What Music Theory Should Guitar Players Learn? The Answers...
From chord construction to intervals in the Major Scale, all guitar players will improve vastly from learning the basics of music theory
If you're wondering what music theory beginner guitar players and experienced alike should know, we have the answers for you.
So what is music theory?
Music theory is the universal language of music. It’ll help you see how everything you play on guitar is connected. Chords, melodies, riffs, scales, everything! It’ll give you the tools you need to understand and communicate everything about music to yourself and to others.
Whether you’re playing guitar just for fun or if you're a serious gigging guitarist, learning music theory is your secret weapon. More than that, it’s your new super power. It’ll help you feel like you’re improving and you’ll understand what you have to do to get where you want to go. Bliss!
If I had to reduce guitar music theory down to five key areas every guitar player should learn, they are:
- Notes On The Fretboard: Learn the notes on the guitar fretboard and the ins and outs of how everything is interconnected
- Scales: Understand the importance of scales. From the Chromatic scale to the Major scale, these are the building blocks of music.
- Intervals: Intervals are the backbone of everything you play on guitar. To avoid hitting a brick wall on guitar you must have an understanding of scale interval formulas and chord interval formulas.
- Key Signatures: Think of a key like a musical recipe card. Just as a recipe lists the ingredients that go together to make a particular meal, a key tells you what notes and chords fit together to make a song. Whether you want to know how to improvise better or learn your favourite songs quicker, knowing about the makeup of keys is a must.
- Chord Construction: The problem is, many guitar players rely purely on memorising chord shapes from chord diagrams, never really understanding how they’re created, or what notes they contain. You're limiting yourself! Knowing the meat and potatoes of how chords are made will open up a whole new world of possibilities on the guitar for you.
- Chord Progressions: Being able to quickly work out the chords in a piece of music means you'll be able to learn any song you desire and come up with your own creations also. You should know how the Roman Numeral system works and learn some of the most popular chord progressions songwriters use. Essential music theory indeed.
- Rhythm, Dynamics, Feel: Of course theory on its own is nothing if you don't know how to apply it to your guitar playing. This involves working on the physical skills and techniques necessary to make you sound half decent when you pick your guitar up. Work on developing solid timing and rhythm. It doesn't matter if you have a PhD in music theory if you can't keep in time to save your life!
Strive for your best, you’ll have more fun when you see you’re improving. But know you’ll automatically get better at playing guitar by just being there doing it and letting go.
Important Final Thought:
There are indeed other areas of music theory any guitarist serious about upgrading their skills should learn, from modes to modulations. But that's for another conversation.
The most crucial element in the whole melting pot of learning to play the guitar is this: It's about finding the smart ways to practice. Both practical and theoretical.
This includes developing a positive attitude and mindset towards practice. Set realistic goals but don't be suffocated by them.
Afterall, what's the point if you're not having fun?
Now go and get that guitar of yours and let rip!
Featuring 65 of the most used common jazz (blues, funk and country too) chord shape voicings & extensions + bonus Guitar Fretboard Notes Chart
Downloadable music prints that make your time learning guitar easier...
Jazz Guitar chord shapes include:
- Major seventh (Maj 7th)
- Minor Seventh
- Diminished - Half Diminished
- Dominant seventh
- Major 9th / minor 9th / dom 9th
- Maj11th / minor 11th / dom 11th
- Maj13th / minor 13th / dom 13th