So I'm doing a course design presentation for my Music Theory Pedagogy class and I need your help. Just answer the following the questions. Thanks in advance.

  1. How much formal/informal music theory training do you have?
  2. If you have music theory training, did you find it relevant to you as a composer? Why or why not.
  3. If you do not have any theory training, do you think it will benefit you as a composer or hinder you? why or why not.

Please just answer the question and refrain from responding to each other in this thread. thank you.

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  • How much formal/informal music theory training do you have?

    Was self-taught with the barely the basics, enough to read treble clef, and figure out bass clef. At 45 yo, started "formal" training as a music composition major in college, eventually earning a bachelor's degree.

    If you have music theory training, did you find it relevant to you as a composer? Why or why not.

    I thought I needed more than the basic theory to compose. After graduating, I basically picked up where I left off before returning to school, using my initial limited basic theory skills to compose! However, the more I compose, the more the formal training skills arose to the surface. I never felt like I fully absorbed what I learned in school, but the training has a way of magically appearing when I need it. Kind of hard to describe, really. Lots of "Aha! That's what this means!" I'm finally absorbing the theory I learned in school in practice (now that I'm not composing just for a grade), and am just beginning to use it with a bit of foresight (as opposed to recognizing it in hindsight). The value of my formal training hasn't fully revealed itself yet, but continues to every day I compose.

  • 1) 2 years formal training, including a year as a composition major where I took nothing but music courses.

    2) It is highly relevant to me, although going with my heart is also highly relevant.

  • I studied a few years of theory courses in music school. I was actually a trumpet major but always screwed around in the MIDI labs creating fake scores for the fun of it. After dropping out of music school due to the brass department judging my juries on how I looked rather than how the music sounded, I realized I should have majored in composition instead because I loved composing. Kinda came naturally.

    I compose film scores now. The theory helps immensely when it comes to figuring out what to compose, but really, I don't focus on it when I'm in the zone. I write what I hear and if it sounds good, the director is happy and the audience is moved, then I've succeeded. I could care less if, according to some anal music theory nerds, I should have put the third of a chord in the trombone section. It's frickin' music for a film. So in conclusion: learn some theory so you can be assisted in making the idea in your head come alive. Don't analyze your use of ____(anything musical) in correlation to _____(what any orchestral section is doing at the moment) to please the theory nerds. Focus on what you hear and just write!

  •      1. Little, except for what came along the way with several years' piano lessons as a child, and from several decades of my own playing of piano music, and from studying scores and following them while listening to music.  I consider myself quite knowledgeable about music theory, despite the informal method of how I acquired this knowledge.

         2. How relevant?  Entirely, totally, completely.  To my mind, a composer who doesn't know theory thoroughly, or, in some cases, has little skill in music notation, is like a writer who can't spell and use grammar correctly, or even write at all.

         3. Not applicable, since I do have theory, even if my training was largely self-administered.  But I definitely think lack of theoretical knowledge could never benefit a composer, and might very likely hinder them.

    Regards, Michael Edwards.

  • 1. I have studied music theory since the age of 7 and composition at university level.

    2. As a tonal composer I find it absolutely necessary. To be able to chose from solutions presented by others in theoretical studies is invaluable whenever I get stuck and don't know how to proceed. That knowledge can always present at least a couple of useful solutions for continuing to work. They will not always be the final solutions but a great help along the way.

    To be able to judge my pieces from a theoretical point of view has also helped me alot when trying to build my confidence as a composer and presenting my music to others. If I "know" and can explain why my piece is a well written one in its genre or tradition then I can use that to convince others of the same.

    My own teacher at university always said that we as students had to be able to defend every notes place in the score or else he would encourage us to exclude them. That argumentation taught me alot and would not have been possible if it was only based on emotional input from what we heard or felt from listening to or reading through the piece.

  • 1.


    Three years of 4-part writing in great depth, one year of counterpoint.

    Two years of analysis.



    Two years of in-depth analysis of a variety of music.



    Yes, I found it relevant. It gave me a language for understanding why melodies and chords sound the way they do, and an overview of the various forms composers have used through the centuries to organize their music. Now I can use this knowledge to either emulate a style of create something a little bit different.



  • 1) I have a few years of 4 part writing/harmony, counterpoint, orchestration and 20th century compositional technique courses under my belt.

    2) For me definitely relevant, there are things I simply would not be able to do in my work without it, or at least not as consistently or quickly. There are people out there that do well without and I think they are super talented to be able to write as well as they do without any formal training but for me understanding the language helps me to come to decisions a lot more quickly and at least know what will and will not work to a certain extent before I even attempt to write anything.

  • 1. Tons.

    2. It comes in handy when you're stuck with a 3-note melody (for instance because you've promised someone to put an accompaniment under it) and you're looking for 13 chords instead of 3. So, yeah, I find training in theory very useful. It suggests things to do, and it can get me out of corners I've painted myself into.

    3. na/

  • Certainly it's relevant, although I don't necessarily consciously use or break the rules of theory.  Learning about modulations has been a big help though.  I also think that understanding the theory behind the music has helped me write my pieces.  

  • 1) I have the required 4 years of college music theory  which covers tonality counterpoint,free atonality, twelve tone,  set theory,etc.

    2) I found that theory is and isnt relevant to me as a composer. It is good to know and it helps me get out of jams relatively quickly but it never hinders me from writing what i hear in my head. What i hear in my head always takes precedence. Knowing all the theory is definitely beneficial for when one needs to write quickly. one always has a good set of options readily available to use in a pinch. Very helpful for meeting deadlines and maintaining a certain level of quality.

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