Music Theory

Friday, April 14 by Brian Pan

There was an interesting question posed on the SDF bboard about music theory. Here are some of the questions and my responses.
> I tried music theory, but all the books I buy just seem to tell you WHAT, rather than WHY.

The only WHY in music is because it sounds good. It may sound facetious but it really is true. There is not exactly "good reasons" for music theory other than it is a way to construct music that "sounds good". Other cultures etc. would not use the same theories, scales, or anything. Quarter steps aren't really used in western music but are used elsewhere.

> Why are the terms major and minor so important? As far as I can see, the major and minor are just modes of the same set of intervals.

Obsolutely. Again, they are just 2 building blocks for music. They have a different sound. Minor key "sounds sad" but of course doesn't have to be.

> Why are songs said to be in say, C rather than D Dorian?

No "good" reason but convention and that's what we expect to hear. For example, when composers use the leading tone (7th) to cause "tension" that resolves into more "stable" notes (dominant, tonic)- the only reason we hear tension and resolution is because that's what we expect. That's how the music we listen to operates.

The scales C, D Dorian, and A minor all contain the same notes. The only difference is how the notes are notated and used. Sort of like how E and Fb are the same note on the piano just used in different scales and circumstances.

So the answer is just learn it. Use it. Others have done the work of creating a structure for you. Eventually you may break it/break out of it if you like and if it sounds good!

My music theory isn't great and I neglected some ideas like consonance and dissonance but I think in a general sense I didn't screw that up too much. Turntablism is certainly an area of music that breaks traditional music theory. What are your thoughts? Any interesting musicians out there breaking norms and making good music?


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