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Any methods on cleaning the subjectivity palette for your music?


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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, ghsotword said:

Is it known for a fact that Aphex doesn't know music theory? To me, his early 90s stuff sounds like it's been made by someone who doesn't know music theory but I would guess he has picked up the theory later

he has a good ear for melody and harmony but he definitely doesn't know theory. i wonder why he never asked squarepusher to teach him a few things, quite strange imo. well maybe he did but then it doesn't show in his more recent output. 

the strangest thing being how the harmony improved on each release up until the tuss, and then it suddenly got less sophisticated after that, as if he had suddenly lost his skills. retrospectively, he was at the peak of his art with the tuss. 

Edited by brian trageskin
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1 hour ago, ghsotword said:

Is it known for a fact that Aphex doesn't know music theory? To me, his early 90s stuff sounds like it's been made by someone who doesn't know music theory but I would guess he has picked up the theory later

It's not known because not much is known about him in the first place and he clearly likes to joke around and bullshit in all kinds of interviews too.

It's clear that AFX knows something about music theory because obviously he managed to put together his gear, record kickass albums and get them published. I am not sure at what point someone's knowledge of music becomes "music theory" because even the most newbie producer knows what an instrument is and how to get at least some noise to come out of the speakers.

OK maybe the correct thing to say is that if you keep posting too much on WATMM about music theory then that's the wrong way to go. You should do some music practice and go write and record something.

Yes, the author of this post should also follow their own advice.

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4 minutes ago, thawkins said:

OK maybe the correct thing to say is that if you keep posting too much on WATMM about music theory then that's the wrong way to go. You should do some music practice and go write and record something.

TepidPoliteBaldeagle-size_restricted.gif

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12 minutes ago, brian trageskin said:

he has a good ear for melody and harmony but he definitely doesn't know theory. i wonder why he never asked squarepusher to teach him a few things, quite strange imo. well maybe he did but then it doesn't show in his more recent output. 

the strangest thing being how the harmony improved on each release up until the tuss, and then it suddenly got less sophisticated after that, as if he had suddenly lost his skills. retrospectively, he was at the peak of his art with the tuss. 

Isn't music theory some stuff smart people figure out way longer after the fact to objectively try to explain and reason about some music? If so, the who cares if AFX knew any theory or not, because "music theory" is going eventually to have to explain what's going on in his tunes and EDM as a whole.

Also if you know theory it does not mean that now you have to use it always (unless you produce math rock).

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31 minutes ago, thawkins said:

Isn't music theory some stuff smart people figure out way longer after the fact to objectively try to explain and reason about some music?

Not necessarily. Music in some melodically and harmonically complex styles like jazz or classical is generally made by people who use theory while constructing the music. Music theory is less relevant of course for making three chord punk rock, or techno where the only element that's not a percussion is a three note bassline

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Posted (edited)
42 minutes ago, thawkins said:

Isn't music theory some stuff smart people figure out way longer after the fact to objectively try to explain and reason about some music? If so, the who cares if AFX knew any theory or not, because "music theory" is going eventually to have to explain what's going on in his tunes and EDM as a whole.

Also if you know theory it does not mean that now you have to use it always (unless you produce math rock).

first, you don't need to be smart to learn music theory, any idiot can do it. yeah, nobody cares if you know music theory or not, as long as the music's good. the problem is that ignorance is limiting, if anything else. limits can be very useful when you create art but they can also be an obstacle to achieving your goals. so i would argue that you don't need to know any theory if you don't have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, or if the music you aspire to is fairly simplistic; but if you do have a clear idea and it happens to be something a little more sophisticated, or if you don't but you're after achieving more sophisticated stuff anyway, then yeah, theory can help you a lot in the process. 

to quote limpyloo:

Quote

[The purpose of music theory] is to look at the history of music and detect patterns and interpolate systems. It's essential purpose is so that everytime you sit down to play or compose music you don't have to reinvent the wheel, or so when you look at a keyboard you don't just see 12 random, unidifferentiated notes that you have no idea how to organize.

If you do delve into music theory, then don't let it limit what you do. In the battle between your ear and theory, your ear should always win out.

https://forum.watmm.com/topic/79317-music-theory/?do=findComment&comment=2022755

 

Edited by brian trageskin
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Just don't forget that theory follows practice not vice versa, and it's a useful tool for looking at what has already been done and applying it to what you do but it's not a set of prescriptive rules.

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2 hours ago, brian trageskin said:

the strangest thing being how the harmony improved on each release up until the tuss, and then it suddenly got less sophisticated after that, as if he had suddenly lost his skills. retrospectively, he was at the peak of his art with the tuss.

                               afxpalm.gif.04c2025738989eb1f5a7f2f16e6d162b.thumb.gif.9cc9dcabd9bc608482bb52a7097462cd.gif

                                                               post-tuss

                                                                Thanks to whoever created the aphexpitcardheadslaptwinsigil:)

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14 hours ago, ghsotword said:

Not necessarily. Music in some melodically and harmonically complex styles like jazz or classical is generally made by people who use theory while constructing the music. Music theory is less relevant of course for making three chord punk rock, or techno where the only element that's not a percussion is a three note bassline

Yeah, for some reason I don't think that all the jazz greats from 20th century went through some classical training course before they started composing their music. I feel like it was the other way around - jazz came from a bunch of people playing together and teaching each other, theory came later to help systematize things and make it possible to write it down to an extent.

 

13 hours ago, brian trageskin said:

first, you don't need to be smart to learn music theory, any idiot can do it. yeah, nobody cares if you know music theory or not, as long as the music's good. the problem is that ignorance is limiting, if anything else. limits can be very useful when you create art but they can also be an obstacle to achieving your goals. so i would argue that you don't need to know any theory if you don't have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, or if the music you aspire to is fairly simplistic; but if you do have a clear idea and it happens to be something a little more sophisticated, or if you don't but you're after achieving more sophisticated stuff anyway, then yeah, theory can help you a lot in the process. 

to quote limpyloo:

https://forum.watmm.com/topic/79317-music-theory/?do=findComment&comment=2022755

 

OK so my main thing with you guys saying "music theory" over and over again is that it's a very broad concept.

There are simple theory concepts that 99% of people making music know: like what are notes, what are note durations, how to read sheet music, what is tempo, etc. I would say that anyone who ever touched a piano(roll) or a MIDI step sequencer and made something with it, knows music theory at least limited to these concepts. Therefore Aphex Twin knows music theory.

Then there is more stuff, like intervals, circle of fifths, modes, different tunings for different instruments, things like colundi, atonal music etc. etc. whatever it is that they teach you at conservatories. Most people making music as a hobby don't know or care about that stuff. If I need to be familiar with these high level concepts in order to be able to say "I know music theory", then yeah even after 10 years of classical studies that I even got a diploma for, I don't know music theory.

I think it's a weird argument to make that just because an artist does not write their music to make use of things you personally like in music theory, then that artist must obviously not know music theory and it would definitely be better if they knew more music theory. In the end it's their creative decision to use or not to use any production tool (which is all music theory really is - a collection of tools and concepts to help you out).

And for many styles of music I would say that you can really easily kill any true creative process by starting to apply too much theory and end up ruining everything by overthinking it.

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Posted (edited)

where is all this "afx doesn't know theory" stuff coming from? you must bear in mind that he only released (officially) the stuff that he could actually make a living from. isn't that his primary motivation for releasing music? tracks like phlid and formula show that he's capable of making "weird" stuff that's still excellent.

people sometimes criticize afx for not learning/applying (more) theory, there's that stockhausen thing. i mean, maybe he could've gone full-theory like stockhausen or even ferneyhough, but who would buy his albums then? for academic composers it's different because they are on a state salary and they usually don't care much who will listen to their music.

Edited by Freak of the week
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3 hours ago, thawkins said:

Yeah, for some reason I don't think that all the jazz greats from 20th century went through some classical training course before they started composing their music. I feel like it was the other way around - jazz came from a bunch of people playing together and teaching each other, theory came later to help systematize things and make it possible to write it down to an extent.

you're perfectly right when you say that the "jazz greats from 20th century" didn't have formal training. what does that prove though? that you don't necessarily need to learn theory in an academic way to make sophisticated music. big deal. all those guys knew quite a fucking lot about theory, which they learned through improv and playing with other musicians. their understanding of it was probably not to the extent of "classical" composers' but they certainly could explain the theory behind any jazz chord progression or solo. exhaustively. 

3 hours ago, thawkins said:

OK so my main thing with you guys saying "music theory" over and over again is that it's a very broad concept.

There are simple theory concepts that 99% of people making music know: like what are notes, what are note durations, how to read sheet music, what is tempo, etc. I would say that anyone who ever touched a piano(roll) or a MIDI step sequencer and made something with it, knows music theory at least limited to these concepts. Therefore Aphex Twin knows music theory.

Then there is more stuff, like intervals, circle of fifths, modes, different tunings for different instruments, things like colundi, atonal music etc. etc. whatever it is that they teach you at conservatories. Most people making music as a hobby don't know or care about that stuff. If I need to be familiar with these high level concepts in order to be able to say "I know music theory", then yeah even after 10 years of classical studies that I even got a diploma for, I don't know music theory.

I think it's a weird argument to make that just because an artist does not write their music to make use of things you personally like in music theory, then that artist must obviously not know music theory and it would definitely be better if they knew more music theory. In the end it's their creative decision to use or not to use any production tool (which is all music theory really is - a collection of tools and concepts to help you out).

And for many styles of music I would say that you can really easily kill any true creative process by starting to apply too much theory and end up ruining everything by overthinking it.

good for you that you have formal training but i really don't see why you mention that here. yes, there are different levels of understanding in any discipline, and the level you're at qualifies you to claim you know music theory. probably not to the extent of a jazz "great" but yeah, you understand how most music works, for the most part. knowing how to read sheet music etc. has nothing to do with understanding theory, so that doesn't qualify as knowledge of theory. if that's the extent of afx's knowledge then no, he doesn't know theory.  

i'd be extremely surprised if he knew it to a certain extent for a very simple reason: when i listen to his releases post-tuss, i hear a guy who doesn't really know what he's doing, harmony-wise. i hear a guy who's limited in his ability to craft interesting or moving melodies and progressions. yeah, you don't have to apply your knowledge of theory in your tunes but i really don't think the quality of his stuff would be so varying if he did know it, i'd expect more consistency. i refuse to believe it's his creative decision to release well crafted progressions next to very weak and clumsy shit. i might be wrong though, maybe it is his personal choice. in which case that would mean he ran out of fucks to give. 

and that last bit about killing the creative process by overthinking it, i mean i don't create so i wouldn't really know but i really don't see how knowing a bit of theory could lead someone to overthink their art. it's not like knowing theory makes the process slower, quite the fucking opposite, it's an accelerator. it gives you access to a panel of options in any situation, which makes moving your way through a tune so much easier. if you're deeply neurotic and your goal is to be the next great composer then yeah, it's probably gonna slow you down in the process, but aside from that, i really don't see how it could ruin the creative flow, quite the opposite imo. 

agree to disagree i guess ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

53 minutes ago, Freak of the week said:

where is all this "afx doesn't know theory" stuff coming from? you must bear in mind that he only released (officially) the stuff that he could actually make a living from. isn't that his primary motivation for releasing music? tracks like phlid and formula show that he's capable of making "weird" stuff that's still excellent.

people sometimes criticize afx for not learning/applying (more) theory, there's that stockhausen thing. i mean, maybe he could've gone full-theory like stockhausen or even ferneyhough, but who would buy his albums then? for academic composers it's different because they are on a state salary and they usually don't care much who will listen to their music.

making weird stuff doesn't mean you undertand anything about theory though. your argument that he probably choses not to release more advanced stuff is kinda weak because it's kind of an ad hoc hypothesis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hoc_hypothesis - yeah i'm getting dcom-level of annoying lol - no offense to him hahaha). there's no proof out there that he's actually capable of making advanced stuff (advanced to the extent i'm of obviously) therefore there's no reason to believe so.

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16 hours ago, diatoms said:

                               afxpalm.gif.04c2025738989eb1f5a7f2f16e6d162b.thumb.gif.9cc9dcabd9bc608482bb52a7097462cd.gif

                                                               post-tuss

                                                                Thanks to whoever created the aphexpitcardheadslaptwinsigil:)

case in point 🤣 :trollface:

don't get me wrong, i absolutely love some of the tunes he's released post-tuss, it's just that his releases were way more consistent back then, quality-wise. imo

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Posted (edited)
On 5/16/2021 at 5:20 AM, vkxwz said:

I think stuff like this proves that it's not solely about just grinding until you're suddenly a great composer, it has to be something else, like the way they actually think about music is entirely different. Otherwise you'd just be believing that they were born with musical talent or a brain that learns 1000x faster than the average person which is absurd. And aphex proves it's not about knowing music theory so you nerds can fuck off with that. It's gotta be something to do with the way they conceptualize music OR how they treat the process of creating and/or listening. telling people they just need to grind it out seems like the slowest and least efficient way to get to that point, and they may never even get there.

Why is it always that people try to tell them self's there is some "secret" that they are missing out on when it comes to getting good at something. Its quite  littlerly just sitting there and  perfecting your craft day in day out.  These people like mozart miles davis etc just start out so  young and just put so much time it in it that it just inevitable that u wont get good at it.   I wonder if they would of turned out differently in the internet age with so much distraction. Wasnt mozart know for having a foot fetish ? dude probably would be watching feet porn all day if he was born in this generation and get nothing done. The fact that there was probably nothing else to do helped aswell,the alternative to playing your instrument was probably eating sand or playing with a stick.

 

But at the end of the day  its just speculation maybe these people were born geniuses who knows .

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4 hours ago, thawkins said:

And for many styles of music I would say that you can really easily kill any true creative process by starting to apply too much theory and end up ruining everything by overthinking it.

i forgot to mention one thing:

there are 2 distinct "times" (i don't know how to put it) when you're a musician: practice time and playing time. practice time is for learning, studying, analyzing, experimenting stuff. playing time is when you regurgitate all that accumulated knowledge, it's when you finally get to speak, to make an analogy with language. 

so when you say that applying too much theory could ruin the creative process, i guess i see what you mean, it's just that i don't see the creative process as the moment for analyzing, that's for practice time imo. 

that's how jazz pianist kenny werner puts it anyway. well, he talks about improv specifically but the main idea is that when you improv over a jazz tune with other musicians, the moves are way too fast for you to be thinking about what to play. therefore you must first master your instrument, master the tunes, and explore the musical possibilities during practice time, so that you don't have to think when you finally get to play with others. so that you can get in the zone.

27 minutes ago, Wunderbar said:

Wasnt mozart know for having a foot fetish ? dude probably would be watching feet porn all day if he was born in this generation and get nothing done. The fact that there was probably nothing else to do helped aswell,the alternative to playing your instrument was probably eating sand or playing with a stick.

flol

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1 hour ago, brian trageskin said:

you're perfectly right when you say that the "jazz greats from 20th century" didn't have formal training. what does that prove though? that you don't necessarily need to learn theory in an academic way to make sophisticated music. big deal. all those guys knew quite a fucking lot about theory, which they learned through improv and playing with other musicians. their understanding of it was probably not to the extent of "classical" composers' but they certainly could explain the theory behind any jazz chord progression or solo. exhaustively. 

good for you that you have formal training but i really don't see why you mention that here. yes, there are different levels of understanding in any discipline, and the level you're at qualifies you to claim you know music theory. probably not to the extent of a jazz "great" but yeah, you understand how most music works, for the most part. knowing how to read sheet music etc. has nothing to do with understanding theory, so that doesn't qualify as knowledge of theory. if that's the extent of afx's knowledge then no, he doesn't know theory.  

i'd be extremely surprised if he knew it to a certain extent for a very simple reason: when i listen to his releases post-tuss, i hear a guy who doesn't really know what he's doing, harmony-wise. i hear a guy who's limited in his ability to craft interesting or moving melodies and progressions. yeah, you don't have to apply your knowledge of theory in your tunes but i really don't think the quality of his stuff would be so varying if he did know it, i'd expect more consistency. i refuse to believe it's his creative decision to release well crafted progressions next to very weak and clumsy shit. i might be wrong though, maybe it is his personal choice. in which case that would mean he ran out of fucks to give. 

and that last bit about killing the creative process by overthinking it, i mean i don't create so i wouldn't really know but i really don't see how knowing a bit of theory could lead someone to overthink their art. it's not like knowing theory makes the process slower, quite the fucking opposite, it's an accelerator. it gives you access to a panel of options in any situation, which makes moving your way through a tune so much easier. if you're deeply neurotic and your goal is to be the next great composer then yeah, it's probably gonna slow you down in the process, but aside from that, i really don't see how it could ruin the creative flow, quite the opposite imo. 

agree to disagree i guess ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

making weird stuff doesn't mean you undertand anything about theory though. your argument that he probably choses not to release more advanced stuff is kinda weak because it's kind of an ad hoc hypothesis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hoc_hypothesis - yeah i'm getting dcom-level of annoying lol - no offense to him hahaha). there's no proof out there that he's actually capable of making advanced stuff (advanced to the extent i'm of obviously) therefore there's no reason to believe so.

Looks like you don't know anything about anything and you are just trying to avoid saying "I don't like some of AFX tunes". It's fine, I don't like most of his tunes either. I can't argue however that his stuff is pretty innovative and one of a kind (and inspired a lot of other folks).

You are trying to move your goalposts of "what is music theory" to be somewhere that makes "jazz greats" good and AFX bad. Music theory in your interpretation is both "stuff you learn from jamming" and "classical music education" depending on whether it supports your argument or not. I think Aphex Twin absolutely has his own theory of how his stuff works and how he prefers to work, probably he will exhaustively explain it to you like all those jazz greats could.

Quote

i mean i don't create so i wouldn't really know

No problem, if there is anything everyone always appreciates is some rando explaining them how they could do their thing better.

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23 minutes ago, Wunderbar said:

Why is it always that people try to tell them self's there is some "secret" that they are missing out on when it comes to getting good at something. Its quite  littlerly just sitting there and  perfecting your craft day in day out.  These people like mozart miles davis etc just start out so  young and just put so much time it in it that it just inevitable that u wont get good at it.   I wonder if they would of turned out differently in the internet age with so much distraction. Wasnt mozart know for having a foot fetish ? dude probably would be watching feet porn all day if he was born in this generation and get nothing done. The fact that there was probably nothing else to do helped aswell,the alternative to playing your instrument was probably eating sand or playing with a stick.

 

But at the end of the day  its just speculation maybe these people were born geniuses who knows .

I think it's just that the "natural talent" is such a romantic idea to people. How many movies have you seen that show someone suddenly discovering they're a natural at something, and the villain is the over-educated nerd that never "gets" it? And how broken is that as a moral anyway? If you spend your life on something, shouldn't you deserve to be good at it, versus the dude who put no work into it at all?

Same goes for music theory. It's tremendously useful, but not very hip. So if you care about your image, you might as well pretend not to know any.

As an aside (since you mentioned Mozart), Beethoven used to dunk his head into a bucket of cold water to keep himself awake so he could work longer hours. To me that's a romantic idea, just the drive to do that. The dangerous recklessness of it, all to the service of his art. Although it's been speculated that this contributed to his hearing loss, so maybe don't do that. Also, coffee is cheap, nowadays.

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100% agree that music theory is a tool. I don't think @brian trageskin has a very clear idea of what they are talking about when they mention theory though.

100% disagree that more theory definitely makes a better result. You just can't avoid the part where you use your gut feeling and instincts (as opposed to following some rules that come from theory) to create something new and cool and innovative.

Maybe a good summary would be that learning and practicing theory (as in what is taught in schools or the current industry standard) is really important so you can get to a point where you trust yourself enough to build upon that theory and create something new and exciting.

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, thawkins said:

Looks like you don't know anything about anything and you are just trying to avoid saying "I don't like some of AFX tunes". It's fine, I don't like most of his tunes either. I can't argue however that his stuff is pretty innovative and one of a kind (and inspired a lot of other folks).

You are trying to move your goalposts of "what is music theory" to be somewhere that makes "jazz greats" good and AFX bad. Music theory in your interpretation is both "stuff you learn from jamming" and "classical music education" depending on whether it supports your argument or not. I think Aphex Twin absolutely has his own theory of how his stuff works and how he prefers to work, probably he will exhaustively explain it to you like all those jazz greats could.

No problem, if there is anything everyone always appreciates is some rando explaining them how they could do their thing better.

yes, some of afx's output is pretty innovative in certain regards. certainly not in the domain of rhythm, melody or harmony though. and yeah, his tunes inspired a lot of people, myself included. so fucking what? what does that have to do with my point? 

i have no idea what the rest of your post means though. i don't need to explain to you what music theory is and what it's used for, you already know that. yes, afx probably has some sort of understanding of what's going on harmonically in his tunes but i doubt he really understands how it works though. maybe he does but then, why would he choose to make weak-ass shit like some of the stuff he's put out in recent years? kind of a very weird artistic decision imo. just my opinion. 

also, me being an outsider has nothing to do with the topic here. a food critic doesn't need to know a thing about cooking to be good at their job. and don't get me wrong, i have great respect for the act of creation itself, i think it's absolutely great that people make music, no matter the outcome. it's the outcome itself i'm more critical about, and i personally believe it's what every musician should be critical about too. 

Edited by brian trageskin
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3 minutes ago, brian trageskin said:

yes, some of afx's output is pretty innovative in certain regards. certainly not in the domain of rhythm, melody or harmony though. and yeah, his tunes inspired a lot of people, myself included.

yes, afx probably has some sort of understanding of what's going on harmonically in his tunes but i doubt he really understands how it works though. maybe he does but then, why would he choose to make weak-ass shit like some of the stuff he's put out in recent years? kind of a very wery weird artistic decision imo. just my opinion.

                                                                 well rdj helped save my brain with his rhythm, melody and harmony

                                                                                              when no other music could

                                                                                                               aphex acid is alive:)

                                                                                                    :aphexsign::aphexsign::aphexsign:

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26 minutes ago, ArtificialDisco said:

And how broken is that as a moral anyway? If you spend your life on something, shouldn't you deserve to be good at it

Yea so true kinda disrespectful in a way. I think its kinda hard to fathom how much these people loved doing what they are doing.

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9 minutes ago, thawkins said:

100% disagree that more theory definitely makes a better result. You just can't avoid the part where you use your gut feeling and instincts (as opposed to following some rules that come from theory) to create something new and cool and innovative.

wow, your understanding of what music theory is and what it's used for really sucks actually. music theory isn't prescriptive, it's descriptive. therefore there are no rules to follow, only a set of common practices that people choose to pick from or not. can't believe you studied music in a school environment for 10 years and don't even get that. 

following your gut feeling and instincts doesn't necessarily mean you're gonna create something new and cool and innovative, just like using your knowledge of theory doesn't automatically result in making dry-ass shit that's already been made a thousand times. that all depends on whether you suck at music or not and whether you have good or shitty ideas, nothing to do with using theory or not. 

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Posted (edited)
49 minutes ago, eassae said:

I get into learning more theory sometimes, but I get bored easily and get to work. It drips in slowly though. Thanks @brian trageskin for turning me on to Ruslan. I've have been digging his videos.

you're welcome :beer:

edit: fucking page breaker

Edited by brian trageskin
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29 minutes ago, brian trageskin said:

i have no idea what the rest of your post means though. i don't need to explain to you what music theory is and what it's used for, you already know that. yes, afx probably has some sort of understanding of what's going on harmonically in his tunes but i doubt he really understands how it works though. maybe he does but then, why would he choose to make weak-ass shit like some of the stuff he's put out in recent years? kind of a very weird artistic decision imo. just my opinion. 

also, me being an outsider has nothing to do with the topic here. a food critic doesn't need to know a thing about cooking to be good at their job. and don't get me wrong, i have great respect for the act of creation itself, i think it's absolutely great that people make music, no matter the outcome. it's the outcome itself i'm more critical about, and i personally believe it's what every musician should be critical about too. 

Sorry mate if you show up to me after a show trying to explain that I should have used more harmony or whatever it is that you think "music theory" is, then you are getting the "yeah I will just hear what the crackpot has to say before I get an excuse to bail" treatment.

If you want to be a critic you got to do better.

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