You Don’t Need a “Guitar Theory” PhD
If you think that guitar theory is not important, you really should reconsider.
A good knowledge of guitar theory is essential if you want to learn guitar properly and fulfill your potential as a guitarist. But wait! I’m not talking about burying your head in some impenetrable PhD-level guitar theory music book and spending hours memorizing scales and chord shapes, chord progressions, arpeggios etc.
No, I’m talking about gaining a working knowledge of guitar theory. Understanding what sounds good and what doesn’t. What notes you can play over different chords and how different combinations of chords and scales can affect the way your music sounds.
Focus on the Essentials
There’s a lot of misinformation given to people who want to learn guitar when it comes to guitar theory. And a lot of this is, quite frankly, people trying to show off or appear knowledgeable. While it’s true that you need to put in some work if you want to truly understand guitar theory, it’s my belief that you only need to know a fraction of what many people would have you believe. If you focus on the essentials of music theory specifically as they relate to the guitar then you can fairly easily teach yourself guitar and equip yourself with a very good grounding in the fundamental principles of guitar theory. This will give you a good frame of musical reference to give you an awareness and confidence to experiment and be truly creative.
Guitar Theory Fundamentals
One of the pre-requisites for any serious student of guitar theory is to know the guitar fretboard inside out and back to front. If you want to learn guitar so you can improvise, play with other musicians or even just properly understand the musical context of what you are playing in your own practice sessions, you must know where all the notes are on the fretboard. This is worth spending some time on to make sure it becomes second nature. Once you are able to quickly locate F#, Bb and all the other notes you can play on a guitar, you’ll find the rest of guitar theory much much easier to pick up. You’ll begin to see patterns and make connections as you practice. Things will begin to make much more sense.
Understand Musical Theory and Become a Better Guitarist
You’ll also have much more confidence when you get out there and play with other musicians. I know some great bedroom guitarists who can really play some amazing stuff, but put them in a jam session with some other musicians and invite them to improvise some lead in Bb and they come unstuck. There is usually an awkward silence while they stare blankly at their fretboard for a moment before suggesting another key that they are more familiar with – or worse they try to pull it off but have to fall back on their same old tried and trusted (boring) licks. By not being more familiar with their instrument, they are stifling their own creativity, hamstringing their playing and making it more difficult for them to learn guitar.
So take my advice and learn all of the notes on the fretboard – starting today. You’ll be glad you did because your playing and your understanding of guitar theory will increase tremendously.
Don’t delay, learn guitar theory today!