Everywhere you look there is a different opinion on whether or not Music Theory works or ruins your creative flow. Is there any one right answer? And it looks complex — is it really worth spending time and energy on? Are there any tangible benefits? The answers to all of these questions and more can be found below.
Everyone on the Internet likes to talk about their tips for learning Music Theory, and there’s always at least one commenter who doesn’t believe it’s worth it (“you just gotta feel and go along with the vibe”), or that other person who says Theory “is the only way to get good.” But one thing neither of these people get into is what tangible benefits does learning Music Theory actually give you.
It’s always a good practice to know what you’re getting into before expending energy on it, right?
Like any good debate, experts land on either side of the fence when it comes to Music Theory. And there is a solid reason why you can find many articles about people who have had a bad experience with it: They’ve learned Music Theory the wrong way. But how can you be sure you’re on the right path? A good idea is to work with the right guitar teacher.
In the end, once you start learning Music Theory using the “real” method, you will start gaining the following skills (and these are just the beginning) much quicker than you might think.
You’ll Be Able To Finish Every Song You Start
If you’ve never started writing a song from a great progression, lick, or melody, only to not be able to finish it, then why are you reading this? It’s a problem that every single musician in history has faced at one point or another — until they’ve had their composition senses and creativity stimulated by Music Theory!
And just in case that didn’t sound right, yeah, I just said that Music Theory actually makes people creative! And I know you’re going to ask how a set of rules will make you more creative, but the truth isMusic Theory isn’t rules, but a toolbox to make great music.
The cool thing is, there is actually an area of study directly looking at how to transform a musical idea into a full song. The beautiful thing is that there isn’t a single way to do this effectively — in the end, you’ll need to pack along your creativity to succeed.
Elton John is hardly the only musician who believes that a song that takes too long to write belongs nowhere but the trash — but do you think you can write something of the same calibre in fewer than 30 minutes? Are you interested in learning how? Get started studying Music Theory the right way and you’ll quickly be writing songs faster than you were ever able to before.
You’ll Learn To Visualize And Play Anything On Guitar
Is you’ve listened to Steve Vai before, have you every seen him rocking the same melody on guitar as he is singing? It’s actually him transcribing music from vocals to guitar live, but the best part is that it isn’t nearly as hard to do as it sounds: just a few different exercises and bit of practice and you’ll be rocking them like Steve himself.
You don’t think that’s possible? Start watching this video at 8:55 and you’ll learn what you need to do to get started on this technique now.
Watch through this a couple of times and leave a comment if this isn’t as easy as it seems.
You’ll Learn How To Solo Over Every Chord Progression
Many players new to the guitar know of only two methods to solo or make a melody over a chord progression: using “patterns” or going by “ear”; meaning they either listen for notes and melodies that sound good, or by learning and playing a number of unique patterns to use on top of fast or complex progressions.
You’ll be forgiven if it sounds a little backwards — because it absolutely is. When you start to learn theory, you’ll see that using patterns and playing by ear are actually the same for two reasons:
- You’ll know the patterns before the notes are played
- When you hear a note, you’ll know what patterns it works with
Playing with patterns and by ear will mesh into the same thing once you start picking up theory the correct way. Once this happens, your fingers will become an extension of your heart — even when you’re faced with complicated progressions.
It sounds tough, but once you start practicing, you’ll see how simple it really is.
For the sake of brevity, these are just three reasons to start learning music theory — I could list off many many more, but those will come with time. If you want to get started learning to use these techniques the right way, click through the link at the end of the article, which contains guides to Music Theory for new players, and a map to help you navigate the simplest way to learn. However, the most important step is actually starting to practice — so pick up that guitar and get ready to make it sing today!
About The Author
A professional prog rock musician, Tommaso Zillio is a regular writer of columns about Music Theory for Guitar.