This is a pretty reasonable question. After all, any aspiring guitarist only has so much time and energy to put into their hobby, and they don’t want to waste time learning music theory if they don’t have to. And as I’ve said before, a lot of guitar players also tend to point towards players that they admire, maybe their favorite blues or rock guitarist, and say to themselves, “Look, they don’t know music theory and they play great! So why should I learn the theory if they didn’t?”
Well, here’s the thing guys: The guitarists you love probably do know music theory, in fact, I’d be willing to bet my Fender Stratocaster on it. It’s just that the theory maybe isn’t what you think it is. And if you really want to learn how to play music, you’re going to have to learn the theory too, no doubt about it. And in fact, you probably already have started to, and maybe didn’t know it.
If all of this is a bit confusing, then we had better go ahead and clear all of this up by asking ourselves, what is music theory really?
Music theory, as it relates to learning the guitar, really boils down to just a few things- understanding how chord progressions work, and understanding how they relate to different scales.
Pretty reasonable, huh? Like I said, Musical theory maybe isn’t what you thought it is: it is NOT reading music. Music theory is not just for classical guitarists, like you might have pictured. In fact, classical guitarists need less theory than rock and blues and jazz players. You see, to play classical guitar, you really just need to be a strong reader. You don’t have to understand the music you’re playing, though of course, the best players do.
But to play rock, jazz and blues, you have to understand your chord progressions and scale choices, in order to improve, or add fills, or make up parts in a timely and successful fashion. In short: you need music theory.
Of course, players can and do rely on their ears to do all the above, but that can be a real challenge and take a lot of time, and effort, and the truth is, the best players don’t need to spend two weeks trying out different ideas to come up with the right chord progression, or cool part or solo. They understand what they’re doing, because they understand the theory of music, and then they use their ear on top of that knowledge.
So again, those players you admire, do know the theory and how it relates to the guitar. They know what notes are in each chord, they know how to look at a chord progression and tell what scales to use when- and I want you to know all that too.
That’s why I put together what I consider to be the best book on music theory available, that works together with the best online music course, with videos to walk you through the pdf book.
I start you off with the basics of what’s called Diatonic theory- that just means understanding basic major and minor scales and all the chords that go with them. These are the fundamentals of music, and the best ideas for beginner music theory students to get down solid.
After you have this basic theory down, you will move on to Blues and Rock concepts that tweak the basics you’ll have learned in your first theory class with me. That’s when you’ll really know how music works. When you can understand our traditional music theory, (ways of writing and understanding music going back for hundreds of years, that still influence all styles of popular music today) and also understand the world of blues music which is the other side of the equation, then you’ll see how almost any style you can imagine- Rock, Jazz, Gospel, Country, Bluegrass, Reggae, all fall between these two poles.
After all, the best guitar players know what they’re doing, and you should too!