I ask this for I’m one of those play-by-ear musicians that has always had a “math block” in terms of understanding and integrating more advanced music theory. For example, I don’t read music, I just know what is melodic or fits or not.
I have the basics down, but even with the Chord track and related Assistant, or even the transposition features in MIDI since I use that alot… I get brain freeze. For example, I want to emulate (not copy) a key change in a song like My Sweet Lord by George Harrison to apply to my own work, but I’m stumped.
Please don’t lecture me on this seeming limited perspective - I have had a clinical anxiety-depressive condition for decades and so it’s not about cutting corners - I experience actual panic when in what for me is info overload.
I’m always open to learning new things, but I have to be able to take it one step at a time. I’ve watched and bookmarked a lot of YouTube videos on such things, but it’s just overwhelming to integrate it.
I simply need to be able to get some direct input and advice free of dogma on how to do what I’m good at. None of us can do or be everything.
Last, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a Cubase community, but that would make it easier to apply what I would learn since that is my only DAW (I have v. 11x).
Hey there, no shame I’m not understanding music theory - there are lots of us here with only limited knowledge and anyway, it’s a massive topic.
Not quite sure on your ask tho - do you want critique on your music from those with more theoretical know how, or advice from those same people on how do achieve more complex structure in your composition?
@Sub3OneDay - Thanks, and yes, it is indeed a massive topic considering how long music has been around…
As to critique on my music or advice on how to be more proficient, both.
The only thing I’m a bit paranoid about is uploading even a partial project mixdown for critique as an .mp3 (or put on my free Soundcloud page) for not everyone is ethical or copyright conscious.
Not that my stuff is so awesome, it’s just that sampling is a way of life now for many. I’ll never make money with my music nor it is a goal of mine, I just work really hard on the very little I do.
I obsess over a grace note or drum fill, phrasing, and so on for I’m pretty old school - grew up in the 1960s and 70s on Pink Floyd, prog rock and the more layered stuff that requires attention to details that no drum machine or drop and play sample can duplicate.
Though I am learning to “cheat” with patterns, VSTs, etc. But there too, I can’t resist to freakin’ tweak stuff to my liking. I’m not OCD, but I sure feel like it sometimes - lol.
The lounge forum here is exactly what you are after. All sorts of music is posted and, for the most part, you’ll get a comment or two. Usually people only reply if they like what you do or can suggest a tweak to make it sound better. I’ve been posting for years and not one sample taken – this forum is a sharing place nonetheless. Soundcloud works for many here. I use Bandcamp.
Don’t worry about copyright issues. You are protected by law automatically (depending where you are to some extent). And the chances of someone violating your copyright based on a posting on a Cubase forum are very, very, very, very small. Posting examples of your work is by far the best way of getting people to understand where you are and what you need.
@moggs and @RichardTownsend - Thanks for your replies. I’ll check out the lounge forum when I’m ready to toss something out there for input and chill out on the whole sampling, copyrights thing. A Steinberg forum is pretty specialized, it’s not Tik Tok or the like.
Yes times 100. Plus someone violating your copyright doesn’t cause you to loose it, although you could be due a royalty.
I discovered I had a learning disability fairly late in life. It is called dyscalculia and for me messes with my ability to detect the amounts of things. For example, most folks if you show them 2 apples, they immediately know that there are 2 of them. And for 5 apples same thing folks can tell right away there are 5. But if you show them 17 apples they can’t see that and will need to count. While it will vary between folks, somewhere between 5 and 17 there is a quantity where you have to start counting instead of just seeing the amount.
For me that cutoff point is 1. If it is more than 1 I’ll need to count to see how many there are. Like many folks with this I never learned my arithmetic tables (addition, multiplication, etc.) and instead use elaborate counting schemes. Oddly I can do math like proofs or set theory fine outside of the arithmetic being slow (or not with a calculator).
The way this impacts me for music is with reading music. For most of my life I thought I couldn’t read music - even though I’d “learned” how several times. Turns out I could read music, I just can’t sight read it. For example if there’s a note on the 3rd space I don’t look at it and recognize it is on the 3rd space, instead I need to count 1-2-3 to figure that out. As you might imagine, that turns out to be a bit too slow for sight reading. Once I understood this it allowed me to examine how I had been dealing with music theory and make useful adjustments.
So I’ve had the experience of not knowing theory or being able to understand notation and thinking I never would, to becoming pretty proficient at theory and adequate enough at notation. Here’s some things I picked up along that trip that I found useful - your mileage may vary.
Figure out what you are wasting effort on and get rid of it. For me that was allowing sight reading to be way more important than it really was for me. I have no urgent desire to be able to pick up some music and play it right off. Yeah that’s a nice skill to have but ultimately it didn’t make sense to invest a bunch of time & energy developing when you know the end result will be mediocre at best (and likely much worse). Just telling myself that it was perfectly fine to ignore sight reading was liberating - like never having to wash your dishes again (if only).
But there was also a deeper impact. As we all know, there are some musicians out there that are pretty snooty about reading music. And music theory is almost always described using notation. This makes it seem like the ability to sight read is necessary in order to be able to understand music theory - which isn’t true. For theory the most useful thing to understand about music notation is the intervals between notes. That’s fairly straight forward to figure out if I look at it for awhile. By removing the “sight” part from reading music it removed a false barrier to studying music theory.
I found this book that is a really good introduction to music theory aimed at folks who play but don’t necessarily read. It does use notation to illustrate things, but it is in very bite sized and accessible examples and actually an easy way to learn notation independent from playing. It is:
Inside the Music - The Musician’s Guide to Composition, Improvisation, and the Mechanics of Music by Dave Stewart (not the guy from Eurythmics)
I also find it super useful to make tables and charts for stuff I’m going to struggle with. The chart below is laminated & lying about the studio. It just shows the notes in the major scale (minor is on the next page) for each key. The way the borders are marked makes it easy to find the notes for various chords. As I got more into theory I discovered it was much easier to think about chords & harmony as roman numerals. This is because a I-IV-V progression is always “I-IV-V” regardless of key. But when using actual chord names it is C-F-G or F-Bb-C or G-C-D depending. Well that gets confusing for me fast, but the numbers (alas not roman) at the top let me think in terms of numerals and then ‘translate’ that into actual note/chord names.
My point isn’t that a chart like this would be particularly useful to anyone but myself. But it is an example of creating your own accommodation. If I were going to school now, diagnosed and taking algebra the school would likely grant me an accommodation to use a calculator for arithmetic while learning algebra. Similarly for music (or anything really) it is useful to consider if there are any little custom ‘tools’ you can create or find that will make something easier - especially when confronting our own internal mental roadblocks.
@raino - I much appreciate your sharing your own condition/challenges and your, well, life-workaround, so to speak. I always feel reluctance to briefly point to my own for I’m not fishing for pity, I just need to state the “what is,is” sometimes.
As to using essentially visual aids such as your chart, you kind of read my mind, for I ended up ordering a few things such as an easy to understand book on the circle of fifth (something I’ve really struggled to understand and so far gave up on…), and some laminated charts for chords – and even one with colored bands of how to best put standard instruments over audio frequencies range.
I am very much a visual person (I used to be a graphic designer). And so my hope is that to have these handy references will help tone down the mental freak out syndrome.
Here’s a couple more book suggestions. Both of these are more for using as a reference rather than reading through.
The Composer’s Reference Guide by David W. Mann - very concise at about 30 pages. Lots of tables showing everything from Ranges of Various Instruments to Rhythm Patterns & Pitch Contours
Chord Progressions for Songwriters by Richard J. Scott - at about 500 pages this is pretty comprehensive. Each chapter focuses on a style, genre or technique examining its chord progressions and variants. They also list various songs, often quite different sounding, that are based on the same progression. Some chapter titles: Blues Progressions, Ascending Bass Lines, Classic Rock Progressions, Coltrane Changes, Endings, Turnarounds, Circle Progressions and many more.
These are Studio One centric channels, but I sometimes just watch their live streams as it’s a really close chilled out community.
^ On a Wednesdays he does a show called “Songwriting simplified”, and it’s with another guy called Jonny Lipsham who likes to talk and answer questions about songs, key changes and chords.
Also do a viewers listen along where people send music in and they chat, and also a co-host every now and again where people talking about their setups or music. There’s only 15-25 people hanging around, sometimes less - so it’s not overly busy or confusing.
Lipsham’s channel is here, as he does “Songwriting Simpified” on his own on a Sunday too (In about 2 hours):-
Now, that may not be the sort of thing that you like, but as you get anxiety (I Think most of us in the creative sphere have experienced it to be fair) - I’m thinking you’d maybe like how everything is really quite slow pace, nothings rushed and you feel part of the conversation if you fancy it.
And yes, it’s Studio One heavy at times, but when they’re talking about song writing and even DAW specifics, a lot of what’s discussed applies - particularly in regards to general music production. I think they’d be quite pleased to see some stray Cubase users stumble over!
@raino, @skijumptoes, @RichardTownsend - just wanted to thank and acknowledge you for your replies for now for I’m too exhausted to respond in some more depth at this juncture. I’ll do so in the next couple of days. Hasta la yaddiyatta.