Join Date: Apr 2013
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Hey guys, as a guitarist i have really skated through without learning a whole lot of theory, i know several general scales and such, and also when writing i generally have a good enough ear to just know what sounds right and wrong. however since i lack in the theory department its nearly impossible to just do an open jam with anyone. so i ask, how important is it to learn theory in depth? and what is the absolute best way to go about starting?
Join Date: Sep 2008
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Join Date: Aug 2012
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Theoretically (no pun intended) not important. It can help, but it can also just make you play with shapes more than you should play with your ear.
If you have access to a teacher, that's the best way IMO. Alot of dudes offer online lessons, Seanbabs, Sean Ashe, Aaron Marshall, just to name a few.
^ probably sarcasm.
Join Date: Oct 2008
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The trick with theory is to not think of it as a method with which to "color in between the lines." I find it absolutely invaluable in my writing, but I also had years of forcing myself to play outside of the box as a result. It's all about how you use it.
At very least, familiarize yourself with scales and keys. Digging into that a bit will allow you to jam openly and at least have some idea of what you're playing.
Obviously there are plenty of examples of players who don't know anything about theory and have come up with the most classic and brilliant stuff ever.
But I think there is no harm in knowing more about what you are doing. I'm a novice when it comes to theory but I would like to know more. I could see how relying too heavily on the theory can make you too rigid and less creative so as long as you can avoid that.....Probably best we try to learn as much as we can.
Join Date: Feb 2013
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It's a double edged sword. I have sometimes listened to things I recorded of myself when I first started playing (and had almost zero knowledge of theory) that I really liked, but I also recognized that I would never, ever have tried playing those things once I started to learn theory. I'm not saying don't learn, because it can give you a vocabulary to converse with and understand other musicians, and perhaps lead you to things that sound great. But it can become difficult to just "play" when your subconscious tells you that you shouldn't be playing certain notes based on its understanding of what you "should" be playing.
I guess, in short, theory is good and helpful but don't sacrifice your ear/intuition in order to learn it.
Join Date: Feb 2010
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I was a music major for quite a few years. In terms of introductory theory, my stance on what is useful and what is not is as follows. This is for the typical metal guitarist, there are some people that play metal guitar that still really enjoy getting into this stuff.
-Scales and Modes and how they relate to one another (know the shit out of these, they will enhance your playing). Know how scales relate to each other. Invaluable. Know the terminology for "tetrachords" and how scales are built out of them.
-Chord Assembly. Know the BASIC types of chords. These are *invaluable*. Know how to assemble them yourself and how they relate to the keys (scales) they occur in.
-Know how to read sheet music. Not well. Not sight reading. But at least know the names of the lines and spaces in both bass and treble clef and the notation for different kinds of notes/rests. That's part of being a self respecting musician.
-Circle of Fifths. We use the tab man. Unless you want to become a professional sight reading musician, don't bother. It's one of THE cornerstones of Academic theory, but it's practical uses to a metal guitarist are limited.
-Counterpoint. Fuck this shit. Academic theory is HUGE on this. But it's the long division of theory for metal guitar, you are never going to use it. A lot of fucks, especially online, use the term "counterpoint" very loosely/improperly anyways. Unless you legitimately want to be a Baroque composer, learn about voice leading/suspensions, this is a very rigid set of rules of very limited use.
That being said, there are only a handful of scales commonly used. Here is a pretty comprehensive list or everything not terribly exotic. Warm up/familiarize yourself on these and you already have a huge part of it out of the way.
-Diatonic Major and Minor (and its variants)
-Pentatonic Major and Minor and the concept of the flat fifth
-Double harmonic minor (also slangly called "Gypsy"/"Hungarian Minor"/"Byzantine"/etc.) This is the really cliched exotic sounding one way popular in extreme metal. If you have ever listened to Nile or mid 2000s Behemoth you already know what this sounds like.
-Octatonic. Sort of a bonus. For 80s Chromatic-y sounding thrash rhythms this one rules.
-Whole tone. Eh, why not. People talk about this one some times.
Join Date: Apr 2010
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I have my degree in music theory, and I second all of what Greeeegggg said.
Also, a HUGE thing that music theory is good for is communication. I hate when I'm at a gig, or jam, or whatever, and I have to translate everything from music theory, a universal language, into dumb guitar-ese for the people I'm jamming with. I hate singing out rhythms, and talking about fret numbers and string numbers, and not being able to use actual musical language.