How to Learn Music Theory – Where do I start?

richardsguitarstudio on November 23, 2015

Nate Richards – owner. Undergraduate degree in music theory and composition. Currently pursuing master’s degree (about halfway there!).

In this video, I discuss how to learn music theory, and where to start. This is not a music theory lesson, it is advice on where to start, what things to focus on , and what constitutes a solid foundation in music theory for all musicians. Topics discussed include the following:

Sight Reading on Your Instrument

In order to learn music theory, you must become literate – meaning, you must be able to read music. So, there is no better way to learn to read music than on your primary instrument. For guitarists, an interesting route might be classical guitar, which I recommend to all of my electric guitar students who are ready to take their playing to the next level, especially lead guitar and soloing. Another option is the classic Mel Bay / Hal Leonard route, which also gets the job done.

Many people spend years and countless hours of frustration trying to learn theory (modes, chords, scales, etc) without understanding the fundamentals. Heres a tip – it will never happen. You will never learn music theory at a deep level, a level that is useful and effective in real-world performing situations, unless you learn to read music first. And it doesn’t take that long – a few months to get a basic level down.

The 4 Pillars of Music Theory

Keep your eye out for my upcoming series “Path to the Modes.” Since so many guitarists are interested in the modes, I’m designing a lesson series to build up the foundation in order to understand how the modes work. In order to make use of any music theory on the guitar, the guitarist must have a mastery of the 4 pillars:

Pillar #1 – Intervals

Intervals are the measurements musicians use to define the distance between 2 notes. At a basic level, a musician should know Simple Intervals, which are intervals from a half step through an octave.

Pillar #2 – Scales

A guitarist should know how to construct a Major, Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor, and Melodic Minor scale. In addition, learning Relative Scales and Parallel Scales is essential.

Pillar #3 – Key Signatures

Probably the most important of the 4 pillars is key signatures. So much information is wrapped up in this topic. Master your Major and minor key signatures around the entire circle of fifths.

Pillar #4 – Triads

Triads are the basic building blocks of chords. As a guitarist, your bread and butter are chords and progressions. In order to understand which scale to use in a solo, you must be able to analyze and understand the chord progression.

Richards Guitar Studio offers professional guitar lessons and music theory lesson in Aston, PA.

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