So, I'm the vocalist/rhythm guitarist for our small-town band. We play a lot of covers, and the band is good. The problem I have is that they refuse to learn any form of theory.

If all sounds good, you'd think it wouldn't matter, however, I've been trying to get them to write some original stuff. I bust my ass all day to come up with cool things, but they don't come up with any contributions.

The biggest issue is that I can't get them to understand what I'm talking about when I try to explain what I want them to try.

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They should know the notes and simple chords at least. They should know time signatures, tempos, dynamics, and basic scales as well. That's pretty obvious to any musician.

I'd try to show a mixture of basic theory and by example. Show them this is a major scale and this sounds like "this" and it gives a happy feeling. Same with whatever else you're doing.
Either beat them with a rubber nose or write all the music and use that as leverage for them to kiss ass and/or take care of the business aspects of the band.
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If they don't want to contribute, then they won't contribute. Some people just don't want to learn theory. Just got to deal with it, you can't force them. It means more work for you though, so you've got to work out if you're ok with that. If you can't it may be time to move on.
If they don't know theory, but do know a lot of covers, presumably they're learning all these songs by ear or tab? If it's tab, which seems more likely, you could point out that learning theory will really, really help/speed up learning songs in the same way that learning a rock solo is vastly easier when you can visualise all the notes as parts of a pentatonic scale and not have remember every single note in the solo individually.
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A knowledge of theory isn't required to write songs. A drive to write songs is what's needed here, and it doesn't sound like your bandmates have it.

I'd personally advise keeping this band as a covers band, and get into a separate originals band on the side.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
If you don't even know the major scale, you'll likely get nowhere in writing music.

Think of it like this: If you don't know anything about cars and you want to fix an engine.. You might get it eventually, but you'll do a poor job.
As long as your songs are good enough it doesn't matter. Most bands have one or two small songwriting groups within them. Just get your credits if it matters to you.
Quote by AlanHB
A knowledge of theory isn't required to write songs. A drive to write songs is what's needed here, and it doesn't sound like your bandmates have it.

I'd personally advise keeping this band as a covers band, and get into a separate originals band on the side.

it sound to me like these are the kind of people who aren't blessed with great ears or natural creativity. they need to learn some basic theory to understand music writing. i was one of those people too, i began learning theory, then began learning to not be dependant on it. not everyone can just pick up a guitar with no knowledge of the science of sound and just make sounds they enjoy.
If the people I was playing with were stubborn enough to straight up refuse to learn theory and additionally do not contribute to the writing process, I'd be looking for some new bandmates. I think not knowing theory and not writing are two separate problems, but unless you want to be the guy that has to write/arrange everything or just stick to playing covers, these might not be the right bandmates for you.

EDIT: I guess I'm basically seconding AlanHB's response here
Last edited by rreis at Jul 15, 2011,
I have band mates who don't know how to talk to an audience some don't move much on stage others have no idea how the PA works or any understanding of the physics of sound. Some of these have a much greater understanding of theory than me.

My point is that in a band everyone has different skills and sometimes you have to accept that. there may be things that you 'ought' to learn as well All knowledge is useful and having no theory at all will make communication tricky but if the band is good you are probably better off working with it. The grass may look green somewhere else....
..You know what?

You're lucky. Write their parts because that's the only way you will have your songs played exactly how you imaged them.

Or you could just find someone that knows theory, hate what he plays, and look for someone who knows theory and more than all fit your work, but that's really rare.
Find better musicians that have a good grasp on theory. I had the same problem man, but I finally met some seasoned guys and everything is just much easier and fluid. Just keep learning theory and keep playing and eventually you will find the right musicians.
I'll third Alan's point.

Knowledge of theory is useful for songwriting but in no way is it a necessity.

In my (old) band I was the only person who had any idea of theory, reading music etc. but I was in no way the main songwriter. Sure, I was useful for figuring out where to take a song once it got going, but (in my experience) songwriting is very rarely based around application of theoretical knowledge.

For example, the slide guitarist in the band had an incredible ear for a catchy melody - no theory knowledge whatsoever.
The drummer, can barely play guitar/bass/banjo, but knew exactly what should be played by the instruments, where the song should go etc - no theory knowledge.

So knowledge isn't really necessary, but what is vital is a good ear and a want to write songs.

But I count myself lucky, I didn't realise that the musicians I had been working with were anything special until I got to uni and figured out that not everyone has those two key skills

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There seems to be a problem with motivation. The other band members seem to be content with what they have achieved, and probably see little ROI for the extra work at learning theory.

As previously stated, being a covers band might be best until they decide they want something more. And without knowing more about your band and the small town environment, maybe your band has reached its apex. It happens.
Quote by AlanHB
A knowledge of theory isn't required to write songs.


People who don't learn standard theory soon develop their own ways of doing things and how to get their points across, hence why DaysofGrace is struggling to explain what he wants them to try, he's obviously using terms they are not familiar with instead of learning the terms they know.

Common sense would dictate that if the rest of the band want to do things one way and you're the odd one out trying to do things a different way, it's obviously more efficient for you to change to suit them than it is for you to attempt to change everyone else to suit you.

For example, if I moved to France, I'd learn the French language instead of expecting the French nation to learn English just for me.
Last edited by SlackerBabbath at Jul 23, 2011,