Music Theory

There’s no thread dedicated to just music theory - so, from the most basic theory questions, to the most analytically deep musings, anything goes here. In B2B, it seemed like anything related to this was almost taboo - the sort of thing that, well, we quickly have to learn a little, so hold your nose, till we get back to the more “fun” things.

For me, I enjoy it. But not always. There are times I turn my nerd brain on, and find it fascinating. Other times, nerd brain off, I’m just into the music, and playing, and I just don’t care about the “why” behind it.

There’s some real wisdom in a lot of threads that may get lost, so, gonna consolidate some of it here, feel free to add more:

@joergkutter , in recapping some great stuff on modes and chords “I might also be overthinking the whole thing, but the resulting occasional eureka moment makes up for that”

" @Gio 's Rule" , to keep in mind, regardless of what the theory says: REMEMBER THE GOLDEN RULE OF MUSIC - THE ONLY RULE OF MUSIC: IF IT SOUNDS GOOD… THEN IT IS ALLOWED.

@JoshFossgreen 's book recommendation: (I’m almost all the way through it, and it’s a great read. Would recommend completing B2B first though, as the book assumes some knowledge)

Hope for some juicy theory discussions here at some point! But, if the crickets are chirping on this thread, it’s all good too. I think music theory is one of those places where the artistic mind collides with the intellectual mind, and, it’s not always a pleasant thing. And, yes, there are plenty of musicians who know very little theory, but are absolutely brilliant. (Though, I suspect, they may not be able to verbalize and use the vocabulary of music theory, but, they have internalized its concepts in some way to a high degree.)


Great idea to have a dedicated thread for this, @Vik :+1:

I’ve been going over Josh’s lessons and focusing on the music theory & reading music, and taking down notes. For each lesson, I stop several times along the way and double check what he says before I write it down.

When I first took the course, I was so focused on learning which frets to play for the workouts, that by the end of the fast one, I forgot what the point of the lesson was! :unamused:

Anyway, on this second go around, I’m still discovering that I have even more questions, but it’s all indeed beginning to sink in.

I’ll post any questions I might have, as well as share anything I figured out.

All best, Joe :slight_smile:


Same experience here - all the finer points went way over my head, just tried to stay afloat the first time through, but the second time around, now, I can go back, and well… end up with even more questions and tangents, haha :laughing:


Great initiative, @Vik! And, wow, totally stoked that I am listed together with the maestros :sunglasses:

Btw, you had a lot of good nuggets there yourself in your “opening remarks” :smile:

But, seriously, I am very interested in getting a handle on theory this time around. Many years ago, in my first musical life, I just could not be bothered with this at all. My eyes glazed over when someone was talking about ii-V-I and turnarounds and modes. As a result, I tried to “wing” a lot, and often got away with it, but I knew deep down that it was not really satisfying or allowing for development. So, this time, I want to understand much better; and, for my long term goal of being able to play jazz, I think it is absolutely essential!

Looking forward to great discussions here!


Point in case from a long time ago (and possibly a galaxy far away) when we were discussing an interview with Duff McKagan. His musicality is certainly undeniable and he is very likely not bothered in the least about not knowing “stuff”:

So, Duff just “knows” how to play certain things and is not too concerned with what things are called; he doesn’t need to, he still makes great music. But, if you turn it around, for me it was one of those eureka moments to realize how the blues scale and the mixolydian scale are related! Some, like me, find that cool (because it hints at underlying principles and some connecting logic), while others are more like “meh”…

(And just to make clear: I don’t mean to be condescending or to ridicule people who don’t know theory; and we all know that @JoshFossgreen for sure isn’t either). :smile:


Man, I’ve learned some stuff from your theory points along these threads - I can’t claim to have quite understood it all, especially at first read, but it’s the good stuff!

It’s funny you brought that thread up - I just revisited it yesterday, as I started studying modes a couple of weeks ago - Lydian and Mixolydian especially. Have some burning questions, but gonna wait till these concepts soak in a bit more before asking. (Don’t quite know what I’m asking just yet!)

?? Have no idea what you’re talking about! But that’s what’s great about this thread too - food for thought. Will have to either look at the blues scale and mixolydian and figure this out - And if not, of course, I will just ask you to explain!


I strongly recommend studying them with a piano keyboard at first using the modes of Cmaj. It will make a lot more sense.


For now, I just “see” Lydian as 2,4; 1,3,4; 1,3,4 fingering pattern, and Mixolydian as 2,4; 1,2,4; 1,2,4 ; From the Module 7 lesson on learning the finger fretboard pattern of a major scale. It is just one finger difference on each of the scales.

Part of me knows I am making the 4th interval a half step up, or “sharpening” it for the Lydian. Ditto for the Mixolydian, just making the 7th interval “flattening” it, one half step down from a major scale. And those scales sound decent, I mean, nothing noticably crazy. But just from doing this one small thing, we are creating a whole new scale?? I always thought a new scale would be significantly different. This seems like only a small change. And, if you never even play the 4th interval in a tune, then what is the difference really in a lydian and just a regular major scale? And is the one note slight change really that noticeable in music, to where someone can pinpoint something as so different, as to be mixolydian?


Seriously - piano. It’s all really obvious then. They aren’t really different scales - they are modes of the major scale, using the same notes but starting at different scale degrees. And they all sound different in subtle but important ways.


It is also what @JoshFossgreen is hinting to in the quote inserted above.

Deal! Figuring it out by yourself is so much more rewarding! Hint: it has to do with the main type of chords used in (major/standard) blues.


Very coincidentally, and somewhat in line with using a piano keyboard for better visualization suggested by @howard, check out this very enlightening recent video here:

Make sure to stick around til the very end!


Great videos guys, really for anyone that’s even just curious about the modes!

I guess it all just comes to tonality, and which note you start on (and resolve to) in the set of notes, that leads to a shift in the intervals, and the mood or brightness. I can see how the very same notes in a C major scale can make an F Lydian or a G Mixolydian scale. I think I just need to get a better ear for how this is really so different.

Or before I go and make something up in Augmented Lydian or Super Locrian :face_with_raised_eyebrow::money_mouth_face::scream::smiling_imp:


Yeah! It really helps when you look at it on a piano and realize that the modes are really just rotating through the interval starting points by scale degree. It becomes immediately obvious what is going on, and then a bit of a jump to how and why the chord progressions are laid out how they are.


I also think these aspects become clearer once you start experimenting with composing melody lines etc. I am not talking of entire suites or big symphonies, but even putting together little melodic lines y yourself all of a sudden make you realize that you are invoking, e.g., the lydian mode, even without “knowing” or actively intending it. Then, slowly, more and more pieces are falling into place :smile:

The augmented lydian and the super locrian are, of course, not part of the family of diatonic modes of the major scale - but you know that, right?! I think the super locrian is part of the diatonic modes of the harmonic minor scale… in essence, yet another rabbit hole to get lost in…


They’re both!

+1 to that. One note different is a lot!


Also - if enough folks are interested, I could make a :musical_note: Theory subforum :musical_note: (like how we have one for Gear and Technique) to help keep things easier to find as topics get more diverse…

Click like on this post if you’d dig that!

EDIT: Done! Here we are in the Theory forum!


I dig it!


Right on!

Maybe also a Playalong / Covers / Create Your Bassline (Don’t know what to label it), Subforum for that stuff??

BassBuzz forums are growing fast!!


Great idea, @JoshFossgreen ! :+1:


A great suggestion @Vik! Would help keep actual music posts together in one spot.