The "Famous Musician Knew NOTHING About Music Theory" EXCUSE

The "Famous Musician Knew NOTHING About Music Theory" EXCUSE

Tommaso Zillio

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music theory creativity

What’s the best way to be creative as a musician?

Simple. The best way to be creative, not only as a musician but even in general, is to have absolutely no idea of what you’re doing at any point in the creative process.

It’s best to actively avoid seeking out any understanding of your chosen creative discipline so that you can be totally free from limitations, rules, and guidelines.

Why? Because all these things are just ways that ‘The Man’ uses to hold you back from expressing yourself! Fight! The! Power! Fight! The! ...

... ok, at this point, I hope you realized that I am just pulling your leg.

I mean, what I wrote above is perfectly workable. The only drawback of this unhinged, borderline deranged level of unstifled creativity is that everything you come up with will be completely unlistenable. Absolute nonsense. But it will be creative.

I dare say that most of you are not after this specific kind of creativity. You still want to be creative but create music for the enjoyment of more than just the deaf community (*)

That is, you'd rather compose something original and creative, but also good.

"But Tommaso", I can hear some people already, "(drop famous musician name here) did not know any music theory. They even say so themselves!"

Oh, dear. It's time to put this to rest. Let me show you in detail how such "urban legends" come to be.

Here's the case of a famous musician (**) who totally knew his music theory, despite what his fans (and occasionally he himself) said:

(*) Disclaimer: by contract, I get one politically-incorrect joke allowance every 5 emails. For people who are still offended, let me counterbalance that by saying that one of the best blues jams I had was with another guitar player who was legally deaf. She kept her rhythm on stage by touching the kick drum with her knee and feeling the vibrations. And she outplayed me - hard. If that's not damn impressive, I don't know what is.

(**) You won't guess who this musician is. And even if you do, you'll pronounce it wrong.

One thing that, believe it or not, will let you be way more creative as a guitar player is understanding where the notes are on your fretboard. It may seem difficult to learn, but it actually will take only 5 minutes a day for a couple months if you learn it the right way. Check out my free eBook on learning the notes on your fretboard to find out how.

Video Transcription

Tommaso Zillio 0:01
Hello, internets Nice to see you. I have a question for you guys.

Kamil 0:05
The only thing I'll say is that there's certain pioneers and musical styles who I think did benefit from knowing zero theory Chuck Schuldiner of death wrote incredibly weird chromatic odd timing yet somehow listable music and I do have to wonder if you learn theory first, if that would perhaps stifle his enormous creativity, I equate theory to tracking the foods you eat by counting calories, it's great, it's incredibly useful.

However, once you learn it, you can't unlearn it, it's a great thing to learn, don't get me wrong, but you'll forever see the fret board or keyboard or whatever differently.

Tommaso Zillio 0:29
These is what I call the music theory bias, meaning, every time we talk about music theory, somebody comes out with an example a these person did not learn music theory. And if they learn music theory, they will be unable to do what they do. First of all, how do you know that if somebody learned music theory, they would be worse?

It's kind of curious, everybody, everybody assumes that. But why? Why do we assume that the you guys have along the list of people that were great musicians, before they knew theory, and then when they learned theory, they became horrible musicians? No, because we actually do have a long list of people who were mediocre or okay musician, or actually even article musician, then they study theory.

And then they became much, much better at what they do. And then we, and then they became famous, okay. And we can start from you from musicians from 300 years ago, and make a long list starting from Mozart, starting from Beethoven starting from I don't know, Tchaikovsky to more modern musicians, we can go on and on and on. I'm not even starting making names because half of them people are gonna go like this person never knew music theory. And then it always turned out this person actually learned music theory. Okay. How do you know?

Okay, now, we haven't the example here I will Chuck Schuldiner of Death. And by the way, I hope I'm pronouncing that in the right way, because I'm a big fan. But I never know how to pronounce that last name. Okay, of course, we check Google for that. Chuck Schuldiner. Chuck Schuldiner.

Express, apparently that he didn't care about music theory. And so this seems to clinch it right? This seems to stamp it. This guy did not know music theory. But here's what you'll find out. If you dig a little bit and we dig a little bit. I mean, read the Wikipedia page until the end.

Kamil 2:34
Schuldiner was mostly self taught as a guitarist in 1993 expresses disinterest in music theory. I know enough about what I'm playing to memorize the scales and things, but I have no idea what you label them. As long as I can play it, memorize it and apply it. I don't need to know what you call it.

Tommaso Zillio 2:46
Again, these things to clinch it right? But no, listen exactly to what he was saying.

Kamil 2:52
I know enough about what I'm playing to memorize the scales and things, but I have no idea what you label them.

Tommaso Zillio 2:57
I know enough about what I'm playing to memorize this scales and thinks I know enough meaning first, in one way or another. Chuck found out that something like scale existed, guys scales is music theory, okay, whether you learn them by yourself or somebody teach them to you. Okay, yeah, they have come from somewhere.

Okay. This is music theory. And he knew his way around those scales, he knew our things, work it memorize this scales, and they knew how they worked. Okay, so he had a very good grasp of how music worked. Okay, we call that music theory. It's not academic music theory, because as he says in the second sentence:

Kamil 3:43
But I have no idea what you label them.

Tommaso Zillio 3:45
But I have no idea how you label them. So he had no idea about the jargon of music theory. So guys, let me put it this way. Let's say you learn to drive a car, okay. And then you never went to driving school, but you're not causing any incident and you respect all the rules of the road code, you stop at every intersection, if the light is red, and you stop at the stop sign you, you give precedence to other people when you have to, but when somebody asks you, you tell them, ya know, I don't know anything about the road code.

But every time the thing is there goes red, I stop. Well, do you really not know your road code? Do you really, you know how to drive, you know how to make the thing work and you know how to not be dangerous. Now, I don't necessarily recommend that. Okay. Go through your driver's school, make sure you know, you know exactly what you're doing that the moment you're doing all the right things.

You know it even if you call it in a completely different way, just because you don't use the name that people use today for something doesn't mean that you didn't know it. You know that this is a G major chord. Great, but if you call this one, the yellow chord, but you know that the yellow cord goes with the green cord, and with the red cord, because they're both different names for these things, you will still know your music theory you just have different names for that.

The Jargon is not the music theory, the important point is to know how things work in any possible sense of the word except for the academic jargon. Chuck Schuldiner, knew his music theory. But let's say, again, to make a point, let's say that he knew zero music theory. And he was already a good musician.

Again, I'm a fan, and was already a good musicians and an original one. And let's say at a certain point, we grabbed Chuck, and we haven't learned music theory. How would we know if we go if we possibly goes better horse? You can speculate but your speculation is as good as mine. The only way to do that will be to take the entire universe diplucate it in one universe, we live Chuck as it was, in other universe, we teach in music theory.

And then we go back a few years later, and we see what kind of music he wrote. Because it's not just the music theory, it's everything else. Everything interacts with everything. Okay? You can not just imagine if you knew music theory will be less creative, because I don't know, because you wouldn't have any model to follow. But maybe if he knew music theory, he has some model to follow, he could have been more efficient in writing.

And he may maybe would have been more creative simply because he would have tried more things. But if he knew music theory, he would have been been blocked by some model of thinking.

But if he knew music theory, maybe had more instruments and tools to do these, these are endless speculation, there is no way to tell, the only way to tell is that we know a lot of musicians who learned music theory, and were able to compose better music, but we don't know many musicians who were great.

And then they learn music theory, and they got worse. Right? If you have examples, by all means, write me all the example of people who were absolutely great original musician, and they learn music theory. And this made them worse, please do in the comment. I'm here, often to you're suggesting the internet can find at least an example of that, right? Write them in the comment. But more than that, there is another point here that it's absolutely important, and is that.

Kamil 7:27
However, once you learn it, you can't unlearn it.

Tommaso Zillio 7:29
Who says that? If you learn your Road Code, and you're driving your car, does this stop you to run a red light from running a red light? I mean, come on, can you run around on red light? If you really want to? If you really want to? Can you run a red light? Of course you can. Again, and that's not recommended.

But can you break the Road Code any moment you want you learn it. Of course, you cannot unlearn it in the sense that you cannot pretend you never knew it. But you can still do whatever you want. And indeed, you are responsible whenever you want. In the eyes of the law, for instance, you're responsible, if you run a red light, they totally nail you for being responsible for that. Okay, but you can still do it.

If you learn music theory, it's super, super easy to ignore it. Just don't do that. Or even better, just do the opposite. Once you see what other people have done, you are actually it's actually easier for you to be creative, because you already know what roads were taken. And you can take another one. Okay, it's really not that hard.

Everything you learn, you cannot unlearn it, maybe, but you can still ignore it and still do whatever else if that's what it takes. If really, when you learn music theory, you find that all this stuff is really not helping you. This is still helping you because you can ignore it. And you can go the complete opposite direction, okay?

Either it points the wave positively or your points that way negatively. So it's still useful to learn this debate and go on forever until somebody diplucate the universes, okay, and they can experiment with somebody, they're never going to end. But I am pretty confident that if you learn music theory, this is going to help you and whatever music theory is not a single block of thing. It's a set of tools, learns, learn the tools you need.

And somebody asked me learn the tools you need to make the music you want to make now one tool that will help everybody regardless is to learn the notes on your fretboard, okay? Just knowing where the notes are, it's not going to restrict you, it's going to make it much much much easier when you communicate with other people.

And when you learn new pieces and also when you think when you're composing melodies and riffs and chord progression on this kind of stuff. Okay, now learning the notes on the fretboard seems impossible at first. It's actually really easy if you do the right thing. So I have a free ebook completely free link on the top right, you get this ebook, okay. You read you read it or you follow the videos that come with that you do this exercise for fun I have meaning for day, five minutes for a few weeks, please no more than five minutes.

Take it easy. Okay, for a few weeks and by dinner last few weeks, you know all the notes on your fretboard as if they are painted on top. Okay, you can always seek nerdiness you can always play whatever you want. Nobody's stopping you to play the most strange chromatic stuff just because you want to.

But no when the notes help you finding your way around, and it increases your possibility. The possibilities that you have right now for composition, the creativity you have right now, when you do not know music theory is not going to diminish. He's not going to get less when you learn music theory it can just increase. Okay, because music theory is not a set of rules of law. It's a set of tools that you can use. And with that, I'm leaving you. This is Tommaso Zillio for, and until next time, enjoy.

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