#1
First time on this forum. Usually on Musician Talk. Occasional lesson contributions.

So guys, I've had ongoing arguments with fellow friend guitarists (from pro to amateur) on how much knowledge is needed to be a decent guitarist, and be able to understand songs and lsolo constyruction, and write your own tunes.

Some say the only knowledge needed is what they pick up on the way, playing from tab or just by ear (jamming with friends, listening to tracks). Some say some music theory helped a bit (gave them a few more options to try); some say it helped a lot; some say it's too hard, and are scared off; some say they can't be bothered ... too much effort for the return. Some say theory is irrelevant. Some say they teaching material is no good. And so on.

I'm asking for your opinions ... especially non-pros. Please speak up!! What is your experience here? Is music knowledge good or bad for you? Why? If bad, what's needed to change your mind (if anything)? Good or bad, do you think you need better music books, better music software, better teachers, better teaching content, less jargon??
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Sep 18, 2015,
#5
I don't know any chords and constantly get told I'm a good guitarist (only know everything by ear).
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#6
I don't know a lot of music theory, but I'm not opposed to learning it. Some people on this forum believe that learning theory will somehow stifle their creativity.

The way I see it, music theory is not a set of strict rules, but more like a map of musical features that have been given names. I think if you play enough music, you eventually discover it for yourself. You might be employing certain musical devices without being aware of it.
#7
Quote by sashki
The way I see it, music theory is not a set of strict rules, but more like a map of musical features that have been given names. I think if you play enough music, you eventually discover it for yourself. You might be employing certain musical devices without being aware of it.
pretty much anything a music does outside of audible gibberish has already been done before so we're all unoriginal and old hat. it's all a pattern that has already been discovered. you can't escape music theory. even playing by ear involves some sort of theory. i play mostly by ear and the reason why i can is because i can know how the music works.

well actually i wonder if there are any more things to discover about music. sure i guess you could invent your own microtonal scale but i guess part of microtonal scales is that they've been discovered to be scales that could potentially have no end. i wonder if any more definable cadences are out there. or maybe there are an infinite number and we just like or we can comprehend just the pretty ones.

i've had very little formal music theory education, in fact i've discovered most of what i know by myself. i think i was given the formula for major and minor scales and i've kind of experimented on them since. by just wanting to be a better player i've discovered a bunch of things that people already gave names to.
Last edited by Will Lane at Sep 18, 2015,
#8
Quote by sashki
I don't know a lot of music theory, but I'm not opposed to learning it. Some people on this forum believe that learning theory will somehow stifle their creativity.

The way I see it, music theory is not a set of strict rules, but more like a map of musical features that have been given names. I think if you play enough music, you eventually discover it for yourself. You might be employing certain musical devices without being aware of it.
Agreed.

Everyone keeps telling me that I already know all my stuff without actually knowing what I'm doing myself. It would be nice to know all that stuff, but I'm not feeling pressured to learn it if it probably won't make a huge difference in my playing skills.
Quote by snipelfritz
You lost me at "Lubricate."

I'm raw, like nature. Nature boy. Big jungle leaves are my cum rags.

Sometimes I fuck a bamboo shoot.


There's nothing left here to be saved
Just barreling dogs and barking trains
Another year lost to the blue line
#9
in what way would music knowledge ever be a bad thing


true it's not always useful to have, but i guarantee you every single person who ever learned is glad they bothered to learn it. It's especially useful for learning songs faster (you know what you're playing versus looking at tabs) and doubly so for improv and jazz playing. The ability to know how to play a chord 6 different ways to suit a mood is invaluable. Knowing what scales will sound good before playing them is invaluable. Knowing what extensions you can add to a chord before you play it is invaluable.

Music theory isn't necessary to be a good guitar player, but it's necessary to be a good musician.
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#10
Joshua, Will, Sashki ... cool. Without doubt, when you do it, rather than read about it, it sinks in, regardless if you can name what you're doing. What styles do you guys play?

I too learned from friends, records, trying things, etc ... I tried some theory books, but I was (am) a really slow reader of the dots ... and I didn't have the time or strong enough motivation to spend 20 minutes to play one 5 second example of music ... let alone hundreds of them!! And the books were covering music I couldn't relate too.

Have any of you felt like this ... life too short for that sort of stuff??

But eventually I got caught out in a musical situation I couldn't handle, and I wasn't having that. So, I went to a guitar school in London, and learned stuff. It was fun. It was easy (not like those damn books). That changed my playing and writing a lot for the better.


Ace ... agreed.
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Sep 19, 2015,
#11
I've always found that it comes down to the genre mostly, that and the individual's influences and natural ear if applicable

EDIT: and as I always say "Theory and Scales are useless unless you know how to apply them"
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Last edited by Pastafarian96 at Sep 19, 2015,
#12
"Knowledge is power, ignorance is slavery." (M. Davis)
I would add to this that applied and applicable knowledge is power. It gives you options, it doesn`t restrict them, IMO.
#13
If you want to play guitar and parade yourself as a "musician" sure, you don't gotta know dick other than how to play the damn thing.

Music Theory helps infinitely with the writing process, I'm no expert, but I know enough to know scales, make chords, write leads, bass lines, roles of instuments, production, and insert any instrument I want into a song.

Really you'll pick up music theory without knowing what to call it if you play around enough with tabs you learn, local 'musicians' run through scales all the time and they're like, "lol idk how to scale!?" Couldn't even name the notes they're playing.
#15
When I first started learning, circa 1984, I tried learning "classical" style. Learned how to read music, where the notes were on the guitar, and to play by reading music off a sheet. I can't say I ever got very proficient at it, and it seemed more like a dry, technical experience devoid of fun and joy. I hung in there a couple years, learned all the open chords, but gave it up when I went in the Army. Had a fling with folk guitar a few years later and made some progress.

Since I started playing again in earnest about 8 months ago I've concentrated on having fun and enjoyment, not on technical expertise. I've learned the Pentatonic Scale, and it's proven useful, but I'm a far better sounding player now than I ever was when I was "serious" about reading music and such. The only sheet music that I know off the top of my head is the "C" note now (I've forgotten the rest!), but 30 minutes of rote memorization could fix that..if I wanted to. I don't want to. I'm playing by ear now, I'm playing what sounds and feels good to me. Screw formality.

My advice....learn the chords, learn a fingerstyle pattern you like, and you can play nearly anything. Keep it fun.
Last edited by TobusRex at Sep 22, 2015,
#16
Yes, after playing seriously again for eight months, the Pentatonic Scale may still seem like fun, but my wild guess is that after another eight months you`ll need more. BTW, this thread is not necessarily about sight reading traditional notation. It`s more broad and your point of view is welcome, of course. I don`t read very well either, but I strongly believe in the Miles Davis quote above (Knowledge is power, ignorance is slavery.) - it`s more general, IMO.
#17
Quote by Acϵ♠
in what way would music knowledge ever be a bad thing


true it's not always useful to have, but i guarantee you every single person who ever learned is glad they bothered to learn it. It's especially useful for learning songs faster (you know what you're playing versus looking at tabs) and doubly so for improv and jazz playing. The ability to know how to play a chord 6 different ways to suit a mood is invaluable. Knowing what scales will sound good before playing them is invaluable. Knowing what extensions you can add to a chord before you play it is invaluable.

Music theory isn't necessary to be a good guitar player, but it's necessary to be a good musician.


+1
#18
Music theory came well after music. So I strongly disagree that any musician "needs" it. It's just a way to explain music.

Sure it can help but "knowledge is power" doesn't mean "only this certain knowledge that i learned or teach is powerful"
Last edited by EyeNon15 at Sep 22, 2015,
#19
Quote by jiri.dolezal.79
Yes, after playing seriously again for eight months, the Pentatonic Scale may still seem like fun, but my wild guess is that after another eight months you`ll need more. BTW, this thread is not necessarily about sight reading traditional notation. It`s more broad and your point of view is welcome, of course. I don`t read very well either, but I strongly believe in the Miles Davis quote above (Knowledge is power, ignorance is slavery.) - it`s more general, IMO.


I agree 100%. Never can know too much. That being said some folks chafe at formal training, but enjoy learning "on the fly". Playing is fun, studying isn't (generally). My technique may be poor, but every time I play I try to play a little better, and I do. Since I enjoy playing, I play alot (2 hours a day or more). Granted the improvement may be slow, even glacial, compared to a student trained by a proper instructor, but when you hear it's 100% ME...not an instructor's interpretation of a song, it's MY interpretation. Pretty egotistical, but there it is.

The greatest guitar players couldn't even read music. I'd say musical theory and training would be highly useful, but I wouldn't call it imperative if you have talent. I have to admit though.....when these guys start talking about music theory, suggesting different places on the neck to play the same chords...I do find it rather impressive
Last edited by TobusRex at Sep 22, 2015,
#20
The one and only reason I learned to read music was to learn to play songs that other people had already written.
#21
I'd say learning theory isn't 100% required. I would say that it's 110% recommended though.
A lot of people for some reason think that music theory is some rule book you have to abide by. Nope, music theory is descriptive, it's an explanation as to why stuff sounds like it does. It's not some rule book that stops your creativity as soon as you learn how to sight read. Did proper grammar stop you from swearing?
There's also a lot of people going 'well I want to break the rules'. Not knowing these "rules" and breaking them isn't the same.

For me. Learning music theory really helped me figure out what makes a song a song. For me, giving a name to something really helped me with songwriting because I could pinpoint the thing that I wanted. Also helped remembering songs way easier. Even basic chord construction opens up a whole new playing field. Instead of going, well next I'll play 022000, you know it's E minor, and can then play that however you please.
#22
Quote by EyeNon15
The one and only reason I learned to read music was to learn to play songs that other people had already written.

Yes, and this is the topic of this thread: Experience with learning guitar music. For instance you and many other players learn to play songs that already exist. But the point is that you are better off when you know theory (something much broader than just reading music) in order to write your own music. Why limit yourself? And no, knowledge of theory is not limiting. Lack of knowledge is limiting.
Last edited by jiri.dolezal.79 at Sep 22, 2015,