Did Frank Zappa know music theory?

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by dead of night, Jan 26, 2015.

  1. dead of night

    dead of night Member

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    Hi, Frank Zappa was responsible for very complex, difficult music and had very high standards for his musicians.

    Did Zappa know music theory?

    If so, what has he said in print that indicates he did?
     
  2. dlguitar64

    dlguitar64 Member

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    Of course he did .He studied modern classical compsers extensively(especially Varese).
     
  3. HenryAdams

    HenryAdams Member

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    Seriously?

    Who cares what he said in print, the proof is in the music. And if you've got even a smattering of theory and can follow along, even a tad, you'll realize the deep font of theory that he drew on. But if you need the written word to convince you, check out just about any interview he gave (though he almost certainly won;t say, "ah, yes, Peaches in Regalia. That's an inverted V chord with a 9 on top, minus the 5 that leads flowingly into....").
     
  4. dcbc

    dcbc Member

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    In his autobiography, he describes himself as a composer and repeatedly brings up the concepts of tension and release (among other things). He also makes reference to certain harmonic theories. I think it is safe to assume he knew quite a bit about music theory, but, as mentioned above, he doesn't just come out and say it.

    His autobiography is a really entertaining and interesting read.
     
  5. EricPeterson

    EricPeterson Member

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    Anyone who can play an instrument with competency knows some musical theory, if you can compose you know even more, Zappa could play and compose with the best of them, he knew music theory, whether or not he was classically or formally trained in theory I am not sure (but I suspect he was) -- but as others have said, the proof in the the pudding, listening to his compositions and performances it seems very clear to me that he was well versed in music theory.

    These discussions are strange to me, whether or not someone can articulate "music theory" verbally does not mean they don't know music theory. That said I think Zappa was pretty conversant as well.
     
  6. SS&HH

    SS&HH Member

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    He had to know music theory at a pretty high level. He used to use his own notation to score much of the music for his band mates. All his band mates were all well versed in music theory in order to understand the notation. It was actually a prerequisite in order to join the band. Former member Steve Vai actually took some of Zappa's scores and transcribed them into standard notation for the purpose of publishing them. Steve Vai actually said that scoring music notation is an art in itself.
     
  7. Washburnmemphis

    Washburnmemphis Member

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    See link

    http://afka.net/Articles/index.htm
     
  8. Flogger59

    Flogger59 Member

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    There is an old Vai interview where he says that he looked over Frank's shoulder while the band waited in an airport, and Zappa was composing to paper. Vai was invited to sit and was told that the piece was based on tone clusters. I dunno, but sitting writing a score from your head to paper seems like someone knew theory.
     
  9. Mark Robinson

    Mark Robinson Member

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    I do not recall where, but there are examples of Franks hand written scores somewhere on the web and they are gorgeous. He knew plenty of theory and he could also stand in front of a band and deliver a devastating improvised, savage solo. Frank IMO is one of the all-time greats of music, his excellence is certainly not just confined to guitar playing in the slightest.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2015
  10. VicAjax

    VicAjax Male Supermodel

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    Here's some of his original sheet music. Note the time changes.
    I'd say...yes.

    [​IMG]
     
  11. urizen

    urizen Gold Supporting Member

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    Short answer to the question is:

    "Yes. Well."

    Somewhere there's even a few offhand references made by FZ about Nicholas Slominsky's books (and Slominsky was a theorist's theorist).
     
  12. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

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  13. greggorypeccary

    greggorypeccary Member

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    Nice! (yes, my name is a misspelling of that composition ;) )
     
  14. aliensporebomb

    aliensporebomb Member

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    Part of the reason that Steve Vai got his original job with Frank (as transcriptionist) is because he sent accurate notation of Frank's pieces to him - he was impressed because the notation was accurate.
     
  15. Dana Olsen

    Dana Olsen Gold Supporting Member

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    This is a HAND WRITTEN score, by the way. Beautiful penmanship.

    Thanks, Dana O.
     
  16. Scott Miller

    Scott Miller Member

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    They didn't call it The Black Page for nothing.

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Dana Olsen

    Dana Olsen Gold Supporting Member

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    Nice and informative interview with world renowned percussionist and long time Zappa bandmate Ruth Underwood. Skip to about 2:30 when she talks about his writing.

    I think this is the video Mark Robinson referred to in an earlier post.



    Thanks, Dana O.
     
  18. reentune

    reentune Supporting Member

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    Same way my screen name is a misspelling of "reent-toont."

    And all I ever really wanted to do was
    Play the guitar and bend the string like
    Reent-toont-teent-toont-teenooneenoonee
     
  19. Gotham City Blues

    Gotham City Blues Member

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    Every musician knows some theory to some degree. If you know what a I, IV, V is, you know some theory. If you know what a 12 bar blues is, you know some theory. If you understand that the pentatonic scale consists of 5 notes, you know some theory. So why do you question whether Zappa knew any? One of his transcriptions is known as The Black Page because it seems to have more ink than manuscript.
     
  20. dc_jcm800

    dc_jcm800 Member

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    Beautiful!
     

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