Over the years I have come to realize how essential music theory is for all musicians. I first started playing the guitar when I was 12 years old. I would listen to songs and figure out what other guitar players were doing by ear. Listening by ear and understanding music is an essential technique for guitarists,but, it’s only 50% of learning music. The other 50% is knowledge of theory and how it is applied.
I believe that when musicians learn theory and apply it with “play by ear” techniques that they will become a more complete musician. When I took AP music theory In school I failed a lot. I would try to apply the principles of music theory but I made many mistakes. Even though I made mistakes when I applied the music theory I still learned a lot! I was able to learn from my mistakes and re-apply the music theory. Until I completely understood.
Many musicians will say things like ” do not let music theory restrict your creativity” or ” don’t be strict in followin theory”. I believe that music theory opens your mind to musical possibilities. The understanding and applying of theory has helped me as a guitar player to improvise,write songs, and to perform well with other musicians. My advice to other guitarists would be not to be afraid to use music theory when you play the guitar. Remember, it is ok to make mistakes when you are learning something new. Learn,practice and then apply the music theory concepts to your playing style.
“I don’t like to hear someone play and feel like it’s too easy for them. I like to hear them thinking.” – Peter Bernstein, Jazz guitarist
Applying music theory is a great way to think as you play. It is all about every note you choose when creating a melodic line.
“The notes you don’t play are as important as the notes you do.”- Peter Bernstein, Jazz guitarist
Understanding how not to play a certain note is an interesting concept. It is just as important as the ones you actually play. Knowing what not to play and what to play will help you understand scales and each individual note more completely. This concept will get you to think as you play. It will get you to fight and struggle with your instrument. Which, in the end, is a good concept to apply to any instrument.
In conclusion, I hope more people will have a desire to understand theory and apply it to their instrument. It will only enhance your playing.Understanding the notes on the fretboard will improve your playing significantly. Learning music theory has opened many doors for me when it comes to playing live with other musicians. Remember that playing music is part listening to others and part applied knowledge.
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