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inkyscape

music education adventures and misadventures

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I had the worst music education . I mean, THE WORST. I learnt absolutely nothing at school. I have never played any instrument. I do not sing. I have no music qualifications at all. I am 100% self taught from knowing absolutely nothing and I am barely older than a meaningful galaxy Hitchhiker. [subtle hint as to how old I am. ] 

In late 2015 I got a book on basic music theory - i.e EGBDF - and I began to teach myself from scratch. I didn't know what a note was. I expected to give it up after 5 minutes. At first I couldn't make anything that sounded remotely musical. But after about 6 months - mid 2016 - I started making something that sounded musical even though it wasn't very good. I make no secret that I am deeply jealous of many people on this board who have been doing this since the age of four etc. But I have nobody in my family who plays music.

But now I am close to releasing my debut album of about 45 minutes of music. I have worked like an absolute lunatic to produce that amount of music. I compose it all properly in Finale before using VST instruments in FL Studio. It makes me wonder why school failed me - it gave me limited, confusing pseudo choices that led me to giving up music when I was 13 at school because I didn't play any instrument and only people who played instruments could continue with music.The whole system was capitalism at its worst; a system of music teachers who only wanted to teach elite people while anyone else was not valued and told tacitly to give music up. I am far more inclined to believe in music education via organic, community music instead such as choirs. tribal music etc.

Nobody who has ever been on these forums has had a worse music education - or rather lack of it - than I have. 

 

 

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10 hours ago, inkyscape said:

Nobody who has ever been on these forums has had a worse music education - or rather lack of it - than I have.

So let me tell you how I got started. The first music I "wrote" was using noteworthy composer when I was, what, 16-17? I didn't know how to read sheet music so I basically just groped around to how the program worked and managed to write stuff. It's all absolute nonsense, but hey I was trying! When I was 19 I actually began playing piano and then actually had some real lessons, but 90% of my time went to actually analyzing music I liked now that I could actually read music. I had 0 music training before that and though I liked music I only listened to game music (lol.) It's one of those things, I was "composing" as soon as I got a hold of a means to actually do it. I eventually did end up moving to Europe to study music (cuz where I was it was actually impossible) and got a master's degree in composition, but that's only cuz at the start I didn't give a s.h.i.t. and kept pushing on despite not having the tools nor the knowledge.

 

In fact, I never really understood music theory (the North/South American type,) until I was 22! Before then I mostly wrote stuff by analysis and copying the stuff I saw others do. Turns out that was actually much more meaningful in the long run than learning theory "from a book." The system that I eventually learned was Hugo Riemann's Funktionstheorie analysis model which, in my opinion, is the best thing ever. Even after all these years, the other systems seem real awkward to me in comparison.

 

Oh btw why post this in this subforum??? This is not OFF TOPIC! Can someone move this to composer HQ?

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I have already done a lot of things that vary from book theory. I am always to open to other theories. For instance:

CEG , say you delayed part of it, e.g you went C G and then rest and E. In normal theory that method is not covered. Yet I always argue that it is still CEG because that is what the ear will still hear. 

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That sounds like a really unfortunate music upbringing, but to condemn the traditional music educational path from people who actually care about students is a bit too much, no? I'm not going to sit here and say that music education through aural and circumstantial practice isn't good (they teach whole classes about listening at the college level), but there are benefits to "traditional" educational paths.
I want to emphasize that I recognize that your mindset is due to a failure of those who were supposed to be teachers gave up on you before even trying, a cardinal sin in the education world.
I grew up really hating music. Playing cello and piano was never fun; I felt powerless under what those directing me were doing. Composition and conducting really changed that around 7th or 8th grade and it was the music teachers I had that really facilitated that in me to be what I am now, and I'll never not be thankful for the opportunities. I really am sorry that the system failed you, but those who are dedicated to teaching will never do anything for their students but their best. 
That being said, I learned theory by myself, since the methods I learned in school were quite group-oriented, but the only thing we get in this world are the slowly diminishing seconds of life, and I do have to commend you for not giving up. Teachers live for students like that. However, what we learn is a derivative of what is expected, and thus, I went back to traditionalist studies to ensure I wasn't losing sight of pragmatism. I encourage similar thinking, when developing a student's style. 

In other words, it's not our job to silence your speech, but correct your grammar every so often. I'm sorry that your teachers couldn't get to that part. I wish you so much luck!

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I wasn't going to say this because it is kind of embarrassing. Or maybe not. Anyway...

I decided to learn music from scratch in 2015 because I gave up chess playing. I had been playing chess since I was 8 and interestingly I taught myself the moves from a book. Out of nowhere an online chess site accused me of cheating in chess with no evidence whatsoever to support that. As I said at the time "I am losing games so I would be the most incompetent person at any underhand way of winning!" So chess is over for me. So I had a lot more time for something else. Actually I had been thinking on some level of learning music for a few years before that but it was a vicious circle; I thought of learning an instrument but to learn one I had to know about an instrument.

The first thing I did in the first week of deciding to learn music [late 2015] was to email some music teachers but I never got any reply. My emails were normal and I expressed my desire to be positive about learning music. But I think a lot of music teachers don't want to teach adults. Maybe adults don't fit into the ABRSM industry and its exams. So I felt really dejected and depressed for a week and then decided if nobody would teach me then I would do it myself. Bear in mind that at this point I knew absolutely nothing about music, save very vague memories from school of every good boy deserves fruit. I had forgotten long since what a crotchet was. I had even forgotten what a staff was. 

The book I got and I am holding it now was Understand Music Theory by Margaret Richer. It is a good book. But it was still a real struggle. I would learn something like what different rests do but I couldn't put it together for what I wanted to do: I had given up trying to learn a musical instrument and instead I wanted to do one thing - compose some music. Even if it was bad or mediocre, I wanted to compose some. Yes. I was bonkers enough to think that I could create some. But I reasoned that sometimes craziness/impetuousness could be a good thing. 

But the decision that really turned it all in my favour was getting Finale Software. There are a LOT of things wrong with Finale and I have listed them in other threads. But Finale gave me two things that I had never had:

[1] a chord checker so if I did something wrong I would know and if I something right I would know. So for the first time I had in effect a kind of quality control and progress checker. 

[2] a way of playing back what I composed to get a musical outcome that I could improve, abandon etc. 

From then on and that was about early 2016 I could really start doing things. It took me about till mid 2016 to be able to make anything that sounded musical. A big obstacle was getting music to "progress" . That is, I would compose music that didn't "move" or have any forward energy. Eventually I found various ways, some of them pretty normal such as varying the notes [ e.g whole note moves slower than a 16th] and other methods that are more arcane such as cluster chord/note density methods. One of the results of all this was "A Dark mirror Cracked" that I composed in mid 2016 and is in the piano composition thread. I vowed in all this to be as experimental as I could; 1 4 5 chord progressions bored me to tears. I departed from normal chord progressions as much as I could. Indeed, I suspect that I compose what is called "modal" music though I am not sure. I also found other things such as what I call jazz jumps. 

At this point I realised for the first time that like chess, music theory is enormous. As a bit of an aside if anyone wants to read a book on chess as a cultural force [ you don't need to know anything about how to play to read the book and enjoy it] then the book to get is "A Book of Chess" by a late chess master C H O D Alexander. Then I bought a book on jazz theory and that is probably the next step in all this. What I do already with jumped around, irregular, jazz jumped ways of composing piano suggests it. So I bought jazz theory explained by Julian Bradley. 

If I am still on these boards in 2030 I might have learned something. It took me 30 years of chess playing and I still made terrible moves though I did get some wins against experts. I have made some compositions of multiple instruments [ e/g about 6] and I like doing that more than solo piano. It's more interesting even though at first i was lost. Then you enter a lot of other theory. When I composed with a viola that was a different kind of staff - a middle C staff so I had to google what that was. Then there are issues of getting instruments to not shout over each other, transposing instruments and a million other things. But int he end I made a few 5 minute compositions with a lot of brass. 

I am entitled to say that 999/1000 people would have given up all this a long time ago. It has been an enormous amount of work. At one point I even composed a 10 minute piano solo and entered it in a music composition. The academics didn't like it but it will be on my album nonetheless. In all this I have nobody to bounce my music off. That said my ways of doing chord progressions are so unusual that I don't know if it would help. I don't make progressions by numbers. Or by the tonic, super tonic etc. I look at chords as qualities. So I will often have progressions like a C major and then variations of it like C minor or a suspended or extended C chord. Sometimes I even go keyless altogether. I would go atonal if I knew how to do it. 

Anyway, I hope above anything else that I make interesting music. I could not be a formula composer. It would bore me silly to say have a sonata formula and then I have to follow that formula. 

Anyway, that went on for a bit! In about a month I will put my debut album on Bandcamp. That will be such a highlight. In late 2015 I never expected to get past what a crotchet was. Make an album? Would I be the first person to mars?

Edited by johnbucket
Removed extraneous spacing

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