I've been playing guitar for a few months now. At first I only played a few open chords (E,A,G,D etc...).
After a while I started with riffs from songs I listened to. It was fun at first but something was definitely missing.
For one, I could never get the rhythm properly from reading tabs. Secondly I felt like I was just copying other guitarist's styles, rather then experimenting and actually playing the guitar.

I then took lessons from a teacher, at which point all he gave me were scales. scales and more scales.
When I questioned him as to why I was doing them until the cows came home, he said that they would help me play faster.
He also mentioned that theory wasn't important for someone at ''this stage of guitar playing''.
Now I'm not sure if this form of teaching is common with all guitar instructors, as this is my first foray into the world of guitar playing.

Now I'm all for getting better, I just would like to understand the technical aspects behind these scales I bleed myself over.
This goes for the rest of the guitar in general, as I'm looking to see how it works and not just how to ''play faster''.

My question: Is 4 months too soon to be starting theory? Or should I wait at least until I can play more profficiently? (A year of playing, maybe more?)
yeah id say a year. once uve got the tech skills to use em. for my first year i started with just riffs and learning songs. after that i asked my teacher if he could teach me some theory stuff n its gone real well (learnt the modes and how to improvise well with em to start off)
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there's no reason you can't start now. I wish I started practicing scales a lot earlier then I did, I'm sure I would be a lot better now.
yeah if you have the dedication do it but make sure to keep going because you will suck ass for a while and practicing scales and shit is boring. and if you stop half way and just go back ot learning riffs all that time you spent practising will be wasted
You can learn music theory without ever picking up a musical instrument in your life.

The only reason many people say that, is to let your skills develop first. After all, you don't want to be put off of playing by theory; you'd want to know the person will want to continue playing.

If you know you will and you wanna learn theory, go right for it and ask him. If your teacher refuses, he either doesn't know or is a bad teacher.

Edit: To add, if you learn theory right now, you won't even have the chance to think about scales as shapes, and trying to apply theory to abstract patterns without musical knowledge. It would make understanding all the much easier early on.
Last edited by Dayn at Mar 16, 2007,
Great question.. I took guitar theory for 3 years i didn't start taking the class until i learned how to play the guitar pretty proficient and accurately. I would say depending on how much you practice wait around 6 months of steady playing and then find a teacher that listens to what you want. You are paying them so it is your choice.
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Theory from the beginning - it puts everything in context so you don't just feel like your learning stuff blind. With a little knowledge you can see connections between things and it all makes so much more sense.
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Learn it as soon as possible. Use the theory you've learned to compose different riffs and exercises to work on your technique.
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I agree with both the gentlemen above me. You can never start learning theory too soon. A well-balanced guitarist will have a good combination of technique (the physical side) and theory (the mental side).
Hi, I'm Peter
Thanks for all the information, I really appreciate it.

Well to update:

I've been studying some basic theory on my own, (notes, octaves, the basis some scales)

My instructor has transitioned from giving me scales to riffs.

One riff was from a video game, and the other was the from ''For Whom the Bell Tolls'' by Metallica; (the riff right before the the 1st verse kicks in. Not too familiar with Metallica myself)

In the latter I noticed that the riff was based around a Major Scale. And my understanding of it, (as well as extensive practicing of scales prior to that) helped me get it down much faster.

Also I constructed a small riff based around mixing some of the scales I've been practicing. Nothing too fancy, but at least it's somewhat melodic.

In closing I have a question regarding riffs. I understand now that scales and whatnot help build finger flexibility and help write your own music. But how do doing artist's riffs fit into the equation?

I mean I've seen people picture perfect emulate, ''Eruption'' for example but have no understanding of the guitar at all.
Should doing riffs be a part of my daily guitar routine or should i focus on excercises and theory and leave the riffs for fun when I feel like it?
From a purely educational standpoint, you should learn to integrate other artist's riffs, phrases, solos, and/or songs into your practicing when they're instructional. For example, if you know anything of classical music, Mozart wrote his etudes as a method for teaching his students. Phrases/pieces should be worked in when they show interesting use of particular theory or make extensive use of a particular technique. "Eruption" is great for perfecting your tapping technique. Steve Vai's "Eugene's Trick Bag" is awesome for practicing sweep arpeggios that run the neck. Of course you're not going to start off that big, but you get my meaning. On a smaller scale, it never hurts to learn some Hendrix licks (the solo to "Manic Depression" is a great example of unison bending), Clapton, or whatever artists are established and respected in your preferred musical genre(s).
Hi, I'm Peter
Last edited by Dirk Gently at Apr 16, 2007,