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Music Theory Lesson: "Don't be a Pretentious Wanker"

March 15, 2018

I love Wayne Krantz's playing. He has a cool thing going . I heard him say recently that if  he could give advice to  his former self he would say to" forget theory and just join a hip hop band".  My reaction to that is- well, if it was 1986 and you aren't interested in expanding  into a lifetime of learning new and interesting things, cool.

Wayne Krantz studied theory very extensively and uses it intuitively. Prince, Jimi, Sly, The Beatles.. you think they didn't know theory? Can you play a C note on the guitar? Can you find that same C on all the other strings? Can you build a scale from that note? Can you find the rest of the chords in that key? I guarantee Jimi, Sly, Prince, and the Beatles could. Theory is simply a tool of analysis. It is not a set of rules. Anyone that says theory is unnecessary is just being a pretentious wanker.

 Classical composition theory was originally taught as a set of rules to be followed like a chess game. The world and people's ears have expanded exponentially since those days. And western harmonic analysis is just a way of explaining how anything works. All ideas are valid. Aesthetic is a different subject...

As a Music theory teacher, is it o.k. to call someone a pretentious wanker? Definitely, we are all pretentious wankers at some point.

The gift of savante playing is truly magical and involves the waking of all senses. But in order to hold onto it you need to be able to give it a sense of order so that you can identify and revisit your discoveries.

John Lee Hooker didn't know theory in the way it is taught traditionally, but he had his own names for chords, bass lines, scales, riffs and sections of songs. He called a bridge a "channel" and a scale a line etc.. He invented his own theory. We just have different names for the same thing. Would he have been better off if he was taught the traditional terms? Probably not. It might have hindered him. Sometimes it is good to stay within the limitations just to master that one particular thing.

George Thorogood said "I only know three chords, but I know'em cold". What he did was fun and cool. But if you want to be an improviser with a vast vocabulary, there is no getting away from learning the complete language. Otherwise it is very difficult to not end up playing the same pentatonic box shapes most guitarists are stuck with. (Many have made a great living at it).

John Coltrane is the perfect example of soulfulness and theoretical application. Wayne K. spent many years studying theory, transcribing countless solos, applying Charlie Banacos techniques until his own vocabulary emerged. Now he is regretting his own path. I think maybe he is just talking too much and should just keep playing... Which is what I'll do now. Best wishes to you on your journey!! and go listen to some Wayne Krantz.!

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