Monthly Archives: August 2009
Tal and I got a new camcorder. We were trying it out and I started to do a video for music theory.
Tal kept stopping me in the middle of my intro. He said I was babbling and just going on and on. 😛
Well… yes, I kind of was. But…
Music theory really is important to understand if you want to take your playing to the next level. I think this is true of any instrument. But particularly for guitar because so much of what you’d do on the fretboard is based on theory.
Why Music Theory Is Boring
I think people get turned of by music theory because, first, it has the word “theory” in it which conjures up images of nerdy scientists in white suits, thick glasses, pocket protectors, and an embarrassingly obvious lack of social skills. And why would theory be important?! I don’t want to learn how to play “in theory”… I want to play actually!
It seems so “brainly” and boring. All the numbers and math don’t feel like art. (How do you do math on letters anyway?!)
Most (guitar) players learn and memorize shapes and patterns which derives from theory but don’t require it. Sometimes we call this the “box” method. And then later, they’ll learn other techniques to think outside “the box”.
And they might not see how it can help them. Especially for players who have done pretty well without it. You can certainly play songs and riffs without ever learning any theory. And playing skill has nothing to do with theory.
Why Music Theory Is Good To Know
But theory can be your loyal and faithful friend. The friend that you can always count on… who will never leave you… who will be there long after your band-mates have left you for a “better” gig and your drummer steals your girlfriend because while you were busy practicing, they were going behind your back and hooking up at some sleazy joint downtown that you wouldn’t want to be caught dead in and the whole reason why you spent all those nights practicing instead of being with her was because your no-talent, drama-queen of a lead singer can’t sing the damn song in the key you learned it in and now you got to transpose the whole thing and learn it all over again.
If this applies to you, here are some reasons why you might want to learn a little bit of theory. This list will make more sense to guitarists.
- Why do chord shapes look the way they do? Can I play chords using other shapes? Why are there different ways (positions) to hold the same chord?
- Why do scale shapes look the way they do? Are there other ways to play scales?
- If I want to improvise on a song, how do I know what notes to play or what scale to use?
- Why do some chords seem to always go together?
- If I want to write a song, how do I know what chords would sound good together?
- What is transposing? How can I play a song in a different key (quickly)?
- What do the numbers in chords mean?
If you get a good handle on these, you’ll be able to spend more time with your girlfriend (or boyfriend or whatever).
So stay tuned! We’ll be posting lessons on music theory soon! (As soon as we figure out how to use the camcorder)
We’re going to use this chart again for C and G.
C Major and G Major
And, again, when you’re practicing these chords, try playing the strings one at a time to make sure the ones that should be ringing are not muted and the ones that should not be ringing are.
Variation on G Major
Here, the D is played on the B string for G. Use your middle finger (2) to hold the low-E string on the 3rd fret, your index finger (1) to hold the A string on the 2nd fret, your ring finger on the B string no the 3rd fret, and your pinky also on the 3rd fret on the high-E string.
You’ll notice that as you switch between these chords, you only need to move your (1) and (2) fingers from holding the low-E and A strings to the A and D strings.
And as mentioned in Part 1, you’ll want to mute the low-E string with your thumb.
A well-known song that uses this is Every Rose Has Its Thorn by Poison. But there are plenty of other examples as well.
Here’s 1st installment of basic chords. We’ll be starting with “open” chords meaning that these chords are played which strings that are opened (“not fretted”).
When practicing holding chords, play strings one at a time and make sure each string rings nicely. If a string is meant to be played, it should not sound muted.
But muting (with your thumb) can be helpful when playing the A (major) and D (major) to keep the low-E string from ringing.
In the top of this chart, the top is showing the particular note being played/held on that string.
The numbers on the side indicate fret number.
X = don’t play
O = open (don’t hold string, play, and let ring)
This chart also shows C (major) and G (major).
* I put “major” in () because it’s implied.
Another way to hold the A, which is my preferred way, is to use just the 1st and 2nd fingers by holding the D and G strings with the 1st finger and the B string with the 2nd finger. I prefer this method because it’s easier to get my fingers where they need to be. Sometimes, depending on the width of the neck, it can be hard to get 3 fingers next to each other on the same fret.
Try to curl your fingers so that the tips of your fingers are holding the strings down. This will help them to not accidentally touch an adjacent string.
Also try placing your thumb lightly/gently on the low-E string to try muting it. This, with combination of practicing playing only the strings you want, will help you avoid playing unwanted notes.