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Introducing “Isn’t Music Theory”

Synthase founder Nate May has a brand-new series on YouTube.

This is a blog post adaptation of the following video:

This video is part of a series called Isn’t Music Theory, where I share some of my ideas about music and how we learn it. I’ve adapted and/or commented on the video for this post. If you’re interested, check out the whole series on the Midnight Oil Collective YouTube channel.

Welcome to the blog version of “Isn’t Music Theory!” This is the very first in a brand new series of videos where I’m going to share some of my ideas about music and about new ways of teaching it. I’ll be transcribing and adapting the videos into blog posts as I go. Here’s the video itself: What Isn’t Music Theory?

About a week prior to filming this I was just about to upload my last and best video of my online course. It was about 4:30 am and it had been a long day of editing. I think I’d worked 20, 25 hours on this one video. Not in a row, but almost.

And my hard drive failed.

Adobe Premiere window showing a hard drive error alert.
No one likes these.

It was a was a drive with with lots of projects t I’ve worked on over the last 10 years. Not a good idea to keep that all in one drive but I tried everything and I couldn’t get it back. So when something like that happens it just sort of makes you think. And I realized that over the past several months…

…I’ve been obsessed.

Day in and day out, my mind has been occupied by trying to figure out how best to share what I’ve come to understand about the way music works. I’ve developed this understanding both from and in spite of lots of formal music education, but I think music needs to be taught differently in order to serve the world we live in and the people in it and the changes we’ve all been facing. There are too many people out there who think that they have to leave their intuitive understanding of music behind in order to learn its theoretical foundations. So I’ve been developing materials both for current and future students that try to build on this intuitive understanding and help them reach their musical goals. 

But when I’m obsessed I tend to work in a silo. I’ll spend hours, days, and weeks working through pedagogical questions on my own even though whatever it was might have been twice as good with more minds involved. I’ve realized the only way out is to invite others in. So I’m working with a group called the Midnight Oil Collective, I’m going to be collaborating with other amazing musicians and music educators, and I’d like to work with you.

I’m Nate May—I’m a composer and music educator. I’ve written a lot of music in lots of different genres (including the music in the accompanying video). This series will explore structures inside music and it’ll also be a collaborative messy document of a journey toward a new system of teaching music. At this stage I have no idea how close I’ll come to achieving my goal, but I’d love to hear from you and even work with you throughout this process. So if you’re a learner, I want to know how you learn and what works best for you. If you feel like you’ve been left behind by music education, I want to know more about your process. So get in touch on social media and stay tuned to this channel to find out more about what all this is about.

About Synthase

Synthase is an online school for music creators. We’re specialists in creative music education and we offer lessons, classes, workshops, and curricula for students of all levels.

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