POLL - How much guitar/music theory have you learned?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Big_Bend, Dec 20, 2010.

How much guitar & music theory have you learned so far?

  1. I believe I've completely mastered music theory on the guitar

    7 vote(s)
  2. I know a lot of music theory but have some more to learn

    38 vote(s)
  3. I'm good with some basic theory, enough to get by

    40 vote(s)
  4. I only know a little music theory, not much really

    33 vote(s)
  5. I don't need no steekin' theory, I play my guitar just fine

    7 vote(s)
  1. RevMike

    RevMike Poster Extraordinaire

    Jul 15, 2004
    Raleigh, NC
    To quote Louie Prima in "The Lip"....

    "I tell ya hon...I read a lil, but not enough to hurt me none."
  2. jazztele

    jazztele Poster Extraordinaire

    Sep 19, 2006
    That's it, right there.

    Folks who say theory gets in the way don't really know the information they're letting bog them down, they know of it.

    I know quite a bit, and there's enough left where I'll keep on learning till I die. That's the plan, at least.
  3. wylde4canes

    wylde4canes Tele-Holic

    Oct 10, 2008
    North Carolina
    Thanks you put it better than i could. maybe because, like you said, i only know of it, and don't know it.

    That is my issue with the fret board too. I can look down and take a second or two and tell you what note I am fretting, but I don't know it to the extent that I can look down and instantly know what note I am on.
  4. bingy

    bingy Friend of Leo's

    Aug 26, 2007
    Champlain Valley, VT, USA
    I had already been a pro for almost 5 years when I started studying older American music. I knew that the Jazz players had a handle on something broader than boogie woogie and rock and roll.
    I got a couple of Jazz Guitar books that got me going in the right direction.
    I feel like I can recognize harmonic motion and know why it is moving.
  5. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Nov 5, 2006
    Iowa City, IA
    When I was young, it seemed obvious to me that I would need total awareness of the notes on the fingerboard. Then, as now, I mentally look at the fingerboard and almost see the note names printed there. The ones that are harmonically available to me for the next beat or more are lit up. Passing notes and other non-harmonic elaborations are not as bright.

    I also learned the note names of all of the major scales and chords of type that I would encounter. I used to time myself reciting aloud these scales and chords through the circle of fifths.

    This has freed me to look at music analytically and to focus on rhythm and phrasing in my playing. Now that I am older, I am learning the reflexive patterns in blues, so that my hands are always the hands of a blues guitarist. I never play scales for this reason. I recognize the value of practicing scales, primarily as one of the ways I learned the fingerboard. But they also encouraged me to play be steps in one direction with equal note durations.

    Another point about theory is that it helps you understand music in different styles. A run of the mill guitarists who knows theory cold, will have a much easier time of playing gigs that involve reading music, playing by ear songs not know by you, composing film scores and writing for other instruments. A guitarist like SRV is a master of the blues. While he could probably play other Americana styles, he wouldn't be able to get a gig that involved reading or using a variant of the Nashville number system. If he could use the Nashville system fluidly, then I would say that he knows some essential aspects of theory.

    If you focus on what kind of style, work hard at it, and have a good ear and sense of taste and phrasing, then you could be a Wes Montgomery or SRV if you were good enough. But you would be a disaster at playing other kinds of music (depending on what "other" means).
  6. neocaster

    neocaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Jan 26, 2006
    Chester County, PA
    I'm not at all satisfied with my level of comfort. My goal is to be able to pick up just about any instrument and make something remotely musical come out of it based on a solid understanding of theory.
  7. String Tree

    String Tree Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Dec 8, 2010
    Up North
    Been there, done a lot of it.
    Music Theory is like a Bus ride.
    Sooner or later the ride comes to an end and you have to get off.

    I can read, write, arrange and transcribe.
    For me it was all worth it.
    I knew what I wanted to do: work with other Musicians that read music.
    It opened up a lot of doors for me.

    I started out playing by ear and in no way do I knock people who do that.
    I know where they are coming from. Playing by ear is as legitimate as it gets.
    I grew up listening, learning, being influenced by, and playing like people who had no formal Musical training.

    Given my druthers, I enjoy working with people who have a small clue about theory.
    They don't have to be top-flight sight-readers, but people who know HOW TO COUNT TO FOUR! Or can at least follow and verbalize root movement and chords.

    The MUSIC came first in the form of and expression. Be it note, chord, beat...
    Some of it we like so well, we gave it a name.
    The stuff we didn't like? We named it too so we could warn our friends.

    If you decide to go the 'theory' route, I suggest two things:
    1) Learn how to play a Keyboard. EVERYTHING in those books and the entire Music Industry revolves around being able to play one. Here again you don't have to be the best player out there. But the better you are, the more this Theory mess will make sense to you.
    2) Find a teacher that knows how to teach SIGHT SINGING and EAR TRAINING. Its nice to be able to look at a piece of music and sing (I use this term loosely) it without touching your instrument.
    If you can sing it, YOU CAN PLAY IT!
  8. peterpicker

    peterpicker Tele-Meister

    Oct 24, 2010
    Surrey, BC, Canada
    Would a Jimi Hendrix have been as free to play what he did, had he known theory and learned formally. I know I'm so anal that I would have thought his chords and phrasing to be illegal.
  9. DMace

    DMace Friend of Leo's

    Jul 30, 2008
    Brooklyn, NY
    There are great musicians with no theory knowledge and equally great musicians with a comprehensive understanding of theory. Some musicians can absorb huge amounts of theory without stifling their spontaneity and originality. Other players become automatons. It depends. Larry Carlton is a great musician. Yet so is Jeff Beck.
  10. bobthecanadian

    bobthecanadian Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 3, 2006
    Calgary, Alberta, Canada
    I'm another one of those went to college to study music guys. Learning how to play classical guitar was great for my technique and reading, and the theory/harmony/sight singing classes were in valuable. However, where it really all started to come together for me was playing piano (blues, boogie woogie, gospel, country, etc) and reading through fake books. Once I finished college I put the classical guitar away and just played piano for a few years and then got back into playing guitar... and pretty much started from scratch as I didn't play any classical and the rock and metal I played before didn't fit me any more.

    Learning theory is like training for a sport. You wouldn't play baseball or cricket without practicing how to throw, catch and hit (theory) or how to make plays to which base or where to hit the ball onto the field (harmony). So, among other reasons, we learn this stuff so that we can make our hands do what our minds think, hearts feel and ears hear. This is the essence of creativity isn't it? Besides, there is so much more to music than playing a blues pattern or a pentatonic scale (although, those are GREAT, don't you think?).

    Anyhow, I know what it is like to be a musician who plays but doesn't know theory or how to read. I also know what it is like to have those skills. I have never regretted learning about music and how to apply it. One thing is for sure though, the more I learn the more I realize how little I know and want to learn to apply it all. If only there were enough time!

  11. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 17, 2003
    Atlanta/Rome, Georgia, US
    I'd like to know more. I don't feel like I know that much. Knowledge is power.

    I really don't think knowledge can possibly impede one's intuitive nature within any given field of work or study. If a musician plays with soul, style, mojo, or whatever we care to call it, additional knowledge won't hurt. If a musician plays with no chicken grease, the soulless playing will either be more or less informed, but soulless nonetheless.

    There are also a variety of ways to think about "theory". If one is a music teacher, one can not refer to the phrygian mode as "Bert" in the professional environment. If one does not need to explain concepts to other people, calling a sound "Bert" or "Ernie" is just fine, as long as one finds a way to recall that sound as desired.

    A fellow music teacher recently remarked to me that T-Bone Walker had no idea that he was playing 6ths, 9ths, 13ths, etc. Whatever. It doesn't matter to me if he didn't call 'em that. It would've bugged me a bit if I were his student and he called a 6th chord "Sally" or something like that. In any event, his ears knew the "theory". He relentlessly studied Lonnie Johnson and Charlie Christian. Anybody that has heard Danny Gatton play would probably agree that he had a handle on chord substitution. Anybody that has viewed a Danny Gatton instructional video would likely agree that Danny subscribed to Danny theory. Pianist Erroll Garner did not read standard musical notation, but was incredibly harmonically sophisticated. The common notion about Jeff Beck is that he doesn't read music (and he probably hasn't in ages), but both he and his sister were classically trained on the piano from a young age. Robben Ford certainly plays viscerally enough; he reads music and knows harmony inside out. Knowledge by any other name is still knowledge.

    Personally, I've always been at my sharpest harmonically with chord subs and such when required to play a variety of standards and do some transposing on the fly, or anything that kicked me around a bit.
  12. Jester01

    Jester01 Tele-Meister

    Dec 17, 2010
    Northern Michigan (U.P.)
    I am only a beginner... I know nothing of music theory... I have great ears tho... for tone adjustment and changes, and what sounds good and what doesnt, and I can usually tune my guitar by ear... dont need a tuner sometimes... Im learning more everyday though... Guess I should look into this theory stuff.... Because alot of what ive read here is like greek to me.... 5ths and 6ths.... no clue lol, scales I do understand to an extent...
  13. spikypaddy

    spikypaddy Tele-Afflicted

    May 20, 2010
    Devon, UK
    I can play a blues scale... and that's about as technical as I get!
  14. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Gold Supporter

    Nov 28, 2004
    Pisgah Forest, NC
    I took Theory I and II, enough to get me out of the woods, but I rarely play by the book.
  15. octatonic

    octatonic Poster Extraordinaire

    May 2, 2007
    An Australian in Singapore.
    Almost enough to play jazz.
    More than enough to play blues.
    Too much to play rock.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.