#1
I was once a guitar player several years back, I became decent at guitar, but quit up until now. I am trying to figure out where to get started. I never learned music theory or any of that such. I was curious whether to look into scales and more general knowledge about guitars or if continuing to learn songs would ultimately progress my ability.

Thanks
#2
How do you learn songs? Is it solely by tabs? If so, begin working on ear training (figuring out things by listening to them). Even if you can get a tab of a song (text tab, GuitarPro, what have you), learn as much as you can by ear at first, and if there's something you just can't get, then resort to tab. That way, it'll help you in identifying if a tab's right or wrong or how to move phrases to different spots on the fretboard (with same pitch) so the fingerings easier, etc.

As for theory, learn the notes on the fretboard; especially notes of the same pitch that occur on several spots on the fretboard. Learn the major, minor, and pentatonic scales, chord construction, keys, and chord function in keys. These are pretty much the essentials to theory that all guitarists should know to easily analyze and communicate music.
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#3
Yes, mainly just reading tabs now. I did some minor ear training right before I stopped playing several years back.

Thanks for all the information, I think this is what I needed to get set in the right direction.

Much appreciated,

Austin
#4
I think something that goes unmentioned these days is that you should consider watching some YouTube guitarists/tutors and see what you can pick up/be inspired by. For me that goes a long way to keeping me motivated and because they're always bringing something new it's always fresh.

I wouldn't necessarily say theory is the be all and end all to being 'good' on guitar, it's all about what you want from playing. If you just want to learn songs you like then just focusing on tabs and technique is just fine (you'll subconsciously pick up theory this way), but if you want 'understand' how the pieces are fitting together etc then theory is the best for that.

I'd recommend getting a guitar teacher if you're really keen, and they can be really useful for music theory. They typically provide sheets/PDFs and should be able to answer any questions or confusion you have
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#6
Finding the theory is easy, learning it in the right order, and tailored for you, not so much. So, it's out there, and readily available, but so is quantum physics. However learning quantum physics by browsing wikipedia isn't the best thing. You'd be better off with a good teacher. imo.
#7
Quote by fingrpikingood
Finding the theory is easy, learning it in the right order, and tailored for you, not so much. So, it's out there, and readily available, but so is quantum physics. However learning quantum physics by browsing wikipedia isn't the best thing. You'd be better off with a good teacher. imo.


Yeah this speaks to my experience. Learning theory on your own or from the internet can be a bit of a rabbit hole. It's very rarely organized in an 'easy to learn' format, especially if it's freely posted online.
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#9
I think it was $15 or something but the JustinGuitar Practical Music Theory is a really nicely laid out introduction to theory and learning the fretboard IMO. It doesn't cover everything but it will definitely get you started as far as learning what notes you are playing, some common chord progression patterns, and learn how to figure out scales on your own.

Also try to figure out what scales some of your favorite songs are using and how they each sound. It actually can make remembering songs a lot easier when you know the basic "shape" a song is going to fit into, rather than just seeing them as random notes you have to memorize.
#10
I was the exact same place as you . Took a few lessons to brush up on my theory and it helped with everything else.
#11
Yeah I spent several years just playing tabs and writing stuff with no real thought to theory. After a while, I realized I was spinning my wheels and going nowhere writing just about the same things over and over while stuck in a pentatonic time loop.

Around that time, I managed to pick up a pretty good job that allowed me a little extra money which I put into seeing a guitar teacher on a weekly basis. It was easily one of the best decisions of my life because the teacher taught me things you tend to graze over when you teach yourself, and by plugging those gaps, I became so much better of a player.

I learned everything from chord theory, CAGED, modes, altered modes, chord shapes, and I also delved into new styles like jazz, classical which only served to make me a better player. I saw him for about a year and parted ways a few months ago for financial reasons. I was a bit afraid to be on my own at first, but seeing that teacher has opened up so many possibilities in my mind in terms of songwriting, improvisation.

So if you have some $$$, go see a teacher!
#13
I think you should take a look at Steve Krentz's stuff. His beginner series cover almost everything. So if you finished with that I am pretty sure you can play almost anything decent (not saying that you will sound absolutely in style), and understand the theory behind it. Now the theory being the focus, I found that by knowing the theory it is so much easier to learn new songs, and the ultimate bonus being that you break free from tabs. If a tab is written with a specific tuning in mind and you cannot use that particular tuning, or just not willing it is much easier to adapt licks, riffs and whatever you find. Krentz's good because he uses guitar based examples, now if you just want to learn general theory, look up school books. when I went to grammar school our music books had enough theory in a very accessible manner presented. I am still using that knowledge from those books. If you understand Portuguese , Spanish or Italian you can take a look at Cifra Club on youtube. They absolutely have everything, but well, you need to understand any of those languages.
#14
I think I learned most of my theory from one of those "for dummies" books. It helped a lot, but I could already read musical notation at that point (which isn't really stressed these days for guitar players). A book I still refer to a lot, especially for chords and such, is "Beginning Jazz Guitar" by Jody Fisher. I've used it for years, and the reason is because I don't go through it thinking "I want to learn jazz so I'll learn everything in this book." I don't really even like jazz...

But he gives you chords in groups so you learn many voicings that you can mix together to get the kind of sound you want. What I'll do is learn one of these "families" of chords and create little pieces of music using them to solidify them in my brain. Music is strange in the way you can take something like a C major 7 chord and add bass notes that "change" the chord into something different. So basically I end up with a real piece of music going through various chord changes, but in my mind all I'm thinking about are the same few shapes for that one chord I got from Fisher's book.

You don't have to go all crazy with theory. Learn everything you can about rhythm... THAT'S important! Everything else you can learn as it becomes relevant to what you're doing, but start with learning everything about the major keys because everything in western music is based on that.

Edit: Something that I forgot about that someone else mentioned... If nothing else, learn all the notes on the fretboard. That will save you a lot of time. Steve Vai said that when he was taking lessons from Joe Satriani, he once came to a lesson unprepared and Joe sent him home. On his embarrassing walk back, he realized Joe had written on his lesson material "If you don't know your notes you don't know shit!"
Last edited by cujohnston at May 15, 2016,