How Ezra Used Hooktheory to Teach Producers

Ezra Sandzer-Bell in his home studio

The Hooktheory community continues to impress us with its creative accomplishments. From writing musicals to launching solo careers, community members have found endless ways to express their musical talents.

We recently sat down with Ezra Sandzer-Bell — music theory instructor, software developer, and founder of AudioCipher — to learn more about his journey as a musical adventurer.

Ezra’s Unique Musical Background

Ezra tells a compelling story about his musical background:

  • He started by playing in symphony orchestras as a child.
  • As he got older, he played in punk and instrumental bands in Chicago.
  • Later, as a college student, he was introduced to music through a more academic lens.

Learning music theory in an academic setting had a profound impact on Ezra’s musical journey. His next step set the tone for how he has continued to explore music throughout his career, filled with innovation and wonder.

The Challenges of Learning With Conventional Music Theory

Ezra describes how he struggled to approach music after learning music theory through the rigidity of a traditional academic lens.

Although many musicians approach music theory as a set of fundamentals they can tactfully break, he found the study constraining. The creative process, once vast and expansive, now seemed limited.

This led Ezra to his first of many fascinating pursuits: a deep dive into music philosophy. Guided by his interest in literature by Professor Joscelyn Godwin, Ezra explored the origins of music as we know it.

Ultimately, he published two books on the topic: Astromusik and Audiomancy, which explore music mysticism and the connection between astrology and astronomy in forming Western music.

Teaching Producers Music Theory Through Hooktheory

After publishing his books, Ezra’s career continued to take on exciting paths. While establishing roots in Portland, Oregon, he began working as a music theory instructor.

Soon, he approached the founder of an Ableton-certified music production school, Champion Sound Studio, with a unique pitch: teach entry-level producers music theory using unique resources like Hooktheory.

The idea that new producers could be taught the basics of music theory in a single course was ambitious. However, the founder was willing to give Ezra a shot.

Hooktheory’s resources proved invaluable to Ezra in his teaching. At the point when students had absorbed too much information, he would direct them toward the TheoryTab database.

Here, students could look up their favorite songs and study their chord and melody structures.

He found that what traditionally takes years to teach students in conventional education systems was well-received during his class, simply by giving them the space to explore.

It was amazing to see how even though in conventional music education it takes two years to introduce these concepts … if you actually just give them the essential concepts and you present them in a simple enough way, people can take that in and it’s actually not that complicated.

Ezra Sandzer-Bell

Expanding Music Theory With Hooktheory’s Free Resources

Ezra discusses how many of Hooktheory’s free resources teach music theory in practical ways that appeal to musicians. He highlights the value of being able to search chord and melody analyses from pop music in a centralized location, with contributions from our wonderful community.

The visual MIDI in our unique piano roll allowed him to study how musicians intentionally use and break the rules of music theory.

And the trends tool that maps music by chord progression sparked plenty of inspiration. Being able to see concepts typically taught through classical theory in pop music suddenly made academic examples come to life in a practical, tangible way.

New Pursuits as a Musical Explorer

It’s impossible to put Ezra into a box — he’s a creative, writer, researcher, and programmer. AudioCipher is his latest pursuit: a word-to-MIDI music generator that combines his many passions.

Audiocipher also features unique blog posts that reflect Ezra’s depth of knowledge on topics like artificial intelligence in the music space.

With creative minds and big questions, a passion for music can take us anywhere. We can’t wait to see what Ezra and the rest of the Hooktheory community explore next!


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