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#2082190 - 05/14/13 12:02 AM How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources?
pianolover85 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/13
Posts: 94
Hello friends
I am in the 2nd month of my piano journey and a proud beginner. I am playing chords and can play some simple Beatles tunes which is immensely motivating. But I want to have a solid foundation. For example I always wondered why are they all C notes if they are different? Apparently, they are an octave apart and there is some mathematical relation about their frequency (doubled or something) as you go toward higher pitches.

These things sound interesting to me. Especially knowing about rhythm. But is music theory important and applicable in the long run or will they be only remain some cool trivia that I know?

I was wondering if you could suggest any online piano theory course (Paid preferred) since I need the audio files and some teacher attention.

Any books are also welcome.

With Best wishes!
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#2082215 - 05/14/13 01:16 AM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
carlos88 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/18/13
Posts: 83
Loc: Colorado
If you're looking for a paid, structured online course with assignments, feedback, and opportunities to ask questions, take a look at something like the Berklee online classes, http://www.berkleemusic.com/music-theory.



I took the music theory 101 course a few years ago, as my first real introduction to music theory. In terms of applicability of the information - knowing some music theory has helped me with analyzing and memorizing pieces.
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#2082218 - 05/14/13 01:32 AM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7503
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: pianolover85
Is music theory important and applicable in the long run or will they be only remain some cool trivia that I know?

Is it important? Yes. Is it applicable? Yes. Will it be "cool trivia"? Not really...would you consider knowledge of the grammar of a language to be trivia? Theory is the grammar of music (I'm sure you've heard this analogy before).
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#2082232 - 05/14/13 01:58 AM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: carlos88]
pianolover85 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/13
Posts: 94
Wow you are very lucky to have attended the Berkeley 101 course. It is rather expensive for my budget, but love to hear your experiences of it...perhaps it is worth the cost if you gain a very solid understanding of theory...

Let us know...
thanks...

Also, Are the Berkeley class format and course progress similar to the 3 level theory book that Berkeley publishes?
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#2082308 - 05/14/13 08:03 AM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Depends on what you want to do. If you just want to play you don't need any more than the most basic theory right now. If you want to be able to talk intelligently about music, to anaylse it, and to attempt to hold your own somewhere like Pianists Corner, you need all the theory you can get.

I certainly wouldn't invest in those outrageously expensive Berkeley courses until I was a lot further along the way than two months, if ever. I don't think I'd invest in the earlier ones at all. There are much cheaper ways to get the basics. There are free online courses in the basic theory and good books Like Music Theory for Dummies available. Your teacher or whatever method book you're using should be giving you the basics to practice effectively.
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#2082376 - 05/14/13 10:56 AM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
sinophilia Offline

Gold Supporter until Sept. 05 2014


Registered: 06/26/12
Posts: 943
Loc: Italy
There is Robert Greenberg's Understanding the Fundamentals of Music.

Oh, and theory is great. How can one love music and not want to know as much as they can about it? Plus the practical benefits are immense. I'm pretty sure it's easier for you to understand and memorize a piece of text in a language you know, rather than a bunch of random letters.
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#2082605 - 05/14/13 06:26 PM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
earlofmar Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1391
Loc: Australia
Music theory is very fundamental to your learning piano. You can get by with just a little depending on what your long term goals are. Understanding the underlying structures of scales, chords will in the long term save you time when you are learning new pieces. As music does have a mathematical symmetry it also feels quite natural and logical while learning.

I know how independent you are, having read your other posts, so we won't get into the whole with teacher without teacher thing. So a couple of things you can do without paying anything and probably get what you need.

If you go to your public library I am sure you will find basic theory books. Also see link below, this guy is a bit hard to watch sometimes he can be such an idiot but in a likeable way. I think he has put a lot of time and effort into providing a good theory course for free. Even although I have a teacher I will still go and watch some of his specific videos.

http://www.howtoplaypiano.ca/?page_id=106
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#2082856 - 05/15/13 01:45 AM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Is it necessary? No.

Will learning a little to a lot of it translate into better playing and much faster learning because you can actually understand more of what's on the page than as a bunch of black and white squiggles? Absolutely.

Am I going to keep asking myself questions? Yes, but that's just because I like the sound of my own voice... but for yours and everyone else's benefit, I'll do that elsewhere and give you this link of nice advice instead: Music Theory. Who Loves It? Who Hates It?


edit: I recommend looking for a local community college as they'll likely offer several-month-long beginners music theory classes for fairly cheap.

2nd edit: in the meantime, I collected an abundance of great free internet resources here: http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1948785.html#Post1948785

3rd edit: fixed link - thanks poly


Edited by Bobpickle (05/15/13 02:08 AM)

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#2082857 - 05/15/13 01:47 AM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7503
Loc: New York City
Quick tip, Bobpickle: instead of pasting a full link into your post, which looks a little sloppy, you should just write a few words describing what you're linking to, and then make those into a link. smile

Example: PianoWorld.
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#2083147 - 05/15/13 02:59 PM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: Bobpickle]
pianolover85 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/13
Posts: 94
Well thank you all, especially Bob and earlofmar smile
Bob has compiled such a great resource. I have done some google searches myself and had not come across some of his findings.

Great and info ...

P.S. and to the above poster, I would not mind placing the whole link there...sometimes the links die (or owners relocate the link) but if you have the entire one...you still find their site and move along.
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#2083156 - 05/15/13 03:09 PM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
PianoStudent88 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3153
Loc: Maine
You can always find the whole link from the word link provided. E.g. on a PC in IE, right-click on the link and select Copy Shortcut. Or just Quote the post and copy the link text from the quoted post.

Links provided raw can make the reading pane unmanageably and irritatingly wide.
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#2083187 - 05/15/13 03:54 PM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
TwoSnowflakes Online   blank
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1030
I agree. But the fundamentals of music theory really should come naturally as you build your skills, rather than become an expert in it first. You know, generally understanding the circle of fifths, and chords and inversions and how they work together. Meter and rhythm. Nothing too difficult, just the general concepts behind the piece of music you're playing right now. Google the key. Google the chord progressions. Playing a Sonatina? Learn the basics of "sonata form". That's not to say you would automatically learn it, because you can certainly ignore it and NOT learn as you go, but if you're interested anyway, you can seek the concepts out very organically and not really need a formal class to do it.

I definitely use what I learned in Music Theory, and I'm glad I know it, but at the same time, if I were a rank beginner, I would probably not take a class in music theory so much (at least, not yet) as make sure I'm gaining general theoretical knowledge about the things I'm playing.
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#2083296 - 05/15/13 08:00 PM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
TheodorN Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/16/10
Posts: 1183
Loc: Helsingborg, Sweden
Can't let a discussion thread about music theory pass by without mentioning Lypur's (Furmanczyk's) videos. The Learn free music theory videos are very extensive, but he also has some music theory in his How to play piano category, enough to be able to play in my opinion.

https://www.youtube.com/user/Lypur
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#2083410 - 05/15/13 11:45 PM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
earlofmar Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1391
Loc: Australia
TheodorN I posted a link to his youtube channel earlier in the thread but so glad another member agreed with my opinion Lypur is worth recommending.
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#2083483 - 05/16/13 03:06 AM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
TheodorN Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/16/10
Posts: 1183
Loc: Helsingborg, Sweden
Sorry earlofmar, didn't mean to steal your credit. cool

I skimmed through the thread, but missed your reference to howtoplaypiano.ca (which contains a link to the music theory course.) At least Furmanczyk now has got twice (or three times now!) as much mentioning, so it's less likely that info will go unnoticed. cool


Edited by TheodorN (05/16/13 03:10 AM)
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#2083488 - 05/16/13 03:24 AM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
TheodorN Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/16/10
Posts: 1183
Loc: Helsingborg, Sweden
Regarding the OP's first question, I find it convenient to know about the basic stuff, like scales, chords, major, minor, 1-4-5 progression, intervals and so on. It helps me understand why certain notes sound better together than other ones. Regarding sight reading, it's less immitating to have the chord symbols and know what they represent, than just a cluster of up to five notes on the sheet.

It's helpful to know about those building blocks of music, not just some arbitrary notes. Just like it's not enough to know the alphabet to learn to read, but also about words and sentences. Not sure if this comparison is fitting, but hopefully everyone gets the idea.
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#2083577 - 05/16/13 09:13 AM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11558
Loc: Canada
Some interesting and good ideas here.
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes
I agree. But the fundamentals of music theory really should come naturally as you build your skills, rather than become an expert in it first. You know, generally understanding the circle of fifths, and chords and inversions and how they work together. Meter and rhythm. Nothing too difficult, just the general concepts behind the piece of music you're playing right now. Google the key. Google the chord progressions. Playing a Sonatina? Learn the basics of "sonata form". That's not to say you would automatically learn it, because you can certainly ignore it and NOT learn as you go, but if you're interested anyway, you can seek the concepts out very organically and not really need a formal class to do it.

I definitely use what I learned in Music Theory, and I'm glad I know it, but at the same time, if I were a rank beginner, I would probably not take a class in music theory so much (at least, not yet) as make sure I'm gaining general theoretical knowledge about the things I'm playing.

I think that we can redefine "learning music theory". Too often it is considered a separate thing that you study in books and on paper, using a pencil (or these days software programs). But theory represents the structure of music and its grammar, like in speech. When you play a piece in G major and you keep playing the black key a semitone below G, that involves theory. G7 to C happening over and over is a pattern (theory), and if your piece is in F major and suddenly you have G7-C because the whole piece has shifted (modulated) to C major, that's another common pattern. Being aware of these patterns makes music predictable, which helps you play it.

I think that I would want to start becoming familiar with theory at that level from the beginning. You'll need to know that your piece in F major starts on F, that B is flatted for Bb, and where to find that F on the page and your keyboard. So you're already doing theory.
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes
just the general concepts behind the piece of music you're playing right now. Google the key. Google the chord progressions.

Some excellent ideas here. smile I would suggest that if you do that, play with it. Don't just read about it. Play with the ideas on the piano and explore them. If you also play with them on paper, then you have the best of two words. Well, at this point you might actually be getting into some formal theory depending on where your explorations take you.
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes
Playing a Sonatina? Learn the basics of "sonata form". That's not to say you would automatically learn it, because you can certainly ignore it and NOT learn as you go, but if you're interested anyway, you can seek the concepts out very organically and not really need a formal class to do it.

Years ago I was given a piano and my grandmother's book of sonatinas - that's it. The sonatinas (esp. Clementi) have a set form. It's like hearing a series of knock-knock jokes - you'll pick up the pattern. I picked it up. Decades later I went back to piano and at some point learned this formally. Ok, what I'm wondering about:

Simplified sonata form roughly: You have two themes one after the other, the second modulating to the dominant key. Then there's a Development where the composer fiddles around with the music. Then a final section where we restate the original themes but this time stay in the original key. Now:

- If you are new to music, will you necessarily have the ear to recognize theme, modulations, new keys so that you'll recognize these patterns that way? If doing it by recognizing things: you would at least have to know key signatures, maybe recognize the dominant key a fifth up, recognize modulations and a theme being restated in a new key. That brings us back to theory. Formal or informal? Well, we tackled this in the analysis threads some time back. Often we had to backtrack to basic theory. Or is organic recognition by ear or similar enough in the beginning, or possible for everyone? This is open wondering.

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#2083609 - 05/16/13 10:14 AM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
PianoStudent88 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3153
Loc: Maine
Organic recognition by ear is pretty much impossible for me without some guide. I wouldn't know any theory at all if I hadn't learned it from books, to give form to what I was playing.
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#2083623 - 05/16/13 10:40 AM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
PianoStudent88 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3153
Loc: Maine
Here are some examples of how organic recognition by ear never did anything for me:

March Trios

For years I played marches in marching band. These have a form of the opening section, then a part marked "Trio" which has a slightly different character, then repeat the opening section. The Trio is normally the same length as the opening section. The Trio normally has 3 more flats than the opening section.

That's what I noticed from all those years of playing marches.

Decades later, I learned about minor keys. Now I wonder if the Trio was normally in the parallel minor to the opening section's major key. That would explain the 3 extra flats, and the different sound. (But I'm not sure, because I can't remember the sound of the marches well enough, and I can't identify parallel majors/minors by ear anyway.) I had absolutely no ability to name or identify that sound and relationship simply by ear and observing what was on the paper. I needed formal theory learning to come up with a possible explanation.

I also suspect that the marches typically came in a standard number of measures -- probably 16 measures each for the opening section and the trio. But that kind of sensitivity, to pay attention to measure counts and structural symmetry like that, also never occurred to me when I was in marching band. Again, it had to wait before I formally started to study form for me to become attuned to noticing these things.

Modes
Another example: in junior high orchestra we played a piece that was a tone poem in some mode. I know that because that was its title: "Tone Poem in the <insert mode name here> Mode." I actually did have a vague idea that a mode was some kind of relationship of notes, but beyond that I had no idea what a mode was, or what made this particularly piece to be in whatever mode it was. Our orchestra director didn't explain anything about this to us. I didn't pick up by ear that this piece sounded different in any organized way from any of the other pieces in normal major or minor keys that we played. It took years later for me to be introduced to the idea of modes, from theory books, for me to start to be sensitive to this aspect of music.

Major and Minor

Another example: just going to major and minor keys: I had learned all the major key signatures, and the WWHWWWH pattern, because playing major scales was required for All State auditions. I didn't really know about minor -- that is, I knew it existed, but when I met it in my lesson book, it didn't make any sense to me, so I ignored it. I'm sure in my 8 years in band, orchestra and chorus that we performed pieces in minor keys. But I didn't know they were in minor, and didn't consciously hear anything that made them sound different from major key pieces. I would have named all the pieces by their major key signature, and not have noticed for example that a piece that was really in E minor (1 sharp in key signature) sounded in any way different from a piece that was really in G major. Again (same old refrain) it took learning about minor keys in theory books, in a way that made sense of how and why they were different from major keys, for me to start to notice the difference in sound between major and minor key pieces.

Incidentally, although I had learned the major key signatures and the BEADGCF pattern for order of flats and sharps, I never noticed at the time that these were all a fifth apart. No, that realization only came decades later when I (yes, you guessed it) learned about the circle of fifths from theory books.

Conclusion

I think it's important to be able to link the theory you learn from books with hearing and with the music you're playing. I'm weak at that, and it's something I have to consciously work to rectify. But I would not expect someone to be able to notice, without some kind of formal guidance such as from a teacher or from books (or online), all the patterns that the study of theory sensitizes you too.
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#2083632 - 05/16/13 11:01 AM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: pianolover85]
Mickb Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/01/13
Posts: 14
Not sure if this was mentioned already but whenever I have a question (and I'm only a beginner), I find this site very helpful


http://www.dolmetsch.com/theoryintro.htm

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#2083702 - 05/16/13 02:39 PM Re: How necessary is to know music theory? Any online resources? [Re: PianoStudent88]
Farmerjones Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 194
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Organic recognition by ear is pretty much impossible for me without some guide. I wouldn't know any theory at all if I hadn't learned it from books, to give form to what I was playing.


...and this is where I whup this one out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ne6tB2KiZuk
It's amazing how ingrained the pentatonic scale is.


to the Original Poster -
Atypically I learned piano after learning several other instruments. What I found was the black & white keyboard is the embodiment of musical theory. So as others have mentioned, I don't see how one can avoid learning musical theory when learning piano. "Music theory? You're soaking in it!"

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