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>by the time I've got my DAW going and found some synths I like, the tune in my head has evaporated

That's where music theory pays off. Learning to name chords, scales and arpeggios gives your brain a framework to reason about and remember musical ideas. It allows you to break the music into a more concise abstract representation, rather than holding it in your head as sound. If you understand the structure of music, it's far easier to make connections between different pieces of music.




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