Tuesday, February 26, 2008

One More Time


People who are mathematicians usually love music theory and just soak it up. However, my few feeble attempts to learn it over the years have left me with the knowledge of a few major scales and not a lot of desire to know more.

My new teacher believes knowing theory makes reading and understanding music easier and I’m sure she is right.

Part of my homework this week was to complete chapter 1 of a programmatic music theory book, where you fill in a lot of blanks and check your answers.

I now know what a diatonic semitone is, what a chromatic semitone is, and what a full tone is and how to recognize all three. I know how to devise any major scale, but I couldn’t just rattle off the notes in the F flat major scale without a pencil and paper. And even if I could, I’m still not sure what good it would do me.

Maybe some of this will start to become clearer with my music lesson tomorrow. It would be nice to finally be able to say, “So that’s what it’s all about!”

I think an understanding of music theory would give me about as much satisfaction as learning to drive a standard-shift car, but at least with the car, I knew where I was going. I’m still not sure with music theory.

4 Comments:

Blogger Kristin said...

My mathematically-oriented brain just can't wrap itself around music, but I do like to listen. I can't believe how much you do and how much you seem to learn every day. It's an inspiration.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

I used to be able to play chopsticks with considerable panache

7:22 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I often find knowledge is not presented in an easily understood format. It seems to be fine for some, but not others. It took me several calculus classes before I understand what it was about.

I think the problem comes from the way we are given information. Someone studies it, organizes it, systemizes it and then tries to spoon it into us. But if we have no hunger for the problem it is trying to solve, it is like feeding someone who doesn't want to eat.

I think good teaching whets the appetite (so to speak) by stimulating (inspiring) a hunger for the solution to a particular problem.

As you say, you don't really see the point of learning the theory. You have no hunger, no yearning to understand it because you lack the "why" of it. I am sure that if you were really curious about it, you would find picking it up quite easy.

I think this applies to any understanding. If 20 years ago someone had given me a book on woodworking, I might have browsed through, but I would have retained and understood little. However, over the past few years, I developed an appetite for it and so I read books on woodworking with enthusiasm. Now my appetite is satiated and I only browse through them with casual disinterest.

It was a friend who told me that her pursuit of knowledge was like a hunger. Today she might dine on photosynthesis, tomorrow on the effects of low level, non-ionizing radiation.

Another way I like to look at it is through Plato's (I think it was Plato) likening learning to opening doors. Learning isn't about acquiring knowledge, but about unlocking the knowledge already within us.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- Listening is good!

Pauline -- Want to play the top or the bottom part?

Richard -- Very insightful. I would love to think music theory is within me, just lurking inside waiting to be discovered!

2:14 PM  

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