Zoë Blade's notebook

Music theory

Music theory is how we describe what works well when making music.

A lot of electronic musicians seem to be suspicious of it, but it won't stifle your creativity just so long as you remember its purpose. It's not a list of rules that you must consciously follow. It's a bunch of tips and tricks you can dip in and out of as it suits you. You're still free to ignore it and make music in a completely unconstrained fashion, but the more music theory you learn first, the more knowledge you'll have to draw from unconcsciously... and it's probably your unconscious that does most of the composing, regardless of how much theory you know.


I can play. I was classically trained. I have technique at my disposal. But over the past five or six years, I've kind of abandoned technique and tried to approach music more from a by-ear method or by impulse rather than by theory.

— Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails, 1990[1]

My dad made me go to classical piano lessons. He reckons it's paid off now.

I like to think it matters quite a lot. It is easy to write the sort of music we're doing, but I like to think that I can put a little bit extra into it because of what I've learnt over the last ten years. I believe that I give it more musical input than you'll find in a basic hardcore rave track.

— Liam Howlett, The Prodigy, 1992[2]


  1. "Nine Inch Nails" Robert Doerschuk, Keyboard, Apr 1990
  2. "The Lone Raver" Tim Goodyer, Music Technology, May 1992, pp. 68—72


Music theory: Arpeggio | Block chord | Broken chord | Circle of fifths | Interval | Linear drumming | Music | Pitched tempos | Polymetre and polyrhythm | Rest | Swing | Velocity