The extent of my musical training is a single guitar class in high school, which consisted of three types of people:
- People who were there for some reason that had nothing to do with playing guitars
- The one guy who know how to play guitar well
- Everyone who huddled around that guy and tried to learn from him
I was part of the third group, and managed to learn how to play bits and pieces of some White Zombie and Metallica (old Metallica, of course) songs and various techniques that I wasn’t very good at to begin with and now can barely perform. Despite a semester of some poor music teacher trying to get our attention, I can only sort of read sheet music, and even though I understand how notes and rests are laid out on a staff, I couldn’t tell you what each note sounds like or how fast to play them without a BPM readout.
It’s not for a lack of trying though. I’ve spent so much time reading up on music theory trying to wrap my head around things like chord progressions and strange time signatures and melodies and whatnot. None of it quite clicks; to this day I play things by ear. I’m sure this leads to much more trial and error than should happen, but I know that when something sounds good, it sounds good. Somewhere in my mind, behind all the weird useless crap, I sort of do understand all the mathematical connections between this note and that, or why certain chords sound the way they do.
Even with this very basic understanding of the underlying theory and the ability to construct musical basslines, melodies, and progressions, the rhythmic elements appeal to me much more and building drum tracks comes much more naturally to me. The rhythm section is often the first thing I’ll program or record, and when working with someone else I tend to add drumloops, fills, and rhythmic sounds much more than I do with any other aspects. I was passable as a drummer but with absolute and total control over every conceivable element of percussion and I tend to go all out; drum machines are easily my favorite instruments.
The underlying technology involved with today’s music production is the most appealing of all, though, and given some time and a DAW, I can create some elaborate and unusual things, routing signals in unusual ways and processing sounds to death, far beyond what conventional music theory allows.