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Does Music Theory Kill Creativity?

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-22 04:10:10 Reply

When learning classical music theory I sometimes have these exercises where I have to write my own melodies after a beginning phrase is given to you. There are tonnes of rules I have to follow if I want to get good marks in it.

For the other theory nerds on here... I need to make sure the first half of the melody ends on an imperfect cadence and the final half on a perfect cadence. I need to make sure that every time I use a leading note, it's followed by the tonic. I can't add accented notes in quiet sections. If the tempo is fast, I should use eighth/sixteenth notes; if it's slow then I should use half notes and fourth notes. I can't make notes outside the given key. No augmented note intervals. The list goes on...

I feel like all these rules really limit me as a composer and makes it feel like I'm getting marks for following rules rather than for writing a coherent, enjoyable melody. This kind of stuff DOES limit creativity, even if so many other things in music theory have helped me in my music.

However, the principle of music theory (or any art form in that matter) is that you should first learn the rules and then you can break them. Just because you learn music theory doesn't mean you're suddenly bound to the rules that come with it. The rules I mentioned were only abided to in very early eras like the Baroque era anyway, and I'm only following them for marks. I can use their principles in my music if I want, but I'm not forced to.

Then there are tonnes of other things in music theory that truly have helped me and will help anyone else, like modes, chord progressions, cadences, etc. I would have never thought of making a song in the Phrygian scale, which is basically C major starting and ending on E (and of course any transpositions of it). Even if I did think of it, I wouldn't have thought of shifting the third note of the scale up a semitone for the Jewish scale. These two scales sound awesome and work fantastically for world/ethnic music.

So yeah, like many other people in this thread, my point is that music theory will do nothing but help you, so don't worry, it won't bite.


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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-22 10:00:16 Reply

The argument is stupid. Knowledge is knowledge, and you can use it or not use it however the fuck you want.

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-22 18:22:45 Reply

Well....
To a certain extent we as humans like hearing similar music, it is soothing.

That doesn't mean we might find new things we might like. (or stop making them)


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HalcyonicFalconX
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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-23 05:53:37 Reply

So here are my two cents on this:

This is the long held debate over whether or not formal training kills creativity, regardless if it's for art or music or filmmaking.
In my opinion, music theory is a toolset. Back in the 18th century, the great composers of the day developed a toolset which has been passed down to us nowadays as classical music theory. However there were 15th century composers who utilized a different set of tools for the music of their time. Jazz composers recently have also developed their own tools alongside Blues musicians.
I think those who have learned music theory should use it to help express their creativity. It's entirely up to you if you want to use classical theory, jazz theory, or even just create your own theory. Whatever works best for you.
I'm sure there are those who feel that the many many rules of classical music theory are restricting and can stop you from reaching full creativity. To that I'd say your tool is insufficient for doing what you want to do. Either learn more theory or try an entirely different theory altogether.
There are many who write wonderful pieces without knowing a shred of music theory. Historically, folk music and tribal music have been passed down in this manner. And that's just fine. If you never formally learned music, you can be just as creative or uncreative as someone who has learned it.

tl;dr Music theory is just a tool.

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-23 07:33:53 Reply

At 4/23/13 05:53 AM, HalcyonicFalconX wrote: So here are my two cents on this:

tl;dr Music theory is just a tool.

Thank goodness for tl;dr! ;P

And what Breed said.


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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-23 10:30:30 Reply

I always thought there was too much confusion on this.

Music theory is not a prescribed method of writing music; it is a way to analyze existing music. The theory applied differs depending on the music analyzed and the period/culture from which it comes. All music builds on previously existing music and the composers/players attempted new things, which theorists later created systems of analysis to understand in a more clear and structural fashion. Yes, often these musicians used these systems knowingly, but this is not the chief role of theory, otherwise as people here have said we'd still be writing the same way they did centuries ago.

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-23 13:59:39 Reply

At 4/20/13 12:37 AM, Back-From-Purgatory wrote: I'm gonna admit right now, that I haven't read anyone's responses... because it's late, and I work in the morning... and I need to be in bed soon... but I wanna share my 2 cents anyways.

Ditto. I've read nothing here. Contrary to BFP however, I will refuse to contribute to this discussion at all as it is a waste of time and creative energy. Ya'll should be writing music. Who cares how you do it or even if it's any good. writewritewritewritewritewritewriteweuewiweuweiweuwiewiuewww wwww

write more.

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-23 21:48:18 Reply

At 4/23/13 05:53 AM, HalcyonicFalconX wrote: ...or even just create your own theory. Whatever works best for you.

Ahhh!!! Harry Parch!! Irregular Temperaments!!! Get it out! D:


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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-23 22:34:02 Reply

At 4/23/13 09:48 PM, samulis wrote:
At 4/23/13 05:53 AM, HalcyonicFalconX wrote: ...or even just create your own theory. Whatever works best for you.
Ahhh!!! Harry Parch!! Irregular Temperaments!!! Get it out! D:

Worked for him. xP

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-24 00:11:39 Reply

As others have said theory is just another tool to use. The creativity is entirely up to the individual. History is full of composers and musicians that had roughly the same background and education but most faded into obscurity because they didn't have that "it" factor to capitalize on their knowledge.

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-24 13:40:43 Reply

great thread. lots of interesting opinions.

sorohanro
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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-24 16:32:10 Reply

Does grammar kill poetry?

alternativesolution
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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-24 21:18:55 Reply

At 4/24/13 04:32 PM, sorohanro wrote: Does grammar kill poetry?

poetry does not need much grammar to begin with-- it is an art form, as is music composition. Good comparison


------->>> Post a random word

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-25 22:28:07 Reply

When learning music theory, especially via school/university, it may seem that it caps your ability to be creative, however one this to keep in mind, someone brought this up earlier, is that doing excercises where you have to meet certain criteria, and things have to be a certain way, is purely intended as a teaching tool so you understand how theory works, and to learn a skillset to apply to practical works.

I believe that music theory is very important to understand, and if you say "I make music, and I don't need any theory to know what sounds good", then guess what, you are in fact using, and understanding the theory of making music.

After composing and producing for a number of years, I took a music theory course that included classical, jazz, and popular music. The first thing I started to notice was that I already knew most of what was being covered, however I just didn't have the words to explain it or knew what it was called. All in all, I took a lot away from the course, even to the point where it improved my dj skills (relative minors: very important).

A formal course wouldn't be the best way for everyone to learn theory, but at the end of the day, all music theory actually is, is explaining why (blank) sounds good and why (blank) sounds bad. If you're already making music, my suggestion is to look up theory in the areas that you're having troubles with, and looking more into Audio Engeneering / Recording Theory, will have more applicable value to you.

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-25 23:08:40 Reply

At 4/25/13 10:28 PM, Ryskie wrote:
I believe that music theory is very important to understand, and if you say "I make music, and I don't need any theory to know what sounds good", then guess what, you are in fact using, and understanding the theory of making music.

That's true because I taught myself about how to make a chord from everything I learned on my instrument. I just kept practicing and listening to music to hear what other people were doing and years later I started to understand it all better. They key like you said is to study what you are having trouble with or don't know (which is true about anything really)

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-25 23:47:58 Reply

I think the real question here is "does creativity kill music theory?"

HalcyonicFalconX
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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-26 04:33:45 Reply

At 4/25/13 11:47 PM, SineRider wrote: I think the real question here is "does creativity kill music theory?"

Toalmostquote Sorohanro:

Does poetry kill grammar?

:P

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-26 04:39:15 Reply

At 4/26/13 04:33 AM, HalcyonicFalconX wrote:
At 4/25/13 11:47 PM, SineRider wrote: I think the real question here is "does creativity kill music theory?"
Toalmostquote Sorohanro:

Does poetry kill grammar?

P

Yes... Yes it does.


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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-26 04:52:10 Reply

At 4/26/13 04:39 AM, Back-From-Purgatory wrote:
At 4/26/13 04:33 AM, HalcyonicFalconX wrote:
At 4/25/13 11:47 PM, SineRider wrote: I think the real question here is "does creativity kill music theory?"
Toalmostquote Sorohanro:

Does poetry kill grammar?

P
Yes... Yes it does.

Not if you're Shakespeare or Wordsworth or Longfellow. <3

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-26 12:46:58 Reply

At 4/25/13 11:47 PM, SineRider wrote: I think the real question here is "does creativity kill music theory?"

Mind... Blown.

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-27 05:47:43 Reply

There are some people who learn a little bit of music theory and assume that they have to rigidly stick to the rules, and their music surely suffers as a result.

By the same token, others are just as stubborn in their decision to not even consider learning any theory, and their music suffers just as much.

Music theory is a tool, and like any tool, it can be used or misused. But just because some amateurs limit themselves to what they learn in music theory does not make the tool itself bad.

Troisnyx
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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-27 06:03:52 Reply

At 4/27/13 05:47 AM, BlazingDragon wrote: There are some people who learn a little bit of music theory and assume that they have to rigidly stick to the rules, and their music surely suffers as a result.

By the same token, others are just as stubborn in their decision to not even consider learning any theory, and their music suffers just as much.

Music theory is a tool, and like any tool, it can be used or misused. But just because some amateurs limit themselves to what they learn in music theory does not make the tool itself bad.

^This, as has been repeated by users countless times.

So really, whether creativity kills music theory is out of the question. Creativity would be in harmony with music theory if it is pleasing to the ears. Creativity would only kill music theory if one's definition of creativity is scraping the chalkboard with his nails.

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-27 06:10:58 Reply

At 4/27/13 06:03 AM, TroisNyxEtienne wrote: So really, whether creativity kills music theory is out of the question. Creativity would be in harmony with music theory if it is pleasing to the ears. Creativity would only kill music theory if one's definition of creativity is scraping the chalkboard with his nails.

Music theory is a tool to make sense of music that has already been written. That being the case, it would seem that creativity creates theory, not kills it. New music will make way for new theory to analyze it.

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-27 07:34:52 Reply

Well, theory can never do any harm because it is theory. It can help you to find the best solutions quickly when you're stuck and "kill creativity" is the kind of argument I often hear from the people that are just too lazy or conceited to try and spend some time on self-education.

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-27 12:27:33 Reply

At 4/26/13 04:33 AM, HalcyonicFalconX wrote:
At 4/25/13 11:47 PM, SineRider wrote: I think the real question here is "does creativity kill music theory?"
Toalmostquote Sorohanro:

Does poetry kill grammar?

P

i c wut you did there, HFX. :P

I think the question is "do poets kill grammar?" tbh. In a system where people are constantly pushing to call themselves 'out of the box' because that sounds like a good thing to put on your bio (right?), the concrete understanding of what an "ostinato" is isn't known by most producers of popular music genres, but every single one of them uses them ad nauseam. Ostinatos were in use hundreds of years ago, yet anyone who hasn't taken theory or, like me, bothered to search up on them after seeing people talk about mine ("what the heck is an ostinato?" I wondered for the longest time), would think "oh, this is so modern!"

It's kinda like fashion is sometimes. Old trends come back from the depths of history and the ignorant think they are new.

Let's face it- most pop music has the same level of compositional complexity as any medieval piece, yet we don't go around listening to medieval music (probably because Crumhorns aren't a very good equivalent to distortion-heavy electric guitar). We are more or less repeating ourselves in an endless ostinato of time- the popular music is always that which is immediate, simple, prescribed, and can be created without concrete understanding of theory (you can HEAR what comes next; you don't necessarily need to know a lot about reading music or writing music to play or create it, etc.), and the more reserved and revered music continually grows out of that in side-stems that constantly over-ride each other (100 years ago it was the start of chromaticism, 50 years ago it was the start of electronic music, now its god knows what).

So, is it the people who push the more reserved and revered material towards "outside the box" that kill Theory? Is it also the masses of people who simply create by ear who kill it Theory?


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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-27 22:29:54 Reply

At 4/23/13 10:30 AM, NickPerrin wrote: I always thought there was too much confusion on this.

Music theory is not a prescribed method of writing music; it is a way to analyze existing music. The theory applied differs depending on the music analyzed and the period/culture from which it comes. All music builds on previously existing music and the composers/players attempted new things, which theorists later created systems of analysis to understand in a more clear and structural fashion. Yes, often these musicians used these systems knowingly, but this is not the chief role of theory, otherwise as people here have said we'd still be writing the same way they did centuries ago.

This.

There is a huge misconception that music theory was/is designed for composers to use as tools for composition. Nick has it right -- music theory and music composition are quite separate subjects when boiled down to their core. Theory is derived from analysis of composition.

With that said, some theorists compose, and some composers draw from systems of music theory to provide a foundation to lay their ideas upon. But the idea that the two are conjoined concretely is fundamentally flawed.


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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-28 17:15:23 Reply

At 4/27/13 10:29 PM, DavidOrr wrote: There is a huge misconception that music theory was/is designed for composers to use as tools for composition.

The sad thing is that the misconception is being conveyed by music teachers.

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-28 17:23:01 Reply

At 4/28/13 05:15 PM, HalcyonicFalconX wrote:
At 4/27/13 10:29 PM, DavidOrr wrote: There is a huge misconception that music theory was/is designed for composers to use as tools for composition.
The sad thing is that the misconception is being conveyed by music teachers.

Guess they'll have to learn the hard way.

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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-28 19:15:54 Reply

OR we could make an educational movie to teach them!

*imagines the intro*

*dark screen with epic music*

"Before there was Music Theory... there was nothing... and then..."

*flashes to scene of two cavemen in a room*

"Ugg, what are you doing?"

"Ugg bang log with stick!"

"Why do Ugg bang log with stick?"

"Ugg like sound! He think it sound like B-7 +13!"

any takers? No? Darn...


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Response to Does Music Theory Kill Creativity? 2013-04-28 19:19:19 Reply

At 4/28/13 07:15 PM, samulis wrote: any takers? No? Darn...

Then what makes music theory?