“Music Theory” or “Guitar Theory” is a term that might scare some people off. Luckily for me, I was always intrigued by it starting from a short time after I picked up the guitar, which was the first instrument I played. I realized that by learning theory and diving into the “science” part of music – I can get much more beautiful music out of my hands, understand what I am doing, communicate and jam effectively with other musicians and much more. As a self-learner, I am grateful that today you can learn everything you want about music and guitar theory just by using materials that are found online and at the touch of a button. This defiantly was not possible 20 years ago and beyond!
Trying to be a musician without knowing music theory is like an attempt to be an engineer without ever opening a book about your engineering subject. Today I want to show you a few good reasons to start (or keep advancing) to enrich yourself with music theory and also suggest the best educational tools that helped me.
SO why should I bother with learning music theory as a guitarist?
1 – Music Theory Dramatically Shortens The Curve Of Becoming A GOOD Guitar Player
When you know WHAT you are doing, everything makes sense, and you’re not shooting in the dark anymore. Your musical path becomes much clearer, and you will become good much faster. Studying theory can save you YEARS of messing around.
2 – It Turns You Slowly Into A Real MUSICIAN
By knowing the shape of a C, G, and Am chord on your guitar you are on your way, but you are still not really a musician. There’s much more than that to go through on your way. Music is a LANGUAGE. What’s good about music is that it’s universal for all the instruments, all the countries, and all the languages as well. New doors will open to you everywhere when you learn the language of music by understanding the theory behind it and you will be able to communicate musically and effectively with other musicians, which brings us to the next point…
3 – You Will Be Able To JAM And IMPROVISE With Other People And Make Beautiful Music Together
When it comes down to jamming, for me this has been the most practical place where I put my theory to use. There is nothing that I love more than the sounds of a couple of instruments playing together. It doesn’t even matter which instruments. By knowing theory, you can CREATE stuff that will make people melt upon hearing it. Without knowing theory, when approaching a jam, it will probably be a series of trial & error musical incidents, with a big emphasis on the error part.
Notice how I’m playing the improvising and solo parts on the Fender guitar in the video below. (theory + practice = you’ll do this too)
4 – It’s FUN!
I believe that if you are here, we both share the passion for music. Unlike studying physics or biology when you are in high school and probably find those classes damn boring, here we are enriching ourselves and becoming smarter about one of the biggest, or THE biggest passion that we have in life.
5 – It Will Open The Doors To ANY Other Instrument You Will Choose To Pick Up
I play several instruments, some of them are my main focus – guitar, piano, and harmonica, and some of them I use for fun and basic jamming – flute, trumpet, melodica and recorder. By knowing theory, I was able to start playing the flute and get decent music out of it in less than a week. All I needed to do was to work with the fingering charts and understand how to play the different notes. Once I knew it, it was only about the flute-specific techniques.
Music and the notes are universal to all instruments, and if I already know “what to do” with those notes on the guitar since I know my theory, I can do that on every other instrument as well. So if you also dream about playing a saxophone one day for example, by learning theory on your guitar you will be able to do that transition in a breeze and add more instruments to your arsenal easily.
Browse my channel for some cool multi-instrumental videos.
6 – You Will UNDERSTAND The Logic Behind Music And Be Able To Write Music From Scratch By Yourself
Even if you do not intend to write your own songs for now, this is still golden information that is useful and fun to know whenever you are approaching music. Major keys for example, are related more with happy and upbeat music. Minor keys are “sad” sounding. The V (the 5th chord of a scale) is the peak of the “musical tension” in the song that will “beg” for a release by moving back down to the I. (the 1st chord – the root) Perfect and imperfect cadences. Pentatonic scales that sound good in any jam. Blue notes that give the “bluesy” feeling.
These are just a taste of the thousands of useful and surprising things that theory teaches you and are applicable to any form of music you can listen to. Of course these rules are broken in a lot songs at least in one way, but they are still the rules of thumb for everything in order to sound “good”.
7 – You Will Be Able To Create A Fresh And Unique Sound to Any Song You Choose
By knowing your theory, and especially with the guitar in your hands, you will understand that there are DOZENS of different ways to play every chord, each one of them sounds a bit unique compared to the other. By altering chords and songs and embellishing your music with catchy riffs and licks, you can create a fresh and beautiful sound to everything, and give yourself The Musical Edge™ over all the “regular” players.
OK! So I Want To Dig Into Some Guitar Theory. What’s The Best Way To Do It?
Only one regret I have about theory, and this is the fact that I did not start learning it in an organized way and instead I learned from “here and there” articles around the web. Later, I discovered the most helpful guitar book that I know and has been with me for two years now, called “Guitar Theory Revolution”. I believe this book has the best method of teaching theory to guitar players, and it opened countless new roads on the fretboard for me.
Realize that as a guitar player you have an advantage in the ease of learning theory over anyone else in music besides piano players, and even this one is open to debates. A lot of people say that actually guitar is the easiest instrument to learn theory on (I partially agree). Why do people say that? because of the way the guitar is tuned around the circle of 4ths and 5ths, everything will make sense to you very quickly, and the theory, especially the more advanced stuff, will “fall into your fingers”.
The second best book that I read for music theory is “The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Music Theory“. It is very detailed and will be a good fit for you especially if you are not a guitarist, or if you finished reading Guitar Theory Revolution and want even more insights and different ideas on incorporating music theory into your music.
That’s it, go get your theory tools and start going at it. I promise that your guitar journeys and the pleasure you experience from them are going to step up a notch very quickly if you do so.
Thanks for reading. Peace & Have fun!
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