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#1August 9th, 2007 · 01:12 PM
3 threads / 2 songs
15 posts
United States of America
Music Theory and its Importance
Hey guys,

I wanted to know what you thought about theory.
If I took the time to learn it - what benefits would come from it? Many times I have tried to memorize the notes on the guitar, but for some reason, it's hard to commit to memory.

I just wanted to know what I can look forward to if I actually continued and finished it all the way through.

Thanks for your views.
#2August 9th, 2007 · 01:36 PM
19 threads / 15 songs
84 posts
United States of America
Um, er...
I am assuming for the moment that you at least know what the notes of the guitar sound like - Knowing where all of the notes of the guitar are would help you to know for example where the unisons (notes that sound the same on different strings) and octaves (notes where one is double the frequency of the other) are. This will help you get more nimble on the fretboard. Also, if you would ever wish to communicate to another human without using a tape recording how your song goes, it might help to know what the notes are and how long each one lasts - and to communicate it on paper.

Theory engenders musical literacy at the minimum. It's like learning to read, OK?
#3August 9th, 2007 · 03:08 PM
340 threads / 59 songs
4,344 posts
United Kingdom
I speak Dutch fairly well! But if you ask me to write Dutch I always stutter and become uncertain (in my writing)!
A handicap? Yes because I can only 'join in' with the society around me up to certain level, I cant spontaneously write an angry letter to the County Council because I think their morons for instance.
Your learning a new language, if you know now that you want to 'use' that language later, to its full capacity! Then I'd say sit down and learn it fully!
I'm trying to pick up some PHP, I find my self staring at the monitor trying to figure out which commands where tell how what to do when how !!!!!  
But the whole time I realised that if I were to print out the 'Learn PHP in a week' course I have, I then would! Wouldn't I? 

Who are you anyway!?
#4August 10th, 2007 · 03:17 PM
3 threads / 2 songs
15 posts
United States of America
Stringbreaker: Thanks for giving me enough musical knowledge points to know notes of the guitar . What hit me the hardest from what you said was that theory is musical literacy. Thank you for your comments.

Kings: You've got good points. As for php - I can certainly give you some tips and pointers. Assuming you have html knowledge, it's just a matter of time before you can get it all. I guess that's the same with the theory. And printing out that 'Learn PHP in a week' doesn't necessarily mean you'll actually learn it - although I'm sure it'll help. You really have to sit it through and learn all the useless stuff first before you gain the scope and realize where the php language really shines. I guess that's how I feel about the theory, I've tried many times to learn it, but lose interest after a while of chanting letter notes on the fret.

Thanks for the analogies guys.
As for who I am, My name is Joe and I'm a college student aiming for the corporate world of consulting. Yes, I've sold my soul, but I still manage to put some time in our band to create some music. I'm a vocalist and lyricist and prefer to sing over playing the guitar, which has been a long hard road. The band has asked I learn bass, and not wanting to have the same progress I've had on the guitar, I've decided to start from basics and perhaps get a little support from this community - have I come to the right place?
#5August 10th, 2007 · 04:13 PM
371 threads / 187 songs
3,384 posts
United Kingdom
Try before you buy
Everybody will react differently to theory.

There are some really famous musicians that would flat on there face if they were to get into theory, as they normally go by feel  and nothing else.

If you have the passion to learn or read music, then you should go for it.

I would just concente on what you enjoy and ENJOY IT.

When I got my first guitar at 14, I tuned it to form a chord and worked out unique sounding chords for myself. A year after, somebody told me I was doing it wrong and then tuned the guitar in the regular way. It was only some years after that it occured to me, if I'd maintained what I initally learnt, I would have had someting quite unique, which would have sounded like no other guitarist.

The only thing I would say though is to practice your scales for 5 mins per day. At first it may be extreemly boring, but over time your ears will become more sensitive and creative, you will start to create better melodies
and it's also good finger excersise, that simply makes you more relaxed, thus feeding your creativeness.

I tried to learn to read music, all it gave me was a massive head ache, I've tried a few times.

So, I think just try out different things, the important thing is that you must have a goal, without it you will just
give up or go in different directions.

I hope this helps.

#6August 10th, 2007 · 04:41 PM
19 threads / 15 songs
84 posts
United States of America
Theory is as theory does
If you know it by ear, the theory is expressed implicitly. If you can write it on paper, the theory is expressed explicitly. Seriously, the notes are the same whether it is "c#" or "Oh, that one". I spent years using alternate tunings as I like to have to struggle to find the voicings I need: it provides a lot of challenge. If I want no challenge and just to get something down, I use the keyboard. Keyboards are simple: one note each per key.

Now, for me, theory is often an after the fact effort, not a "I will use formula's to write this" but "what was I doing here?" Where it comes in handiest (aside from showing other musicians what you've done) is when you're stuck. If you take the time to figure out what you were doing in the first place, ideas will often come showing you possibilities for where to go next.

But remember (and this is supported by the best theoreticians in the world) if your ear and music theory ever disagree, the ear always wins.
#7August 10th, 2007 · 08:40 PM
160 threads / 33 songs
1,964 posts
United States of America
the benefits of theory........quick communication between players either in a band setting or just in a jam....
before i really started to get in to music theory I was a pretty good guitar player.   I went to a couple of blues and jazz jam sessions (open mic nights) just to get out and play. I figured out pretty quick that i didn't know what i was doing cause they would change the keys to songs at the last minute or just make up a progression and go with it ...being able to play wonderful solo's on the fly....So I thought if I want to be a real good guitar player like the many that are capable of doing this then i need to learn what they know... Music Theory...  now there are lots of theory approaches and many teaching books and cd's.  I would look for one that starts out with the basics and then teaches you applied theory practices that you could or would actually use.  Just taking music lessons on your instrument will not necessarily give you a great understanding of theory. If you can learn to read music it will increase your ability to understand music that you would not normally be able to figure out.

  Let's say you heard a guitar part written by Marcel Dadi  for most guitarist that can't read some of his stuff may be very difficult to figure out.. But if you get the sheet music to it you can see what he was doing on paper in front of you...I know it looks difficult at first but ...If I learned how to read music and get a better understanding of theory then anybody can (cause believe me when I tell you I ain't no genius).  It just takes time and effort.
#8August 11th, 2007 · 09:17 AM
15 threads / 12 songs
171 posts
United Kingdom
re: Theory is as theory does
Stringbreaker wrote…
But remember (and this is supported by the best theoreticians in the world) if your ear and music theory ever disagree, the ear always wins.

Well said. Think of this analogy. You can listen and speak (play and hear). But if you learn to read and write it's like the "touched up" correct way of making utterances, sentences.

But as we know in the literal world, sometimes breaking the rules (i.e poems) has diserable effect.
#9August 11th, 2007 · 11:41 AM
19 threads / 15 songs
84 posts
United States of America
Well, ya gotta know tha rules in order to break them effectively.

More seriously, very often cases of apparent rule breaking involve honoring one rule while apparently breaking another. I knew a guitarist (now pretty famous - plays Celtic music in Broceliande) who started out as an Oboe player. He would come up with really startling voicings on 12 string: when you played them back slow they often sounded really off. What he was doing was forcing the chords to play against the vocal lines, often forcing the bass note to play a counter melody to what he was singing, and if it ran against the progression, well it just did so for a moment and the song rolled right along. A cheat, but it really worked in context.

Playing chords with false notes breaks the rules: playing melodies that echo and support the vocals honors them. The one rule covered the other because the ear expected the bass notes. (I should note that he did less of this kind of thing the more he had good band members playing the other parts)

I do like the analogy. Music is a form of communication, like speech. Many people speak well without learning proper grammar. But if they are going to write well, the rules of grammar (and spelling ) help others understand what is being written.
#10August 18th, 2007 · 01:05 AM
44 threads / 6 songs
305 posts
United States of America
Ah but there are many ways to represent music because sound is universal, however specific languages are not. I can read standard notation, but only very slowly. It just doesn't make sense in the context of guitar.
#11August 18th, 2007 · 11:13 AM
19 threads / 15 songs
84 posts
United States of America
Doesn't make sense?
The guitar is notorious for having players with more knowledge of theory and less ability to read sheet music. The guitar in America got much of its popularity ass a folk instrument, enough so that one often has to make the distinction between players of the classical guitar and all the rest. Books like the Guitar Grimoire and Ted Greene's "Chord Chemistry" are specifically designed to assist modern players (especially in jazz) in absorbing advanced theory without having the ability to read sheet. I knew a teacher of the classical guitar who was marketing his own book on sheet music notations to handle the possibilities for ornamentation of the guitar. His complaint was similar to yours, so he invented many symbols to describe things his fingers did easily. The book was nearly half an inch thick and showed things I had never even thought of. Clearly the desire to communicate through the guitar is as universal as on any instrument.

The guitar is sufficiently complex as to make accurate communication of the nuances of play nearly impossible. I respectfully disagree in that it can make sense. In the popular guitar magazines they use a hybrid notation of standard and tablature to convey guitar specific information. Even the players who listen to the radio or MP3's on computer and play along are absorbing the theory as well. They are translating what their ears say to their fingers or are saying something original about what they hear.
#12August 18th, 2007 · 12:08 PM
64 threads / 13 songs
669 posts
United States of America
I have to agree with ZachBlume---standard notation in the context of the guitar isn't the most effective way to transcribe music.  The hybrid notation, which I'll just called hTab is perfect.  Rhythm is maintained, but guitar-specific techniques (show me a harmonic, slide, hammer on, tap, wah pedal on standard notation) can now be effectively put across.  hTab is also becoming very standard.  Like you said, magazines, books and software like Guitar Pro are making this --the-- method to write guitar music.
#13August 18th, 2007 · 02:02 PM
44 threads / 6 songs
305 posts
United States of America
Guitar Pro is the shit for learning stuff...I'm just saying that standard notation doesn't feel right for guitar. It works, yeah, I just wish there was something better. A combination of standard notation with tab is the best option at the moment.
#14August 18th, 2007 · 02:20 PM
3 threads / 2 songs
15 posts
United States of America
Tabs are definitely easier to see and play. I somehow get the feeling that without learning more about how music works (theory of scales and such) - it'll be difficult to get any better than where I am. :-.

I wonder if I can find a place where you can get your lessons on G Pro. Found a lot with songs, but nothing for techniques. Maybe I'm not searching hard enough.

Thanks for the input!
#15August 24th, 2007 · 12:43 AM
51 threads / 31 songs
114 posts
United States of America
As a fan of wierd music (defined as stuff such as os mutantes, tom ze, the residents, sun ra, frank zappa, wesley willis, the shaggs, etc...) I say throw theory out the window and find something that sounds good to you. As frank zappa once said "The new rule to you should be if it sounds good to you it's bitchen, if it sounds bad to you it sucks". I am pretty much self taught when it comes to chords and stuff like that as I started out as a percussionist  in middle school band. When I first heard of a chord is when someone showed me it was just an arpeggio played at once. Don't get me wrong, scales are immensely important to soloing and general song writing but this whole writing by numbers (I, V, IV over and over again until you are nauseas) seems pretty stupid to me, however you could write this notation in pretty much any piece. Also I absolutely abhor standard notation. Its always so hard to get the exact rhythm and syncopation right. Therefore I find it much easier to play the thing several times while creating the piece so you get the rhythm right then writing down the notes (such as A, B, C,etc... or tab if you must). But this is just my approach, you can do what you want.
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