching music in schools. Teaching a specific instrument depends upon the instrument but if it's anything orchestral or even on the fringes of being orchestral, then if you don't know theory, then you haven't got a career.

The only instrumental community that I know of where it's possible to have a teaching career as a private tutor and still not know traditional theory is amongst drummers. Any decent guitar teacher will know some, bass players, keyboard players and almost any other instrument you care to mention will have to have some theoretical practise. On the drums, the best teachers do but there are still many that don't and I find that surprising.

So no. Not strictly necessary in the literal sense of the word but if we look at drums, we are very much the exception in the larger Western musical World. If you tried teaching the Violin and admitted to not being able to read, you would be laughed at mercilessly.
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Old 06-21-2013, 01:50 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

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You're confusing the heady World of Rock and Roll with my experience of music theory in general. As with any career, a good deal of luck will get you the best positions and there are plenty that fail at a music career even with traditional musical training. 'Success' as you describe it, though, is a very narrow definition. Your definition assumes that playing music will be your sole - or at least major - source of income. For most musicians, this is not the case. Most musicians that I know (and I know a fair few, believe me) make their livings from teaching or lecturing. There are a maybe one or two that my brother (a serious Pianist) knew that are also performers but to make a viable career from music does not mean that you have to go on international tours.

I went to University and my degree (Music Technology) ran in parallel to the music degree. Within those that completed the music degree, those that spent the time perfecting their knowledge of theory (it was already a prerequisite) and worked hard with their instrument were universally those that came out of the degree with the prospect of a career in music - performing or otherwise. At least in the UK, most school music teachers will have to have a high level of theoretical expertise - otherwise they can't get the qualification to teach in a school (for better or for worse). I can corroborate this because my ex-girlfriend and at least three other people that I know are now teaching music in schools. Teaching a specific instrument depends upon the instrument but if it's anything orchestral or even on the fringes of being orchestral, then if you don't know theory, then you haven't got a career.

The only instrumental community that I know of where it's possible to have a teaching career as a private tutor and still not know traditional theory is amongst drummers. Any decent guitar teacher will know some, bass players, keyboard players and almost any other instrument you care to mention will have to have some theoretical practise. On the drums, the best teachers do but there are still many that don't and I find that surprising.

So no. Not strictly necessary in the literal sense of the word but if we look at drums, we are very much the exception in the larger Western musical World. If you tried teaching the Violin and admitted to not being able to read, you would be laughed at mercilessly.
I guess I never considered teaching to be a good career in music, as I never want to teach music. I just don't have the patience for it. Then, I agree in the sense that, if you ever want to teach music, that having a good knowledge of theory is a must.

I still stand by my ideals in that, in performing and writing music, theory is not necessary.

I'll just chalk up debating about music theory right next to debating about religion and politics on my list of things you should never do on the internet.
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Old 06-21-2013, 01:51 AM
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Default Re: music theory: a necessity for drummers

I might have told this story before, about the TV bank commercial jingle. Everyone's set up in the nice big studio, I'm in my little room with my headphones on, looking through the glass, we've all got our charts and we're all tuned up and ready to go. We start. We stop. We start. We stop. The pedal steel player's a young guy I've never seen before. The producer says "Come back into the control room, we'll dub you in later." Kid has that "I'm dead" smile on his face. He knows he won't get called back. He can't read. It's just assumed that studio players can read. This kid is dead. Time has been wasted, the producer is pissed off.

I didn't know how he felt, the kid, because that had never happened to me.

It's your choice.
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