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Thread: Beginning Music Theory?

  1. #1
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    Beginning Music Theory?

    Hey guys, just registered.

    I've been playing the guitar and keyboard on and off (very on/off, sometimes up to a year break.) for a long time, and I've got a reasonably decent grasp of handling the instruments. (I'm a bit rusty, but this is just coming back after a long break.)

    My main problem is that I want to be able to compose my own songs (my main aim is to get into composing music for video-games.) I did know a VERY small amount of theory, but it's all gradually drained out of my head over time, leaving me with nothing.

    I'm just wondering what's a good way to begin learning theory, what I should learn first, etc. Since basically, I can play music, and can very slowly decipher sheet music and play that, but I just have no idea how to go about writing my own music, or anything, sometimes I'll read about someone explaining the process behind re-arranging a song from a piano ballad to a jazz waltz or whatever, it just flies right over my head, and kinda depresses me a little.

    Thanks for any help.

  2. #2
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by .DM esuoH
    Hey guys, just registered.

    I've been playing the guitar and keyboard on and off (very on/off, sometimes up to a year break.) for a long time, and I've got a reasonably decent grasp of handling the instruments. (I'm a bit rusty, but this is just coming back after a long break.)

    My main problem is that I want to be able to compose my own songs (my main aim is to get into composing music for video-games.) I did know a VERY small amount of theory, but it's all gradually drained out of my head over time, leaving me with nothing.

    I'm just wondering what's a good way to begin learning theory, what I should learn first, etc. Since basically, I can play music, and can very slowly decipher sheet music and play that, but I just have no idea how to go about writing my own music, or anything, sometimes I'll read about someone explaining the process behind re-arranging a song from a piano ballad to a jazz waltz or whatever, it just flies right over my head, and kinda depresses me a little.

    Thanks for any help.
    There's plenty of websites which will refresh your memory (if you once understood it, it will all come back, trust me), such as
    http://www.musictheory.net
    http://www.dolmetsch.com/theoryintro.htm
    http://www.teoria.com/reference/index.htm

    Theory won't help you compose, but it will help you get particular musical effects. IOW, it won't give your inspirations, but it will help you organise them.
    If it's computer games music you want to write, you need to listen to lots of it and transcribe the stuff that gives the effects you want. You have to know the language, the stylistics quirks and how they're achieved. (Again, theory won't give you that.)
    For transcription, I recommend this software:
    http://www.seventhstring.com/

    Once you get theory basics down, you'll probably need a book on orchestration and/or arranging to give you tips on combining different instrument sounds. (That's fairly advanced stuff.)
    Something on composing for film would be suitable - that's if there aren't books actually on writing for games (there should be, shouldn't there!*). Games music is really like film or TV incidental music on a small scale (and a more limited palette of effects).
    And something on music creation with synthesizers, MIDI and computer recording (ie, the technology you'll be using).

    ...but I presume you're already seeking technical/professional tips elsewhere?
    Such as these:
    http://www.vgmusic.com/vgpaper.shtml
    http://remixmag.com/production/tips_...x_cheat_codes/
    http://gmc.yoyogames.com/lofiversion...p/t185524.html
    http://www.artistshousemusic.org/vid...or+video+games
    and plenty more of those if you google an appropriate phrase...

    * EDIT:
    I knew it...
    http://www.gamessound.com/books.htm
    Last edited by JonR; 10-08-2008 at 03:26 PM.

  3. #3
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Basic theory in six steps. The following should jog your memory and if you like be a reference source.

    http://www.ibreathemusic.com/forums/...ad.php?t=11975
    Last edited by Malcolm; 10-09-2008 at 12:26 AM.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for posting so quickly.

    On it 'all coming back' to me, honestly there wasn't a lot of theory knowledge there TO come back, I only knew a bit about how a few kinds of chords are built, really.

    I know theory's not going to be giving me any inspiration, but I feel like I should know at least some theory so that I can actually get my musical ideas across, and give the songs the feel I want, without having to just randomly hit buttons on a keyboard and hope it sounds 'happy' 'gloomy', 'triumphant' or whatever. Thanks for those links though, I have a feeling I'm gonna have a lot of reading material now.

    Also, yeah, I've thought about Film and Game composing being similar, so I'll definitely be looking into books and such on composing for film, too.
    Last edited by .DM esuoH; 10-09-2008 at 01:00 PM.

  5. #5
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Warning: I'm a bit of a theory geek, not an expert but an aficionado.

    What theory does for me is to allow me to more easily categorize various groups of notes / sounds into (what I consider) functional groups. I'm convince everyone has lots of music bouncing around in their heads. The need to express that music outwardly is what separates musicians from non-musicians (IMO). Given that we all have a bunch of music bouncing around in our mind's ear, how can we organize those sounds so that we can recall and express them more easily and quickly? This is where theory fits into my strategy as a musician.

    Theory is not the inspiration for composition, but rather one of the tool that we use to craft our expression of that inspiration. Theory is neither musical nor non-musical. Theory is a categorization scheme, . . a way to name and organize things.

    Composers are craftsmen that have mastered their tools. One of those tools is music theory. If you want to compose, you'll need to know and understand a lot of music. Theory is one tool to help you assemble and organize the thousands of musical ideas and motifs that a composer will want at their fingertips.

    Certainly theory is not the only tool we need to be a competent musician, and there are other ways to organize the sounds we hear - so theory is not required in all cases. But for many, theory can be a very powerful way to structure things that tend to defy structure.

    cheers,

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