Rolling Music Theory Thread

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Don't know what academic discussion you might be referring to, s. clover. You should realize that a good part of academic music studies- Sund4r can correct me if I am wrong- consists of professional programs offering Bachelors or Masters degrees in performance and education. Of course as part of this they teach composition and give instrumental instruction. The purpose of this is to give the students the skills -and accreditation - to enable them to hopefully make a living as player/teachers, so these institutions are not necessarily doing academic research as the word theory might lead you to believe. The theory as such is supposed to aid the awareness of students as composers and improvisers of what notes and chords are available to them at any given point. I haven't read any guitar mags in a bit, but in between the gear articles and the player interviews they always have transcriptions of tunes and, more to the point, regular columns where somebody explains that if you want to play in a certain style these are typical chord progressions and typical things you might play, with a little theoretical gloss thrown in. For instance, Bass Player magazine might have an article entitle "Funk 101: Dorian Octaves." This kind of thing is a bite-sized version of what you might get in one of those programs. Actually one of the authors of a long running popular and useful column in Bass Player was (don't know if he still does it) none other than everybody's favorite Daft Punk bassist, Nathan East.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 19:16 (five years ago) link

well if you look at english departments, their main (or at least one main) social role is really to produce people capable of teaching undergrad level reading and composition, but also by dint of being part of the "academic world" one also produces analyses of rhetoric in milton or what have you, and one can argue that this is a good or a bad thing or was a good thing but now is in some ways a bad thing (by obscuring the labor function of academia as a way to explain away low salaries 'for the love of the discipline' or etc), but in any case, is this somewhat the situation in music/musicology depts?

wat is teh waht (s.clover), Sunday, 30 March 2014 19:46 (five years ago) link

Yes, but the majority of the guys I'm talking about don't have to publish anything like the equivalent of Milton Studies you mention. They are part of the professional side of academia, not the research side, and don't have to go through the same hurdles: orals, writtens, postdoc, maybe another postdoc, tenure track, etc, they just have to come out of a program like the one they end up teaching in, more or less.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 19:55 (five years ago) link

That's only true of instrumental teachers (who are generally contract instructors), surely? Neither University of Ottawa nor University of Toronto will even consider someone for a sessional (adjunct) teaching position in composition, music theory, or musicology if he or she does not have a PhD in hand.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Sunday, 30 March 2014 20:35 (five years ago) link

(I'll have a lot more to say later on. This is a big question, far bigger than a 'Rolling Music Theory' thread can support if we're going to really get into it.)

EveningStar (Sund4r), Sunday, 30 March 2014 20:37 (five years ago) link

Interesting. From what I know in NYC a PhD is not required to teach at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, nor at the Columbia University Department of Music, The New School, or the Manhattan School of Music. A music professor with a PhD, such as Chris Washburne, is the exception not the rule.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 20:51 (five years ago) link

Anyway I wanted to ask what people thought of Chord Scale Theory, it's uses and abuses, but maybe we've already bitten off more than we can chew on this thread.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 20:53 (five years ago) link

Link to Sund4r's new thread: Music Academia

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 21:07 (five years ago) link

Still trying to get some eyeballs on this interesting, original idiosyncratic work: http://www.modalogy.net/. I was thinking about it in the context of the mother thread to this one, where the guy talks about the harmonic trick. Not so tricky when you realize that the resolution of modal cadences at weaker than those of a major/minor tune.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 22:01 (five years ago) link

Also interested in the question of

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 22:08 (five years ago) link

  • difference between a mode and a scale
  • difference in use of term modal in Renaissance/ pre-equal temperament music and in "model jazz"

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 22:10 (five years ago) link

Ha, "modal jazz"

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 22:11 (five years ago) link

Thread of missing the "Greensleeves" thread.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 22:14 (five years ago) link

Clearly there is some overlap between modes and scales, given that the major scale is also called the "Ionian" mode.

james franco tur(oll)ing test (Hurting 2), Monday, 31 March 2014 02:09 (five years ago) link

I'm not actually sure if there's a meaningful difference.

james franco tur(oll)ing test (Hurting 2), Monday, 31 March 2014 02:09 (five years ago) link

I think there might be, maybe. I think the scale is just the set of pitches plus the starting point and nowadays mode usually means exactly the same thing but in ye olde time Renaissance music the mode meant the, um, ordered set of pitches, plus the various conventional practices that went with them. This is something I feel like I have seen out of the corner of my eye somewhere , I'll have to track down a reference.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 31 March 2014 02:17 (five years ago) link

As I understand it, the standard modes are identical to major keys except the root note is a different step in the scale.

Mode is closer to key, while the scale is the ordered sequence of notes in the mode or key.

nitro-burning funny car (Moodles), Monday, 31 March 2014 02:26 (five years ago) link

Yes, something like that. There is a discussion of this on pages 158-159 of Lewis Porter's John Coltrane bio. I can't type it in right now so you will have to refer to your own copy.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 31 March 2014 02:29 (five years ago) link

He refers to a paper called "Three Pragmatists in Search of a Theory" by Harold Powers which I find a brief reference to and quote from here: http://mtosmt.org/issues/mto.13.19.3/mto.13.19.3.judd.php although I can't quite make head or tail of the quote or the surrounding article yet.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 31 March 2014 02:51 (five years ago) link

Then there is this

http://www.jazzstandards.com/theory/modal-jazz.htm

One contemporary (and widely-taught) approach to improvisation views every chord as having one or more scales that can be played over it. Although it involves the use of modes, this approach to soloing does not necessarily make a tune “modal.”

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 31 March 2014 02:55 (five years ago) link

The language is too academic for people who're interested in Radiohead, and Radiohead is too easily parsed for people who can comprehend an academic theoretical approach.

I think I actually disagree with the first part of this too (sorry fgti): almost everyone in my PhD program was interested in Radiohead! I'm pretty sure I'm more interested in them than in Brian Ferneyhough.

Anyway, I think that this discussion has been helpful for me. I haven't written a theory paper in years and now I realize that it's because I wasn't actually sure what the purpose/value of it would be. I think that talking about this has helped me clarify what it could be; I actually feel enthusiastic about attempting it this summer.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Monday, 31 March 2014 20:30 (five years ago) link

I've read several rollicking music theory nerd discussions of radiohead songs.

james franco tur(oll)ing test (Hurting 2), Monday, 31 March 2014 20:31 (five years ago) link

Interested to hear what exactly inspired Sund4r in this discussion but maybe it's best just to wait for the paper.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 31 March 2014 20:59 (five years ago) link

It was this train of thought, where I started questioning the use of this kind of analytical work, then realized that this doubt was what was holding me back from doing any of it, then started thinking about what its use could be. (The last part is not completely fleshed out in the post below but I think I will articulate it when the time comes):

Where fgti and I might be on the same page is that its not always entirely clear to me what the ultimate goal or purpose is with a lot of academic analysis of popular music, aside from sheer scholarly interest (and lines on the CV, ha). With guitar mags, it's usually clear that the articles are there for people to learn specific techniques from. With the analysis of art music, it's easy for me to see how the work is useful for people who want to compose and/or play art music (who are the usual audience for these journals). While I still disagree with him that Radiohead (or, say, "Close to the Edge") is too easy to parse for someone with art music training, it's not 100% clear to me what the readers are going to gain from the exercise: it does not seem that this is going to have the direct benefit of helping (most) people learn how to write and play rock music. There can still be some value in understanding how the music 'works' or is put together, though, and it is actually possible for it to influence art music composition tbh (because those artists have probably influenced mine!).

EveningStar (Sund4r), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 01:40 (five years ago) link

Here is a guy talking about a few ideas that I found interesting but haven't fully digested yet in that book Modalogy I have been plugging: http://www.jazzguitar.be/forum/theory/22308-modal-cadences-modal-interchange.html

Teenage Idol With the Golden Head (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 04:20 (five years ago) link

"Get Lucky" doesn't really have a Dorian feel to me. It just starts on the iv chord. B is never a point of resolution for the melody; it tends to resolve to F# ("like the legend of the phoenix"/"we've come too far") or A ("we're up all night to get lucky").

coops all on coops tbh (crüt), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 04:32 (five years ago) link

like, I wouldn't say "Get Lucky" is in the Dorian mode for the same reasons I wouldn't say a song with a looping ii-V-I-vi progression is in the Dorian mode

coops all on coops tbh (crüt), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 04:37 (five years ago) link

crut otm. nailed it imo.

james franco tur(oll)ing test (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 04:52 (five years ago) link

I mean the "ky" in "lucky" isn't an F#, it's an A, but I agree that generally the song pulls toward F#.

james franco tur(oll)ing test (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 04:54 (five years ago) link

Oh, I very much hear B as a point of resolution for the chorus melody. I hear the melody as a sequence that descends until it gets to B with that A as a blue note lower neighbor.

Where is the pulling toward F#? B minor is the chord that occurs in the strong measure. For me, the song pulls toward that.

timellison, Tuesday, 1 April 2014 05:39 (five years ago) link

http://forum.emusictheory.com/read.php?5,13517

Eg, a while back there was a long-standing (apparently interminable) debate on another site (or two) about whether Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" was in G major (V-IV-I-I) or in D mixolydian (I-bVII-IV-IV). Each camp was vociferous in its own absolute conviction.
The reason was that almost everyone genuinely heard it as definitely one or the other, and couldn't hear it the other way. Those who thought differently were simply "wrong" (and maybe deaf and stupid at the same time).

Teenage Idol With the Golden Head (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 11:14 (five years ago) link

I'd agree that it's ultimately a matter of perception, but my gut tells me that F# minor is the resting chord. pretty sure the tempo & key of the song are an homage to Billie Jean, which is in F# minor.

coops all on coops tbh (crüt), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 12:24 (five years ago) link

I'm used to hearing minor key songs with a VI-VI-i-VII progression & I hear the Bm7 as a substitution for the first VI chord

coops all on coops tbh (crüt), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 12:26 (five years ago) link

obv the ambiguity of having two "strong" chords is part of what makes the chord progression infinitely loopable

coops all on coops tbh (crüt), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 12:29 (five years ago) link

I hear Sweet Home Alabama as G major fwiw

coops all on coops tbh (crüt), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 12:31 (five years ago) link

"Get Lucky" is clearly in Aeolean, but in the comments there are those who think it's in Dorian, and a guy who wrote an analysis for CoS who said it was in A-major (?!), and another guy who thought "Dreams" was in Aeolean???!!!

With the Gaga bit people I think are starting to pick up on the futility of this column I hope. All of the comment arguments we have been having have been about "oh you notated it wrong" or "oh you're writing about this in base-C? why?" or debates about differences between IV7 (classical) and IVma7 (jazz). Because of the disparity of language I can't help but just... feel like it's so fruitless. Even that Elton John "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" piece there was a part of me that was like "dude it's called a Neopolitan 6th let me introduce you to Strauss" which is of-course a bullshit response, that modulation is fantastic

poopsites attract (flamboyant goon tie included), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 12:45 (five years ago) link

I think there's something about Get Lucky that sounds almost like it would be a break or b-section in a song in F# minor, only it just keeps repeating instead of going back to the A-section.

james franco tur(oll)ing test (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 13:35 (five years ago) link

Say.

(S is next to D, sorry)

Teenage Idol With the Golden Head (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 13:50 (five years ago) link

Scanning through that blog, it looks pretty good, actually! I don't like the "learn the secrets" kind of angle but I'm all for introducing people to iiis and bVIs and correctly pointing out the link between The Crickets and early Beatles.

poopsites attract (flamboyant goon tie included), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 14:07 (five years ago) link

Marcello tweeted that it's unfortunate that people talk about "Born This Way" = "Express Yourself" but not "Holiday" = "The Look Of Love", (which I don't hear in the slightest)

poopsites attract (flamboyant goon tie included), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 14:10 (five years ago) link

With the Gaga bit people I think are starting to pick up on the futility of this column I hope. All of the comment arguments we have been having have been about "oh you notated it wrong" or "oh you're writing about this in base-C? why?" or debates about differences between IV7 (classical) and IVma7 (jazz). Because of the disparity of language I can't help but just... feel like it's so fruitless. Even that Elton John "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" piece there was a part of me that was like "dude it's called a Neopolitan 6th let me introduce you to Strauss" which is of-course a bullshit response, that modulation is fantastic

Are you saying that pop music analysis seems futile because there are different systems of terminology?

EveningStar (Sund4r), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 14:17 (five years ago) link

(But these debates about what the tonic even is in Lynyrd Skynyrd or Daft Punk songs demonstrate my point about why I don't think pop music is too easy for theorists to bother parsing. No one debates what the tonic is in a Bach chorale or Mozart piano sonata, at least most of the time.)

EveningStar (Sund4r), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 14:19 (five years ago) link

Well Sund4r there's "what do I think" and "what do I feel". I think that the kind of analysis that you read in that "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" piece where it's like "oh! this guy is identifying the most defining trait of this song and probably the cleverest harmony-coup of Elton's career". I think that when I scan through the "Aeolean" blog linked above it's like "oh! how interesting that they started using iii-chords in pop songs at a specific point".

But "what do I feel"? My own ears hear music in the abstract. I hear, say, a I-iii-IV-bII-V-I movement (and most movements that would be contained within pop music) without thinking about what chords or key it's in. My fingers naturally move to the keys, to the guitar chords. Most pop musicians I know work the same way-- even asking somebody "what key is the song in?" you've got a 50/50 chance that the musician knows or cares. I think a lot of pop music + music theory has misidentified the point of translation, if that makes sense? Using numerals and words to describe what's happening in a song is a compromise.

poopsites attract (flamboyant goon tie included), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 14:27 (five years ago) link

It's not that it's too easy, it's just that it's not that interesting. Only when Marcello mentioned "Holiday" did it occur to me that that song is not in a major-key but in a minor-one, and contains the same denial-of-major-key-tonic as "Teenage Dream". But what does that say about Madonna-songwriter? or Madonna-cultural force? or me, if I wanted to write a song like Madonna's? I dunno.

poopsites attract (flamboyant goon tie included), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 14:30 (five years ago) link

Though as an interesting note, there is a profession whose job it is to listen to newly-composed tracks for commercials and comment on their similarities to other tracks, the place-holder music, for example. That professional will then comment on what elements need to be changed-- usually getting quite specific, on a theory level, asking for a melody to go further upward or for reharmonizations. That professional will then be required to testify in court if any plagiarism charges are laid. I've only heard third-hand about this occupation actually being a thing, but man I've love to read a "my day at work" with one of them

poopsites attract (flamboyant goon tie included), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 14:30 (five years ago) link

My understanding is that most music theory and the music it loves to theorize about, both classical and jazz, still basically depends on the major/minor system. Whatever key you are playing in, whatever scale you've got going, sooner or later you are going to have a V7 chord, even if in your original scale the chord would have been v7 and you need to put in a leading tone. Modal jazz doesn't help either because there the harmony is static: you stay on the same scale for 24/32 bars and go up a half-step for 8 bars every once in while, that's it. Actual modal changes or cadences aren't talked about that much except for in that one book I linked to the other day, which actually has a list of "typical" Aeolian cadences and progressions, which includes something close to the GL progression.

Teenage Idol With the Golden Head (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 14:39 (five years ago) link

Well I think for musicians "using numerals and words to describe what's happening in a song" is not merely a "compromise" but a useful tool for when you're playing with other musicians (if they happen to know the same notative language you know) and when you're writing a song and looking at your options. I think there's kind of an efficiency to knowing some kind of theory or other when writing music, as long as you don't treat it as prescriptive. You know, I liked the way x chord sounds here, but I need to think of a way to get back to the first chord of the A section, here are five ways I know of to do it, rather than just flailing around and playing random chords until something sounds good.

james franco tur(oll)ing test (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 14:41 (five years ago) link

(xp to self) Whenever chords can't be parsed in the usual manner they call it "non-functional harmony," which is kind of a catchall I guess. In one of those Rikki Rooksby books he uses John Barry as an example of somebody who came up with really original chord sequences. When Barry was in the service he took some kind of composition correspondence course with a guy name William Russo who had same interesting ways of thinking about music "out of the box." Topic for further research.

Teenage Idol With the Golden Head (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 14:53 (five years ago) link

imo the activity that needs to be cultivated most in musicians and composers is the "translation of what you hear to your medium". You hear something and you can play it back, or you can write it down.

"Flailing around playing random chords" is just composing, it's the way Stravinsky did it, Messaien did it, Shostakovich did it. It's actually the way Bach did it too, it's not like he had Rameau around to tell him what he was doing. It's interesting to learn the trade via articles and classes but ultimately, well, for instance, I developed a taste for four-two chords-- a triad with the raised-7th in the bass-- I probably have the terminology wrong but fuck it, it's C# D F# A-- from hearing a Deerhoof song and saying "huh they put a C# in the bass of that D-major chord and it sounds flat, kind of like a Motown bass line but exaggerated". If there's gonna be any "learn the secrets" article, my consciousness dictates that it should say "put away your Guitar Player magazine and learn it by ear"

poopsites attract (flamboyant goon tie included), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 15:10 (five years ago) link

Hm. Maybe not. It is kind of interesting though.

Another Fule Clickin’ In Your POLL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 10 August 2019 22:16 (three months ago) link

Not a theory question per se but I can’t remember what the relevant thread is so: how do I shot what beat the Hendrix version of “All Along the Watchtower” starts on?

TS: “8:05” vs. “905” (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 21 August 2019 19:57 (three months ago) link

And of 3. It’s confusing because the crash hits, four bars later, on the and of 4, and the band doesn’t hit the 1 very cleanly. Good Q though, it confused me for a second, and I had never thought about it

flamboyant goon tie included, Wednesday, 21 August 2019 20:22 (three months ago) link

three months pass...

Here's a dumb question, because I am dumb when it comes to this stuff. In a lot of Latin music a common sound seems to be a minor key but with the major seventh used a lot, like in a montuno. What would you call this? I don't think it's one of the regular modes, right? Is it just always considered a passing tone?

change display name (Jordan), Tuesday, 26 November 2019 18:44 (one week ago) link

Like say in the melody to this tune. Let me know if I'm mischaracterizing this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_M9Bv1FmwM

change display name (Jordan), Tuesday, 26 November 2019 18:46 (one week ago) link

On first listen, isn't this mostly just harmonic minor? Or is there a specific harmonic structure or melodic movement going on that you're asking about? The sixth and seventh scale degrees are variable pitches in minor keys in standard functional harmony.

No language just sound (Sund4r), Tuesday, 26 November 2019 21:07 (one week ago) link

Oh lol I guess it is just harmonic minor, I was just looking for the name of the scale. And I used to be obsessed with harmonic minor! But I think because I don't regularly interface with a melodic instrument (besides the computer), the specifics of scales always leave my head as soon as I'm done writing a part or whatever.

change display name (Jordan), Tuesday, 26 November 2019 21:15 (one week ago) link

Heh, no worries. I've blanked on stuff like where Dvorak was from in front of a class before.

No language just sound (Sund4r), Tuesday, 26 November 2019 23:24 (one week ago) link

She is from France

that said, I’d prefer a single serving of you (flamboyant goon tie included), Wednesday, 27 November 2019 15:13 (one week ago) link

Young Spectralist at today’s event. Didn’t dig too much into his research area but interesting to talk to.

Irae Louvin (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 29 November 2019 01:38 (one week ago) link


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