How did you learn so much theory?
There are many ways to learn about music theory. I think a lot of people attempt to learn music theory separate from their actual playing. I know I did. It's hard to learn music theory in a classroom and then take it home and apply it on guitar. However, if you try to learn theory with guitar in hand, you will learn how to apply it much better and it won't seem to be so abstract.
Example: One of the first things you learn when studying music theory is key signatures. Key of C - no sharps or flats. Key of G - one sharp, F#. Ok, so what does that mean to someone that wants to jam with friends?
How many times has someone told you to "play something - just make something up". Where do you begin? First, choose a key. Say you choose the key of G. Your chords will be G A B C D E F#. Now you can make up an easy rhythm and be perfectly in key.
Next theory class, or subject you would likely encouter in most books: Harmonizing the major scale.
In the interest of time, let me tell you that once you learn to do this you will then know your chords for the key of G would be: G Am Bm C D Em F#o.
Then you can make up a better sounding rhythm because you know what chords, and what chord forms comprise the key.
I hope this makes sense. The point I've tried to make is that music theory can be overwhelming if you attempt to learn it in a vacume, but it's really very easy if you learn it in the context of actually playing. This is where a teacher or a good video series would help. I think learning theory in college or by book is very difficult because it's much harder to incorporate into your playing.
I am taking a Music Theory class at school and it has helped immensly, I learned all my major scales before I went so I knew the basics beforehand. Alot of the stuff is also from this site too, just lately the teachers have been giving us about 2 hours of homework a night... if im lucky... lol well the weekend is coming and so are the holidays so hopefully Ill be able to play more and be ont he site more, I also miss SSG as to i havnt been able to even read a song in about 2-3 weeks. Well just my two cents and ill stop mumbling and wish you all happy holidays and good luck with the theory!
For me, music theory is like an organism. First you learn the cellular level structure: scales. For the cells to grow and divide you learn the triads and tehn their inversions, move onto the 7th.....the story continues. From the start you learn how to label a "sound" with a letter, an entity with a triad name or chord name....and so on. That's how I learned it.
Boy, that's true about it being easier to visualize on the keyboard!
It's also easier to figure out on an open tuned guitar than in "standard" tuning, for the same reason.
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My first exposure to music theory was in middle school band. Two days out of the year, the director/teacher would have 'classroom' lessons in basic theory. It was boring and completely uninteresting at the time, but I am thankful because it established a very basic foundation that I otherwise would not have had.
When I started playing guitar, I learned mostly from magazines, where all sorts of theory terms were thrown around left and right. Since I didn't know what they were, it took quite a few years before it *clicked*, but eventually it started to make sense.
When I started writing music, I took some college classes in theory, piano, etc., which weren't very intensive, but at least it gave me an idea of what I needed to learn, and in what order.
Now, several years later, and having an incredible passion for classical music, I've been building a decent library of theory books which I read and study on a regular basis. Just reading them is helpful, but it's when I apply what I read (in terms of playing, writing, and analysis) that it really becomes valuable. I've also had to witness countless errors and misunderstood topics when people discuss theory on guitar forums, which I have gone out of my way to try and help correct.
The one thing I cannot stress enough is that the ability to read standard notation is the most important step towards understanding theory, although I am aware that 1) lots of players disagree with that, and 2) lots of players really don't [want to learn to read.
I learned theory in college and though I have to admit it was well worth it and quite valuable, I spent quite a little while afterwards trying to forget it - well, to ignore it in order to get outside the box. I've noticed a trend lately though, where 'music theory' has become a sort of golden fleece of sorts, and while I can heartily reccommend anyone going through the courses and learning what was done in the past (which is basically what it is), it shouldn't become an end unto itself as some people (not here though) have made it.
And I also agree that familiarity with a keboard helps a whole lot. Even if it's one of those mini-sized Casios, it's pretty much laid out right in front of you. On guitar, there are always several places to find a particular note in a particular octave, and it can overlap and confuse at times. On a keyboard, there's only ever one C, one C1, and etc. You don't have to become a pianist, but it sure does help. On guitar there's always something like 3-4 different chord shapes even for a D major chord, but on piano or any keyboard, a D major always looks the same no matter what octave you're in.
Well, aside from the inversions of course, but you can just hold your fingers in that 'shape' and move it up and octave and there you go. Guitar chords usually have doubled roots and fifths and one third generally, which you learn is preferable, but well, it's just more laid out and visual on a keyboard. :)
My instructor is a Jazz professional in my neck of the woods. And the first thing he tells his students is this.
"Music is a language. Your instrument is your voice. Whether you sing or speak you need two things: A vocabulary and Correct diction. If you are going to mumble or speak like a child go elsewhere for knowledge because I cant teach you."
He still does this eleven years later.
He actually reads that off a peice of paper and makes you sign it. If at any time you stop improving your knowledge base or articulation, he gives you a warning.
I had the bad habit years back of spending my practice time all week mastering tabs, Hendrix and SRV stuff. He had no patience for any of it.
My first two years he gave me 19 warnings. 11 Years later I havent received any more.
The biggest issue Ive seen in forums and in Peer players is the myth that music theory will stunt creativity.
It is the single most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. I have more litterature on music theory then I do on the guitar or anything related. Often times I find my mind is way ahead of my hands, and alot of things Ive learned still need to be developed with practical application.
I guess Ive rambled alot, which I tend to do. But my point is this: Without music theory there would be very little music, if any, and far fewer musicians to provide it.
You should be just as focused on learning your instrument and the language it speaks then profficiency alone. This can be done away from your guitar and sometimes should be.
Call_me_kido, your teacher has a GREAT approach! That's the first I've heard of a guitar teacher using a 'signed learning contract'. I wish I had thought of that when I was teaching guitar; it would have allowed me to weed out the slacker-students without having to go through the awkward explanations that would inevitably be a slap in the face to a student's ego.
I, too, have had countless run-ins with the 'theory diminishes creativity/musical ignorance is the only path to true art' crowd. Those guys have rationalized to such an extent that I think they actually believe what they profess! They have managed to convince an entire generation of guitarists that ignorance is superior, and that knowledge is detrimental, which is a real shame. So, you're not the only one with that pet peeve!
I'm not much of a player and I do try and pick up and understand as much theory as possible but I totally agree that learning theory will not somehow stunt your creativity..the logic is absurd.
I can't understand where people come from with this? How can someone say that learning more about a craft (and it doesn't have to be guitar) will somehow stymie you. It's like telling kids past the third grade not to learn any new words or no one will understand you.
The problem is that good players who never bothered to learn theory will use that as an excuse, but in reality, the truth is that in spite of not knowing theory they are still able to play guitar well. Not because they didn't learn theory...the problem is that since the never bothered to learn it they have no other point of reference, when in actuality they may been an even BETTER player had they taken the time to learn it.
With that said I started my musical journey way to late to start sight reading.
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In a way, I think it's an ego trip thing - "I'm better than those folks who need to know theory". It's a way of casting yourself in the light of musical genious, a natural font of creativity unsullied by things like knowledge (and often ability).
Theory in a vaccuum is useless. Musicianship without theory is possible, but harder than it needs to be.
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People who don't know any theory tend to come up with the hackneyed cliches over and over again.
Not all of them of course.
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when i first joined the forums here, it was to ask about guitar maintainance..and i was the epitome of anti-theory, and now i'm teaching beginner lessons at a local music store. theory is a tool, to be used to your advantage. the only time that theory will cause you musical drawback is if you only apply some things. Music theory (in my case) is used to a small extent, eg, finding harmonies that eather connosate or dissonate with each other to create artistic effect, or building chords/ learning timing tricks, and it's never limited me because i don't limit myself to the little i know, but apply what i know and experiment with what i dont, and in the and, come to a conclusion that's been established since theory history..i just didn't know it. the best way to learn theory is to get a teacher, and hang out here.
I like the concept of Music theory being like grammar, it makes a lot of sense.
Do you think that people who say "I don't need to learn music theory" are the people who spell "you" "u" and "too" "2"? Has anyone found any information regarding the relation?
There is a definite connection between the two. Also they will engage most conversations with "Yo", even if its textual. It gives them an urban "I dont need proper linguistics" edge to their communications.
You can also spot them downtown, sporting a paint chipped electric foreign Fender clone lookalike, not plugged in, spouting the toils of a drug induced and inspired lifestyle, magically attuned... to performance.
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Theory is extremly useful for everyone. I wish i started sooner and i love it because music is very mathmatical if you think about it. Without theory i couldnt come up with bass lines that sound good and go along with the chord progression. I have not learned much theory yet but i can see the improvements. Also for anyone in high school many schools have a music theory class.