#1
Hi all,

I've been playing acoustic guitar for about 4 years now and all I did was learn songs with tabs/chords. I feel like I should know the music theory behind the music I am playinh, and I am willing to start learning music theory. Now, I did do some research and I am overwhelmed by all the information. Does anyone know where I should start?

Thanks!
#2
I'm gonna say start studying how chord progressions work because that often ties in with other theory too, plus then you start making your own songs and analysing other artists' songs.
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'Determining Chord Progressions'. This is a start I guess dude. Other people will be able to answer this better than be but from my own person experience, chordal music theory is so sick.
#3
Learn about intervals ... they are physical sounds ... they pervade all music ... scales and chords are built from them. Melodies are built with them. A scale is a specific pattern of intervals .. and some patterns set up musical expectations. Learn about these. Intervals are trivial to learn, especially the common ones. You can know their hand shapes in probably a few days, spending 5-10 minutes a day.


Separately, if you want to learn some fascinating stuff, check out some books on music psychology. For example, "Sweet anticpation" by Huron. There's some very innate stuff built into us, humans, as relates to music ... and if music goes against the expectations too much, or gets to random, too abstract, the brain just shuts off, ignores it, responds badly emotionally. This is something a lot of people forget, ignore, or don't know (maybe don't care). If you want music to connect, this stuff has to be borne in mind. Rhythm and structure in time play a huge role here.
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Feb 13, 2017,
#4
Quote by garnalensaus3
Hi all,

I've been playing acoustic guitar for about 4 years now and all I did was learn songs with tabs/chords. I feel like I should know the music theory behind the music I am playinh, and I am willing to start learning music theory. Now, I did do some research and I am overwhelmed by all the information. Does anyone know where I should start?

Thanks!
I suggest the following:

1. Notation. Learn to read music (if you can't already). You don't have to be able to sight-read (play from sheet music straight off), just know how to play the notes, and how you would write down what you can play.

2. Interval terminology. This is to help understand the jargon. Terms like "major" and "minor" come from intervals first (meaning "bigger" and "smaller"), before being applied to scales and chords, so it should help you appreciate how chords and scales work.

3. Major keys. The major scale, and the chords harmonised from it - at least the primary majors,I, IV and V. E.g., C-F-G in key of C, or D-G-A in key of D. The minor chords (ii, iii, vi) are in a sense secondary*.

4. Minor keys. This is essentially reversing the primary-secondary relationship in major keys. The key of A minor has the same notes and chords as C major, but now Am, Dm and Em are I IV and V, and C F and G are the less important ones. In addition, the Em is usually changed to E major (or E7),to strengthen the key sound of Am.

5. Remember music theory is descriptive, not prescriptive. The "rules", therefore, are not about what sounds you can and can't use, but about what the correct names are for them. The only rule about the sounds is they must "sound good" - all the other rules come from that.

6. Never try to learn any music theory if you don't know how it sounds, or how it might be used. If you can't connect a specific concept with some music that you know, it's a waste of time. It's bound to be baffling (even if it's interesting on some other level). You have to work outwards from what you already know, what you can already play.
Do you know the names for everything you're playing? You probably know chord names, but do you know where those names come from? Why and how a "maj7" is different from a "7" or "min7"? (That's chord symbol shorthand, employing interval terminology.)

7. The songs you know are always "correct",even if you think a chord or two seems "wrong" according to theory. It isn't, it just fits some other theory you haven't read about yet. As I say, theory is descriptive - it deals with the nuts and bolts, the elements and not their overall effects. It won't tell you why a particular chord change or sequence "works" (and certainly not why it has a specific emotional effect). It will just spell out how, or maybe help you see how.

8. Theory won't help you play guitar better, and (probably) won't help you write better songs. Don't study it because you think you should. Study it to help you communicate with other musicians, to make you feel more like a well-rounded, literate musician (rather than a dumb guitarist ). Study it out of simple curiosity. (You want to play guitar better? Practise more. You want to write better songs? Write more songs. Learn more songs to get ideas.)

The best theory site is probably http://www.musictheory.net/lessons - highly recommended, but you need to start from the beginning and make sure you play everything! (The site is not guitar-friendly, so just remember the top E space on notation - treble clef - is the guitar 1st string, and you should be able to work out the rest from there.)

* "Secondary" has another meaning in music theory (to do with chords taken from other keys), so don't get too attached to my usage of it here!
Last edited by jongtr at Feb 14, 2017,
#6
Quote by garnalensaus3
I've been playing acoustic guitar for about 4 years now and all I did was learn songs with tabs/chords.


Theory is about named things, their named relationships, and the hierarchy of higher named relationships comprised of lower relationships...

Grasping theory concepts depends on experience and familiararity with the aural musical sounds to which they refer. The traditional way this experience accumulates comes from struggling and figuring out songs by ear. If you have not learned this you may find theory concepts imcomprehensible.

What happens right now when you take a new song and try to learn it by ear?
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I'm pretty sure the Bible requires that you play through a tube amp in Texas.
#8
Quote by phil22au
The best way is to ignore theory and create things that you personally like the sound of.


Why would you ignore theory, though? Sure, use your ears to find sounds that you like. But when you find the sounds that you like, wouldn't it be great to understand what those sounds are? Theory doesn't tell you what sounds to use and what sounds not to use. Theory just tells you what the sounds you used are. You can use music theory to analyze what's happening in any song. By knowing theory, it's easier to make sense of the music that you hear and it's easier to apply the sounds that you hear in other songs to your own songs. So if you like the way a certain song sounds like, by knowing theory it will be easier to find what you like about the song and maybe use a similar concept in your own song.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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#9
Quote by phil22au
The best way is to ignore theory and create things that you personally like the sound of.


Why would those two things be exclusive? People study theory because they like the sounds and want to know how they work.