|"Man those cats be playing some THEORY!"|
Music theory is not music. Theory is how we analyze and understand music. How do we get beyond the rules? Sometimes breaking the rules is not only acceptable, it's essential to making good music.
This recent video made me think about this:
The song starts in D minor and simmers there for a while. Then we jump to Fminor, with one of those sort of reverse progressions you hear in R&B often: F minor, C minor,7 Bb minor7, Gbmaj7, Fmaj7, Bb minor 7 Eb7, Abmin7, Db7, Gmin 7, F#7( or C7 at the end of the phrase). And then it jumps back to Bb7 to D minor. Later the verse has the progression G-7 to A7 ( altered I think) and then F min7. This really lifts the song for me.
But wait a minute. A7 to F minor7. When was the last time you studied a progression like that in theory class? Usually we spend so much time on ii V I's and their variations. Everything has to be justified as a substitution of something. A7 to F minor 7 is a pretty jagged movement. It's particularly jagged because many of the other chords are rather functional. But for me, it's the best part of the song. It's the hippest part of the whole thing, for me.
So why don't we teach that in theory class? Why don't we start with A7 to F minor?