#1
Hi everybody. I am not entirely sure if it's the right place to post about this, but okay. Let me tell you about my problem. I've been playing guitar for a while and from techincal side I am not bad - I'd say I am at intermediate/upper intermediate level. But here goes my problem and by that I mean theory. I got completly lost in it. I've been learning from many sources, including reading articles, websites, books and asking my teacher. But you know what is the worst? Every of this sources explain theory in different way and order. You know, it's not like I started using all of them at once, but switched from one to other when I just couldn't understand anything that was being 'explained' to me. Now, I know that there is nothing like theory that is enough to understand everything and know how to deal with it. So here comes my request: could anybody point out things that I should learn to improvise and start writing my ideas? Just enough to understand most common things quite easy. Thanks for any help.
#3
Quote by iSailor
Hi everybody. I am not entirely sure if it's the right place to post about this, but okay. Let me tell you about my problem. I've been playing guitar for a while and from techincal side I am not bad - I'd say I am at intermediate/upper intermediate level. But here goes my problem and by that I mean theory. I got completly lost in it. I've been learning from many sources, including reading articles, websites, books and asking my teacher. But you know what is the worst? Every of this sources explain theory in different way and order. You know, it's not like I started using all of them at once, but switched from one to other when I just couldn't understand anything that was being 'explained' to me. Now, I know that there is nothing like theory that is enough to understand everything and know how to deal with it. So here comes my request: could anybody point out things that I should learn to improvise and start writing my ideas? Just enough to understand most common things quite easy. Thanks for any help.


Its a good question.

I think that it's context driven, as far as the order that people do things. Speaking from personal experience, I have our students start with knowing the notes on the neck. I think that is THE single most important prerequisite for a guitar player because, the idea behind learning anything, I think, would be to be able to PLAY it, right? So, not only knowing the notes on the neck, but being able to execute that withing a couple of seconds.

That's important, because if you cant do it in real time, then its going to a be a real drag when you can instantly name a C#m9 as being C# E G# B D and F#, but it takes you ages to actually play those notes, in any sort of order on the fretboard. So, what good would it do to all my students that learn that, if they can't PLAY it?

So after that, I think you can set an order that makes sense to you.

But once my students know the notes on the neck, they are able to follow and apply everything that I teach them. Now, I have an intentional order based upon the way I teach, and some other teacher/book may have it their way.

But I think the first step, is knowing that fretboard instantly. If I pointed to the 2nd string 4th fret and you didn't see that as Eb in a second or faster, then that's what I'm talking about, by instant. You see it and know, you choose it and can go it it, immediately.

This plays into improv and writing and everything else. In improv it could range from starting out on the right note...

all the way to chord tone soloing and that C#m9 is coming and you want to target the 3rd (E) on the chord change, making your improv tight and in the pocket. If you have to count from the nut to find the E wherever you are, by the time you find the E .. the chord's long gone.

Best,

Sean
#4
I'd say the only really essential thing to know is the major/minor scale and your pentatonic scales. If you know that much than you can get by just fine, you can write music as long as you have the ear to know when you find something you like, but if you do wish to learn more, those concepts will greatly help you learn others. From there you can learn about each mode, chord construction, chord progressions, different scales, playing over changes etc. I'd say once you learn those scales the rest is just a matter of research and applying your knowledge.
#5
I made a thread on theory a while back. People had different definitions of theory it seemed. I categorize theory in two ways: Fundamental and Definitional.

Fundamental is the understanding of scale structure, chord structure, melody, harmony, etc. Knowing how to play in key and create your own music from scratch is also involved in fundamental theory.

Definitional (or analytical) theory is giving musical ideas singular terms for reference. This is being able to listen to a song and think, for example, "oh, this is a Fugue and this is a Canon, and I hear an inverted F here." It's just being able to put a name to an already introduced idea.

I would say that you just need to know fundamental theory to really be a musician. You can learn the definitions of what you create along the way.
#6
I am in total agreement with Sean0913 that knowing the notes on the neck on every string. When you think of it it really is not that hard at all. I am positive you know the names on the low E-A and High E (duh lol) so that really only leaves you three strings to learn. Go out and buy a good notebook and start writing out the major scale in all 12 keys and then the diatonic chords for each, with the scale numbers for each arpeggio under the chord. Then learn the 5 C-A-G-E-D arpeggio shapes out for each. Also I am personally so so on the C-A-G-E-D system as you have to write out the whole arpeggio and not just a half arpeggio tha t a lot of books or sites show when it comes to the D shape and some others. I would then start a chapter on the Modes and then slow it down as that is a few years of work right there. It seems the modes are the big hot topic these days but it is a very long learning journey to get it right! I see so many kids or younger guys state how they know the modes and will then play a G major scale starting on the 5th degree and go D mixolydian and that is the extent of their knowledge lol. You have to listen to tons of music in each scale until the sound of that mode is ingrained in your head and then think of it as an entirely separate entity and then cut the ties from thinking of it with the major scale.These are just a tip of the iceberg as the guitar is an infinite instrument that no one is ever going to master but you can go on a long journey and sound great or a short one and sound great. Clapton will always be one of my all time idols and he is on his sixth decade of basically playing a mix of the major and minor pentatonic on auto pilot. I have known some guys who can write a book on theory yet are not very good players as well as the complete opposite.
#7
^ Well, this will start a mode war but whatever.

I don't think modes are that hard to learn. It's just in the way they are taught - as major scale starting with different notes. And IMO that's the wrong way of thinking them. You can play the same scale, no matter what note you start with. But some people start thinking something is in E phrygian just because the melody starts with an E note. I didn't first even understand why there were so many modes because they were the same notes as C major. Modes just confuse people if they learn them too early. And to be honest, they aren't even that important. But still they have to be taught and I don't really understand why.

But yeah, the easier way of understanding modes is to think them as variations of the major and minor scales. Dorian and phrygian are really close to the minor scale. Dorian is a minor scale with a major 6th and phrygian is a minor scale with a minor 2nd. Mixolydian and lydian are close to the major scale - mixolydian is major with a minor 7th and lydian is major with augmented 4th.

Also, I think people start learning about modes too early, when they don't even understand keys properly.

Learning about scale degrees was an "eye opener" to me (that way I started seeing connections between all scales - and I think most scales just as variations of major and minor). I can mix scales the way I want because I know all the scale degrees and which scale degrees are part of which scale and I also know their sound. Sound is really important and that's pretty obvious. But people still tend to somehow forget it. I think learning the scale degrees also helps at ear training.

So instead of comparing relative scales (same notes, different root), compare parallel scales (same root, different notes). That way you'll also learn the sound differences between them.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Sep 26, 2014,