The Crusade. Part 11: How To Practice Theory

Brave soldiers! We're near the end of our quest.

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Brave soldiers! We're near the end of our quest. Actually, we're just at the beginning. But now I'm handing you the map, and a few last words of advice before you continue on into the vast wilderness of music theory. Ha, it's not that bad. We've been learning a lot, but a question might be sticking in your mind. How should I actually practice theory? Ah ha! A great question, indeed. Here's a few ideas for you.
  • Analyze Chord Progressions Why? Because once you can determine a key of a song, then you can solo over it, using the modes (scales) from that key. I like to practice doing this several ways. The most applicable way is to chart out the songs that your band is playing, and figure out how things are workin' in the theory world. The second way I like to do this is by using The Real Book, a collection of popular jazz tunes and standards. Google The Real Book and you're sure to get some hits. The advantage of incorporating this into your theory practice is a.) you'll see some odd chords that aren't usually found in rock, and b.) you'll learn some neat jazz songs!
  • Practice Your Intervals While this isn't strictly theory, using an ear training program such as Ricci Adam's musictheory.net is a fabulous way to put a link between paper and the real world. Practicing fifty intervals a day is an Arnold Schwarzenegger sized workout for your theory muscles. Don't be a girly man.
  • Be Able To Name Your Chords Quick! What's the flat nine of a D7(b9) chord? The 3rd of G7? Being able to name the notes in chords quickly will help your musicianship by allowing you to see how each chord fits the structure of the song. It's hard at first, but like anything, gets easier the more you do it. (Except paying taxes - I still can't make that easy.) How to practice this unusual skill of being a human chord machine? I suggest writing, and memorizing, the chords and their component notes found in the key of C. Add other keys, and by then, you'll be rockin' away.
  • Memorize The Circle Of Fifths You know you should!
  • Practice Writing Scales Hey! Can you name the notes in the Bb Major scale? 'Cause if you can, then you can name the chords in the scale, figure out the key, solo over it - and look really cool. OK, skip that last part, but it's still important!
  • Learn To Read We haven't covered the topic of music reading in this series, but there are many helpful books out there on the subject. Why bother? (Hey, if you're reading this, you're on a tab site, right?) Check it out: Reading notes gives you access to any piece of music, not just guitar music. Just reading tab is like speaking English. It's common, but if you end up in Spain, it ain't gonna do you much good. Spain, in this case, might be a jam session with jazz cats who read music. They ain't gonna have no tab for you, brotha! And the ability to transcribe any musical piece to the guitar opens up creative horizons heretofore unimagined. You can add a Celtic jig to your metal song. How about playing the entire score to The Simpsons? (The real thing, not the Green Day version.) Bach, anyone?
  • A Few Resources Websites: Interval, scale, and chord ear training: Musictheory.net. More ear training: Miles.be. Rhythm, Ear, and theory training: Solfege.org. Books: Harmony and Theory The Jazz Theory Book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory Teachers: Find a good theory teacher! They can make it a lot easier than reading off the 'net, and a heck of a lot more inspiring. The cool thing is - they don't have to play guitar. I've learned most of my theory from bass teachers, believe it or not.
  • Wrappin' Up I really want to thank you guys (and gals) for reading The Crusade. I hope you've gained at least a small bit of knowledge, and, if nothing else, an appreciation of what music theory can do for your playing. It's a fascinating subject with a dazzling array of information. Keep learning, and keep up your own crusade. Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to email me. Even if I don't write you back right away, I will eventually. Don't worry, there will be more articles and commentary. My next project is to put a book together! I'm very excited about that. Stay tuned for news... As always, there will be updates, commentary, and mini-articles posted on my blog several times a week. Drop by and visit at www.joshurban.blogspot.com And my website can be found at www.poodleman.com (Bad hair days lead to nicknames!). Onward, brave crusaders! Copyright 2008 Josh Urban - All Rights Reserved Josh Urban (photo) is a musician with a unique perspective on music. Always a thinker, he gains insight wherever he can find it, be it in the clubs as a working musician, busking on the city streets, or teaching in the classroom. A naturally enthusiastic fellow, Josh is always fired up about bringing the lessons he's learned to his readers. Maintaining a website, a blog, and a monthly newsletter, he aims to make musicians stop, think, and play with a little more intensity, integrity, and inspiration. You never know who's listening.
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      maddspoiler
      about the irish folk jig thing. check out a metal band called falconer. you will get a hell of a kick from this. its neo classical meets opera meets metal. its the bomb!
      maddspoiler
      oh and glaskow kiss is not by petrucci its by one of his bands LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT!
      The Silence
      maddspoiler wrote: oh and glaskow kiss is not by petrucci its by one of his bands LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT!
      NO, your wrong, EPIC FAIL!!!! That's from Petrucci Solo album (Suspended Animation)
      RockInPeaceDime
      mrbiscuits315 wrote: RockFreak000 wrote: Well, is not math the base of musical structure ?No, sound is. Math can be heavily involved with music though.
      You can't have pleasurable sound without the math.
      Cr3sc3nT
      the point is, mix up everything you know and make the best piece of music on earth! on second thought, maybe not everything. just what's necessary
      Shawnbeer
      This series has been pretty helpful and cleared alot of stuff. As I have just started learning theory great job man. I have also been reading this book called fretboard logic which I highly recomend to anyone just starting out or even someone who has been playing for awhile. good stuff keep writing
      petergreen
      yao151 wrote: who in there right mind would put an irish jig into a metal song?
      metallica would lmao
      ATNeo
      Thanl you Mr. Crusader Josh! You've doing a greate job! If i lived in USA, I would buy you a beer! ^)
      Bag0Dimes
      metallfiendVT wrote: "glassgow kiss" by John Petrucci (on the subject of Celtic-oriented 'metal' - more prog rock, but still) youtube it.
      Thats slang for a headbutt, those who ain't educated. Brilliant stuff, made for a great read!
      nmlyons24
      yao151 wrote: who in there right mind would put an irish jig into a metal song?
      Someone who plays bagpipes and guitar...like me
      nightraven
      yao151 wrote: who in there right mind would put an irish jig into a metal song?
      korn would. this has been quoted too often :p
      Cyberbob
      SL!!! wrote: Metallica?Whiskey in the jarrrrrooooo lol
      Ahem, Thin Lizzy made that rock originally
      job153
      yao151 wrote: who in there right mind would put an irish jig into a metal song?
      Dropkick Murphys... mind you there more Hardcore punk but it still sounds amazing! alot of there songs are based on classic Celtic Songs
      SL!!!
      CoreyStavely wrote: yao151 wrote: who in there right mind would put an irish jig into a metal song? Metallica?
      Whiskey in the jarrrrrooooo lol
      Jondy
      ^not often enough. it's downright funny. it's like saying who in their right mind would put mustard on a corndog?
      CoreyStavely
      yao151 wrote: who in there right mind would put an irish jig into a metal song?
      Metallica?
      DroptheBomb
      yao151 wrote: who in there right mind would put an irish jig into a metal song?
      any1 with the balls to push boundaries
      a4lrocker
      yao151 wrote: who in there right mind would put an irish jig into a metal song?
      me!!! lol. anyway...get to work on that book
      Jondy
      yao151 wrote: who in there right mind would put an irish jig into a metal song?
      dude that kind of thing makes for some of the best sounding metal. Lots of folk-metal bands do this, like elvinking. listen to last of the wilds by nightwish.
      blasphemus666
      yao151 wrote: who in there right mind would put an irish jig into a metal song?
      you could actually make some sick riffs out of celtic jig
      yao151
      who in there right mind would put an irish jig into a metal song?
      mrbiscuits315
      RockFreak000 wrote: Well, is not math the base of musical structure ?
      No, sound is. Math can be heavily involved with music though.
      Fallenblood
      yao151 wrote: who in there right mind would put an irish jig into a metal song?
      Korpiklaani, and Cruachan, and Folkearth, and Eluveitie, and...
      slogankid1
      I think yao151 has just been pwnd. Celtic metal is also a good place to look. Now how about rembtico in metal?
      metallfiendVT
      "glassgow kiss" by John Petrucci (on the subject of Celtic-oriented 'metal' - more prog rock, but still) youtube it.
      E-dogg66
      Thank you again My playing has improved 10 fold in the last 3-4 months and I will only continue to grow as an artist. Great articles Man Please do more when you can find time.
      Whiskky
      Magnificoamar wrote: i love this guy for making this series, i dont want it to end
      Yeah, neither do I
      which ones pink
      Jondy wrote: yao151 wrote: who in there right mind would put an irish jig into a metal song? dude that kind of thing makes for some of the best sounding metal. Lots of folk-metal bands do this, like elvinking. listen to last of the wilds by nightwish.
      Fuck yes, that song owns.
      ShaDoW0lf
      Fallenblood wrote: yao151 wrote: who in there right mind would put an irish jig into a metal song? Korpiklaani, and Cruachan, and Folkearth, and Eluveitie, and...
      Bands like Between the Buried and Me do stuff like that..