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greghagger

What do you struggle with in regards to music theory?

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Posted (edited)

Out of interest, do you have an area of music theory that you particularly struggle to understand?  
 

Do you feel that it is holding you back in developing as a bass player too? 

Edited by greghagger
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Nah, theory is the least of my problems. It's not rocket science.

I'd put down my inherent limits to physical dexterity/co-ordination, memorisation of complex lines and ear training as my primary issues.

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45 minutes ago, nilebodgers said:

Nah, theory is the least of my problems. It's not rocket science.

I'd put down my inherent limits to physical dexterity/co-ordination, memorisation of complex lines and ear training as my primary issues.

Interesting, good to hear your story about your limitations...

You are totally correct, none of it is rocket science, even technique or ear training.  It is just knuckling down to some hard work and practice.  

But all elements of music improve you as a musician.  Knowing music theory can be a brilliant aid to help train your ear too!  Think of interval training for example.   But it sounds like you’ve got the music theory covered so good for you! 

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I'm trying to analyse 'exceptions' a bit more, like if there are chords that don't fit in the key I'm trying to not just skim over but see if I can explain them as secondary dominants, modal interchange etc. Also working on hearing secondary dominants better within the original key. Am hoping that by doing this I'll start to join some dots.. being interested in it is making me study more tunes, so I wouldn't say it's holding me back.

Caroline

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Chord substitutions. I just don't get the concept, either the how or the why.

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8 minutes ago, spike said:

Chord substitutions. I just don't get the concept, either the how or the why.

John Robson Guitar Tuition on YouTube has been doing a series of videos on chord progressions and substitutions - parallel minor keys, modal interchange, tritone, secondary dominants etc. but all done in the context of common rock/pop songs. It's the most accessible treatment that I've seen and only has theory that you'd need.

e.g. Tritone:

(John is from the same part of the world as me and I remember trips to his home town, Redcar, when I was a lad.)

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I don’t struggle with music theory as such, the last 3 or 4 years I’ve read up and included it into my practice routine and I’ve learned a lot, I think  you could devote a lifetime studying it , what I do struggle with a bit is what to learn that is relevant to what I play (reggae) , working on my pentatonics was a great help.

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4 hours ago, Reggaebass said:

I don’t struggle with music theory as such, the last 3 or 4 years I’ve read up and included it into my practice routine and I’ve learned a lot, I think  you could devote a lifetime studying it , what I do struggle with a bit is what to learn that is relevant to what I play (reggae) , working on my pentatonics was a great help.

Reggaebass this has been my biggest music theory struggle with reggae so far, at 1.15 in Is This Love on 'I wanna KNOW' Aston Barrett plays a minor 7th bass note over the major 7th melody.. and keeps doing it!! It sounds a bit weird but he somehow totally pulls it off... swag!

 

 

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52 minutes ago, Caz said:

Reggaebass this has been my biggest music theory struggle with reggae so far, at 1.15 in Is This Love on 'I wanna KNOW' Aston Barrett plays a minor 7th bass note over the major 7th melody.. and keeps doing it!! It sounds a bit weird but he somehow totally pulls it off... swag!

 

 

I haven’t played that for a while and just listened to it, he pulls it off nicely and also plays just behind the beat in certain parts, an amazing player if you listen closely to the way he plays, like you say, he’s definitely got some swag 🙂, really nice playing there by yourself caz 👍

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I'm having trouble getting my head around sight reading in anything other than C. I understand the theory and can figure it out over time and have a circle of 5ths drawn out but quickly sight reading something is in say E major and remembering needing to sharp every straight C D F G does not compute (unless I'm just paying an E major scale) ... Especially when those notes then also have a sharp or flat next to them, then one further in the bar doesn't. 

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Modes .... 

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12 hours ago, spike said:

Chord substitutions. I just don't get the concept, either the how or the why.

It’s to open up options.  For example you can use substitutions to get smoother and more interesting walking lines or give more options for the soloists. 

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20 minutes ago, SumOne said:

I'm having trouble getting my head around sight reading in anything other than C. I understand the theory and can figure it out over time and have a circle of 5ths drawn out but quickly sight reading something is in say E major and remembering needing to sharp every straight C D F G does not compute (unless I'm just paying an E major scale) ... Especially when those notes then also have a sharp or flat next to them, then one further in the bar doesn't. 

That’s a common issue. Start playing exercises in G Major and then move onto D Major, etc. and then do the same in the flat keys starting on F Major.  Over time you will become more confident with different keys. 

Also remember that a sharp or flat (and natural) sign lasts for a whole bar. 

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14 minutes ago, Geek99 said:

Modes .... 

Not sure if it’s any help and Greg will probably explain it better, but I started with this, I memorised the shapes first and then the notes and applied it all over the fretboard 

7B711763-A671-4F19-9FA9-76F462D9BE61.jpeg

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26 minutes ago, Reggaebass said:

Not sure if it’s any help and Greg will probably explain it better, but I started with this, I memorised the shapes first and then the notes and applied it all over the fretboard 

7B711763-A671-4F19-9FA9-76F462D9BE61.jpeg

That’s definitely a useful system for learning the modes @Reggaebass

If we are talking purely for sight reading purposes then learning key centres and the sharps and flats in each key is more useful.  Just for this particular situation though. 
 

An understanding of the modes and the different patterns will of course help with other areas of playing though. 

 

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Posted (edited)

Yes, thank you @Reggaebass, but I think it’s the “why” really. 30 years ago a teacher said to me “just learn the shapes” and then you can end formulaically playing in the same positions for each chord in each key; and possibly also avoiding certain keys due to an unwillingness to play certain positions. Learning boxes isn’t the answer in my very humble opinion 

Edited by Geek99
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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, Geek99 said:

Learning boxes isn’t the answer in my very humble opinion 

Personally It helped me to learn the shapes, notes and positions, and improved my playing, it was a starting point really, but it’s not for everyone 

Edited by Reggaebass
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6 minutes ago, Reggaebass said:

Personally It helped me to learn the shapes, notes and positions, and improved my playing, it was a starting point really, but it’s not for everyone 

Yes but I’m the kind of person that likes to take things apart and then put them back together; I have to understand why 

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12 minutes ago, Geek99 said:

Yes but I’m the kind of person that likes to take things apart and then put them back together; I have to understand why 

Sounds like you already know your modes 

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1 hour ago, Geek99 said:

Yes, thank you @Reggaebass, but I think it’s the “why” really. 30 years ago a teacher said to me “just learn the shapes” and then you can end formulaically playing in the same positions for each chord in each key; and possibly also avoiding certain keys due to an unwillingness to play certain positions. Learning boxes isn’t the answer in my very humble opinion 

I'm not a fan of learning by shapes or boxes either. I'd rather know what is actually happening with the scale degrees and the actual notes.

I look at modes as variations of major and minor scales, like this....

Ionian (Major), Dorian (Minor natural 6), Phrygian (Minor b2), Lydian (Major #4), Mixolydian (Major b7), Aeolian (Minor), Locrian (Minor b2,b5).

A lot of people look at them as the major scale starting on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th degree etc, but I find that thinking of them as variations of major and minor scales helps me more when I'm playing over changes.

(Sorry for jumping in @greghagger)

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8 hours ago, Doddy said:

I'm not a fan of learning by shapes or boxes either. I'd rather know what is actually happening with the scale degrees and the actual notes.

I look at modes as variations of major and minor scales, like this....

Ionian (Major), Dorian (Minor natural 6), Phrygian (Minor b2), Lydian (Major #4), Mixolydian (Major b7), Aeolian (Minor), Locrian (Minor b2,b5).

A lot of people look at them as the major scale starting on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th degree etc, but I find that thinking of them as variations of major and minor scales helps me more when I'm playing over changes.

(Sorry for jumping in @greghagger)

That’s great @Doddy good illustration of the modes.  Thanks for that. 
 

Personally I see no problem in learning shapes and patterns on the fretboard. It’s can be very useful to learn the shapes of the modes and Pentatonics, etc.
 

But learning the theory behind music is also very important as @Geek99 mentioned.  The two aren’t mutually exclusive though. 
 

The modes aren’t actually useful at all though when learning to sight read.  An understanding of key centres, where the notes are written and how rhythm works is what is necessary.  You don’t have to go near modes for this area. 
 

Chord tones (arpeggios) are much more important in the real world for bass players. Modes do have their role though if you are soloing. 

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9 hours ago, Geek99 said:

Yes but I’m the kind of person that likes to take things apart and then put them back together; I have to understand why 

You can learn the theory behind music which leads to understanding, but also learn patterns. You then have the best of both worlds. 

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I tried learning the circle of fifths once, as recommended by a learned friend. Gave up after a while 'cos I wasn't quite sure what the point of it was.

Different strokes, and all that.

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2 minutes ago, wateroftyne said:

I tried learning the circle of fifths once, as recommended by a learned friend. Gave up after a while 'cos I wasn't quite sure what the point of it was.

Different strokes, and all that.

The Circle of Fifths does need to be explained careful, not least because in the Jazz world it is called the Circle of Fourths!

But it is very helpful when learning about keys and chord progressions.

But I get your point, that is not an area that sone people are particularly interested in learning about. 

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