i'm new to the forums but i'm hoping someone here can lead me in the right direction. i started playing guitar about 10 years ago, all different genres, electric and acoustic. i'm very good at putting together chord progressions, song writing, and i am usually a very fast learner and i have a good ear for music. my problem is, i've never been taught really ANYTHING about theory. i know a FEW of the basic chords by name, but mostly i just know how to create a chord that sounds good, or what shapes work well on different areas of the neck. i've only gotten better by playing and learning music that i like, and practicing the same things over and over...

i am at a point where i NEED to learn more about scales, chords, modes, and how they are all connected. my goal is to just be able to jam out/solo to any kind of music, and i know that theory is the way to do it. i always KNOW what notes i want to play, like i can imagine them in my head while i'm writing something, or ATTEMPTING to just jam along with a chord progression.. but it will take me time to find it, sometimes making me feel like i'm still a beginner!

i mean if someone was playing a chord, and said to solo over it.. i feel like i dont really know what im doing besides trying to figure out the notes that sound good. alot of trial and error.

my problem is i need a good way to understand the patterns and memorize all these scales and chords, and connect them with different positions on the neck. do i need to just learn chords and scales one at a time and memorize them? i'm hoping there is a better way. ive looked at youtube videos and various websites but they all seem very similar in the way they teach you theory. i mean i don't even know if its better to learn the chords first, or scales? whats the best way to go about all this theory? any suggestions? thanks
in my sig, click the magicbooktheory link. its a site ive created for just what youre describing.

while its fairly new, it has a whole section on scales, modes, and i am currently working on basic and advanced guitar chords.
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learn your open chords and bar chords first definitely, after that work on basic scales like major, minor, and pentatonic
Cutting your story short - Chords or Scales first (for theory) I'd say;

For a simple reason, intervals. From there you know how to build a chord and including the 9th (2nd) and so on...

However. Seen you are already fairly seasoned I suggest looking up bar chords, the types that you can move all around the neck, and seeing what you have been creating all this time (the ones you don't know the names of) so you can go either way, it's just time that it'll cost you.
*shrugs* I don't know...
if you want to learn real theory, id say look into the construction of scales and chords. repectively, modes and arpeggios will also be worth looking into.

to get you started, C Major Scale:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
C D E F G A B C played in series

C Major Chord:

1 3 5
C E G played at once

Working with formulas like that might be what you want to learn. If it is, you can find them everywhere, and they're easy to learn. I'd suggest finding one where they show you them on a guitar neck.

Last edited by DavidGuitar88 at Jan 11, 2009,
Learn your circle of fifths. Not only will you understand every key, but you'll understand the relationship between different keys.
Id say learn the major scale thoroughly, because a chord is found within a scale and vice versa. Though you did say u know what notes you want to play, i'd like to suggest that you practice the same scale over a few chords in the same key to find weak notes and strong notes, where the dissonances lie, etc.

The most basic formula to learn is that of a key:
I Major
II minor
III minor
IV Major
V Major
VI minor
VII diminished

That formula relates to your chords and scale modes within the given key. This makes it fairly easy to transpose between different keys, depending on the song. I give this to my beginner students in the 4th or 5th lesson so its ingrained for future use. With this formula the knowledge base is added to continuously throughout your life in music. Use it well.

The second one to know would be the circle of keys. To the left side of the circle is the "circle of 4ths" which is the flat keys; to the right of the circle is the "circle of 5ths" which is the sharp keys. Learning that with the first formula by your side is easier than not knowing it.

So armed with the circle of keys you can learn chord progressions too. At the top of the circle is C (I), to its left is F(IV) and to its right is G(V). This is one of the first progressions you learn which is a I-IV-V. If you now take say, the first three keys on the right side of the circle (C, G and D) you will have a ii-V-I progression [Dm(ii), G(V) and C(I)]. If you now take 4 notes of the right hand side (C, G, D and A) you will have a vi-ii-V-I progression [Am(vi), Dm(ii), G(V) and C(I)]. Any note that you start on in the circle and use 4 notes to the right of it, you will have this progression. This way of learning all twelve keys becomes a dream and a slap on the forehead as it was in front of you all this time. You get more progressions if you add more notes but that would be for you to figure out. I will leave you with one more. Take C, directly opposite it is Gb and to the left of C is F... here it would be a bii-V-I (Gb,C, F) the bii would best be played as a m7b5; so the progressions here would be Gbm7b5 - C7 - Fmaj7.

I think that would suffice as a start, hope this helps, good luck