Do you currently have the skills to express all of your thoughts and emotions clearly with your guitar playing and music? Can you make others feel what you feel when you play guitar?
Most guitarists want to be able to express themselves better with their guitar playing; however, the majority of guitar players have no idea how to actually practice this skill. This leads to a lot of time being wasted on practicing guitar in a way that does not produce big results. The solution to this problem is to develop a more accurate fundamental understanding of how to develop musical creativity.
Many guitar players try to enhance their musical creativity skills by searching the music of their favorite bands for cool riffs and guitar ideas and playing them over and over. This is certainly an enjoyable activity to do when playing guitar, but in reality it does not do very much to help you to learn musical expression. If you spend a great deal of time on this, you will be missing out on the two most critical parts of being able to create emotion in music:
You must know exactly how the musicians you listen to manage to make you feel certain emotions while you listen to their music. This means learning why the musicians you listen to make the specific musical choices they do. Unlike copying their ideas, this will give you a foundation for truly developing your own musical creativity. Additionally, it is important to understand how musicians think when making music so that you can learn to shape your musical ideas into your own unique and expressive musical style. This means that when you make your own music, you will be able to express the same emotions as your favorite musicians but do so WITHOUT “copying” someone else’s ideas note for note. Once you know exactly how music is used to create emotions in a listener, you have the power to turn your music into a clear communication of your ideas and feelings.
You must learn why certain musical elements create very predictable emotions for people, and then use this knowledge when playing music for others. The best musical artists will generally make decisions in their music based on the goal of influencing the emotions of the listeners in a specific way (whether the artist, or their audience consciously realize it themselves or not). Without this ability to intentionally express your unique emotions in music, you will be limited to merely playing the musical ideas of others.
There is a big divide between most guitar players when it comes to music theory. Many people avoid music theory, because they believe that it is a bunch of rules that restrict their freedom of musical expression. Other people think that music theory is required for knowing how to make music. Both of these views are incomplete when comes to the big picture of the purpose of music theory.
So what is the real purpose of music theory? Music theory is a tool to accurately describe the effects of musical ideas on the emotions of whoever listens to a piece of music.
How Can Music Theory Truly Give You The Ability To Express Yourself In Music?
Understanding how music theory really works likely means changing your current idea of what music theory is used for. Forget about music theory as simply explaining the function of scales and chords in music. Instead, music theory is all about explaining why we feel certain emotions when certain musical ideas are used. Knowing this is instrumental to you developing great musical expression skills.
Here is an example to illustrate how you can use this idea. As a guitar teacher, I spend a lot of time showing my students how to increase their skills with musical creativity. One of the exercises I use is to have my guitar students write down specific emotions they want to express in their guitar music. Then, I have them write down the specific ways to accomplish these musical expressions using a variety of music theory ideas.
Using exercises such as the one above is great for helping you to understand the connection between raw music theory concepts and their application for specific expressive uses. This helps you to learn to associate musical concepts with the ideas you have in your mind. If you want to see how this actually works in music, begin by checking out this video:
As you learn how to use music theory, it will help you to achieve the following:
You will gain an understanding of exactly WHY you enjoy listening to certain kinds of music. This will allow you to create the same musical emotions that you get from the music of your favorite artists without copying/cloning their exact guitar licks and solos. This skill will greatly enhance your musical creativity.
You will be able to create music in a way that much more accurately expresses your ideas and emotions. It is common for most musicians (who are trying to write a song) to simply improvise on their instrument until something sounds “good enough.” This songwriting method is very limited and does not bring a lot of results consistently. However, if you have the knowledge of how to express specific musical emotions in music, it will be much easier to write great songs with less effort.
Having knowledge of how musical expression really works will help you to recall musical ideas from your head onto the guitar much easier. Once you can remember and identify the music that you have written by the musical concepts it involves (not just the notes), you will be able to create melodies off the top of your head a lot more easily.
When you understand how to connect emotions in music with the musical ideas that create those feelings, you will be able to make music that puts the listener into a specific emotional state (that you get to choose!)
What Do You Need To Do Right Now?
If your goal is to become highly skillful at musical expression, then you need to follow these steps to start achieving this on guitar:
Watch the guitar music theory video above.
Recognize that even though learning music theory is a critically important tool for learning how to be musically creative, there are many other skills you need to develop to fully express your emotions in music.
Understand that music theory skill is not developed by merely taking a certain number of music theory lessons, but rather by your ability to use your current knowledge to accurately bring out your emotions through your music. Use the exercise mentioned earlier in this article to see how well you can use theoretical music concepts to make music that is consistent with the ideas you want to express. If you struggle with this, this either means that your music theory skills are low or (most commonly) you do not understand how to use what you know in music theory in an actual musical context. If you play guitar while integrating together music theory and musical expression, you will notice a HUGE surge in musical creativity!
The most important thing I want you to take away from this article is the way I have defined music theory, and how you can use this understanding to enhance your own musical expression on guitar. If you keep all these things in mind, you will be able to take your musical creativity to a new level.