How to Learn Music (Epistemology and Music in the Digital Age) [ AN’s Bass Lessons #19 ]


so why does music theory seem so heavy and intellectual when you’re studying it most of the bass players that you know and love clearly aren’t approaching music from that sort of overly cerebral angle so why should you when we’re playing music by ourselves or with other people there’s really only one question that we should be asking ourselves and that is do I like it in other words do I like what I’m playing and it’s an extraordinary difficult question to answer and yet a very fundamentally important one to the whole creative musical process the ability to make a decision about a particular detail like I don’t like this note is a fundamentally creative one in the beginning stages of learning music most of the time the answer to this question do I like it we’ll be getting over the self-doubt whether or not your answer is right or wrong will be a lot more difficult the older you are when you’re learning music generally children don’t have this problem after a while if you keep honestly asking yourself the question do I like it your decisions become a little bit more clear you start remembering previous answers to that question do I like it and then can anticipate whether or not you will like asserting something or dislike it it’s through this simple and yet overwhelmingly complex process that a person could learn how to play music without knowing anything about the names of the notes scales music theory etc etc etc you don’t need to know what tenses are or what a gerund is if you’re first learning how to speak a language so why intellectualize music in the same way good question Adam it’s because intellectualizing music makes learning music much faster people who simply ask the question do I like it we’ll have to reinvent the wheel along every step of the way in their learning process instead of simply looking up the scale fingerings for a particular scale they’ll have to try and figure it out trial and error and even then there might be a lot of misunderstanding the knowledge of music theory is the ultimate shortcut in your musical learning process it gives you a frame of reference for sending higher and higher in your musical journey information is power and if you can harness that information you will become a very powerful musician in the what does the scouter say about his power level its over nine in the age of the internet and musical information is everywhere available for everybody you would think that general musicianship would be a lot higher as compared to the pre-internet age where the wealth of information was something wasn’t there or was guarded a lot more closely yes there’s incredible musicians out there but we don’t seem to be living in a gilded age of hyper virtuosos as compared to previous eras why might that be and come to think of it if musical theory is the ultimate shortcut and is available for everybody for free on the internet then why would traditional institutions of education still be thriving they’re still raking in the tuition dollars but shouldn’t music colleges be reeling from the new paradigm of the Internet just the same way that the Recording Industry has why didn’t the internet kill formal music education because of the internet all the musical information that you would ever need to know in order to play any sort of instrument is out there but information is not the same thing as knowledge just because any scale pattern of which you could ever dream to be brought up on your phone at a moment’s notice does not mean that you have the muscle memory necessary in order to perform those scales your musical judgement in order to actually apply them music education as a whole is generally the process of contextualizing that raw information that’s available on the Internet into actual genuine knowledge how can we quantify this musical knowledge well the study of knowledge in general is called epistemology and in traditional epistemology knowledge is defined as a justified true belief in order for you to say that you generally know something it has to be justified through some form of evidence it has to be true and you have to believe it so for example say that I believe that it will rain exactly 6 months from today now I don’t really have much justification for that belief so six months from now even if it ends up being true nobody could say that I had knowledge that it will rain so the strength of the knowledge in general depends on three things the strength of the justification how true it is and the strength of your belief in it if we think about how the Internet in general fits within this theory of knowledge it does help fulfill the first two criteria evidence in the form of information about on the internet and a lot of it well some of it is true the final criterion belief can be thought of as a metric for how well you’ve internalized all of this information and made it a part of your musical cell putting all this together can be a little bit tricky to try and figure out how you actually get knowledge from all of it fearless autodidact have used the internet and leveraged it for pretty amazing things I think about how X NFL player Jason Brown learned how to farm from YouTube videos you’re watching a YouTube video right now very good for you but because there’s so much information out there and there’s so little guidance it’s hard to put trust in any of that information belief is very reliant upon trust and it’s hard to put a lot of trust in the internet people studying under master teachers are much more likely to internalize and truly believe the information that they’re given and this belief directly strengthens their musical knowledge it’s for this reason that formal education is still chugging along just as strong as it was before the internet because there’s so much more trust that can be put into it if you trust the information you’re much more likely to believe it I trusted you now Trust is only half of the equation here because you might trust me as a YouTube music educator to give you good information or any other YouTube music educator to give you a good information but if you’ve been watching my channel think about how much you’ve learned by just watching it sure you might have gotten some good food for thought or an idea that I had might have stuck with you and influenced your thinking or you might have just generally been inspired by some of the ideas that I’ve talked about but let’s put it this way if you just watch my YouTube videos are you a better bass player have you actually grown in a significant musical way no probably definitely not and the reason for this is if you just watch youtube videos if you just mind the information off the internet you’re not spending any time with it in a real way the musically illiterate person that I alluded to from the beginning of the video who constantly asked the question do I like it we’ll be able to advance so much further in their career not knowing any sort of information about music just because they’re spending time with it and asking themselves difficult questions about what they like and their interpretation of what music should be until you do that ask the question do I like it with information that you’ve gotten from the internet you’ll never really be able to move forward in his book outliers Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000 hour theory of mastery basically it says in order to achieve mastery in any particular discipline be it sports music art or whatever person needs to spend 10,000 dedicated hours of practice or four hours a day seven days a week for 7 years straight information is not the same thing as knowledge so until we spend the time to actually internalize the information that we get from the internet or elsewhere we’ll never really truly be able to achieve the belief criterion from the theory of knowledge even if the information is true and if it’s plentiful it doesn’t really matter until you’ve actually spent the time to contextualize it into true knowledge so until technology advances at the point where we can simply download kungfu directly into our brains i know coming from all of this boils down to simply how much you practice yes that’s all this video has been for the past seven minutes me talking about how much you should be practicing right now and always be asking yourself do I like it I know kung fu this has been Adam Neely’s bass lessons please comment like and subscribe if you’ve enjoyed this lesson I have a new lesson coming out every Monday so stay tuned and as always face me

100 thoughts on “How to Learn Music (Epistemology and Music in the Digital Age) [ AN’s Bass Lessons #19 ]

  1. The first point basically: "No human has ever learned language by memorization. Babies don't simply memories every word and sentence they've ever heard; rather, they learn rules and apply them in perceiving and generating speech." D. Levitin

  2. If information = knowledge I would be writing docens of those useless cheap books about random facts that no one cares about

  3. My great uncle learned how to play basically every common instrument without ever receiving a lesson. He’s almost 90 now and still has never learned to read sheet music. Every single song on every single instrument he’s ever play has been learned by ear

  4. Dear Adam, I really like your videoes, you are my favorite youtuber! But I do find the fact that you only show male musicians in this video a bit discouraging as a female musician. Was it a concious choice from you? When we're not visible we become unicorns.. Anyways, great video, will keep practicing 🙂

  5. A neurological epistemology of the phenomenological side of music to integrate learned material as a full body total nervous system action, just as hearing is an action a processing in the nervous system would revolutionise teaching and learning. Great Work…off to practice…

  6. "Do I like it" is not the only substitute for theory. The other substitute is reproducing the theory for yourself. The theory of music looks extremely simple, at least in 12 tone equal temperament, but it is given an incomprehensible patina in formal course, due to ridiculous cruft of historically evolved names which include all sorts of obsolete information on the evolution of the concepts from earlier diatonic versions, which are no longer contained in the concepts themselves when you are playing on a 12 tone instrument.

    Music became 12 tone in Bach's time, and all diatonic prejudice was jettisoned by the 20th century. This scale is the integers mod 12, and it's 12-fold symmetric. The theory presented in school pretends we're ancient Greeks, and takes the diatonic scale, which in 12 tone is 0,2,4,5,7,9,11 and pretends that the 11 is somehow more relevant to 0 than the 13, even though both are about equally tense and dissonant. That means the 11 is "natural" and the 13 is "not natural" even though music doesn't care anymore. It means that "4" (major third) doesn't go with "8" (minor sixth) except it's totally fine, that's actually a nice 0,4,8 equally tempered 3-tone scale used a ton in Jazz.

    It also means I need a special notation if I want to talk about 11.4 or 9.3 fractional steps, I have no notation for microtonal music, and I can't use sharps and flats, because these are already taken to translate from diatonic to 12 tone. It means I need to learn to read 12 different bass clefs and 12 different treble clefs, when the actual tones are all symmetrical. It makes a person want to vomit.

    The actual principles of music theory are simple: given any tone, if you imagine it to drone, that's your tonic. Tonic is derived from drone, and switching tonics is switching mental drones. Relative to the drone/tonic, 1 and 11 (-1) are the two neighbors, and are dissonant. 6 is next maximally distant by fifths (power of 7 mod 12 or powers of 5/-7 mod 12), then the rest, 2,3,4 and 8,9,10 are totally normal, not because they are so close to magic "whole number ratios", but because they aren't close to the dissonances, which cluster around in frequency around 0 broadly and around 6 very tightly. As you go higher, the tones decouple, so more than an octave away, an 11 is not really dissonant anymore, and 3 octaves away, there's no dissonance left in anything, but you always notice consonance, which occur just at octaves of 0,5,7, and that's it. The major chord is pretty much the only place where "whole number ratios" is important, because the major third is nearly at a rational resonance. Other than that one case, the other ratios look like pure numerology, they merge too high up the harmonic series to be relevant to perception.

    The different scales are just taking the 0,5,7 and adding a few random choices from the remaining notes, while choosing either 1 or -1 for the role of leading tone (or neither, or both). If you are microtonal, anything between 2 and 4 and 6 and 10 is totally fine with the tonic. If you realize this, you can fluidly transition between "modes" and "scales" and introduce microtonal "bends" with no mental anguish, you won't even need to answer "what mode am I in", just "what key am I in", and you know, because that's the note droning in your head. Then a theorist comes in and looks at what you played, and says "This guy transitions between modes every few tones" Except you didn't transition modes, you just know the 12 tones. That's why I get annoyed at formal Jazz theory, because if you learn it, it's an effort to switch between (057 and) 2,3,9,10 (one mode) and 2,4,9 (another) and (2,3,8,9) won't come into your head, because that has no name.

    The theoretical analysis of harmony looks like basically either extremely simple stuff (major and minor chords plus various decorations which you need to learn what they sound like on each instrument and tone by trying) or a load of rubbish. Harmonies are made to work just by the way tones change between chords and the relation between decorations, and the direction of change "up one halfstep" or "down one halfstep", and whether the end point is "0,5,7", which are resolution points. The "5" (the fourth) gives a "going down feeling" while the "7" (the fifth) is "going up feeling". The inversion of x to -x mod 12 is "negative harmony" (which is useful and obvious).

    This ridiculously simple theory looks complicated because you write everything in heiroglyphs based on a 7 tone scale that ignores the 12 tone structure, and requires special lined paper. Why? This might have been appropriate in the 17th century, but you should have a quick typable notation by now.

    This issue means that musician can understand theory without being able to discuss anything with a person formally trained in theory, at least not without an elaborate translation process in their head, to understand the non-12-tone way to say everything. Twelve-tone is standard since the 18th century, why don't you use a language adapted to it?

    That's why people keep complaining about theory. Not because theory isn't important, but because you're describing one thing (12 tone harmony) using another thing (diatonic harmony) and it's the wrong theory, so you need to keep adding more epicycles.

    The further complication is that all this theory is going into the less central issues of harmony and scales, and no theory is going into the most important component, which is rhythm. Notating and learning polyrhythms is the most difficult thing, but because it's a bitch to annotate those things, you never learn much about it. Then when someone like Michael Gordon comes along and writes rhythm modulated pieces, people think it's weird. Theory needs to evolve, it's not what it was in the 18th century. Just my non-musician opinion.

  7. For the record I've learned more from you in the last few months than I had in my 20 or so years of playing/learning music previously.

  8. Yeah, you'd think with all that information out there people'd be more clued up, but you're forgetting about all the porn. Distraction 4 real
    .

  9. Information is not knowledge knowledge is not wisdom wisdom is not truth truth is not beauty beauty is not love love is not music. Music is the best! – Frank Zappa

  10. Theory of Knowledge acquisition- All good, but it shouldn't take 10k hours from unconscious incompetence TO unconscious competence. or maybe even 80%effective/good. That 10,000hrs theory has done no good. It has demoralized many and have had ppl throw in the towel.

  11. Comparing the action of playing music with watching your videos is like comparing the action of playing overwatch competitive with watching the overwatch league.
    Love your vids and the league
    DESPISE playing music itself and overwatch competitive (Both due to burnout)

  12. Dear Adam. All YouTube educators should watch all of your vidoes before recording their own cause there is no point to record worse lesson and on the other side there is no chance to do IT better cause You're the EduMaster 🙂 ps. seriously: Thank You for Your content and Best regards from Poland

  13. Hi Adam, I respect your knowlege but I find my head wanting to explode with all this egghead stuff. Youre like the little brainey chickenhawk with a huge head in the foghorn leghorn cartoon. Lol

  14. I understand the gist of this- simply getting information off the internet instantly is nowhere near practicing it for a long time, getting it ingrained into your mind and valuing it as a necessity. However, I'm having trouble understanding the "do I like it" question and the significance of it. Why is it hard for people to answer this, wouldn't genuinely knowing music theory be able to augment your descriptions of what you "like" and "don't like", or is it simply up to one's own arbitrary taste among many to dictate the answers to that question, such as "oh, I don't like ANY pop music whatsoever because of the autotune" or a hard rocker stating, "I don't like Fleetwood Mac, they're too soft for me"?

  15. Just one thing. The feeling I get from this is that you're kinda saying practice is everything, and putting the things we learn from the internet (such as your videos) will make us better musicians. I agree however I'd like to offer you a different perspective:
    For the sake of argument; I have had a concept in my mind about something I'd like to apply to my music. I have the skill-set all there, everything I need except the information and knowledge. Here is where videis such as yours will come in extremely useful.
    An example of this is your video where you harmonize Shape Of You. This is a concept I have already figured out in my head, however I have never had the knowledge to actually put it into practice. How many times have you had a good song you've written, but you feel as though the chord progression is… a bit… just boring? Using videos such as yours WILL make me a better musician, you're supplying the information which I can then develop into my knowledge.

    Anyway, maybe this is what you were trying to say, but I feel as though you kinda missed out other perspectives when learnig and improving.

  16. This is a great video. I think it's truly honest and sensible to ask the questions you ask and how you address them. Such a great teacher.
    ¡Saludos de México!

  17. Like when i found this video on cirkel of fiths i immediately started following along on my piano. And i like it 😛

  18. When I graduate and get a real job, just know that you will be getting a fraction of that income through patreon. It's worth it to me.

  19. While I love the message, I do get concerned that the 10,000 hour notion from outliers gets a bit misrepresented. And I think it could be discouraging for people.

    The 10,000 hours idea came from analyzing how much work truly world-class people in their field had to put in. That doesn’t mean you can’t be really really good or even great at something with less time than that. You can and will become very good at whatever you want to do with much less time.

    I just worry that some people will think that they shouldn’t start something because they won’t have the seven years to put into it. But someone should never start something with the idea that they’re going to become one of the top in the world at it. They should do it because they enjoy it.

  20. I haven't dedicated time to one specific aspect of music. I've spent 7 years learning and practicing guitar, composition, recording arts, and the production side. I guess I'm a "jack of all trades". Can this be a good thing in this industry?

  21. I feel like that adage "Do I Like It" has a lot of validity. Although, once someone is passed a certain point in their musical journey (has accrued a lot of knowledge), this adage could allow an overplaying ego to come through. After that point, maybe a better question would be "Am I Playing for the Music?". Of course you can still ask "Do I Like It?" but, you should also ask yourself if the players you're playing with like it as well.

  22. I don't want to get too philosophical about it, but what this video told me was like asking two questions: "Do I like it?" and "Do I understand it?" (in terms of hermeneutics, which would put the problematical terms "knowledge" or "justified true belief" aside). Do you agree?

  23. Adam, you touched very briefly on the comma of Pythagoras. Can you do a theory video on different commas, like Pythagoras, Didymus, etc.? Thanks.

  24. this is such an important idea to keep in mind. i remember when i used to skate as a teenager and I would try to learn new tricks, I would always watch youtube videos for tips. it was getting to a point where i was spending more time looking for "tricks and tips" videos instead of actually skating.

    once i started limiting my time watching videos and started skating more, I was able to learn new tricks much faster. taught me to appreciate the process.

  25. While I can't agree more that actually knowing and understanding music theory is invaluable, but I know from personal experience I think, that it is FAR, FAR FAR FAR FAAAR MORE PREFERABLE if someone is basically forced to FIGURE THINGS OUT ON THEIR OWN FIRST. Like, I feel my understanding of music "theory" so to speak is so so SO much more solid and intuitively grounded because I basically had to figure practically EVERYTHING out on my own, from just analyzing the sheet music I was playing as a pianist. I never had any teachers that could really teach me anything I wanted to know about jazz, hell about the most basic of basic 2-5-1 progression idea, and I was like that for MANY years, before I seriously dove in to the internet and other places to really study all the specifics of all the modes and target tones and proper voice leading and everything. Like everything I studied was just like brilliant confirmation to me like, DUH, I already figured all this out basically with my ear, and having intellectually solidified it in my head AFTER, I have a much more firm mental foundation for how and why things work the way they do harmonically and rhythmically

  26. after thirteen years of university (!!) the one thing i discovered is that the most useful thing about being in school is social – 'seeing other people DOING' …. that makes all the difference in the world

  27. I have learnt all my music theory on the internet. But starting in september I am studying music theory in school.

  28. Single most important music lesson there is. It’s not mere coincidence that a third of The 10 Commandments address need to accept authority. Internalization begins with recognition and acceptance of authority—in all aspects of life. It’s said that the best teacher is the one you learn from. Find a local teacher who’s authority you intuitive accept hook, line, and sinker. It’s become too commonplace to spend so much time debating who’s right, wrong, better, worse, etc. What great musicians debate among themselves is where they can get the best burger at 2:00 AM on the East Side.

  29. Dude, you're speaking about propositional knowledge, not the skill one that's why i don't think the belief idea applies very well here. good video anyways!

  30. 10,000 hour rule is misguided

    for most people.

    The rule applies to the top 1% of the MASTERS of any field. The top of the top.

    These are the Yo-Yo Mas, the Michael Jordans, etc. The Miles Davis. I think it was Charlie Parker (or some other jazz legend) that took up music a little late in life, but he himself, spent 10 years learning from others, moving here and there until he became a master himself–

    Mind you, he also had a proclivity for the damn instrument.

    My point is, 10,000 rule only applies to those with the opportunity, time, and resources (including raw talent) for becoming a master.

    For most of us, it's maybe 2,000 max that we need for what we want. Heck, it might even be a little less.

  31. I am massively grateful for the quality analysis of music, and so I'm doubly happy to provide some philosophy analysis in return. Namely, in "traditional" epistemology, belief is much more mundane than the way Adam uses it in this video. It's mundane in that "having a belief that x is y" just means someone believes that x is y, they're likely to say "x is y" or to think it to themselves. It's mainly there to account for the fact that you can't know something unless you think it at some point lol. Now, the notion of belief that Adam uses here is closer to "know-how", which figures in a distinction between "knowing that" and "knowing how", with the first one being the mundane version from above plus justification and truth, and the second one being a lot more interesting.

    Specifically, you could know that a scale proceeds in some way, and you might be able to recite how to produce it and think this recitation without saying it out loud, but unless you could play that scale or sing it, (i.e. unless you actually knew how to produce the scale) you might have knowledge in the "traditional" epistemological sense, but you certainly wouldn't know the scale in a musically relevant way. It's quite funny, because the analysis of "know-how" comes, as far as I know, from the American pragmatist tradition of philosophy, and the habit of overinflating the strength of belief is very American lmao. Knowing how important know-how is to a musician, it's easy to see how it could creep into that musician's approach to systematically understanding learning itself. Traditional epistemology (i.e. how Plato said it is) has been known to have limits for a while, and its inability to accommodate the everyday notion of someone "knowing how" is just another one of its limitations.

    The practical takeaway from what I'm saying is that it further supports what Adam is saying here: just taking information, just knowing that is not only not enough to have the knowledge in the musically relevant sense, but unless you apply what you learned in making music, you're very likely to lose even that, as your memory of some youtube videos fades.

  32. Love the videos, keep it up!
    The "Do I like it" approach can actually work, depending on what kind of musician you want to be. For example, if you are going to play and compose folkloric songs coherent with your background, you might just don't need any academical education, and that kind of education might even be irrelevant, time consuming and utterly useless for what you want to do. An Anatolian saz player who grew up in a village hearing folkloric melodies and learning from other musicians who, like him/herself are "self taught", will do just fine, or even better, without studying academically accepted music theory.
    In my opinion it actually comes down to what we understand by "musical education". A good musician will always know what he/she is doing, whether or not this knowledge is coming from an academical education.

  33. "Yes, this has been me, for seven minutes, telling you how you should be practicing right now"

    *looks at violin he put down to watch Adam Neely video*

  34. this is a great video but when he said knowledge is justified true belief the philosophy major in me was like "UHH ACTUALLY ADAM HAVE YOU HEARD OF THE GETTIER PROBLEM?"

  35. Everyone says practice and it's the truth. It's not some cliche term that gets tossed around. "Practice makes perfect" as they say.

  36. Love your ability to articulate complex ideas in an easily digestible way! Genuinely curious, what is your iq?

  37. I love your videos because they make me think a lot about what I like and mostly what I know in music. I think reflecting on my own learning is one of the things that makes me progress most as a musician. It actually applies to any discipline in life. It's important to think about what we do and why we do it.
    Thank you very much for your videos. Go ahead with them because they're a big help! 🙂 🙂

  38. Dear Adam,

    I love you marry me and make me better at bass, I'm straight male so no sexy time unless you really want maybe I'll try

  39. I don't think a rock musician could get his playing to that ideal "tastiness" without using music theory. Riffs, groovy base lines and solos all fall short without the proper methods.

  40. really good video on a subject that can be easily overlooked. There is an overabundance of music knowledge on youtube at the moment. I don't know if this would be in your remit but have you thought about offering suggestions on a youtube subscription list, for example for a budding pianist you could suggest x and x and x and here for music theory, for a bassists you could suggest x and x and so on.

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