#1
So this is really my last attempt at a call for help, so please don't tell me to stop playing or any stupid stuff, k? ._.


I'm self taught, I find more pride this way, everything else has been fine until recent where I have found my love for just picking up my guitar and playing it until I like what it sounds like. Problem is, I don't have the faintest clue about scales, keys, or how to even write riffs so they connect smoothly

I have tried YouTube and online theory, they're too in depth for my little brain, what I really need is someone to just really dumb it down to the basics to get me started. Please help? Lol


If it helps, here's what I'm struggling to understand;

-Keys in general (finding the key)
-Matching scales to the correct key

I have a small riff written down, if anyone would like to take a look at that if it would help?
#2
The following two books really helped me get my head around things back when I was first learning.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Composition
Music Theory for Guitarists by Tom Kolb

also, Piano for Dummies has several excellent chapters on reading music, scales, and chord construction.
#3
Some people swear by MusicTheory.net. Mike Dodge has some good beginner theory lessons in his site - I think some of it is misleading simple, but it's probably a good starting place.

This is a big topic, and I'm a big fan of structured learning. Rather than feel around for nuggets here and there, I think a small investment can pay big dividends. So I'd encourage you to either commit to MusicTheory.net, or to get a good book on basic theory. I like Schroeder and Wyatt's workbook "Harmony and Theory." It starts very basic and gets rather advanced.

However, I don't think that theory is the key to writing music. It helps, don't get me wrong, but I actually think the key to writing music is developing your ear. My experience, as well as that of other's I've talked to, is that developing your ear tends to unlock your musical creativity.

Because it's very hard to write music by just sort of messing around in a key until you find something you like. Rather, what you want to do is listen to your inner voice that tells you what it wants to hear ... and then find that on your instrument. So I would encourage you to train your ears by using the functional ear trainer (downloadable for free at Miles.be) and get a good book on ear training (I like Wyatt's "Ear Training for the Contemporary Musician," but I'm sure there are other good choices.)

The short version of finding your key is that you have to listen for the resolution. The key is the note (or chord) that sounds like home. eg, if you play C major - F major - C major, you'll probably notice that the C feels more settled, and the F feels like it's going somewhere. But you can reverse this if you play C7 - F - C7. Now the F is likely to feel like home.

So you want to take your riff and figure out where it resolves. This can be tricky because sometimes riffs end in an unresolved place, and you're more than welcome to share your riff with us if you think that will help. Then you figure out if you're in a major or a minor place. When you have those two things, you have a key.
#4
Thanks, I'll definitely have to look around for books at my local store, not being much of a reader, that never crossed me mind haha my main problem is I don't have a band so learning off other guitarists isn't possible, but I do tend to play what I like, so if it sounds like it fits to me and I like it, then I just go with it


Here's the attached riff, it's most probably a generic one, but I like sound of it. The issue I have with this one is I would like an ascend/descend after the last palmed 5 to kinda connect it before it repeats again, but I don't know where to even begin for that D:
Attachments:
Unkown.txt
#5
I'd start with the assumption that you're in A minor.

Your notes are A, E (a fifth up from A) and F (a minor sixth from A). This could easily fit in other keys but with the strong emphais on the A note there at the beginning and end, A minor is by far the most logical place to start exploring.
#6
ABCDEFG? (not going to be forgetting this key), ok, this is fairly easy to understand now that you explain it like that. So how would I got about creating a lick over the top of the A minor key?

I watched a video before and the guy said something about matching chords to a scale or something, that's the part that threw me off completely D:
#7
OT not to sound douche-y but are some people really not able to write with just their ears? like, with out having to look at scales or key sigs?
:
"Stop shooting me!!!GAHHHH!!!"
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^(0_0)^^(0_0)^ Sion
(>0_0)><(0_0< HA!!!
<(*~*)>
#8
So how would I got about creating a lick over the top of the A minor key?


Well, you already have a lick in Am, right?

The short version is, you use the notes of the A minor scale, resolving to A, to create your lick. You can occasionally use other notes, too.

I watched a video before and the guy said something about matching chords to a scale or something, that's the part that threw me off completely D:


Honestly, there's no simple answer here that's any good. Learn some theory. The book I recommended above will serve you well.

OT not to sound douche-y but are some people really not able to write with just their ears? like, with out having to look at scales or key sigs?


It takes a certain amount of ear development to be able to do this. A little theory knowledge can help a person stay oriented, even if it can also be limiting. But for the most part, yeah, I'm with you.
#9
I guess i never thought about that. MOST (95%, I had guitar class in school) of how I learned was purely by ear and observation, so I guess the idea of using theory for everything seems odd to me.
back on topic
Even if you don't want to commit to learning theory, just look at the patterns that you play and know from some of you favorite songs. harmonies and what not are a great way to become familiar with the shapes on the guitar even if you don't learn the formal names. If you plan on writing with a band, at very least learn to dicipher what key you're in.
:
"Stop shooting me!!!GAHHHH!!!"
<(0_0<(>0_0)> FU
^(0_0)^^(0_0)^ Sion
(>0_0)><(0_0< HA!!!
<(*~*)>
#10
I never had formal guitar instruction and knew virtually no music theory, but was able to improve a bunch over the summer by just reading threads/columns/articles on UG and elsewhere on the internet. I've only been playing for ~4 years, and felt like I had to do some serious catch up to be able to really play with other musicians at college.

During the spring semester (in my more boring lectures) I'd draw out the fretboard up to the 12th fret and fill in notes, write out diatonic/pentatonic scales, build diatonic chords (7th chords as well), common progressions, etc, in every key. I'd take the intervals of a given scale (say, harmonic minor) and find out what the notes were in a given key. Stuff like that. Practice theory in your head when you've got a few minutes, when you're trying to fall asleep, whatever.

Make sure that you fully understand one concept before moving onto another one. Start at the most basic thing you don't know, it's not wise to cheat ahead (you'll just get lost). Like anything else it takes practice.

Worth it? Absolutely.

Try to analyze the music you like, why is this chord there? what is it's function? why do these notes fit here?

The other thing to understand is that music theory is a description of something after the fact, not music in the making. There are no rules to music. Listening and developing an ear (something else that takes time and practice) is just as important.


Some people get by without learning theory and write spectacular music - they've got a good ear. You can have both, though, if you practice.
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#11
To the original poster. First thing that would help you is this: Learn how to construct chords and how to construct their respective scales. If you didn't know, each chord is linked to a scale that represents it's full range of notes. A chord is just a subset of those notes in the scale that sound good together.

For instance a very simple example is C major. CDEFGAB are the notes in the scale for C Major.

Then google how to form the C Major chord. Notice that 3 of the notes from the scale are used to form the chord. Those notes are the 1st, 3rd, and 5th of the scale, which is how you make most of your major chords. The C Major chord will have these notes together: C, E, G. If you look at how to play C major, you'll notice even though you play some open strings, every string is either C, E, or G after you fret it properly for a C Major chord.

Hope this helps. Learning that Chords and scales are linked together was the first thing that I thought was most useful when trying to learn theory. I'd suggest the Crusade column on the UG site here. Great theory lessons.
#12
You don't need to know music theory to write music... it may help sometimes... even though I'm pretty good with my music theory, I never actually think about it when writing songs, I just play some chords and see which I like the sound of... occasionally if I'm in a rush to write a song I use the theory by picking a key then choosing a chord progression e.g I IV V...

all you need to know is a few boxed shape scales if you want to write riffs etc... and some chord progressions, this will help you write songs easily try looking at the pop music theory books, they really helped me at the start
#14
Quote by Emorak
I'm self taught, I find more pride this way, everything else has been fine until recent where I have found my love for just picking up my guitar and playing it until I like what it sounds like. Problem is, I don't have the faintest clue about scales, keys, or how to even write riffs so they connect smoothly

I have tried YouTube and online theory, they're too in depth for my little brain, what I really need is someone to just really dumb it down to the basics to get me started. Please help?
If it helps, here's what I'm struggling to understand;

-Keys in general (finding the key)
-Matching scales to the correct key


Okay, firstly I would spend some time learning some of these basic things before thinking about writing (unless you stumble upon something really great of course).

Let's start with finding the key. One of the ways I've always gone about this and one which may work for you is to take a fairly simple song and play chromatically (literally one fret after another, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-etc) up the fretboard on the low E string (the thickest one) until you find the note which sounds 'right'. Now obviously there will be more than one chord in the song so more than one note might sound appropriate when doing this, but the tonic note (the one that's the same as the name of the key, so A is the tonic note of A major and A minor) will generally sound best against all of the chords.

Once you have found this note, the tonic, then you already know the scales that go with it. Well, once you have learnt the scales you will. Handily, the major and minor scales are actually called diatonic scales and you may also have heard of the most commonly used one in rock music, the minor pentatonic scale. So once you have the information on what the tonic is, you can then safely assume that the scale you play should be the ones which match that tonic note.

Say you chose to do Knocking on Heavens Door (this version), you might try 0-1-2-3-4 on the low E string and realise that while a couple of those sound okay against the background music, none really sound just right. Then when you hit fret 5, A, you notice that this is the right note. Incidentally the chords in the song are A, E and D: all notes of the A major and A minor scale. However, it's an A major chord that is played, so you use the A major scale.

This also means you can use the F# Minor scale, but the reasoning may be a bit complex for the current discussion. All you need to know now is that if you find a major scale for a song, move down three frets (or four depending on how you count them, use A->F# as an example) and you can use the minor scale, or minor pentatonic scale starting from that fret. If the song had used an A minor chord, you could have used these scales all along and also used the C major scale (three/four frets up).

The 'chordal scale' which I believe you alluded to is something quite different and fairly advanced. I'd strongly suggest getting a good grasp of the more basic theory before moving onto that.


I'm sure by the time I've finished typing this, other users will have recommended decent websites for music theory, but off the top of my head, here and musictheory.net are good examples and JustinGuitar is also worthwhile for learning scales etc.

Hope this helps.