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Practice vs. theory

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23 Mar 2010 13:32 | Quote
Joined: way back
United States
Karma: 10
I've been playing guitar for about 5 or 6 years and I know embarrassingly little about music theory (make that next to nothing). everything i know about guitar i either taught myself by ear or picked up on the net. I feel like my improvisational skills aren't going to progress much more unless I make a real effort to try and understand more about why the next note comes next. You would think that with years of practice it would be easier to pick up theory but music is so nonlinear i just don't know where to start.

there's an old Chinese proverb about a full cup not being able to take on any more tea until it is emptied.

should i start by emptying my cup?

Advice please ye most knowledgeable musical gurus

23 Mar 2010 13:44 | Quote
Joined: 22 Sep 2009
South Africa
Karma: 8
Alot of stuff made sense to me today about scales and it will help me alot for improvising at live gigs and overall theory. I would say start at the major scale and understand all the patterns and keys and move from there? Dont know how much theory you know but i also know very little and I made alot of progress today and feeling very positive about the future as a musician :)
23 Mar 2010 16:32 | Quote
Joined: way back
United States
Lessons: 2
Karma: 21
Don't teach yourself. Have someone teach you. After they give you the basics, take it to where ever you want it to go.
24 Mar 2010 13:26 | Quote
Joined: 20 Sep 2009
United States
Karma: 8
I have good knowledge of music theory, because i was forced into it 5 in school (guitar-3rd grade, piano-5th, piano-9th, vocal-8th, keyboards-10th aka this year). I almost never use it now, but it is good to know.
I basically taught myself guitar just by knowing the string names and that one fret is one semi-tone. (back when i used theory)
25 Mar 2010 10:04 | Quote
Joined: 28 Aug 2008
United Kingdom
Lessons: 24
Licks: 37
Karma: 47
Actually the majority of musicians who learn by ear rather than theory almost always find it a strong challenge to learn theory. Thankfully you haven't been playing as long as others, so you're not entirely set in your ways.

There's nothing wrong with the way you've learnt how to play guitar, and it's great that you're keen on learning theory - this will make you a brilliant musician in the future (because you've already spent so long training your ear).

Best thing to do is learn a chord every day - or - with the chord positions you already know; learn their names and work from there.

Listening to the music that you like and what you play most of the time; I'd say the major scale is a good scale to start off with.

Keep asking for help and there's always people here who are willing to share their knowledge with you.

The empty cup is an old Budist saying and it's been one of my favourites for a very long time. Glad to hear there's even more people who already know about it! :)

Those who preach; do not know. Those who do not preach; know.
25 Mar 2010 11:30 | Quote
Joined: 16 Sep 2008
United States
Licks: 1
Karma: 13
... i learned all my theory by my self ...dude .. go to musictheory.net ... best theory site ive seen so far..

and i found that even though you empty your cup your body and muscles still remember the patterns and shapes... why do you think you can write with one hand and not the other ... muscle memory dude
25 Mar 2010 14:28 | Quote
Joined: way back
United States
Karma: 10
thanks for the advice guys,
@ jazz, if you are into eastern philosophy you must read the Tao of Physics by Frijovf Capra it relates quantum theory to the eastern understanding of the universe
looking at my original post i realize that i must of been in a pessimistic mood that day. I think it was because i got really confused about building jazz chords and linking them together with different scales (had been watching Joe pass\'s Jazz lines video and it seems like he\'s talking in a mysterious alien code language) I\'ll try and give a better overview of how my physical skill relate to my knowledge of theory.
I\'m good with major and minor scales and bar/open chords 7th and m7th bar chords and i guess the melodic minor scales that usually go with them. my knowledge falls short at the more interesting stuff.>> variations of chord voicing, diminished, augmented, 6th, 9th and 11th chords and how the removal or addition of single notes switches amongst them. My most significant musical shortcoming (that allways makes my feel like a fool when someones playing the blues and i try and pick out which harmonica to use) is my inability to place which key a chord progression is in without actually playing a bunch of notes till i find the right one.
much of this wasnt a problem until i started trying to compose and mix songs with wandering baselines and more than one rhythm guitar + a lead and vocal track. i keep ending up with discordant moments that sometimes add tension but sometimes ruin the flow of the piece.
maybe i need to find a music teacher that can listen to one of my compositions and explain to me exactly how and why the piece works or does not work..hmm
@vince, going to chech out musictheory.net now

"learning music is like climbing a mountain with no summit, sometimes its sheer cliff sometimes its a gentle incline but you continue with the knowledge that the higher you climb the more beautiful the view becomes." Harley

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