Why Learn Music Theory?

Difficulty: White

Music theory is a wonderful thing! At first, it may appear to be complicated and confusing, but if you can get past that rather hostile exterior you’ll find that it’s a key that can unlock your musical mind and help you discover the music in you.

I’ve heard suggestions over the years that learning theory can affect your feel, take away your spontaneity and somehow make you sound ‘theoretical’. This is simply not true. Most guitarists who claim this are usually just lazy. They say that they can name many ‘legends’ that didn’t learn any theory (or learned to read music), and so they shouldn’t either - but such legends are exceptional. There is no guarantee that you’ll develop into an excellent, creative, soulful musician by avoiding theory, but there are guaranteed benefits from exploring theory as part of your musical path, and that’s what this course is all about. Anyway, most great players actually do understand music theory - even if it’s only in their ears!

Learning theory will help you:

Understand the guitar
The guitar is a complex instrument. Unlike many instruments, most notes on the guitar can be played in a number of ways. For instance, the top E note (open 1st string) can be played in five places on the neck. This can make the guitar difficult to learn initially, but understanding note names and relationships between notes gives you many more choices for chord grips and melodic lines as your playing develops.

Improvise
Learning to play over a 12-Bar blues for the first time is fairly straightforward if you’ve got to grips with the minor pentatonic scale first. That small piece of knowledge allows you to freely explore the sounds of the blues. It also makes transcribing a lot easier, because you already know where the sounds that you hear are found on the guitar neck.

Transcribe
In fact, I believe that cold, stale playing mentioned above (from the theory phobic guitarists) usually comes from a lack of transcribing (working out music by ear and writing it down). Those players who only try to learn from books don’t usually find the answers. Try to learn music by listening and understanding (we LISTEN to music, so it makes sense to learn it that way). This course will help you with the understanding, but you have to do the listening all by yourself!

Learn faster and better
You should know that the majority of great guitar players know their theory well, and if you have any interest in playing any jazz then you’ll need to know it inside out.

Find your own voice
When you get deep into theory you will discover that all things in music are connected, and understanding the big picture opens all the doors, and lets you be free. That sounds pretty corny, but it's the best way I can think to describe it. For me, all music theory is related; like a sphere, you can look at it from many different perspectives and choose how (and if) you use it.

Music Theory Grade 0

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