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).
Too many internet memes to take seriously. Thoughts aren’t well illustrated and it comes off as technical but non-explanatory.
Music theory is actually shockingly simple and practical once it finally clicks. It’s the getting to the clicking part that takes some patience :)
I’m taking the ignorance is bliss road :D
Please guide me.. I love electronic music very much but I don’t know any of it’s theory. Please tell me how to start up.
Listen to the work of Juan Atkins, Carl Craig, Derrick May and figure it out. The concept is straightforward but to make a track like this is rather hard. https://youtu.be/So0kzVXGB2E
That EDM track…..anyone could make that. I could see zero theroy behind it. No complex beat, no chord progressions that make it stand out. I was laughing as it;s like electronic music has actually regressed as a form of music. That early techno had soul and there is still great techno being made and kids like THAT?????
There is no real theory, well you need to just listen to classic electronic music from Kraftverk to Juan Atkins/Derrick May and learn from it. For the guy who made that track that is totally appalling and devoid of any decent beat/melody/hook/chord progression to have the cheek to make/put his name to a book is almost funny. Listen to these and others that will show up in Youtube and learn from them…
Compare these to that neon the rex..thing
Now bearing in mind all those except one are over 25 years old and that trash posted by the rex is new, who do u want to learn from? These are all complete works of electronic genius so all u can do is listen to this stuff and try your best. Come up with ideas of your own. This site is good for drum patterns btw and I’d say this is the best Techno one on there
neon the rex is a terrible nickname, to be frank
Indeed and call me a cynic (which I definitely am). I downloaded that book and if the same guy who knows a hell of a lot about pretty obscure chord progressions, polyrhythms, syncopation wrote that track which is complete and utter junk from an electronic music perspective. It has no hook or repeating melody. It has untold chord progressions that have to my ears no relation to each other, has a very feeble rhythmic structure. It’s total junk. How has Kraftverk, the great electronic pop of Depeche Mode etc then electronic masterpieces by Juan Atkins and others from Detroit, Aphex Twin, The Black Dog, Orbital etc regressed to this utter bilge and this guy knows all this about music theory? I could wack something like that together in an afternoon I reckon. It says in the book “This is what I teach my guitar students” hmmmmmm I don’t reckon he even wrote it.
Listen to that pathetic track. Music theory for EDM producers. My advice would be to go and learn to make techno which is a hell of a lot harder than watered down kiddies dance music like that terrible thing. I’m laughing as someone who experienced the acid house/techno/Balearic scene in London in the late 80’s THAT rubbish is what it has become 25 years later….it’s not even depressing, it’f funny as every reinvention of the basic 4-4 house/disco format instead of it going forward it seems to be heading for the toil;et of history and so it should. That crap would have lead to a mass exodus of the dancefloor. Is that really what is this huge worldwide EDM thing is? Lightweight simple as anything kiddies dance music. I reckon I could make a track like that in 2 hours, no probs.