Avoid One-Dimensional Theory

Throughout taking standard piano lessons, we are piece-mealed music theory at the rate and order that the teacher thinks best.  When you end lessons, you may grasp some theory but overall, lack the full picture because you don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle.

It’s a puzzle that you cannot see without first having all the pieces laid out before you.  Once you have that, it is much easier to put that puzzle together to see the full picture.

But nobody thinks about the full picture

when they teach theory. 

Everything is a one-dimensional fact; delivered without any insights into motion.  However, music is not one dimensional!   All theories interact in concert.  You cannot realize those relationships by studying any one theory in and of itself.

There is an underlying river of motion beneath the surface that organizes all the moving parts.  For example:

Time signatures show the intent of a composer that most people don’t even realize is there.

Written songs use note size-scales that give a good indication of implied speed.  Recognizing that innuendo is the skill of a play-by-ear master.  That’s how they can interpret thousands of songs they’ve never seen before in fake books.

Then, there’s counting. 

You must learn to count notes like an expert until you “get it.”  You “get it” when you can easily play a one-note melody line of a song you’ve never seen before; another skill of the play-by-ear master.

If you think what a seasoned musician knows is too vast for you to understand, you are wrong.  In the end, everything distills down to simplicity.  Even the most complex of concepts is rooted in one simple relationship of notes or another.

Approach learning theory on a multi-level understanding with a higher goal in mind.  A pro’s knowledge may be vast, but the categories are well-defined and limited.  Once you know those categories you have a proper syllabus to base your learning quest.

Always focus on inter-relational concepts beyond music theory.  The one-concept-at-a-time approach is flawed in that it doesn’t give the whole picture, reveal the end result or show the working machine in motion.

As far as I am aware, there is no inclusive goal to teach music theory as a unit in motion.  However, to become an expert quickly, you’ve got to be able to see this particular light.

You’ll never ever see it with one-dimensional thinking. 

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