Is Theory Just For Reading Music?

One misconception that I come across from time to time is that music theory is only relevant if you want to learn how to read music.

Please… say it ain’t so!

I’ll let you in on a little secret, but don’t tell anyone ok?

I never read music for guitar.

Tab, occasionally yes, but not music notation. Not that I can’t, but I simply don’t end up using it.

Hopefully we can still be friends. 🙂

And… here’s the kicker:

I consider music theory an essential, ALWAYS-USED bit of knowledge that I end up using every single time I pickup the guitar.

Music theory gives me answers in situations like this one:

I pick up the guitar and strum a C chord, the first one that comes to mind. Great. Now what?

Well, with a touch of theory, I know immediately that F, G, Am, Dm and Em are going to be great choices to go with the C.

I also know that if I want to make a riff off that chord, I should use the A minor or C major scale – whatever is closest to where I’m playing the C.

Taking it a bit further, I know that I can use intervals in those scales, for instance inverted thirds, to walk my way up from the C chord to the F (barred at the 9th fret).

Theory related concepts can just keep on feeding me ideas at this point… which means I never get bored when I sit down to play – and I can improvise for an hour and not play the same thing twice.

And I owe it all to knowing a bit of basic theory – and not a bit to being able to read music.

If that’s the kind of thing that turns your crank, I recommend checking out my Guitar Theory Unlocked course.

I sometimes call it my Crash Course in Guitar Theory.

You won’t be disappointed, in fact, I guarantee it.

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12 years ago

I’m a little confused. Now, I know nothing about music and very little about guitars and haven’t owned one is years – just never got good at it and lacked confidence. Maybe this is too far over my head, but in the introduction to the 1-4-5 system on page 7 the major G chord is made up of G-C-D, as 1-4-5. Then unless I’m reading it wrong on page 10 it seems the major G chord is being made up of G-B-D, as 1-3-5? Am I missing something here? Also, not knowing anything about music do you think your course will be useful if I haven’t had any previous music lessons or theory?
Branford, CT

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