Basic Music Theory/Background Resources?

Hey all,
Does anyone has any pointers on places to check out basic music theory required to fully understand the music production in Tidal?



you refer to things like harmony? i gess the first books of walter piston harmony book, or maby enric (o eric) herrera.
Maybe a little daw comprehension could work, for filters and reverbs.
in time signatures is quite dificult because the musical aproach of tidal is quite different to traditional music learning, sorry if i miss spell something

Would be cool to see a .tidal file that dealt with theory using tidal examples you could run: it could both serve as a theory entry point for those who need it, but also as a way of crossing over into the patterning of tidal for those coming from more conventional musical backgrounds? I know it’s been something I struggle with a lot – trying to understand both what the limitations are and what doors are opened by the difference in approach.


I guess Tidal doesn’t make a distinction between theory and practice, it’s all about working with rules of pattern. I’m a bit sceptical about the idea of music theory though and how it’s often taught, tending to privilege “dead white guy” music over any other.


Perfect - I'll take that as authority to try and banish my inferiority complex over lack of formal training.


one of the cool things about Tidal Cycles
is the way it lets us notate cyclic time,
leading us to 'no time (infinity)
d1 $ sound “bd”
notates and plays a 'drum that will play forever (indefinitely)
over and over
it’s always the big One

as contrasted with western classical music notation
4/4 time signature
1, 2, 3, 4 (as written) until the end of the compositon
'linear time
start, end


Yes there is some influence from cyclic time in Indian Classical music, mostly via Bernard Bel’s BP2 language.


i think that is quite hard to make a “traditional” music theory aproach to tidal, because on rythm you have this that you have been talking and on harmony its quite difficult to talk about tonality because is quite hard to make directionality or other stuff, personally i see more easy to record some more “harmonic” parts and then just loop them in tidal. Or maybe just build chords and then play with them, but i think that the way that “traditional music” formation think about chords and that it doesnt works the same on tidal.


That’s interesting, we’ll have a look at chords, melodies, canons etc probably in week 5 - it’d be good to reflect then on all this. Perhaps there are things missing in Tidal that could be added.


I am particularly fond of the "The Raven's Spiral Guide to Music Theory", and "Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People." They both, especially the former, focus on introducing """traditional""" (big air quotes here) music theory in a way that is a bit more modernized and generic compared to your average music textbook. (and they're free!)

Would love for more music theory resources to take into account rhythmic/harmonic concepts and notational systems that venture outside of "traditional western music," (some do, but they are usually reserved for more "advanced" [more big air quotes] readers) but given how pervasive the pick-7-out-of-12-tones-and-put-them-on-staff-paper system has become perhaps that is a big ask. Even TidalCycles' default tuning system divides the octave into 12 equal parts. (though that is quite easily remedied, and I would be neglectful if I didn't mention that you can specify note values with real numbers and not just integers) :stuck_out_tongue:

Getting a bit off topic here, but I will say that I have on numerous occasions used TidalCycles notation to notate rhythms on paper because I find it much easier to express myself that way than with more "traditional" means. (I have no desire to try to notate polyrhythms and isorhythms on staff paper together)

And remember, music theory is descriptive not prescriptive!

(also if anyone knows of some good, accessible, non-anglocentric music theory resources targeted at beginners please post them here- that would be wonderful!)


Pretty good that the Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People. is also available in Spanish.. thank you very much.. :raised_hands:


Hello everyone,

since my teenage years I have a big interest in music theory. It makes me happy to see that I am not alone with this passion as talking about the topic unfortunately is a kind of rare and often short and superficial incident in my life... :slight_smile:

After several years of experience and experimentation in the field I came to the aristotelian conclusion that music theory is a way to deep fractal rabbit hole to be fully understood. Every new musical style, every new instrument or technology creates new musical interconnections that lead to musical theories and laws that are most often not more than musical tastes (for example the tastes of dead white guys... :older_man:).

From the book "Jazz Harmony" by Frank Sikorra I learned a lot about the good old pick-7-out-of-12-business like tritone substitutions of dominant chords or quartal harmony, concepts you might find useful when attending a conventional jazz session.
But you won't find any chapter about granular synthesis or ring modulation that you wanted to check out during your next conventional tidal-jam... In this case you maybe want to check out "Mircrosound" by Curtis Roads.
Both of these books won't help you very much if you want to write a conventional counterpoint in the style of Palestrina and need to consider truly-dead-white-guy-stuff like avoiding consecutive fifths in voice-leading...

Thus music theory can never get rid of all subjective parameters like individual context, individual taste, individual hearing experience and individually respected or disrespected conventions. I think that you should try to find a good mix of following your very personal acute interests but also looking into some concepts that you evaluate as boring and dusty on first glance. At the end each of us will have an own theoretical model leading to our own style of thinking and making music beyond the categories of right and wrong. Despite all this individuality I think that it is worth and it is fun talking about the musical concepts we have in common and about the differences in our musical perception!

In fact I was thinking about founding some kind of online music theory community for at least a year now. Because I think that the field is such a vivid one without existing categories of true and false I didn't just want to produce videos of one-way communication in which I show people what I've learned and everybody can leave a comment. Instead I was always looking for a medium with more interaction like maybe a regular live stream with some kind of live chat. The way @yaxu managed to gather more than 200 people from all over the world to learn Tidalcycles interactively together is very inspiring to me!

I would welcome if we use this forum for some exchange in the realm of music theory. If you read until here and you share this point of view, please leave a comment so we all see if there is a decent amount of shared interest. Maybe also write a bit about your already existing knowledge and background, the concepts you want to learn in future or suggestions on the way how we could organize our future exchange.