Page 1 of 2
#1
So I've been playing guitar for a few years now and am starting to get somewhat serious about starting a real band and gigging and putting out music. Right now it is just my friend and I (both guitarists) but we arent even going to look for any other members because next year we are both going halfway across the country for college so it wouldnt make much sense to end a band that soon. Anyways, for the past few months we have been writing songs together on fridays and weekends, and have maybe 1-2 95% complete songs and 3-4 40-50 percent complete songs, at least as complete as we can get them (the two guitar parts, rough bass, rough vocals, drum ideas).

What I'm getting at is this: Personally, I think I can write songs pretty well with no musical knowledge or theory knowledge. Now over the course of my guitar playing career, I've definitely learned a lot and know, by feel or sense or just thought, what I want to do next with a song and how to go there. I'm just wondering what theory can offer me. I've thought about learning it before, but never got around to it; I read these threads where people spout out "rests" and "intervals" and "scale patterns" and my brain just goes numb.

Some more info: I play rock/alt music that ranges from bands like the Strokes and the Arctic Monkeys to more classic/harder stuff like Queens of the Stone Age and the Foo Fighters. I'm not looking to play like Vai or Satriani, I just want to write good songs that I like and other people like, most likely featuring "simple" techniques like powerchords. I just feel like theory complicates music of this type.

Basically, should I learn music theory?
#3
Well, you can do pretty well without music theory, but learning it is ALWAYS a plus, even simple things, like scales, or some basic song structure helps you develop the song the best it can be by making proper armonies and making better structured solos and such, for example, everything Floyd, Zepellin and such did was simple but had its background theory which made it better.

In conclusion, you will be able to do well without it, but learning at least some will help you imrpove your songs unless you are a musical genius like the beatles, who never learned any theory, but being honest, none of us is that talented, theory will always help you.
My Gear:
Oh wait, no one cares

"Buckethead is probably twice as good a guitar player as me and Slash combined" - Dave Mustaine
#5
It is not needed if you have a mind for impeccable logic and consistency. Most people don't inherently possess that kind of ability.

...modes and scales are still useless.


Quote by PhoenixGRM
Hey guys could you spare a minute to Vote for my band. Go to the site Search our band Listana with CTRL+F for quick and vote Thank you .
Quote by sam b
Voted for Patron Çıldırdı.

Thanks
Quote by PhoenixGRM
But our Band is Listana
#7
Quote by Jettski1
Some more info: I play rock/alt music that ranges from bands like the Strokes and the Arctic Monkeys to more classic/harder stuff like Queens of the Stone Age and the Foo Fighters. I'm not looking to play like Vai or Satriani, I just want to write good songs that I like and other people like, most likely featuring "simple" techniques like powerchords. I just feel like theory complicates music of this type.

Basically, should I learn music theory?


Well if you feel like playing anything but powerchords is forcing too much theory, you are probably not open to learning theory, even if somebody gave you 20 good reasons to learn, and you agreed with them all.

Apart from that, I have never played with a competent guitarist who doesn't know their theory. If I start playing a song in E minor say, they'll realise it's in E minor and jam along with it, create parts which complement but don't replicate by parts etc. I highly doubt that if I had a jam with any of the guitarists in the bands listed and I said "hey lets have a jam in Bbm" that they'd give me a blank look and say "I don't know music theory".
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#8
pretty much as stated above, is it needed? no not really. however, you will find writing everything, I'll state it again, everything much easier. it gives you both a way to describe what you are playing, as well as giving you a set of guidelines to help you write/ jam to anything.
Quote by Dirk Gently
Some pieces are only meant to be played by people with six fingers on their fretting hand. Sorry.
#9
I dislike these threads....

Once upon a time, there was a bass player who tried to learn by ear. He spent three years playing along with rise against and offspring tracks. He learned nothing.

This bass player's laptop decided to prove gravity existed, and upon hitting the ground, shattered. The bass player then decided, "hey, since I can only pay songs by other artists, or songs that sound like these artists, I might as well learn thoery, to see if it helps me write."

Forward one year, and this bass player frequents the MT thread on ultimate guitar, and writes a song almost every week.

Theory can only help you.
Understand nothing, in order to learn everything.

Quote by liampje
I can write a coherent tune ... But 3/4? I play rock, not polka.
#10
Guitar is pretty much the only instrument where you'll find a significant number of "musicians" who go actually out of their way to avoid learning anything about music.

It's mind-boggling, not to mention kind of embarassing.
Actually called Mark!

Quote by TNfootballfan62
People with a duck for their avatar always give good advice.

...it's a seagull

Quote by Dave_Mc
i wanna see a clip of a recto buying some groceries.


stuffmycatswatchontv.tumblr.com
#11
It's only "needed" if you think it's "needed".

It'd probably be beneficial to at least learn the very basics of it, but it's perfectly possible to be able to play in a band, play covers and write your own music with absolutely no theory knowledge. Learning a little will make all of the above easier though.

It shouldn't really complicate the music as you said, unless you let it do so. There are no hard rules, just guidelines.
#12
Quote by steven seagull
Guitar is pretty much the only instrument where you'll find a significant number of "musicians" who go actually out of their way to avoid learning anything about music.

It's mind-boggling, not to mention kind of embarassing.


But if I learn what everyone else is doing ... how will I get my "sound"???

/sarcasm
#13
Quote by Zen Skin
But if I learn what everyone else is doing ... how will I get my "sound"???

/sarcasm


By playing with your knobs.
Understand nothing, in order to learn everything.

Quote by liampje
I can write a coherent tune ... But 3/4? I play rock, not polka.
#14
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5e7b2RoolQY

Just for the lol, and the some truth here


but, with most videos of guitarist talking about there music that i have seen. They know at least basic theory.
what makes a Major/Minor Chords
what is in a major/minor scale
how to make simple chord progressions
which notes are the "in" notes for a chord



Quote by Gunpowder
Thrashturbating? Most metal of all ways to pleasure oneself.
#15
Quote by AlanHB
Well if you feel like playing anything but powerchords is forcing too much theory, you are probably not open to learning theory, even if somebody gave you 20 good reasons to learn, and you agreed with them all.

Apart from that, I have never played with a competent guitarist who doesn't know their theory. If I start playing a song in E minor say, they'll realise it's in E minor and jam along with it, create parts which complement but don't replicate by parts etc. I highly doubt that if I had a jam with any of the guitarists in the bands listed and I said "hey lets have a jam in Bbm" that they'd give me a blank look and say "I don't know music theory".
I've certainly played with competent guitarists who didn't know any theory. I used to play in a band with a guy who was one of the best songwriters I've every met. He didn't know a single bit of theory but he could do exactly what you describe, listen to a progression and just improv along to it. Sure, if I'd said to him "let's play in Bbm" he wouldn't know what I was talking about, but if I just started playing in Bbm then he'd play along fine.

I'm not saying that learning theory is useless or bad or anything like that. I learnt a lot of theory while learning violin and it's been helpful for when I'm writing songs. However, to be a rock guitarist I don't think that it is a necessity to learn theory.

TS, what I'm really trying to say it that if you feel your writing skills are lacking, if you can't seem to write anything decent or if you just wish you could understand what people are talking about here then learn theory. But if you are totally satisfied how your songwriting is going and are only thinking about learning theory because someone told you it's a necessity, it's not.
#17
Quote by Jettski1
So I've been playing guitar for a few years now and am starting to get somewhat serious about starting a real band and gigging and putting out music. Right now it is just my friend and I (both guitarists) but we arent even going to look for any other members because next year we are both going halfway across the country for college so it wouldnt make much sense to end a band that soon. Anyways, for the past few months we have been writing songs together on fridays and weekends, and have maybe 1-2 95% complete songs and 3-4 40-50 percent complete songs, at least as complete as we can get them (the two guitar parts, rough bass, rough vocals, drum ideas).

What I'm getting at is this: Personally, I think I can write songs pretty well with no musical knowledge or theory knowledge. Now over the course of my guitar playing career, I've definitely learned a lot and know, by feel or sense or just thought, what I want to do next with a song and how to go there. I'm just wondering what theory can offer me. I've thought about learning it before, but never got around to it; I read these threads where people spout out "rests" and "intervals" and "scale patterns" and my brain just goes numb.

Some more info: I play rock/alt music that ranges from bands like the Strokes and the Arctic Monkeys to more classic/harder stuff like Queens of the Stone Age and the Foo Fighters. I'm not looking to play like Vai or Satriani, I just want to write good songs that I like and other people like, most likely featuring "simple" techniques like powerchords. I just feel like theory complicates music of this type.

Basically, should I learn music theory?


the real question should be "are you interested in learning music theory"?
if the answer is "yes", then you should do that.

If you're not ready for it, or not interested at this point, no problem. Just keep listening, keep learning music. Nothing wrong with that.

If you are interested though, don't try and learn it for free on the internet from scratch.
do yourself a favor and take some lessons or a class.


Quote by AlanHB

Apart from that, I have never played with a competent guitarist who doesn't know their theory..


I've met plenty of incompetent guitarists that were very knowledgeable when it comes to the fancy words. They could argue for hours about music theory yet can't play a single tune all the way through, or couldn't pick out a simple melody by ear.

So theory is certainly a good thing to study, but lets not paint anybody with a broad brush. That sort of thing goes both ways and it's always biased.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at May 16, 2011,
#19
Quote by 12345abcd3
I've certainly played with competent guitarists who didn't know any theory.


I generally find those people are primarily singer/songwriter types who just happen to play guitar, rather than a guitarist, if you catch my drift. Somebody who has guitar as their primary instrument.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#20
Quote by AlanHB
I generally find those people are primarily singer/songwriter types who just happen to play guitar, rather than a guitarist, if you catch my drift. Somebody who has guitar as their primary instrument.



The mistake is thinking that the lack of theory knowledge is the reason for the incompetence.
shred is gaudy music
#21
Quote by GuitarMunky
The mistake is thinking that the lack of theory knowledge is the reason for the incompetence.


Geez making me out to be judgemental all of a sudden :p

Anyways that's a half statement you have there, what is the reason?
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#22
Quote by Zen Skin
And whammy bar ...


That would make a different sound....
Understand nothing, in order to learn everything.

Quote by liampje
I can write a coherent tune ... But 3/4? I play rock, not polka.
#23
Quote by AlanHB
Geez making me out to be judgemental all of a sudden :p

Anyways that's a half statement you have there, what is the reason?



Well, there are lots of reasons, and they vary from person to person.

If it was a simple matter of learning theory as you implied then all guitarists learned in theory would be competent at their instrument.
shred is gaudy music
#24
Quote by Jettski1
Basically, should I learn music theory?


I started writing music with very little understanding of theory. I had a good enough ear that what I wrote, by some miracle, sounded pretty decent. But, once I actually learned theory, "decent" turned into "great".

...comparatively speaking, anyway.

My stuff is, as you put it, "mostly power chords" - but I still was able to benefit from a better understanding of how everything worked.

Theory can only help you, and it is possible to learn it in such a way that your brain won't go numb. A lot of it didn't make a any sense to me at first, but I got the hang of it eventually. You will too, if you want.

CS
#25
Quote by GuitarMunky
Well, there are lots of reasons, and they vary from person to person.

If it was a simple matter of learning theory as you implied then all guitarists learned in theory would be competent at their instrument.


Aww cmon


Quite often you'll find a guitarist who is technically proficient, but can't jam along with a song (think guys who only know songs off tab). I'd say this would be due to a lack of music theory knowledge, but you would say....

I want a reason damnit!

Edit: I was implying that knowledge of music theory enables guitarists to avoid that "blank stare" when you ask them to jam with you on a song.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#26
Quote by AlanHB
Aww cmon


Quite often you'll find a guitarist who is technically proficient, but can't jam along with a song (think guys who only know songs off tab). I'd say this would be due to a lack of music theory knowledge, but you would say....

I want a reason damnit!


Na, I'd say it's due more to lack of listening & experience than anything else. I agree that theory IS helpful here, but it's not the only or even most important thing at play IME.


Quote by AlanHB

Edit: I was implying that knowledge of music theory enables guitarists to avoid that "blank stare" when you ask them to jam with you on a song.


yeah, it may do that, but what Im saying is that is doesn't guarantee they will be a proficient player. The blank stare might just be replaced with fancy worded excuses as to why they sound like crap. I've seen this just as often as the blank stare. actually I most often see it with a blank stare. Like a "how come that dude that doesn't know half as much as me sounds so much better" kind of a stare.

When it comes to competency at guitar, a formal knowledge of music theory is only part of the picture.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at May 16, 2011,
#27
Quote by GuitarMunky
When it comes to competency at guitar, a formal knowledge of music theory is only part of the picture.


I guess we may be clashing on what "competency" involves, but we seem to have some middle ground anyway, that music theory is part of the picture of being a "competent" player.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#28
Oh hey i've never seen a thread like this before

ts if you really work at it, you may find it enjoyable. but considering many, many, many guitarists don't know an ounce of theory, it is clearly not necessary. i personally recommend it though.
i don't know why i feel so dry
#29
Quote by AlanHB
I guess we may be clashing on what "competency" involves, but we seem to have some middle ground anyway, that music theory is part of the picture of being a "competent" player.



it definitely can be, but it doesn't have to be.

I think the issue were having is more to do with elitism. The way you put it implied that anyone outside of the elite theory club is doomed to incompetence. I'm not trying to be a jerk by calling you "elitist", but I do believe that what you were saying is elitist.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at May 17, 2011,
#30
Quote by GuitarMunky
it definitely can be.

I think the issue were having is more to do with elitism. The way you put it implied that anyone outside of the elite theory club is doomed to incompetence.


I'm not sure whether knowing music theory makes you elite or not, but I do prefer my band members to have some sort of handle on it I guess.

I'm not really one to talk though, in my bands it'll be like;

Band 1 (Originals):

Alan: Hey I like that riff, just flatten that 3rd so that it fits in with the key.

Bassist (No knowledge of music theory): Huh?

Band 2 (Originals):

Alan: Do you borrow chords from the parallel major/minor on purpose? It happens in most of your songs.

Singer/Songwriter (Has a music degree in singing): Huh?

Band 3 (Covers):

Rhythm Guitarist: Play the 4!

Alan plays the 4.


I find it very strange that out of the multiple bands I'm in right now, it's the musos in the cover band who know the most amount of music theory. Strange. It doesn't really seem to matter though when actually playing or writing songs.

The only times I've seen it REALLY impede a player is where they (a) can't read and play a chord sheet (is it music theory? you be the judge) or (b) they have to go home to trial/error through a useable part to add to a song.

Yeah, now that I think about it, music theory isn't necessary to be a "competent" musician, I'm probably wrong on that point (unless it includes the ability to play chords).
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#31
considering two guitarists of equal skill for the sake of the argument: the guitarist who knows theory understands more (a.k.a. is more competent than) the guitarist who does not.

does it mean that those who don't know theory are incompetent? absolutely not. but it does mean that a guitarists of equal skill are more competent than their counterparts.
Anfangen ist leicht, Beharren eine Kunst.
#32
Quote by AlanHB


Yeah, now that I think about it, music theory isn't necessary to be a "competent" musician, I'm probably wrong on that point (unless it includes the ability to play chords).


I understand you've had some bad experiences but do you really think not knowing theory affects your ability to play chords??

I'm not trying to be a jerk but thats preposterous.


Quote by AeolianWolf
considering two guitarists of equal skill for the sake of the argument: the guitarist who knows theory understands more (a.k.a. is more competent than) the guitarist who does not.


Not necessarily.

Quote by AeolianWolf

does it mean that those who don't know theory are incompetent? absolutely not. but it does mean that a guitarists of equal skill are more competent than their counterparts.


No, it doesn't mean that, though it may be the case some times. The thing is, the reverse is often true as well. I've seen plenty of situations where the person who knew more theory sounded worse. (and I wouldn't consider theory to be the cause)


The mistake here is to consider theory as being so important that absolutely nothing else matters.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at May 17, 2011,
#33
Quote by GuitarMunky
I understand you've had some bad experiences but do you really think not knowing theory affects your ability to play chords??

I'm not trying to be a jerk but thats preposterous.


Hey you mentioned people making excuses before - I've handed guitarists chord sheets and they've responded with "I don't read music" or "f music theory, lets jam". I'm sure some people would attach knowing and playing chords under the heading of "music theory". I never said the excuses weren't preposterous.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#34
Quote by AlanHB
I generally find those people are primarily singer/songwriter types who just happen to play guitar, rather than a guitarist, if you catch my drift. Somebody who has guitar as their primary instrument.
The guy I mentioned was a lead guitarist, and technically a very good one at that as well as being a great musician.

I see it this way. If you're going to play standard rock stuff (not prog rock) then your music is unlikely to be very complicated theory wise. For example, the harmony isn't going to be very complex, you're not going to have complicated counterpoint going on between the guitars. For this sort of music, I strongly believe that theory is not a necessity and that if someone is doing fine and has no interest in learning theory then there's no reason for them to.

There's plenty of examples in rock of players never learning formal theory but still being able to write great songs. What most of them have done is work it out themselves, so while they might not be able to tell you what key they're playing in, they'll certainly know themselves what will sound good and be able to play something that sounds good.

Theory is descriptive, so the main drawback in not knowing it is that you can't communicate ideas too well, as you've described. Certainly I've experienced how long it takes to teach someone a guitar part if you have to tell them fret numbers and strings because they don't know the notes.

However, I don't believe that not learning theory will lead to an inability to write good music. While theory is helpful while writing, theory does not do the writing, it just helps you describe what you've writen. So I think someone with no theory knowledge can write just as well as someone who has a great knowledge of theory.
#35
Quote by 12345abcd3
However, I don't believe that not learning theory will lead to an inability to write good music. While theory is helpful while writing, theory does not do the writing, it just helps you describe what you've writen. So I think someone with no theory knowledge can write just as well as someone who has a great knowledge of theory.


I'd say it also makes writing a lot, lot faster and knowledge of different chords/relationships has also meant I've tried things I seriously doubt I would've bothered with otherwise and helped me keep track of more complex music than I probably could've been bothered with if I had to memorise everything in it by rote instead of being able to understand it in terms of keys, progressions, implied chords etc.

Obviously not saying that you need <whatever> level of theory knowledge to write good music, I'm just saying that knowing some has helped my writing in much, much more important ways than just being able to describe it better.
Quote by Ed O'Brien
“It’s not genius. It’s just that if you want something good to come out of something, you have to put in a lot of effort. That involves a lot of hard work, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears sometimes.”

http://urbanscarecrow.bandcamp.com/
#36
Quote by 12345abcd3
However, I don't believe that not learning theory will lead to an inability to write good music. While theory is helpful while writing, theory does not do the writing, it just helps you describe what you've writen. So I think someone with no theory knowledge can write just as well as someone who has a great knowledge of theory.


Sup dude! I've got a whole heap of other posts which chronicled my change of opinion on this but thanks for addressing it anyway
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#38
I'll tell you what happens with my school/Academy.

Occasionally, I get a guitarist visitor that is not a student of mine, technically he's way better than I am, and it shows he's put his all into it. He will sit in and Jam with us. Here's what happens...We do fine at following his lead, when he creates the progression. Takes me seconds, and I call the key...sometimes other students will announce the key before I do. But when its his turn to improvise to what we play and invent in the moment, and I'm talking straight diatonic...no key changes...the guy cannot follow us.

This is a very...strange moment when the guy that plays amazing is suddenly reduced to a musical cripple. That's not even our intent, they just don't know what they are doing, and thus cannot rise up to perform in the moment. Sure, if we chugga on a 3 chord familiar prog in E, he can get with it and sound very...rehearsed and amazing. But when it comes to just playing outside a very minimal progression, the guitarists lose a lot of their shine...in fact, you can almost see the guitarist thinking "helllp!".

That to me, as many times as I have seen this...almost to the guitarist, is a living allegory of the difference that I see in guitarists...between knowing what you are doing...and knowing just how to play certain things very well.

Best,

Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at May 17, 2011,
#39
I think if you pursue music fervently, you're going to absorb a lot of theory along the way. Whenever I've tried to "study" music theory, I become bored very quickly, but when I go back to what I'm playing and extract as much knowledge as possible from that, I am able to comprehend theory in a much more practical way. Not to mention that it's much more fun.

I kind of compare learning music theory to grammar. I don't think that novelists, poets, and other writers have gotten degrees in grammar, or, conversely, is someone who has a PhD in language necessarily a great writer. But somehow the great writer is able to construct sentences that flow together with, I'm assuming, some sense of grammatical structure in their background.
#40
Quote by GuitarMunky

...

When it comes to competency at guitar, a formal knowledge of music theory is only part of the picture.



There is a quote attributed to Wes Montgomery "No, I never practice. One in a while I just open the case and throw some raw meat in."

Whether he said that he was mostly an ear musician. Supposedly could not read a note but could play anything back to you that he heard. Ive worked with people like that ... I'd put a lead sheet in front of them and they'd say "What's that for, I already know the tune." F*Ckers!

But I would say these exceptional people know music very well ... but theory? They don't think in those terms.

Then you take someone like Mozart who had that kind of ear (or Bernstein, reportedly) and consider -- they knew a LOT about music and had their own ideas internalized in that 6th sense kind of way.

Of course no one needs to learn music theory -- nor does anyone need to play guitar. For mere mortals, it can't hurt, it might help, it might help a lot.

EDIT: But if a person is tone deaf to start with -- whether they learn theory or not they are still just going to wiggle their fingers. Take your average schlock shredder-wanna-be on youtube.
Last edited by Zen Skin at May 17, 2011,
Page 1 of 2