#1
Hey guys!
I've been playing for well over 30 years now. I was self taught but did take lessons for a very short while. I have always played pentatonic scales and have never learned theory. Basically played in the box going in and out of it but always returning to it. It's just what sounded good to me. Now my playing style at least what friends tell me is a cross between Michael Schenker and Neil Schon. I like melodic solos as well as fast riffing. Anyway I ran into this guy who lives around the corner from me and says he is a guitar teacher. He heard me playing my acoustic on my porch and came up and said oh! He knows his pentatonics and said it very arrogantly. It pissed me off. He asked to see my guitar and he played a little and he did know his scales although he was very sloppy and I have heard his band practicing in his garage and it didn't sound all that great.
So I was thinking, am I missing out on a lot by only playing mostly pentatoncs? I mean it worked for Hendrix, Clapton, Page, and of course Schenker and Schon. I know I play other types of riffs cause I have had people ask about certain licks and they would say they liked the so and so scale I played. I would just say thanks but had no idea what they were talking about. So, should I learn theory and modes and all other stuff that I don't understand? I'm 55 so it's not like I'm a teen and can just absorb this stuff like a sponge. What do you guys think?
#2
Quote by ajcm900guy
It's just what sounded good to me.


Great. That's the most important thing by far.

Quote by ajcm900guy
So I was thinking, am I missing out on a lot by only playing mostly pentatoncs?


Depends on the genre you're after. Blues and rock? Sure, pentatonics are the essence there and you really don't need a lot of other scales if you have good ears. As I said, what sounds good is the most important thing. If you're playing a melodic solo and it sounds good, you are playing scales and you are using them right, even if you don't know all the theory behind it.

If you'd be more interested in stuff like jazz and fusion some theoretical knowledge might come in handy. You could still get by if you practice a lot and develop your hearing, but knowing how chords and scales interact would still be really useful.

Quote by ajcm900guy
I know I play other types of riffs cause I have had people ask about certain licks and they would say they liked the so and so scale I played. I would just say thanks but had no idea what they were talking about.


It doesn't matter what scale you play if people like it and you like it to be honest. But here you see one of the downsides of not knowing your theory: communication with other musician might be hindered, and your understanding of your own music might be lacking. It's up to you to decide whether or not you want to understand what you're doing better.

Quote by ajcm900guy
So, should I learn theory and modes and all other stuff that I don't understand? I'm 55 so it's not like I'm a teen and can just absorb this stuff like a sponge. What do you guys think?


If you feel like you want to achieve a deeper understanding of music. Theory helps you to analyze music and it organizes all the things you already know by instinct. I don't think that it'd be necessary for you to learn theory if you can already play the guitar well. But it would still be useful in a whole bunch of ways, it might help you understand why certain things sound good and as a result of that you could replicate those things under different contexts. I'm all in favor of learning theory, but if you like blues and rock it might not be that necessary.
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

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*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
Last edited by Kevätuhri at Oct 4, 2015,
#4
Remember that music isn't about scales. Knowing about them will not hurt, and it will most likely make you a bit better musician (being aware of the different scales and how they sound). But yeah, it's about how you use the notes. Some people can make pentatonic sound awesome, others can't do anything with dozens of different scales. Look at my signature.

Nothing wrong with liking the pentatonic scale.


I would suggest learning theory (remember not to treat it as rules or anything - treat it as something that explains sounds and common practices in music, something to support your ear, not something to replace your ear). It's not necessary, but it's not going to hurt, and I'm sure it will make you more versatile as a musician.

The things I would focus on would be keys, chords and intervals. It's important to know them in practice - it's important to know the sound, not just the explanation. I mean, one can know dozens of fancy scales and chord names, but it doesn't matter if you don't know how they are used. Many people who think they know theory just know all the useless jargon. They don't really understand it in practice.

You have been playing for a long time, so I expect you already have a good ear. If you want to learn theory, you just need to find explanation for all the sounds you play. It's a lot easier to understand theory if you know how to use your ears.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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