Songwriting: No Theory Whatsoever

Have you ever become so wrapped up in learning about key signatures and music theory that you've caught yourself saying things like, "I can't use that chord because it's not in this key." If you've ever felt like this "self-talk" was hindering your songwriting progress, then this lesson is for you!

Ultimate Guitar
In the past 20+ years I've taught music theory to students of all levels and ages, and believe it or not as odd as this might sound, many students begin seeing a reduction in their songwriting ability upon learning music theory. What seems to be the case is that through the learning curve of amassing information on how music theory is both applied and used when analyzing music, the practicing student often suffers from what I'll simply refer to as: "information starvation." In summary, this means many students, (at various stages of the music theory learning /development process), have just enough information to begin getting a grasp for music structure, form & layout, but not enough theory to fully understand music's big picture. Therefore, this will often cause students to doubt what they're composing. Students will say to themselves, "I can't use that chord, it's not in this key." Over time this, "self-talk," can lead to composing troubles while songwriting. In the grand scheme of things, a lot of this self-talk is due to a lack of being able to think both inside of a key's structure, as well as, easily allow for thinking outside of the key's melody & harmony and (of course) do all of this in an effortless way. In the video lesson I explain several ways that students can shift their thinking to resolve these issues until they eventually complete all of their music theory studies. Watch the Creative Guitar Studio Video Lesson to learn more:
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5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I'd like to know enough theory only to reproduce what I hear in my head, but I'm not interested in adhering to anything, so to speak.
    I took theory for 3 years, nd it also hindered my ability to create. I totally agree.
    the title of the lesson is deceptive imo something like "getting away from theory" might be more appropriate, as the lesson is loaded with terms that someone with "no theory whatsover" would definitely not get (ie "modal interchange", flat 5 sub, etc.) the list of tips is very interesting and seems really useful, but i'm sure a lot of people will have stopped watching by then due to sheer confusion, or maybe start the lesson with the theory learn it all forget it all concept. i don't mean to sound negative, i'm just passing along how i perceive this video.
    Over the 4 years I've been [layng guitar, I've been learning theory as well. I admit, when I first used to write stuff, I'd think "No, I can't do that" or "It's not in key". Over the last 1.5 year, I've been qritinmg by what sounds good, then I use theory as a tool to write a bass part and/or continue working the song out.