Does Theory Matter?

Brian Haner Sr.

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The most frequent question I get asked is "Do I really need theory?
In a word. YES!
Listen to the melody in the first minute of this piece. The same 3 notes (mostly the same 2). Listen to how the chords change - which constantly changes how the melody works. Sometimes it's happy. Sometimes it's sad. There is tension and release. But the melody is just the same couple of notes. This is the essence of theory!
Chords matter!!! The more you know about them, the more options you have to be a great player and composer.
Here is a secret (Shhhhh!) The key to being a great player is a firm understanding of harmony & chords. If all you do is practice single note soloing and licks. You will be a player with lots of flash and zero substance.
Spend twice as much time on chords & harmony as you do on sweeping, tapping & shredding and you'll be a monster!
Happy Holidays!
PG

 

Ezequiel Romanko

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I totally agree! its amazing how a simple chord can change the whole feeling of a motive and its amazing how much variety of chords are out there, in fact if you have 4 chords you can create a song but if you use that same chords but only add a 6th or a 9th and it will even change in genre! it's really amazing :)
 

Jak Angelescu

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I think theory can make and break someone. I remember playing with students of MI in Los Angeles and sometimes they knew so much theory, their playing became emotionless and they would shut down an idea before even trying it. And yet at the same time, playing with a drummer who didn't even know what 4/4 time is is um... very fun to say the least😂

I think you said it best. Once you said "Music theory is the language in which musicians communicate." And it's true!!

Question, doesn't Moonlight Sonata have this same similar concept?
 

TreSavedge

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Yes sir. Too often beginners and advanced players alike neglect the science side of the house. Having a sort of map where you can gain fluency of the language of music helps visualize or mentally grasp what’s going on. Obviously on stage we might not always be thinking about it but theory will bridge the gap between the science and instinctual side of music. And it’s more understood the more a player gains the knowledge and analyzes what they are doing during practice. Eventually the instinctual and science side will blend. Like you said in your first lesson where eventually one will see a note or chord on a musical clef and it will almost be synonymous with where it is one the frets. Eventually the entire machine will work as one.

As guitar players too it’s important we understand the relationships between all the intervals as the bass notes are usually covered by the bass in an ensemble situation (as you said in your blues series), so we get to add color with the other notes that actually give chords their quality like 3rds and 7ths. It’s gets particularly interesting when examining jazz theory and extensions beyond a simple triad. I remember the first time I noticed things like how a Maj 7 chord without the bass note is essentially a minor triad (stacked on top the bass note). So an A minor triad is stacked on top a FMaj7 chord’s bass note for example. I remember the first time I realized all these intervals and relationships between them and the theory was essentially the map that made up this universe of music to explore. From there practicing actually got fun and more productive and improv became a goal oriented experience not an impossible mountain to climb. A lot of “oh now I understand that chord substitution” moments for example, or why certain things sounded better than others. Why the harmonic minor scale has a raised 7th degree being the major third of the all important V chord etc...
 
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Kai C

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"I realized all these intervals and relationships between them and the theory was essentially the map that made up this universe of music to explore" @TreSavedge that should be put in a book, that was very beautifully written
 

Ekrem Taha Ünlü

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The most frequent question I get asked is "Do I really need theory?
In a word. YES!
Listen to the melody in the first minute of this piece. The same 3 notes (mostly the same 2). Listen to how the chords change - which constantly changes how the melody works. Sometimes it's happy. Sometimes it's sad. There is tension and release. But the melody is just the same couple of notes. This is the essence of theory!
Chords matter!!! The more you know about them, the more options you have to be a great player and composer.
Here is a secret (Shhhhh!) The key to being a great player is a firm understanding of harmony & chords. If all you do is practice single note soloing and licks. You will be a player with lots of flash and zero substance.
Spend twice as much time on chords & harmony as you do on sweeping, tapping & shredding and you'll be a monster!
Happy Holidays!
PG

Thanks for this PG! Awesome!
 

Daniel Sobota

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I feel like I need to seperate learning theory from the actual playing, because I just can't focus on the two at the same time it seems. I took some classical guitar lessons in 2017 - 2018, but I mostly just learned the basics of the basics lol. But if I want to become a great guitarist and a songwriter, I really need to delve into this fully.

Theory can seem like a drag sometimes, but it's definitely helpful. I know that I'll probably never understand sheet music and that stuff, but I'll still try to incorporate some of it in the writing of my evil, metal riffs haha.
 

Ed Seith

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Hola, Papa Gates! Great stuff, and very timely for the endeavor I'm committing to for 2020. If I could make a suggestion, would you consider grouping together a bunch of lessons in an order and stuff simply for theory? Or should I really just dive into the CAGED lessons and go from there? Theory has always daunted me, for 30+ years, and getting into it is a little intimidating, but a roadmap.... That would be a nice thing to help. Thoughts?
 

Ids Schiere

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Hola, Papa Gates! Great stuff, and very timely for the endeavor I'm committing to for 2020. If I could make a suggestion, would you consider grouping together a bunch of lessons in an order and stuff simply for theory? Or should I really just dive into the CAGED lessons and go from there? Theory has always daunted me, for 30+ years, and getting into it is a little intimidating, but a roadmap.... That would be a nice thing to help. Thoughts?
When I get annoyed by my python code again I can take a look for you, I don't have the power to make it into a track though so that's something the techs maybe can do.
 
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Ed Seith

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When I get annoyed by my python code again I can take a look for you, I don't have the power to make it into a track though so that's something the techs maybe can do.
My son is learning Python now. Went to a school presentation for him. He did his first loop in coding class (In Python, he's worked in Javascript and a few others already). He's 14. *Some* American public schools are definitely doing it right.
 
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Ids Schiere

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My son is learning Python now. Went to a school presentation for him. He did his first loop in coding class (In Python, he's worked in Javascript and a few others already). He's 14. *Some* American public schools are definitely doing it right.
Definetely!

I know a bit of Matlab, more about python and I need to learn How to do things in Fortran for my master thesis. You can do some pretty cool things in Python If you know how to use matplotlib well, like gifs and stuff.
 

Ids Schiere

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I have been thinking about the bit about spending twice as much time on chords and harmony as spend on soloing and techniques and I basically phrased it like this in my head.

If you take the solo out of a song there's still a song but when you take the chords out of a song you don't have a song left.

Solos kinda don't mean that much without the chords underneath.
 

Andrei Moraru

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Music theory does matter. Funnily enough, when I first started writing music some 10 years ago when I and some friends were trying to form a band, I did not think of theory that much. Even though I knew it quite well from my music school. I just didn't know how to apply it.

However, some lead guitar books and music composition courses later, I finally understood a great many things about how everything is connected and this has helped me when coming up with music.

@Ed Seith if it helps, I recently came back to this wonderful school and have started a series of threads regarding music theory. And it takes you from the very beginning.
 

Kai C

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I have been thinking about the bit about spending twice as much time on chords and harmony as spend on soloing and techniques and I basically phrased it like this in my head.

If you take the solo out of a song there's still a song but when you take the chords out of a song you don't have a song left.

Solos kinda don't mean that much without the chords underneath.
TRUTH