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What Was Wrong With Music Theory?

What is The Ridley Academy?

Music has been an important part of the human experience for longer than language. In fact, musical instruments have been around since the advent of tools. They weren’t even made by Homo Sapiens – scientists today believe that Neanderthals were making musical instruments.

And yet somehow we developed language, with complex grammar and rules, that can be spoken by anyone, and music has become a complex skill that only those few “gifted” individuals will ever get to master. Something that was invented before gardening that most of us cannot do.

Cue Stephen Ridley, and the Ridley Academy.

He taught himself to play the piano at the age of 4, any song he wanted to play he count. When he got professional classes though, it changed. Music became a complex labyrinth of Italian, Latin, symbology and complexity.

Giving up on music he “grew up”, moved onto a “real career”. Competing against thousands for a job in an extremely lucrative field of investment banking, he left school into the dream job.

And yet, he wasn’t happy. Like so many of us he had a core desire to play piano, to be an artist – not a banker. So he quit his job, bought a cheap piano secondhand and rolled it out onto the street and began playing.

After the first day he was making more money with music than his soul-crushing “dream job”.

Fast forward through a few years of performing professionally. Packed concert halls, private gigs for multi-billionaires, with even heads of states and their families in his audience.

He always wanted to help others with music. But the barrier of learning was always too high. How can you skip the Italian? The agonizing torture of repetition? The failures?

Well, he went back to how he learned. And he figured it out.

For years he taught students directly, coaching them one on one. Finally someone convinced him that he could make more artists, faster, through broadly spreading his training. Getting the successful techniques and methodologies out fast and to more people.

The Limitations of Traditional Music Theory

Rigid Rules and Formulas: Traditional music theory often relies on strict rules and formulas that can limit creative expression and discourage experimentation.

Eurocentric Focus: Traditional music theory predominantly focuses on Western classical music, neglecting other musical traditions from around the world and hindering a comprehensive understanding of music as a whole.

Lack of Relevance to Contemporary Music: Traditional music theory primarily addresses classical compositions, leaving little room for the study and analysis of modern and popular music genres.

Linear Progression and Hierarchy: Traditional music theory tends to emphasize linear progressions and hierarchical structures, which may not fully capture the complexity and diversity of musical compositions, including those with unconventional structures.

Overemphasis on Notation: Traditional music theory places significant emphasis on musical notation, which can be a barrier for those who rely more on auditory and improvisational skills to understand and create music.

Incomplete Understanding of Musical Expressiveness: Traditional music theory often focuses on technical aspects such as harmony, melody, and rhythm, but may overlook the emotional and expressive dimensions of music, limiting the scope of interpretation and analysis.

Neglecting the Influence of Culture and Context: Traditional music theory often overlooks the cultural, historical, and social contexts in which music is created and experienced, failing to provide a holistic understanding of music’s role in society.

Disconnection from Performance and Practice: Traditional music theory can sometimes detach itself from practical application and performance, resulting in a gap between theoretical knowledge and actual musical skills.

Exclusion of Non-traditional Instruments and Sound Exploration: Traditional music theory is often designed with traditional instruments in mind, excluding the exploration of non-traditional instruments, electronic music, and experimental soundscapes.

Limited Focus on Improvisation and Personal Expression: Traditional music theory may not sufficiently address the importance of improvisation and personal expression in music-making, restricting the development of individual musicality and creativity.

In 2020 Stephen started the Ridley Academy. It has grown to an online training platform and community several thousands strong. Students who are becoming artists – learning to play the piano and becoming experts. Practicing musicians.

And what’s better, he has created a community of his students, helping each other, and building each other up to become the best possible pianists they can be. Performing professionally, composing, making music, and changing their lives.

Check out some of the reviewsfrom the Ridley Academy. 

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