#2
Interesting read, I was a "self-taught" guitarist on-and-off for over 10 years before taking private lessons almost a year ago. Since finding my teacher I've been learning and practicing almost nothing but theory. I can play a handful of songs and plenty of riffs but I do kind of feel like I've hit a wall. So really I channel my focus into creating my own material. Although I should try to learn all the songs that I grew up with and inspired me. It would be good for my chops and well as my theory, so I can learn how to break down the songs.
Last edited by anthonymarisc at May 4, 2016,
#3
What does "playing guitar" mean, if you're not actually playing music? What other "goal" could you sensibly have?
I guess some people will buy a car and just sit in it in the garage, turning it on and off, fiddling with the controls.... "drive anywhere? nah, why would I want to do that?"

The article is setting up a false distinction (obviously because he is a teacher with lessons to sell). When you learn to play songs, you are automatically learning techniques - you have to, or you couldn't play the songs! The more you play them (and the more songs you learn) the better you get.

You are also learning theory, in the sense that you learn which chords go together, and how keys work. Naturally you can ignore all that stuff if you want (like you can drive without knowing how the engine works), but who cares? If theory doesn't interest you, why should it? Sooner or later there may come a point where you're curious, but there's no harm in waiting till then. You certainly don't need it to write songs, because you can do that by copying stuff you like in the songs you learn.
#4
Quote by jongtr
What does "playing guitar" mean, if you're not actually playing music? What other "goal" could you sensibly have?
I guess some people will buy a car and just sit in it in the garage, turning it on and off, fiddling with the controls.... "drive anywhere? nah, why would I want to do that?"

The article is setting up a false distinction (obviously because he is a teacher with lessons to sell). When you learn to play songs, you are automatically learning techniques - you have to, or you couldn't play the songs! The more you play them (and the more songs you learn) the better you get.

You are also learning theory, in the sense that you learn which chords go together, and how keys work. Naturally you can ignore all that stuff if you want (like you can drive without knowing how the engine works), but who cares? If theory doesn't interest you, why should it? Sooner or later there may come a point where you're curious, but there's no harm in waiting till then. You certainly don't need it to write songs, because you can do that by copying stuff you like in the songs you learn.



I think there is definitely still a big distinction. For your car analogy, learning a song would be like learning a particular race track, whereas you could also take the time to learn how the car behaves, exactly where the traction lets go, what it is capable of, how it wears or behaves when the brakes get hot etcetera. All of this is useful information, and you could apply that to driving fast anywhere, and you don't necessarily need to know any tracks if you have someone calling out the corners for you, like a rally driver would.

So, for music, that would be like learning your guitar, getting high dexterity, and being able to improvise with anything anyone else plays, but you might not technically "know" any song, really. You can just play along when someone else plays it for you.

The other side of that coin, is that you could learn a particular track, but not learn anything about racing, so you can't get a fast time, either.

It's really very easy to learn songs without really learning any theory. I mean, you might learn some chord shapes and stuff like that, which counts as theory, but you could even avoid that, if you used only tabs and only your ear. But even if you do know the chord names, that's really missing a big part of it, because generally, if you learn songs that way, you are learning what to do to make the song, and you are completely missing all information pertaining to the key, which is really the most valuable information that there is in theory, imo.

Someone might learn 2 different songs, which share a very similar progression, but because they are both in a different key, and use different voicings for their chords, they won't necessarily recognize how similar those songs are. That's really the main value with theory. It's organizing everything in a coherent manner so you can understand how it all works.

If all you do is learn songs without paying attention to all that, you'll be missing all of that understanding. You won't get that there is such a thing as a key, and you will look at your guitar in an absolute sense, meaning a C is a C chord, and always sounds like a C chord, so in order to get a song that sounds like a song you learned with a C chord in it, you have to use a C chord that way.

But like you said, it's not necessary to obtain that understanding either. If all you want to do is be able to learn to strum songs you know, then you don't really need that understanding at all. You just need to know chords and have access to chord books for the songs you want to know, or do the same with tabs.

But there is definitely a sort of dichotomy there, between just basics of being able to play songs, and then theory/advanced dexterity. Kind of more of a trichotomy I guess, but whatever.
#5
Agree. That's what I took away from the article. We see threads here all the time with people asking is theory really important or why should I bother to learn how to train my ears to hear tones so I can figure out a song. I can get a tab or sheet music so why bother?
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
#6
Quote by Rickholly74
Agree. That's what I took away from the article. We see threads here all the time with people asking is theory really important or why should I bother to learn how to train my ears to hear tones so I can figure out a song. I can get a tab or sheet music so why bother?
Why bother indeed? Some people just want to learn enough to have a bit of fun. What's wrong with that?
I wouldn't pay to go see them play, but so what?

The guy is a teacher, so it's in his interest to persuade you that you need what he can teach you. You don't. Not unless you already think you do, which is fine.
#7
There needs to be a balance between the two.

All theory and technique is really educational - but you'll get so bored you'll probably quit playing altogether. On the other hand, all songs and fun is really motivating, but you don't have any idea what you're doing and when you try to write something you'll be lost.

I think the best way is to learn a little theory at a time, throughout your guitar playing career. I mean it can take a year or two of practice just to get halfway decent at improvising an emotional, expressive solo using the pentatonic minor scale over a three-chord progression, so why people pile on all this other stuff when a student hasn't even begun to use, much less master the basics...it just seems like a huge waste of time to me.
#8
Lots of good stuff in this thread. It's a balance for sure.

Last thing I transcribed was this for standard tuning+tapping:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=de1bt5dc2t0

Pretty fun, have to cross hands a few times.

I've been jazz transcription free for a long time, and normally don't learn full tunes anymore. 80-90% of my practice is technique practice within the context of informed, yet guided improv.

Just chasing ideas as they come and taking them to absurd extremes. But I'm also insane and would not recommend that.

Learn songs, everyone.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#10
I am doing both but I don't like to dive into theory or bother looking up tabs. I just go for it. As a drummer theory was crucial for getting into the crazy timings of jazz. But I forgot all that stuff anyways. Just go for it, feel it, and have fun. The only way is up.