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How do I jump in to the deep end? I’ve taken glances at music theory, and I’ve tried learning sheet music (still am), but the most I’ve learned in the past few years of learning music on my own is limited to tablature, a few chords, guitar tuning, and very roughly learning Pro Tools First. I’ve gotten to the point of writing music for the guitar and keyboard, although most complex chords, or those I don’t know/anything translated to the piano, I have to work with my keyboardist who’s been doing music for much longer. I’ve started trying to understand through YouTube, but I don’t know what I need to learn or if there are better ways.

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    Jump into the deep end of what? It's not clear what you're actually asking about, since your question mentions several different instruments, music theory, music production, and composition. May 13 at 15:41
  • @ToddWilcox Music theory, sorry for airy and open-ended question. I’d like to look into music theory to build a better foundation for the rest.
    – Coen Inman
    May 13 at 15:42
  • Take a class at your local community college or junior college. May 13 at 15:43
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    Welcome! To help get a good answer, can you edit the question to nail down: What's the goal? To be really good at one of those instruments, ok at the others, and have a general music production knowledge? To be an experienced audio engineer with some basic instrumental ability? Also, a bit of general advice: don't jump into the deep end. You drown! Learn everything a little bit at a time, so that you build on what you already know. You seem very eager, and want to know everything as quickly as possible, but you'll learn best in the right order. May 13 at 16:12
  • For some idea of what to learn, in what order, here's the course of study for a university near me that has a Music Production degree. There are various concentrations, but all include some study of music theory, aural skills, music history or other musicology, participation in making music, and hands-on experience with audio. May 13 at 16:15

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I'm not a pro musician, but I went through a path similar to yours, I was basically secluded in my room. Music theory per-se is not in itself what gives you the ability to compose music. It is rather a language or set of concepts that help you grasp and conceptualise the material you are working with (i.e. collection of pitches). I'd strongly suggest learning it linearly. Like going through basics first before jumping to more advanced topics (I tried to learn about tonal music before I got the notion of counterpoint for example and it just frustrated me). I'd suggest this one resource which I studied systematically and orderly:

https://musictheory.pugetsound.edu/mt21c/MusicTheory.html

I believe the best approach (or what worked for me) was to learn the basics of musical analysis and then just trying to "dissect" songs/pieces I like and I'm familiar with (and if I failed I'd just move on through the book until I learnt the concepts I wass missing). Look at things like: how the counterpoint lines are moving in relation to one another; how each note of the counterpoint lines (bass, mid, treble) relate to the chords they belong to etc. what choed progression is being used and what chord progressions tend to appear more often in certain styles/genres of music.

note: You'll come across hard-core abstract theoreticians will argue traditional theory (counterpoint, harmonic functions) do not apply to pop/rock music. I'd shun this academic babble like plague. Learning 'traditional' theory will help your brain process music conceptually regardless of music style.

Even if both are the same thing, for example, conceptualising CM-GM-Em-Cm as I-V-iii-i or Tonic-Dominant-2ndTonic-ParallelTonic will comopletely change the way you cognitively process it (music linguistics again). But first the concepts associated need to be learnt gradually and progressively.

I'd most definitively avoid tablatures for analysis as they don't provide a visualisation of harmony and melody. For a start, you don't need to be fluent in music notation (I'm not and probably will never be), just be able to read enough to spot inverted chords and harmonic relations etc.

To sum up, go through the book/resource/course (the one I recommended or any other) linearly. Avoid making jumps to too-advanced topics until the more basic concepts are settled. And practice as much analysis (learn to think analytically, and play your examples) as you can within the constrains of your given theoretical knowledge at that point in time. This is not different than math in a way. If you learn the concept of, for example, derivative (which is in itself not that complicated) you'll have to solve a few exercises to get 'fluent' or familiar in differentiation. Look at the different methods for different types of equations etc. Same goes for music theory ;)

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I think the key problem is 'on your own'.

Music is by its very nature something to be shared - both by listener and performer. And since (it appears) you've been learning in isolation (not counting non-personal youtube stuff), you've had little or no input from other musos - apart from that keys player.

You need to be playing, talking, swapping riffs with other musos who wield all sorts of instruments. Their input will help your playing and give you different aspects on what their instruments can do. Obviously (as in comment) a teacher will do that job even better, but that's often not a viable option for many diverse reasons - whereas finding someone to play with is usually easier - and cheaper!

As far as theory is concerned, you'll learn a lot by just playing, although the technicalities of that will be denied as you'll be working on the principle of 'if it sounds good...', which is actually the criterion which works well.

Given more exact goals may elicit more exact answers!

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