#1
Greetings!

I've been playing guitar for a couple of years now, mostly just playing along with songs or simple pentatonic soloing. I want to step up my game though, and I figured to best way to begin doing this, is by having a solid understanding of music theory.

I've got somewhat of a foundation in music theory. I understand the intervals, a couple of scales, how chords are built from scales. The problem is I don't really know where to go from here. I tried learning modes but it doesn't make sense to me yet. There's just so many things I need to know.

What would be a good idea from here? Try to tackle modes or is there something else I should focus on?

Thanks a bunch!
#2
Have you thought about how theory relates to sound and practical music? Even though you might know that a ii-V-I progression is "theoretically correct" and functional, you might not recognize that progression in music. Even though you know that C-D is a major second, you might not understand how to use it in music. Even worse, you might not even recognize it by ear.

Theory is only useful in songwriting if you know how to apply it, and if you understand that theory is just a supplement that will never replace your own ears and intuition. When you say you understand intervals, scales and chords, I don't really believe that. I'm sure you can name intervals and play them, and you can play scales and chords, but that does not mean that you understand their true function at all.

So how can you develop this skill? Well, pick a song that you like but can't play yet. Learn it by ear. After you can play it, analyze it as well as you can (what key is it in, what chords are used and in what order, what notes are played over those chords etc.) and try to figure out how to use the same ideas in your own music. This develops your 1. ear 2. skills in analysis 3. skills in songwriting. The whole point is, that you're learning what things sound like, instead of learning a lot of fancy words and numbers without context. Even when you're learning things like modes (which I don't recommend for you yet btw), you should look into actual songs that use modes. Can you name a song that's "in" mixolydian for example? If you can't, what is even the point of learning it? You don't know what it sounds like so why do you care? I don't think that you should learn theory in a vacuum, instead, analyze actual music and when you run into a concept you don't understand, check that out. You'd be surprised how much of your favorite music never uses anything outside of basic music theory. So, if you want my two cents, sound and music first, theory second.
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

Quote by Hail
*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
#3
^Agreed. This stuff is much easier to learn if you learn it in the context of the music that you really like.

Also C to D is a Major second.
"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
#4
Quote by Jet Penguin
Also C to D is a Major second.



Why am I a mod again... ?
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

Quote by Hail
*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
#5
Quote by Kevätuhri
. Even though you know that C-D is a major second, you might not understand how to use it in music. Even worse, you might not even recognize it by ear.


Yeah you hit the nail on the head there. What I know makes sense on paper but I'm not really able to actually apply it yet. I'll start analyzing songs like you said and I hope it will help me progress.

Thanks!
#6
If you want to understand modes learn the rhythm and melodies to these Satriani tunes:

1) dorian - Cool #9
2) Lydian - Flying in a blue dream
3) phrygian -War
4) Mixolydian - Raspberry Jam Delta 5

Each of those tunes gives you a decent idea of the sound of each. Research other tunes that have parts built around certain modes and eventually they will make sense- it's the sound and intervals( specific to each) that are important - wrap your head around those. For example, Dorian mode is like the Minor scale but with a natural 6th - that one note is what defines the sound. With Lydian, it's similar to the Major scale , but with a sharp 4th - that one note defines the sound.
#7
Yeah you need actual music to analyze. Theory on its own is like nonsense math.

If you really want to learn Music Theory writ large, I'd recommend starting at the beginning with learning how to read the staff and use a keyboard, maybe getting a textbook, and working out problems on paper as well as on the fretboard. If you're not into that level of rigor, I'd say you should go back to your major scale and work on getting all 12 playable on the fretboard. Take the same approach to triads and 7th chords.

Working that stuff out will ingrain in your mind the intervalic relationships that you need to understand music. From there, you can understand and actually use the concepts that you learn, because pretty much all of music is made with scales and triads.

The Roman numerals, scale degrees, and mode stuff won't make much sense until you have a solid grasp on the basic scales and chords. Get your basic musical vocabulary going, then start looking at the musical literature and learning how to analyze it. The music that you can play on your instrument and hear in your head is what you can analyze best.