View Full Version : theory v no theory

06-07-2003, 01:29 PM
hi guys, i have been having an on going battle witrh a friend of mine who has been playing guitar for 10 years.i have been playing for 1 and a half years. i am learning the lot, theory ,harmony,intervals,counter point,every note on the fretboard,arrpeggios,chord formulas,site reading and writing, etc.
he doesnt know NOTHING of this nature. he doesnt even know the notes on the fretboard appart from the 5 th and 6th string where he references his pentatnics and chords from.but he knows a millon licks,chords, songs and can improvise and write(not in notation) some pretty good stuff using chords and pentatonics.and when i here him play he sounds outstanding!. he keeps telling me that i am wasting my time with all this theory study and always points out that some of the greatest guitarists of all time new very little theory and just did everything by ear and experimentation with a few basic scales. there is so much to study and commit to memory and it takes so much of my time that i could otherwise be using to learn new songs or licks, etc.can someone please tell me what advantage i might get in the long run studying all this stuff? my teacher just tells me its very important and to take his word for it because it would take to many of my lessons for him to explain it too me.so can anyone give me a few words of reasurence? thanks guys.Peter

06-07-2003, 02:17 PM
He has been playing for 10 years!
Just think of where you can go in 8.5 more years with directed study! He has likely learned through listening, which has benefits.
But you can do that also, WHILE you learn theory. You will be able to more properly direct your focus on what needs to be studied if you have a good working knowledge of theory.
Now, it is possible that he is more musically gifted or intellectually gifted than you are, which could account for his ability. There is nothing you can do about that, but you can improve yourself and be the best YOU can be. Nothing will get you there faster than studying and practicing in an efficient manner.
Study! Practice! and don't forget to PLAY! and have fun!
There is nothing stopping you from learning all kinds of stuff by ear AND directed musical studies. There is also no rule that says you must EITHER be an EAR player OR a THEORY player.

06-07-2003, 03:54 PM
Recently i've been thinking a lot about whether theory restricts your vision as a player, whether listening to other people and learning theory pushes you down one narrow road or not. I came to the conclusion after a while that theory gives u the box of musical meccano, and it's up to your imagination what you do with it. Theory certainly broadens your horizons with scales, chords etc, and helps u understand and communicate with other musicians. Also, seeing as how ear training is a part of theory, theory is pretty much fundamental to playing any instrument. Knowledge of theory can't blunt your imagination or your playing, but it can sometimes overwhelm it with possibilities, that is what finding your style is about.
In short theory = very very very useful, especially when dealing with other musicians.

06-07-2003, 08:18 PM
Maybe rudimentary ones like: I only play the black keys of the piano or I only play the white keys; I only play blues and blues changes etc.... This is all some form of theory. Tuning your guitar is based on some form of theory. Your creativity is the tool you use to eek out all that is possible from any theory. When you first learn to play you learn simple things like the pentatonic scale (Black piano keys) then you try to solve all of your musical problems with that one tool. After a while you find out it doesn't work for everything. So you learn the Major scale (white piano keys), that gives you more options. Later you hear great Blues players and notice it is the Pentatonic scale with some added notes. Then you hear flamenco and the major scale doen't work for that and you discover the Harmonic minor scale. Then you hear crazy jazz music and no scale works so you learn to play through changes using chords as a frame work....
It is all about how much you want to limit your musical expression.
Some people can wring out beautiful music with just the blues scale (SRV). You need to decide how far you want to go with this.
Don't let learning theory be a hinderance to learning other ideas from listening. You may find it useful in communicating with the other musicians in your click. Learning new scales is sort of like learning new languages. Do you want to only speak Blues?

06-07-2003, 08:36 PM
Peter, I've also had experiences dealing with people who knew nearly nothing musical. One guy I worked with knew only the names of the open chords and absolutely nothing else! He had been in bands for years. His technique was terrible as he only down picked, but he had an incredible ear and vocally could do a dead on Brian Johnson (of AC/DC) which was a real asset!

Another guy I worked with thought there was only 1 scale within a given key. That scale included all 12 notes, what we call the chromatic scale! He was barely competent playing lead, most of his stuff being minor/major pentatonic (although he didn't know that!) but this guy too could sing. Since both these guys were primarily the singers, their lack of musical knowledge almost didn't matter as they were quite good at what they did. To this day I'm amazed that people can get by with knowing next to nothing but I think that is probably the norm especially in blues and straight ahead rock/cover bands.

I saw a video interview once with Satch and he talked about when 17, he took 4 months, spending 12-13 hrs/day learning the fingerboard cold. Every scale, mode, interval, etc., in every key and how it all relates to the different chords with all the inversions, etc.. He no doubt was quite skilled at 17 but he said after the 4 months, his playing was taken completely to a different level. He said he could now play literally what he "felt." Since he now had a complete command of the fingerboard and understood how this particular scale felt over that particular chord, etc., he could express precisely what he wanted at any moment. I think the argument that learning too much theory will turn you into a unfeeling technical player is silly. I mean, who has more feeling than Satch?

Everyone approaches things differently and if your friend is content with his approach, thats cool, but think of some of the current players. Steve Vai, grad from Berklee College of Music along with John Petrucci, Greg Howe, etc.. Paul Gilbert, grad from GIT, etc.. Hang in there, you're on the right path!

Dave :)

06-08-2003, 12:30 AM
thanks guys, i REALLY apreciate your replys.

Doug McMullen
06-08-2003, 01:37 AM
Hey Peter,

There's been plenty intelligent commentary before me, but Ican't resist this topic.

Yes, theory is valuable and well worth learning, it "broadens horizons" as another poster put it... it can help you go further than you might, alone. But theory must be kept in proper perspective. Anyone who thinks theory is enough, or even at the source of music is as misled as a person who thinks having perfect grammar makes them a poet.

The skills your friend has, as a player, are IMHO (and I'm decently knowledgeable when it comes to theory) Primary. Theory is secondary, and it is IMO important to regard it as secondary. Learn to trust your ear and your instincts. They are primary. Respect your friend's playing, respect your friend's real musical knowledge. Strive to attain your friends ear... his sense of form, his sense of rhythm and of melody, and his musical imagination. These are the things a great player _must_ have. Maybe you think these things are a question of "talent" but to a large degree you are _not_ at the mercy of "talent"... these things can be trained.

Theory is secondary. Theory is a way of bringing the analytical intellect into the art of music. Many of us have a strength in intellect... we are comfortable using our intellect to help us. Naturally we want to bring our intellect to our assistance as we tackle this difficult task called music. This is not folly. It is sensible and helpful/ Can we use intellect to our advantage in music? Yes absolutely. Theory is the intellect applied to music.

It is IMO an outright error to believe that music is primarily intellect based. That belief leads to thin, unsexy music. It leads to crappy wanking solos that are all about scale X and chord Y.

I don't know how to say it, but, you must not lose sight of the fact that your friend can play... he may not be able to teach what he does, or orchestrate other players, or do any number of things that theory helps very directly with... but he can do the primary musical thing -- which is play music! -- this must be respected.

People who have invested a lot of time in learning theory (a group which includes me) like your teacher, often overstate theory's value. Those of us who are not "naturally gifted" (again a group that includes me) often resent the fact that these seeming chuckleheads who don't know major from minor can play the hell out of a guitar or piano or saxaphone. Well, there's no use wishing to be someone else, or resenting someone else. We are, who we are. Everyone finds their own path.

In my experience, the very musical people have a very hard time going beyond their 'natural limits'... things come easily to a point, perhaps a very advanced point, but further progress becomes quite difficult.

The non-musical person very very quickly hits his "natural" limit... once he gets beyond that point (and he can) he finds that his horizon is unlimited... he has transcended his natural limitations and now is bound only by how much work he is willing to put it.

Mozart was a fantastically gifted musician. Everything came easy to him. He really didn't have to try very hard, yet he was very great.

But Bach for my money was an even greater composer. Bach _did_ have to try. When asked how he had accomplished what he did, Bach answered... "I have had to work hard, anyone who works as hard will go just as far" ... I've seen this remark laughed at, I've heard people say that obviously Bach misjudged his innate talent. Obviously he had great gifts. My reply to those people is, "maybe, and no one can know for sure... but if Bach was indeed a genius, why not take him at his word? Isn't it possible that you've misjudged what Bach meant by "I've worked hard" ... isn't it possible that Bach's genius was for work... and perhaps he worked harder than you can imagine?"

Bach was not known as the greatest composer of his day... it was only long after his death that he was regarded as a great composer. In his lifetime he was known as a great improvisor, as greatly learned, and as a great teacher.

Great teachers are rarely great talents.


P.S. Many _great_ players, and even great "writers" have had little theory knowledge... Lennon and McCartney, Errol Garner (composer of the jazz standard 'misty'), Songwriter Irving Berlin, Jazz Guitar great Wes Montgomery... these folks were musical illiterates. Music theory does not bring you to the heights. Musical imagination does. But assuming one has developed their musical imagination... theory doesn't hurt. The list of wonderful musicians who knew their theory is a good bit longer.

06-08-2003, 02:32 AM
that was a great thred doug,made a lot of sense! i would love to read more veiws on this topic from others.thanks,peter

06-08-2003, 03:21 AM
It all depends on where you want to get to musically. If the player(s) you like most are of a non-theoretical strain then maybe that is the better option. Also remember that you don't have to decvide to get into theory, or not get into theory - use it as much as is good for you, and don't just learn it for the sake of it.

I think it's important to ask yourself how helpful you've found the theory that you've used up to this point, and if you feel that it was beneficial.

I like what Steve Morse has said about theory - that it's not something to restrict yourself to - it's something that you don't use until you get stuck with intuition.

Remember that Mozart's father, Leopold, himself a gifted musician, devoted himself to the musical education of his children, and they earned a living by touring around as child prodigies. They got to this stage because they were constantly trained in it. I don't think you can say that Mozart's musicality was purely genetic. He had to work hard at it from a young age, and I'm sure that continued throughout his life.


06-08-2003, 06:06 AM
This is an interesting thread! Doug has some interesting and well thought out ideas which I can definitely relate to!

Peter, I'd stick with your teacher and learn theory as you learn how to be a guitar player.

Most musicians will want to learn some theory at some point in their musical journey through life. You might as well learn it now! It can also accelerate your learning of the instrument by placing names and numbers on things. Your friend might know this stuff by trial and error, but you could save yourself a lot of time and effort by following your instructor!

As far as I can tell every musician uses their ears!:D Theory training doesn't mean you stop listening!:eek:

The Bash
06-08-2003, 05:55 PM
Yea, that's what Crack me up about Feel players or those who call themselves that. Everygood players plays from feel. If they didn't they wouldn't have any feel. You play by feel wether you know your theory or not.

And Bizarro gotta great point: You ain't gonna lose onething just cause you gain something else. You still got your ears: Use em.
It's just now you got another weapon to assist you.

Doug made some very good points and the only drawback to theory isn't theory but one's perception of what Theorys gonna do for em. I've known people that truely belive that if they learn all there there it'll make em a great player or writer. Well, there' more to theory than just knowing it. If I do nothing but study theory for the next ten years and never once touch my guitar, odds are I'm not gonna be a great player. I'm gonna be a worse player who knows more :) Or if I say while writing I can't do that it dosen't fit my book says so.
First rule: Use your ear
Second rule: Use your mind.
Third Rule: There are no rules.

I really liked James post as I really belive that myself.
Everybody knows something, no matter how crude.
Just like Tech. some guys preach Tech. sucks wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. Well, if you got no Tech. you can't play period. Everyone's got some Tech, even a begginer. I'm saying it's brillant tech. But tech. just the same.

As for Bach, he's a great example of what happens when you combine brillant natural abilty with hard work.
Talent it's self is only one side of the coin. It takes more than just talent.
You coul view talent (natural abilty) as kind of a cutting tool (like a knife).
Now some people may be born with a dull ole pocket knife.
Some a dull ole kitchen knife.
Etc. on down the line till we get to a big ole Broadsword the size of Solar System.

Now you can't do much with a dull pocket knife, but if you sharpen it, it will cut.
You can't do much with a dull kitchen knife either, but you may inflict a bit of damage, but again if you sharpen it it'll cut and more effctively than the smaller pocket knife.
Etc. on down the line. Each being able to do a tad more without sharpening, but alble to do much more with sharpening.
How bout the Solar System sized Broad Sword?
Chgances are you can knock down plenty without too much work (shapening) but imagine if yu sharpened it even a little. Or how about a lot. How bout so it's Really sharp. Boom ya got Bach :)

Bongo Boy
06-09-2003, 02:10 AM
Maybe a scenario will help, too. Say you've chosen to spend your time learning a tune--the way you've heard it--and have not spent any time learning your fretboard, scales, etc. Then one day you audition with your Dream Band and the frontman says let's play that tune. You feel great 'cause you know that tune cold. You all start and he says, no, I want to play it in Eb, not C.

Are you really going to be able to pass the test if you know nothing about 'theory' or your fretboard? Will you be able to make the mental transition in the few seconds you have to work with? I really wonder.

One of our members on this board, who by his own estimation was a very sharp guitarist, had such an experience with unfortunate results. He, at least, was convinced that a huge opportunity was lost for not having learned the 'why' aspects of music, he had only learned a limited set of 'how' aspects.

Your brain, and your schedule, can do both--with a huge synergy between the left- and right-brained approaches. Theory wasn't developed over the centuries because no one had anything better to do.

06-09-2003, 09:52 PM
i completely disagree with the comment that some people are more naturally talented than others, every person on this planet has infinite potential. to say that someone is better and always will be and just throw up their arms and forget about trying to better themselves is just ridiculous. i am NOT saying try to compete with every guitar player one comes in contact with. but absolutely dont give up on yourself. 5 years ago i was the worst player around, even got to the point of being made fun of by my instructor for a small amount of time. over the course of a couple years i studied at least 4 hours a day everyday. i never let up and practiced until i passed out. i surpassed everyone that made fun of me and left them in the dust. i even recently got a scholarship to berklee college of musics five week summer program. without my knowledge of theory and constant determination, i wouldnt have gotten the letters of reccomendation to get there. music theory is a MUST for any serious musician. a mathmaticion ( not sure on spelling there ) wouldnt attempt to do trigonometry without basic arithmatic skills. all of these things have to be learned. if anything knowledge of theory can save you in some cases. i have gotten certain gigs that other player havent because the band i was trying out for knew i could write music. to make it in music you must have certain attributes such as theory going for you. technique and vibrato and things like that come with it too, but thats another matter. keep up your practice and never let up. and never let anyone tell you that you arent good enough and that theory is a waste of time. these people fear you and dont want you to become a better musician than they are. - justin

Bongo Boy
06-09-2003, 10:54 PM
To me, a classic definition of a theory is that it is a model of how something works. Models are how human brains work--or at least our brains love to use models of things. Models are abstractions that allow us to see beyond specific instances of events or behaviours, and to see the patterns that seem to govern similar events.

Having said all that...music theory (as we talk about it here) has those elements. One little wee bit of its value is in its ability to help us understand why we can expect something to sound good or 'work'. Your ear is enough to tell that it does[/i] work--after you've found it. But what's cool about a theory is that it suggests what [u]should work before you've found it. I stress that it will help you find what 'works', not necessarily what will astound you. I guess lots of practice, experience and trial & error is still needed for that.

Theories are also great because they suggest what you should be looking out for should you choose to break the Rules or simply change them. That seems like a feature to me--I'd expect a good theory background can make creating great music go a bit smoother.

06-10-2003, 01:22 AM
great replys guys.keep em coming.i will make some statements judging your threads, please feel free to correct me if i am wrong.
1. knowing theory will give you an unlimited amount of options for writing your own music.
2.theory will give you the ability to analyse great compositions and understand them for your own benifit
3.understanding notation will give unlimited options for rythmic ideas, melodic movement etc.
4.site reading ability will give you acsses to music writen long ago for even more ides and influence
5.understanding intervals and their relationships will give you unlimited possibilities for creating contrast and interest in your compositions
6.comiting theory to memory will allow you to try ideas in real time
7.knowing all notes on the fretboard will allow you to put all the theory into practise
8.knowing all the notes on the fretboard will give you many fingering,arpeggio,scale etc,options
9.knowing chord formulas will allow to create chord shapes and fingerings to suit certain situations(no need for chord books!!)
10.understanding theory will give you the ability to embelish compositions(arrange)in what ever way you like.eg, change a classical peice into a rock peice but keeping the same theme.
11.just because you know all this theory it doesnt make you a good player, just gives you the maximum amoung of tools to work with.

so basiclly all this theory is like a giant,endless tool box.
if you gave this toll box to someone who doesnt have a creative bone in his body then he probably wouldnt create anything much of interest
if you gave this toolbox to a person of average creativity then he would probably do very well
if you gave this tool box to a person of exceptionall creativity then he would probably creat something unique and timless.

so my last statement would be,
if you dont have this tool box you will NEVER EVER realize YOUR full potential as a musician(true or false?)
thanks again guys ,it is wonderful to be able to talk about these things on this forum and get your ideas,may you all live a long and happy musical life,Peter

06-10-2003, 03:18 PM
hi all

I was thinking, theory and listening can compliment each other.
Say someone solo using a dorian mode, and you pick it up
with your ears to recognize it as dorian mode. I think that
would be a nice feeling.

and vice versa, say you listen to a progression, play the blues
scale, and your ear tells you you want to add in an extra note
to make it sound like what you want it to sound.

Sounds cool?

The Bash
06-10-2003, 05:23 PM
The Toolbox: That's a goodway to look it. Theory like Tech is another tool for the toolbox.
Stepehen King once used that to describe writing and I think it can used here as well.
He said his Granfather always used to carry this huge toolbox around. One day he was helping his grandfather do something basic like replace a door hinge or something. And he said all we needs a screwdriver why you always carry the huge toolbox around. His grandfather said, "Because you never know what you might run into once you get into the job."
He said that always stuck with him.
Much like Kings toolbox there's things that go on the top shelve and things trhat go on the second shelve and things that go on the third shelve. There's all important and you never know when you may need anyone of them. But some are far more important than others.
There are things that Must go on the top shelve. (Ear, feel, attiude, desire, very most Basic tech etc.)
There are things that should go on the second shelve (Tech, theory etc.)
And the third shelve is more or less up for grabs (style things, tricks, like sweep picking, exotic scales etc.)

It's just my opion that a person with limited tech and theory knowledge can still express himself if he has feel and proper conviction which is hard to do without a good ear.

A person who knows all theory known to man and has great tech but no feel or conviction will express very little.

A person who combines both will have way more doors of expression open to him.

You can never have too many tools for the toolbox.

The Bash
06-10-2003, 05:39 PM
Regaurding Natural Abilty,
Myself, James and Doug all refer to Natural abilty.
However I don't belive anyone of us suggested anyone to just throw there arms up and quite. Quite the opposite actually.

Speaking for myself my point was: Talent is in itself, not enough. It takes hard work.

Some very talented people never do much because things are often at first so easy that once they find they have to actually work on something (hit there own person wall) they have no idea how to go about it. Often they lack the desire cause they are so used to everything being easy. Sometimes they don't realsie they hit a wall they actually still think whatever they plays great.

A guy who has to work at it, has to work harder. But if in fact he works harder he's usually far more pprepared to deal with whatever he encounters. He knows how to climb that wall he he comes to it.

Everybody has a walls. Everybody at somepoint has to figure out how to knock that wall down when they come to it. Some
peoples walls are just fewer and farther between than others.

If we take two people:
1) Very gifted
2) of average talent

And they both work equally hard (prac the right things, the right way) it stands to reason the very gifted person will come out on top in most cases. (Not all, but most) (Who knows maybe the average person has a very natural gift he's yet to tap into.

Now say the Average person works just as hard as before and the very gifted dose not. It's very likely the average person will be much better than friend. But the gifted guy can still play alright just not as well as his average buddy.

Now say the Gifte person works hard and the average person dose not. The gifted one will be much better and his average friend more than likey won't beable to play very well at all.

I don't see this as just saying someone's better and always will be. I see this as reenforcing the work hard attitude. Gifted or not you still gotta keep your own abilties sharp.

Besides, what does better really mean?
The above example is unrealsitic in the sense it's controlled. I'm assuming two people both are alike in everway yet ones more gifted. I'm assuming both want the samethings.
Suppose one wants to shred and one wants to play the blues. Or one wants to write tunes the other wants to be joe pass.
Now how do you define better?
You can't.
All that matters in the end are
1) What does it sound like
2) Did you express yourself

Bongo Boy
06-11-2003, 02:00 AM
Originally posted by jmtyjmrf
i completely disagree with the comment that some people are more naturally talented than others, every person on this planet has infinite potential.Well, maybe everyone has unrealized potential, but it's certainly not infinite in all possible areas. Also, I'd define 'talent' as realized potential creatively applied. So, although it might be that 'natural' talent is an unwelcome or invalid concept--certainly some people are far more talented than others in any given endeavor.

Some of us simply don't synthesize new ideas or new information--or at least we have never developed that skill. We may be smart folks who can understand everything that's already been created, but we simply don't create anything new ourselves. Other folks do that right out of the chute--life would be boring if we didn't have these stars to aim for.

06-11-2003, 03:36 AM
this is a awesome thread. Makes me feel good that I'm taking lessons, learning theory :) :) :)

06-11-2003, 03:49 AM
Knowledge is ammassed theory. Wisdom is ammassed experience. Wisdom is far superior, in my opinion - what good is having something if you can't use it? For theory to be useful you need to be able to apply it to a practical situation.

So I say the thing to do is to find what aspects theory you want to be able to use. Then for each concept you learn, apply it to a practical situation. Then you'll understand it better AND BE ABLE TO DO SOMETHING WITH IT. Of course, you need far more experience than just playing a concept through to get it to a stage where you can begin to be comfortable with it. Take the time to experiment with the concept. If you spend your time in this way, it'll not be wasted.

I think this is what people are really talking about in the theory/no theory debate. Some say to know all these things is great. Others say that knowing lots of things doesn't help them -they just play by instinct. Wouldn't it be best to find a balance of the two, and learn theory, but to take your time? Get a grasp of each of the 'theories' that you want to understand, one at a time, so that each becomes something that you can use instinctively? Move the objects from the knowledge box, where they can look pretty but nothing else, into the wisdom box, where they become tools that you can put to use to solve the musical problems you have.

Good luck,


06-11-2003, 04:45 AM
Wouldn't it be best to find a balance of the two

Absolutely! Everyone has to find an equilibrium where they feel comfortable.

For me personally, I learned lots of classical theory, compositional theory, jazz improv theory, etc... Now I just play and don't think about any of that stuff consciously.

If someone asks me what I was playing I have the ability to analyze it and tell them what I was doing, using the language of music theory. It's a lot easier to explain something by saying "Eb Mixolydian for the first 2 bars, Eb major for the last 2" instead of pointing at certain frets (which doesn't really help out my keyboard player!):D

With respect to natural ability... People have vastly different starting points/levels of ability when they first pick up the guitar. Where they end up is a matter of dedication and devotion.

Bongo Boy
06-11-2003, 05:23 AM
Originally posted by daviej
Knowledge is ammassed theory. Wisdom is ammassed experience. Wisdom is far superior, in my opinion - what good is having something if you can't use it? ...Move the objects from the knowledge box, where they can look pretty but nothing else, into the wisdom box, where they become tools that you can put to use to solve the musical problems you have.I like that. To me, these two 'boxes' don't have super-distinct boundaries, though.

To a degree, you haven't actually 'learned' anything unless you can apply it. So from that perspective, knowledge really isn't, unless it's used. So, when we say, "I've learned my lesson." when we make mistakes--well, no you haven't if you don't change your behavior and stop making the same mistakes. That's what I mean by application.

In the sense you've used the term wisdom, I'd also argue that having it is far more useful and far more fun than knowing a boatload of facts, eh?

Another point no one has brought up so far (I don't think) is the idea that learning music theory is a lot of fun. So, while we've concentrated on the utility of it, it provides just another source of music enjoyment--at least for a lot of folks.

It's also amusing to hear folks make comments such as "I don't need to know all that stuff.", as though knowing something 'extra', above the bare minimum, is a chore or a liability. I guess we've all shot this dead horse now, but let's not selectively pretend that we only do things because of their practical value in meeting some 'requirement'.

One last Big Point: just because our experience leads us to believe something is true doesn't make it so. We've all been around people who tell us 'facts' about something that they have a lot of experience in. Sometimes they've made up these facts based on their wacky understanding of how things work--racial prejudice might be a great example of this.

Theories (models) that have been tested over the centuries by thousands of people are very useful in separating fact from perceptions.

Bongo Boy
06-11-2003, 05:40 AM
"There is nothing more practical than a good theory." James C MaxwellOkay, so I'm having a hard time letting this one go tonight. Earlier someone pointed out how music theory enables effective communication between musicians. This is worth elaborating on. Technology, and the internet especially, has made it possible and practical for musicians to collaborate far more easily than was possible only a few years ago.

To get ideas put together, collaborators don't have to meet in time or space. Think of how efficient ideas can be communicated using the language of music theory. By simply saying, "I'm thinking a standard ii-V-I progression here would be okay", I've conveyed scads of implied details--details only conveyed if the language of music theory is understood to some basic level.

Music itself may be a sort of 'universal language' used to evoke emotion, etc., but we must have a language that allows us to talk about the music itself in a way that helps us to create and modify it. Music theory provides much of that language--even if it may seem a bit sterile. It allows me to communicate with any musician, not just guitar players, and it's completely transferrable to any instrument I might want to learn. Could knowing some music theory help me learn keyboard faster, or help me communicate with a guy who knows nothing about guitar?

If I had to choose just one thing to learn, it would be how to make the instrument sing and I'd let theory go. Don't have to make that choice, though!

06-13-2003, 03:38 AM
Originally posted by Bizarro
Absolutely! Everyone has to find an equilibrium where they feel comfortable.

you must find the "Middle path" as buddah would say

Los Boleros
10-27-2004, 02:43 AM
Right on Peter. You are doing the right thing. There is power in knowledge. I want to share with you some maybe unconventional approaches that gave me an early advantage in improvising. The following excersises require singing. Although Singing is a huges asset to any musician, the point here is to build the ear so that you can play what you hear in your mind later. As you do the excersises, use your guitar to check your tonality.

Play a simple major scale from one to eight and back down to one while singing each note. Repeat on the next fret up and so on. Basicaly just play the small scale while singing along it once in each key and work your way up the fret board. As you get better, start easy patterns in each key while singing along. As you sing, try to anicipate the next note that will come.
Strum an A minor and sing the A then the C then the E.Strum a B Diminished and sing the B then the D then the F.Strum an C Major and sing the C then the E then the G.Strum an D minor and sing the D then the F then the A.Strum an E minor and sing the E then the G then the B.Strum an F Major and sing the Fthen the A then the C.Strum an G Major and sing the G then the B then the D.
Strike an A note and sing the major third, C#.Strike an A note and sing the minor third, C. Listen to the way just half a step changes the harmony and practice locking in.
Strike an A note and sing the fifth, E.Strike an A note and sing the flatted fifth, Eb. again try to absorve this felling. Listen to the sound waves with this diminished fifth and lock in.

There is alot of power in this kind of *disapline. If you do this stuff early in your training, you could develop your own style. One that is unique and that people will enjoy.

10-27-2004, 05:59 AM
i think i can summarize this thread (hopefully) Mr. Monk said something to this effect, "learn everything you can imagine about music then forget it all and just play".