Reginald Young (aka Neon The Rex) has published Music Theory: The TL;DR Version, a comprehensive music theory tutorial created for EDM producers and electronic musicians.
Composing without music theory is like mixing without EQ. It’s possible, but I don’t recommend it. Once you learn theory well, you’ll see how to treat the “rules” instead as “guidelines.”
I’ve always thought that my lack of music theory knowledge works to my advantage as a music producer. Although I do understand the basics of scales and chords, I never really tried to learn anything more than that. The idea was to follow my own instincts when creating new music, instead of following a set of rules.
As I get older though, I’m beginning to realize that I was rather wrong by thinking that. My lack of knowledge when it comes to music theory is holding me back from reaching a higher level as a composer. There’s no point in denying it.
It’s somewhat similar to learning the grammar of a new language. If you learn a new language “by ear”, you can get pretty good at it, even to a point where you can communicate with other people at a decent level. But can you write a novel in that language without a decent knowledge of grammar? Learning new words and the rules of a language gives you the ability to express deeper feelings and complex thoughts on a piece of paper. Same goes for music theory, in a way.
Of course, there are many talented people out there who create emotional and breathtaking music which can’t be explained in music theory books. Burial comes to mind. You can hardly hear any notes in his tunes, but they’re filled with emotion and that dark rainy atmosphere.
But if you’re trying to create melodic music with loads of synth lines and complex chords progressions, learning the theory WILL help. And as mentioned in the quote above, those rules are not a limitation. Their purpose is to guide you more quickly through all the possibilities when composing new music.
So, Neon The Rex has created a free ebook for us electronic music producers who would like to learn more about music theory. The book explains everything from basic chords and scales to syncopation and polyrythms. It’s written in an easy to read manner and it’s a must have for all of us who get the TL:DR reflex any time we see a chunk of text.
The book is a free download in PDF format. You can also donate to the author if you want. The download page will ask for your credit card info, but simply skip that and set the amount to $0 to get the book for free.
Btw, what are your thoughts on learning music theory VS composing without it? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Here’s a tune by Neon The Rex for your listening pleasure:
Music Theory: The TL;DR Version is available for free download via Gumroad (1.2 MB download size, PDF format).