I've been constantly asking questions here for around two years now, 138 to be exact, roughly 1-2 questions a week, and I really appreciate the help I've received by many of the people here. This might be my last question though. Recently I've been thinking that if my ultimate goal is composing/producing maybe I should focus on that solely and not get distracted by asking so many questions on theory and forum politics.

I tend to get upset when people downvote or criticize what I say, and I engage in arguments. Which leads to more waste of valuable time, time I could've spent creating. Most of the top hits I see on billboard charts are relatively simple. I can't imagine those artists just sitting on internet forums asking theory questions - they're out there making music. Even songs I regarded in high esteem my entire life turned out to be simple after I learned some theory. Artists that are super into theory don't necessarily make better music, actually I find their music corny most of the time. To me music is just a reflection of one's personality/emotions and if you don't jive with it then no amount of theory will save that. The actual language of music isn't too hard once you understand the basics of it. So is asking more questions/reveling in theory worth it beyond a point?

closed as off-topic by David Bowling, Dom Nov 21 '18 at 18:34

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    No questions = no learning = no improvement. Stop learning and you begi to die. Dont be like them. – jjmusicnotes Nov 21 '18 at 16:23
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    @foreyez -- You have to balance time spent on theory with time spent on technique and time spent on learning new tunes and time spent on composition and time spent on honing whatever other skills you need. Play the long game: sometimes you need a deep dive into theory, other times you need to woodshed some scales. Musical skills are cumulative. – David Bowling Nov 21 '18 at 16:27
  • i find that knowing theory proves useful in way more ways than not. however, if you "tend to get upset" when using this site maybe this isn't the best way to learn music theory. if there are other areas that you can focus on to achieve your goals than focus on that. if you get stuck and find you need to know some theory, stop and learn what you need to know. – b3ko Nov 21 '18 at 17:59
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is a rant and not an actual question. If you want to ask a question about how to balance theory and practice that's fine, but most of the details in is question is meta information rather than asking a question. – Dom Nov 21 '18 at 18:34
  • Too late to add an answer, so... I know almost no theory, or not more than you could write on a matchbox... but, for the 20 years or so I actually made a good living as a "professional" songwriter, musician, composer, producer.. what I did was hire people who 'knew all the theory' so I didn't make really bad mistakes. They did improve some of my arrangements, but they never corrected my actual songs. OK, so had I known more theory, who knows - I may have gone on to be Hans Zimmer, rather than just using him to help on my arrangements before he went off to Hollywood... – Tetsujin Nov 21 '18 at 18:50

The theory is all very well, but without the practical, it's somewhat pointless. Being a grade VIII theorist doesn't make one a great player - especially if one doesn't play an instrument ! But it does help understand what's going on, and what might go on. It needs literally to be played with. Writing pop songs, especially ephemeral ones, doesn't necessitate a great deal of theory - in fact, people with no theory have done it.

Having said all that, as someone who knows a bit, I get tripped up often by badly written stuff, because I'm expecting certain things that should happen but don't. Like finding an Abm chord in a song in E major; like seeing a 7#9 chord written with a b10. With no theory, that'd be a breeze!

I believe you can't help but absorb some theory as you play your instrument, even if you fight against the principle. What you do with it after is up to you. But why ignore it?

  • Most of us DO it alongside continuing to learn! – Laurence Payne Nov 21 '18 at 19:01
  • @LaurencePayne - succinctly my point ! – Tim Nov 21 '18 at 19:05
  • Well, start doing and keep on asking then! – Laurence Payne Nov 21 '18 at 19:17

So what HAVE you composed/produced over the last two years? Keep asking questions, but let them arise from practical contact with the music-making process. You've sometimes given the impression that you're trying to 'learn theory' BEFORE getting your hands dirty!


I guess it's a bit genre-dependent. If you only want to write three-chord pop songs (nothing against that!), then go ahead and just do it. If, on the other hand, you want to write ultra-cerebral chromatic symphonic fugues (to name just something), then any amount of theory is welcome.

Seriously though, it's always good to learn about one's craft, as long as it doesn't lead to procrastination or the dreaded "paralysis by analysis". Find the golden mean between passively learning theoretical stuff and actively applying said stuff in your own musical practice. Personally, I've found all the theory I've learned here, on YouTube, and from books extremely useful, as it makes my mental "search algorithm" for pretty melodies and cool chord progressions so much more efficient.

Finally, I'd advise anyone who wishes to learn theory, at any level, not to neglect the aural aspect of it all. It definitely helps any musician (composer or otherwise) to be able to recognize by ear all those chord progressions, contrapuntal tricks, exotic scales etc. that theory informs us about.

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    Couldn't agree more on the importance of the aural aspect of music theory! – Shannon Duncan Nov 23 '18 at 12:31

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