Yep, I mean what’s the point of it if it’s just an after the fact thing, why bother? I doesn’t exactly give me ideas and so far has been very little help to me, and I think it actually stopped me from being creative in some ways because I started thinking I have to be in key rather than just playing what sounds good.
The issue here is that you think that music theory is prescriptive in that it tells you what to play.
There are no rules in music theory, contrary to what you might think. All music theory is is a description of sounds we’re hearing in real time when we’re listening to music.
Think about it, there’s no theory of music if there’s no music to begin with.
To use your example, you were worrying about staying in key, rather than playing what sounds good. Here’s what will blow your mind, what sounds good is in key.
Don’t overthink it. A hallmark in music theory is if something sounds good, we want to know why it does so that way we can make use of it in our own music.
I think theory needs something like Cracking the Code to have it all make more sense, instead of just memorize this information type of teaching, its incedibly boring for someone with ADHD and has nothing to do with music when it’s presented without any kind of context.
I have ADHD, and I agree it’s important to teach music theory in its proper context, because you can see applications of it immediately. Problem is, whomever you learned it from might not have been well-versed in it.
For example, all chord progressions live and die by two chords: The Tonic and Dominant.
The Tonic is the chord everything resolves to and revolves around, the Dominant is the most tense and dissonant chord in the progression that points you back towards the Tonic.
Simply play an E7 chord moving to an Am chord. Notice how all that tension from the E7 chord was resolved when we moved to the Am chord?
This is what music theory is all about. We’re not arbitrarily picking out goofy sounding names from thin air, we’re hearing things and ascribing a name to them so that we can call upon them later.
If you find things are too complicated, or you get overstimulated, I suggest tracing back to the absolute basics. If you don’t understand the basics, the more advanced material won’t make any lick of sense.
But the proper context for music theory isn’t a set of arbitrary rules handed down from on high. The proper context is to remember that all it is is a description of what we’re hearing when we listen to music.
Music theory is more like “Patterns of Music” or “General ideas and tendencies of music” than it is “Thou must play this or else!”
I hope this helps recontextualize things for you.