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Learning Music Theory

By bagginz - Posted on 25 September 2009

 Q  I am an electronic music lover. I have had only a very little practical experience in the field of music creation. Lets say that I am an absolute beginner."

"I want to begin learning about music, and in particular how to create music. Electronic music is the field that I am most interested in. I want to learn properly, and am willing to put some serious time and energy into doing so. I had thought about taking, initially, some keyboard lessons. Possibly studying music as a major part of a Bachelor of Arts degree, and in the future perhaps doing a Bachelor of Music composition at a music institute....

I have a long way to go..... but I was wondering if you could give any guidance or advice in this matter? "

Thankfully the days of requiring a PhD in patch cable management
    before being able to create electronic music are over

A   Studying music theory is a very good idea, but for electronic music I think you would be much better served by first taking a course in electronic music production and or studio engineering with a particular emphasis on using modern computer software tools such as Cubase, Logic, Ableton Live as the central part of the curriculum.

Depending on the style, modern electronic music often doesn't have much to do with traditional chord/harmony/scales/melody at all. It's often far more rhythmic and timbre based. In fact, nowhere more so than in Psy-Trance.

I also think that studying music to a BA level may be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Unless you have aspirations for composing orchestral music for film, arranging big band music or any other more traditional musical careers.

Though studying music to a B.A degree would be a fantastic thing to do and incredibly rewarding, given your stated goals I think it would not be the best use of your time. On the other hand these days it may be possible to study electronic and modern music composition to a B.A level. If that's the case, then that could work for you...

Of course, if you keep an open mind and make sure to absorb and internalize traditional music theory as well as electronic music, then that would give you the choice to do either: one, the other, or an interesting and original blend of the two together using some elements of each...

Also do bear in mind that you can learn about music without studying it to a BA level. A good short course of keyboard lessons and music theory (and a few music pieces to apply yourself to mastering on your chosen instrument) would put you a long way down the road to understanding how "traditional chord/harmony/scales/melody music fits together.

Even if you cannot play your chosen study instrument for toffee afterwards, it doesn't really matter from the point of view of an electronic music composer, because the sequencer takes care of the business of actually articulating the music.

"I want to create intricate, intelligent, emotive electronic music. I don't take any psycho-active substances (any more)."

Neither do I or have I for a decade now. These days I much prefer to meditate. I find it far more effective for inspiration and it has only beneficial side effects.  So far as I am concerned , chemically enhanced consciousness was a last millennium, late 20th Century thing... Sure, fun while it lasted, but I've moved on.

The bottom line is; I recommend getting yerself a nice fast (audio specific) laptop and a copy of (these days) Ableton Live, and get busy studying the manual...

Best wishes and good luck with it.


Billy Cosmosis


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