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I have two requests in this regard.

- If there's some way to learn playing chess beyond just the rules without memorizing an encyclopedia of openings, I'd be grateful for links. I.e. I currently can stare at a position for a while and figure out a couple next moves that should be good. I'd like to elevate this to figuring out a bit more moves. (Though I have a suspicion that it's a question of ‘rinse and repeat until I remember all the openings anyway’.)

- Similarly, I'd like to drill music lingo of chord progressions and stuff, as a total noob, without turning it into a ‘compose by the book’ approach. I'm actually somewhat afraid to learn about keys and scales since I'll likely start hearing them everywhere and promptly fall into patterns and academic ivory-towerity. Is there a way around that while still understanding music talk?




I cannot help you with (1), but I think I can help with alleviating your fears regarding (2).

Just by understanding scales and progressions you won't "start hearing them everywhere" and "fall into patterns". There are no "right" and "wrong" progressions in contemporary music, they are just there. By understanding the theory, you will see why you might like certain things and dislike others. It won't take away your enjoyment from music and it won't change your music tastes. Whatever progression is "right" in someone's eyes will be "wrong" in eyes of another person.

Music theory is as close to math as one can get in arts, imo. There are no "right" or "wrong" numbers, everything is very neutral and non-biased. Yes, some progressions sound more right or wrong to most people, but that's mostly because of our collectively shaped taste of music, and learning theory will not force you into any kind of tastes on its own. It might motivate you to explore more diverse music, as you will be looking for more novelty in patterns, but that imo is a good thing and, in fact, is the opposite of being locked into the "ivory tower".

So my advice on it would be to stop fretting and to just dive deep into the music theory :)


> you won't "start hearing them everywhere" and "fall into patterns"

You might be right, or you might underestimate my both snobbery and laziness (◔̯◔)


Absolutely. Learning about microtones was an absolute game-changer in my mental appreciation of music.


See, this is really an example of what I'm talking about. You wouldn't need to learn about microtones if you didn't follow the twelve-tone standard before. I'm pretty sure that the brain by itself is pretty sloppy in regard to intervals and even more so with tones and keys.


12-tone standard actually falls nicely out of the natural harmonics inherent in music though. So there's a pretty good reason for using 12 distinct tones.

That doesn't mean you can't have amazing music once you break away from them, but just because these deviations are interesting and cool doesn't mean they aren't useful and normative for a reason.


I'm only a middling chess player, but:

> (Though I have a suspicion that it's a question of ‘rinse and repeat until I remember all the openings anyway’.)

Its not that. There's a lot of interesting principles to learn, after 'how the pieces move', without just learning openings. Most people will say not to focus on openings until you are at least intermediate.

Most chess books will do what you ask, just Google for recommendations and reviews.

Example book: Play Winning Chess, Yasser Seirawan


I highly recommend "Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess" (by, duh, Bobby Fischer). A diagram on every page, with the solution on the next. Cool format: you get to the back of the book, turn it upside down, and work to the front. First few pages get in the basic moves, then on to simple checkmates, then more complexity.

Another great diagram-heavy book but for intermediate to advanced is Lev Alburt's "Chess Training Pocket Book".


Would definitely recommend the mini-series documentary "Howard Goodall's Big Bangs".

Episode 3 in particular, which was about equal temperament, is especially good. It explains things like scales and chords in a very satisfying way for both experienced musicians and those who have not had a formal education. He even ties it back to the actual physics of sound and harmonics.

It's only got half a dozen episodes, so it's worth a go.


For chess, there's a PC game Chessmaster Grandmaster Edition

It has narrated step by step tutorials by Josh Waitzkin, it put you in special situations to learn basic tactics like discover attacks, pin or skewer (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chess_tactic).

There are also tutorials for knowing the tiny details about endings with specific pieces, like bishops vs bishops where you have to be very wary of the color of the bishops and position you're in if you'd like to trade, or the importance of the bishops color to stop a pawn, or even the fact that in some situations the column which a pawn is in might determine if the game leads to a stalemate or not (some columns results are not intuitive at first).

As the tutorial advances it starts throwing at you historical games and puts you in control in a given position to make the best move starting with games when josh was a kid, which helps you compare your ability to him as a kid, so if you're also interested in chess history, it's really cool!


I heard good things about Chessmaster's teaching features, way back from the time of Windows 98. So now I get another thing to lament—that Ubisoft seems to have forgotten about Chessmaster, and it's not on mobile platforms.

(Upd: apparently there was an Android release by Gameloft in 2004, but it looks very questionably: https://www.mobygames.com/game/chessmaster___)


Re 1) Use lichess app. Once you finish a game, go to the "analysis board" -> "Request a computer analysis" -> "Learn from your mistakes". Then you can see where you made mistakes and how you could have avoided them.


As someone who is (was?) fairly good at chess because I grinded it in chess clubs as a kid, I can tell you that all the books are pretty useless and you just need to practice.

You CAN memorize common openings if you want, but I am not sure that's a good way to spend your life unless you are super serious about chess.


There was a study done on what separates chess masters from beginners. Chess masters and beginners performed equally well on memorization tests. Where they began to separate was pattern recognition - chess masters are really good at pattern recognition.

When I was a beginner I would agonize over every move and drive everyone crazy. Eventually after enough games I started to recognize some patterns. If I were to do it all over again, I would just play as many games as I could, all the way to the end, not worrying too much about winning or losing as much as just absorbing what is happening.

I'm not a chess master, but I did beat a guy with a knight tattooed on his forearm, so that has to count for something :P


I actually have an observation about this: it's difficult for me to get some feedback from whole chess games because the loop between a move and its consequences can easily be too long while the situation changes pretty fast, in my eyes. Would my play be better if I chose differently seven moves ago? Pfft, who knows anymore.

I have a much better time with action or racing video games precisely because the feedback loop is very tight. Finally figured out that I should try chess puzzles, increasing the length gradually.


Re #2, keys, scales, and chords are fundamental units of Western music. You could compare them to words, which are joined into sentences. Chord progressions are sequences of chords, which only make sense in the context of the current key and scale.

Learning about keys, scales, and chords will help you understand music but not necessarily force you into predetermined patterns. Learning chord progressions will help you hear patterns in music, which may reduce your enjoyment of pop music since a handful of progressions are used almost everywhere. On the other hand, if you enjoy trope-spotting, it may increase your enjoyment.


Regarding music, the biggest shift in mindset for me was when I heard (and I can't remember where from now) that music theory is _descriptive_ and not proscriptive.

In other words, people have made music since the beginning of recorded history in ways that sound pleasing to them, and music theory is the language that evolved to describe the types of music that consistently sounded good to some people. It's not a set of rules that you must follow, and in fact if you stick too closely to what came before your music will probably be boring to most people.


For Chess, it sounds like you need to improve looking at Tactics and Endgames.

Tactics are looking for specific exchanges that benefit you. I'd recommend https://www.chesstactics.org/ as a great resource for being taught the tactics and being able to recognize them. There's a lot of Chess Puzzles out there on things like chesstempo and lichess. If you can easily recognize and execute these tactics, then you won't lose opportunities to gain serious material advantages.

I don't have a good endgame one on hand. Fundamentally though if you know how the game will end, you can push your game state towards a useful winning position. And it helps make sure you don't give away a game by stupid mistakes.

The next layer on top of that is understanding the strategic choices. Sometimes higher level players will make what seems like a really boring move that doesn't have an immediate effect (doesn't solve or generate a threat), but it help their "position" for the future. Things like placing a rook on the open file, or positioning a bishop/knight on a "good" square.

As for openings, since you're a participant in the game you can pick a main opening line that you like and then dive into it, learning all the typical variations in the book that you might see. For example, someone might offer a Queens Gambit, but you get to choose if you Accept or Decline as Black. So experiment a bit, and if you really enjoy 1.E4 openings, then dive into the variations (and counters for when you're black).

-----------------------------------------------

For music, trust me learning theory doesn't turn you into an academic. It lets you recognize things, but they are merely the bones on top of which you build everything else. It's like Assembly (incoming not-great analogy). Sure you can program without ever getting into that. I have a musician friend who never got formal training and he's doing just fine and actually has a great intuitive ear and sense of the music. But the moment he learned Theory, suddenly everything clicked because he had the underlying bones for all of his intuitions he's build up over the years and can communicate them in a standard language.

I don't have great resource on-hand. But just dive into learning the theory alongside playing a lot.


For music check out Rick Beato and "The Beato Book" on youtube. However, it's pretty advanced stuff ultimately.


Hooktheory.com strikes a nice balance between theory (the books) and writing music that works from minute 1 (the software).


lichess.org has some interactive puzzles and learning things. very fun to get the basics/intermediate stuff in.




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