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Allen's Master Theory Help & Hints

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Master Theory FAQ

Q01   What exactily is the Master Theory Workbook?

A01    The Master Theory Workbook is a series of six books which teach music theory in a do-it-yourself format. They are published by Neil A. Kjos Music (copyright 1965) and sell for about $4.00 apiece. Each book contains 30 concise lessons which illustrate a particular facet of music learning. It is one of few theory books that does not reference itself specifically to the piano keyboard.

Q02    What exactly is Music Theory?

A02    Music Theory is the study of how music works. It involves notation, form, rhythms & counting, ear training and harmony. It is the study of music itself as opposed to the study of a particular musical instrument.

Q03    Why do you require your students to work in Master Theory?

A03    The primary purpose is to take the actual workings of music (as opposed to those of the instrument) and teach them to the student in an environment where he/she is not distracted by the manipulation of the instrument. The reason, for example, that so many students count rhythms so poorly is the fact that they have difficulty in focusing on rhythm when they're struggling with instrument fingerings at the same time. The same is true of many facets of music. The theory book provides the student with a place to work out their musical mechanics before applying them to their instruments.

Q04    What benefits does the student get from learning Music Theory?

A04   Musicians need to actually know what they're doing (musically speaking) in order to make music their own and have it serve their purposes. My students work in books 1, 2 and 3 because they contain the kind of theory information needed by the players of band instruments. After finishing book 3, a player can write down a simple song, put it in two-part harmony, and choose piano/guitar chords for accompaniment. This is "players" theory. Students who have learned and mastered these basic skills are equipped to put together a performance from scratch. They have learned the language of music and can discuss it intelligently and efficiently with both schooled and unschooled musicians. They are better equipped to receive knowledge from more experienced players, and better equipped to provide assistance to weaker players with whom they might be associated.

Q05    Why do this from a workbook? Why not a computer program or some more modern way?

A05    The main reason is reinforcement. The master theory workbook teaches musical concepts in a bite-sized pieces, and the exercises provide practice and experience in the subject matter. Once the student has completed and corrected the lessons, he or she has a self-written reference guide to music that can be kept and referred to for a lifetime. While I have often longed for a computer program to teach rhythm and ear training, the fact remains the the student retains the material better by writing it down and dealing with it. After all, most musicians do not have a computer available on the bandstand, and must learn to work things out on the spot. Most will write music by hand and not by computer.

Q06    Why do they put "R" in place of all rests? Wouldn't it be easier just to write the beats?

A06    This was my question when I first started using the book. What I've found is that when students write straight beats under rests, they tend to ignore the rests and play right through them. Master Theory solves this problem by using the letter "R" to symbolize rests. This acts as a reminder to the student that the beat involved should be silent. When having students recite rhythms, I always insist that they be absolutely silent everywhere that they see an "R."

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