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Old 01-17-2015, 10:44 PM   #1
stringmelter
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Question Theory book recommendations

Hey, I've decided to learn theory but I don't know where start. I've been playing guitar for 2 years and love playing I would play all day if a had the time. I don't how to read music at all, my only knowledge of reading music was many years ago in grade 3 so I totally forget. All I really know is 5-6 chords and scales but right now I have know idea what makes a chord a chord and a scale a scale.

So I need a book that not complicated and that starts at the very beginning? Should I learn to read music because I don't know how? Btw I like rock, metal, blues

Thanks
Sorry for this you've probably seen thousands of questions like this
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Old 01-18-2015, 10:42 AM   #2
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don't laugh but the complete idiot's guide to music theory is actually pretty good.
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Old 01-18-2015, 12:19 PM   #3
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Thanks I'll get that one. Should I learn to read music?
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Old 01-18-2015, 12:32 PM   #4
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The book I initially had was called The Guitar Handbook by Ralph Denyer if you are a beginner just starting out or a long time player it will teach you tons of stuff not just music theory but lots of aspects of guitar from how they work to how chords are constructed to the building blocks of playing lead. It's easy to understand and a great book to learn from.

it's probably the best all round self tuition book IMO.
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Old 01-18-2015, 01:15 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stringmelter
Thanks I'll get that one. Should I learn to read music?

IMO being able to read music is good because sheet music is a good way to communicate ideas. I would guess most theory books use sheet music.

You could understand theory without sheet music, but as I said, most books use sheet music, and IMO being able to read music is a good skill. Also, if you decide to learn another instrument than guitar, sheet music is really handy because it works for all instruments.
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Old 01-18-2015, 01:28 PM   #6
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I got this book for school that's really useful for theory, one of the best reference books I've found, however it is not geared for guitar really at all. However, it does show you how to read notation and how to understand music from the very, very basics. Its Tonal Theory with an Introduction to Twentieth-Century Music and its by Stephen Kostka. It's great for tonal music and really only touches atonal stuff, but a very good book that covers everything. It is kinda pricy, but I'm sure you could find a cheap version or a used one online. Kostka also wrote an advance theory book on atonal theory which is also really great called Materials and Techniques of Post-Tonal Music. Its more "out there" but a great reference nonetheless. I would recommend anyone whose serious about music to own a good theory textbook and keep it in your music library, although I'm sure there are some other books that are just as good and probably geared more for guitar.

As for learning notation, I would say it is extremely important to be music literate, even though most guitarist seem not to be. I thick the reason why most guitars don't read sheet music is (to be honest) sheet music sucks for guitar players. It is far faster and easier to read tabs, and notation is really geared more for piano and concert instruments. However, if you play with any other musicians besides other guitarist or drummers, being music literate is very important. I played guitar for over a decade before I picked up notation and that was my biggest regret. Notation makes more sense, it is easier to show correct rhythms, easier to see pitch relationships, and you can take music from one instrument and play it on another or take music not for guitar and write it as a guitar part. When I am jamming with friends, its a lot easier to look at a score and improv guitar over that than it is to have tabs, which usually are never written out well. Plus if you are jamming with a pianist or something you two can share the same music and stuff. Just a thought.

As MaggaraMarine said, you don't need to know how to read sheet music to understand theory, but I'll tell you first hand it makes a hell of a difference.
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Old 01-18-2015, 02:53 PM   #7
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Honestly anything is as good as then next. For you I'd say pick up something like The Complete Idiot's Guide, Theory for Dummies, AB Guide to Theory (which would be more formal/conservatory style). I'm not sure I buy into super guitar specific books, but I dunno.

mhillips recommended Kostka's book, which is a very good text, but it's geared towards classical musicians and teaches through counterpoint studies and four part writing so it might not be what you want.

As for reading, most books will teach theory concepts through notation, so you'll have to learn at least a little bit. It's a lot easier to understand notation than to actually be able to look at a piece of music and read it on your instrument though.
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Old 01-18-2015, 03:30 PM   #8
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if you can remember F-A-C-E and E-G-B-D-F or whatever mnemonics that go with those, you'll know enough about standard notation to read a theory book.

i would avoid anything specifically aimed at guitarists. guitarists are a confused group, especially considering everyone's fascination with antiquated concepts with ancient greek names hint hint, and the quality of information written by guitarists for guitarists will vary wildly.

just go to a bookstore and grab something
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Old 01-18-2015, 04:47 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stringmelter
Thanks I'll get that one. Should I learn to read music?


Up to you. It's not really super-necessary if you only want to play guitar (for most styles), but at the same times as the others have been saying it can be helpful as well.

It's also probably worth pointing out that "learn to read music" can mean a couple of different things- it can be instrument specific (for example a lot of people, myself included, can sight read for, say, piano, but not so much for guitar), it can mean that you understand written music but can't sight read so well (me ), or it can mean that you can sight-read like a boss (like the way you can read written English). I'd sat that a basic level of understanding of written music (alongside theory) would be pretty handy. In fact, it'd probably make theory more difficult not understanding it to a basic level.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jazz_rock_feel
(a) Honestly anything is as good as then next. (b) For you I'd say pick up something like The Complete Idiot's Guide, Theory for Dummies, (c) I'm not sure I buy into super guitar specific books, but I dunno.

(d) As for reading, most books will teach theory concepts through notation, so you'll have to learn at least a little bit. It's a lot easier to understand notation than to actually be able to look at a piece of music and read it on your instrument though.


(a) I dunno about that, you need something that's aimed at the right level

(b) I haven't tried the dummies music theory book, but I generally find the dummies books (not even just for music) to have a kind of smart-alecky, patronising style of humour which I don't really appreciate. The CIG ones don't seem to have that at all.

Obviously everyone's different, and maybe some people would find the CIG ones annoying. But that's just me, I normally avoid the Dummies ones if I can and get the CIG ones instead.

(c) Yeah at least for the basics I'm not sure you need a guitar one. Then again, you might end up having to learn the piano keyboard too (I played piano before guitar so it's no problem for me), so

(d) Yeah, exactly. That's what I meant when I said above about it possibly meaning a couple of different things.
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Old 01-18-2015, 06:01 PM   #10
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Tthanks for all the reply's. I think I will go the idiots guide since a lot of people recommend it. As for the notation I will have to think about it a while before I decide. Anyway thanks.
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Old 01-18-2015, 06:14 PM   #11
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there are a lot of good recommendations above. Try your local library. They should have several books. Check out a few and read them. Have a look through websites and youtube as well. An important aspect of learning is cross referencing.

If your library has a copy of Dominic Pedler's "Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles" check that out. It's great.
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Old 01-18-2015, 06:17 PM   #12
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Fundamentals are very important. Learn how to build a major and minor scale/chord (and which notes constitute major or minor), learn the color tones, how to build triads and arpeggios, blues scale, modal scales, harmonic and melodic minor scales. A teacher is good to have for learning shortcuts and alternative ways to play chords and riffs. I learned from a teacher then learned classical guitar using Aaron Shearer, Sagreras, Segovia, Carcassi books.
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Should I learn to read music?

It is not hard but not necessary. But it can only benefit: learning time signatures, note values, rests, etc.

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Old 01-18-2015, 06:32 PM   #13
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+1 to mphillips.

If you are into classical/that perspective on music theory (counterpoint and whatnot) the Kostka Payne Tonal Harmony Text is a great read.

But if you aren't into that at all you likely won't find a lot of use out of it.
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Old 01-18-2015, 06:38 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 20Tigers
Try your local library.


Yeah if you can try a bunch for free that's the thing. Or try a bookshop (again you can flick through several before buying one). Or amazon will let you look inside parts of the books- might be enough to make an educated guess about which ones are any good.
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Old 01-19-2015, 11:32 AM   #15
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Understanding sheet music is very easy (I mean, you basically just need to remember where all the different notes are and what the different note values look like - oh, and of course it's also good to be able to name the notes on the guitar fretboard). Sight reading is not that easy. You don't need to be able to sight read to understand sheet music. I can sight read on trumpet but not on any other instrument. But the same notation applies for all instruments so I still understand the notation. I'm just not that fast at reading it (on other instruments) because I haven't really practiced it.

But yeah, you don't need to be good at sight reading. As said, understanding rhythms, time signatures, whatever, becomes easier when you have notation. I mean, there are different ways to learn, and the more ways you use, the easier it is to learn it. You can understand everything without using sheet music. But learning to read it at basic level is very easy and it can make things easier.
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