Hey guys,

Recently I have been looking at people's practice schedules just to see what people actually do with their guitar time.
Anyway, I found out that many people write down that one day they learn music theory (through a book or something) and the other day they say that they learn scales.

Now this really confused me because from what I know part of learning guitar theory is learning the scales and how they work.
Is it my lack of knowledge on the topic or are people mistaking themselves?

Can any of you please straighten things out for me because its starting to really bug me, maybe I haven't been doing the right thing in my learning time, so any help at all will be really appreciated.

Thanks for the help,
In my opinion people are putting way too much focus on scales. They seem to think that learning all of these scales is the holy grail of learning music. Don't get me wrong, learning scales is not a terrible idea, i just think people do it the wrong way most of the time. They go on like "Alright my goal is to be able to play x many positions of y scale at z bpm", that's just stupid (in my opinion).

I believe most musical practice subjects can be put into one of two categories. One is musical language, and the other is theoretical language.

Musical language would be actual playing, and learning by sounds. Into this category the things i practice are things like transcribing songs, developing improvisation, writing music etc. Basically doing stuff where you learn by playing your instrument. Whenever i improvise nowadays i don't think "Which scales is going over this?" or "What key is this song in?", i try to use my ears to get there. I sing or hum along and try to find a good phrase and then try to copy it on guitar, and that's how it should be (once again, in my opinion). Learning music is about developing what we internalize music with, our ears.

Theoretical language would be analyzing what we just did in a line when we improvised, analyze what someone else did in one of their pieces, describing things and such. It's mostly used (in my experience) to explain what you just did, or what someone else has done, to other musicians. Like if we are making a generic pop band and i wrote a chord progression, i wouldn't want to sit there with the bass player and be like "yeah it's this chord *places fingers*, then this chord *places fingers". I'd much rather say something like "The chorus is a I - VI - IV - V in the key of G". Basically explaining music with words, what are the relationships between these elements.

Now music theory contains a lot of things, and sadly a lot of music theory books only focus on one aspect of music, notes. I feel like i've gone abit of topic here but to go back to the original question, which was learning theory and practicing scales as separate things, i believe what they really mean is during the theoretical part they learn about them since they are one element of music theory (in the notes category i mentioned earlier), like how to construct them, which intervalls the scale is made up of, what notes they contain depending on the root etc. But when they say that they are practicing scales i think it's more a matter of building muscle memory so they get comfortable playing these patterns and shapes later on.

I know this was a really long post, but i hope it answered your question.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

Quote by Guthrie Govan
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Quote by Chick Corea
"Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything."
Last edited by Sickz at Jun 30, 2013,
When people say that they practice scales seperate from theory they mean that they are practicing playing the scale up and down or some variation as a technical exercise & not as theoretical concept. It's a good technical exercise, but like Sickz said, doesn't really help your musicality the way a lot of people would lead you to believe.
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Sickz's post is very spot on in my opinion.

Knowing how to move your fingers is one thing; knowing why is another thing entirely.

The best musicians know both.
Quote by laroon
Sickz's post is very spot on in my opinion.

Knowing how to move your fingers is one thing; knowing why is another thing entirely.

The best musicians know both.

HEARING is most important. Of course, you need the technical know-how to play what you hear, and you need to be able to analyze/explain what you hear later. But if you can't hear it, what good is it?
Scales are just a very basic-level part of your musical vocabulary. Learning how to build scales and chords is really very much like learning how to spell. Won't necessarily make you any good at writing a book or singing a song, but it won't hurt.

Music theory is more like grammar and linguistics. It's when you take those basic concepts and see how they interact in real music, much as when you look at how words/meanings transform when they're used in different ways.