How Much Music Theory Should a Guitarist Know?

I personally believe that one should know the rules before they break them. Obviously it is not good to be overly analytical but it wouldn’t be an entirely bad thing to look at music from an analytical perspective. In order to look at things from an analytical perspective, you need information to analyze. That’s where music theory comes into play. So what I am about to present is not only a case for learning music theory but also what basic components of music theory you should, at a minimum, possess knowledge of.

It is important when you are playing along with a band that you have some idea as to what key you are playing in; especially if you are working on original material. You may be able to learn cover material from listening to a CD but it is also easier to pick up any song whether cover or original if you know music theory. Even more so if you know your way around the different keys.

There really isn’t much of an excuse for not taking the time to obtain some knowledge in music theory. There are free sources of information all over the Internet. Probably the most basic, yet essential, information would be knowledge of the keys, chords and scales.

You should be familiar with the 12 major keys and their relative minors. Having an adequate understanding of the different keys will allow you to be able to transpose a song from one key into another. There are a number of times where I’ve transposed a song from one key to another simply because it was a better key for me to sing in. You may find that to be the case with a number of singers.

You should have an adequate chord vocabulary. There are also a few scales that every guitarist should be familiar with, like the major or diatonic scale as well as the harmonic minor scale and the pentatonic scale in both the major and minor modes.

If you don’t want to spend the money on lessons or books, you should run an internet search for the information you want to obtain. I would first suggest you run a search for guitar chords listed by key. Check out a few sites to see which one offers the easiest approach for learning.

After you begin to learn the guitar chords by key, you should start learning scales. You should also run an internet search for guitar scales listed by key. You may be even more specific than that. For example: you can enter D harmonic minor and you will get a great number of results.

So, in conclusion, I hope that I have not only convinced you that learning music theory would be a valuable asset to your musicianship but that I have also set you off in the right direction towards doing so.

-By: Bob Craypoe

About the Author:
Bob Craypoe is a musician, writer, cartoonist, webmaster and entrepreneur who resides in Northern New Jersey. He is the creator of
Guitar4Blind.com (a site that teaches the visually impaired how to play guitar), as well as numerous other sites. You can hear his music at: http://www.craypoe.com/bob

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