Music Theory, where do I start?

Discuss playing styles and techniques, or share your own here.
Posts: 25
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2004 8:30 pm

Most of the teachers I've talked to charge about 100 -200 an hour, that is too much. But I read some business cards that said 30 an hour, I still have to card. I should be getting a job next week so I"ll be getting taught by that dude that charges 30 dollars and hour.
User avatar
Posts: 606
Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2004 8:48 am

The circle of 5ths. You know your major and minor chords right? So lets look at the circle as a big chord chart for now.

Draw a large circle like a clock with lines at times 1-12. At 12 O'clock but a big C, at 1 put G, 2-D, 3-A, 4-E, 5-B, 6-F#, 7-C#. Ok stop there. Memorize the order of notes you just wrote (5ths).
CGDAEBF#C# (Chuck, Go Down And Eat Breakfast, For Cryn out loud!)

Now at 11 o'clock put F, at 10-Bb, 9-Eb, 8-Ab, 7-Db(C#), 6-Gb(F#), 5-Cb(B). Memorize those (4ths)-CFBEADGC (the same as above but backwards).

Now on the INDSIDE of the circle use lower case letters starting at 12, put "a". At 1 o'clock put "e", etc going around in the same order as before (aebf#c#g#d#a#). 11 o'clock put "d", at 6 o'clock put eb(d#), etc.(lower case-ADGCFBbEbAb).

Now you have the major chords on the outside, the minor chords on the inside. If you imagine a bubble around a group of six chords, those are the related major or minor chords for a particular scale or key. So at 12 o'clock, you have Cmaj at top(I or tonic), left is F(IV), right is G(V). Inside you have the minor chords, dm(ii), am(vi), em(iii). Those six chords share the same key/scale/number of sharps and flats.

Now turn the wheel so a different letter (Say E) is in the 12 o'clock position. Looking left, right, and inside, you see the same relation of chords. (Amaj, B maj, f#m, c#m, g#m). If you want to write a song in E major, or C# minor, those are the chords you can use. So if you use a chord that is outside of the "bubble of 6", then you are changing keys/scale. Depending which way the outside chord is you can easily see what scale/key center you are moving to. Which ever note is in the 12'oclock position, that is the tonic or root of the major scale (or minor scale looking from inside).

If you need a scale to fit a group of chords, just look for what is at 12 o'clock. If you don't know how to play that major scale (say Eb) and you want to understand how many sharps or flats it is just count over from the C at 12 oclock position (no sharps or flats=Cmaj). So Ebmaj has 3 flats. Bmaj has 5 sharps. What is the order of sharps and flats? Just look at the letters on the wheel again:
Sharps are FCGDAEB, flats are BEADGCF (the reverse). See the patterns emerging? Keys, chords, scales, accidentals, all relate in 5ths.

Sorry if this was a lot to visualize. Just draw the thing on paper and study it. It will all make sense pretty quick. Think of songs and chord progressions and find where they live on the wheel. Have fun!

Posts: 20
Joined: Fri Oct 29, 2004 4:59 am

'Non-classical musicians are an odd bunch being so wary and/or poor at learning theory. Can you imagine a poet, playwrite or journalist being unable to read and write, never mind not knowing the rules of grammar? Actually, strike 'journalist' off that list, they do manage without basic literacy skills! :lol:' ( said by big bad bill)

This is not true. You dont HAVE to learn any specific style of music to learn theory.

Simply find the right people who APPPLY theory to whatever style of music you choose, ie:-
any decent jazz guitarist, (learn similer things to calssical, yet just applying it to different music)
rock - Steve vai (his compositions are full of chord leading and stuff),
Fusionish stufff (thinking of john mclaughlin atm) - u can learn tones about time signiatures and rhythms.
Classical - learn loads on composeing, scales and things.

you can keep going with most styles of music. you just need to find the right people.

Basically my point is you dont HAVE to learn classical for theory (when i learnt i chose jazz)

anyways - didnt meen to ramble :) and im NOT saying that classical is a bad way to learn theory. its great, but if u dislike classical or jazz music, and it 'unmotivates' (if there is such a word) you, then there are plenty of jenrous to learn simmiler and different things from.

My advice is to learn from all styles of music and apply it to all styles of music. this will give you an extreamly well rounded education of theory.

(well this is my oppinion)
Posts: 360
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2004 2:31 pm

TimeMachine wrote:I want to learn music theory, but I dont know where to start, what should I learn first? What part of music theory should I cover? What scales should I learn first?

I know my basic chords A-G Minor and Major. I'm currently studing the staff, so I could be a better sight reader.

can anybody help, I'm just a beginner at music theory and need to know just the basics and nothing confusing. If there is a web-site that could help me, please post it.

Thank you.
Find your self a good teacher. Look for a teacher that plays guitar has taught enough students to be cosidered a real teacher. ( you don't want to be a teacher first student becuase he will use you as a gineu pig) Find a teacher that plays some where in the style you like. Aviod the teachers that only teach rock. Lastly Find out where there music educational back ground is if they went to a music shcool it's a plus.
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2004 1:44 pm

There's a REALLY good book out there for starting to learn music theory and applying it to guitar. Check out "Mett Smith's Chop Shop"

It's a National Guitar Workshop Approved book, and it really opened my eyes to theory.
Brian L.
Posts: 23
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2004 12:45 pm

If there is a web-site that could help me, please post it.
Sounds like you really want to understand how to play the guitar. There are many ways to get started as all the previous posts suggest. For me learning how to really understand what I'm doing on the guitar has been a frustrating experience because I've been playing with no formal training or guidance for a long time now. I can play, but I don't know what I'm doing if that makes sense, and it is hard for me to slow down and be disciplined enough to go back to the begining basics. I looked for a long time and tried several teachers. Some helped and some didn't. I think what it comes down to is the question of whether or not your ready to be that disciplined to do it because it is at first a slow process(atleast for me it is). Anyway, after searching for a long time I found a great website with free lessons and an instructional CD that you can purchase if you like. The CD starts off with begining basics and takes you from scales, modes, chords, progressions, and theory through to modulation. It covers it all! My experience with the CD is that I am learning a lot and the teacher explains things very clearly making it simple to understand, and the teacher even replies to your questions in the guitar forums! My only problem is that I have to slow down to learn, but I also know its worth it. Maybe this site will help you too.
Posts: 83
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2004 4:13 pm

Try my site. Start in the lesson zone and work your way from the top lesson down.
Posts: 35
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2004 7:39 am

Ricardo wrote:The circle of 5ths. You know your major and minor chords right? So lets look at the circle as a big chord chart for now.
Ricardo always seems to give fairly sound advice...the only thing that I would suggest, however, is that we shouldn't assume that anyone knows there major and minor chords, and even if they do, it doesn't mean they know major scale theory...

Major Scale Theory is where you need to start! Preferably in the key of C major: C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C...

So given you now have this information, you really need a good cammand of you fret board, in other words, you should know what each note is represented by each fret.

Given you know this...and given you know your C major scale, you should be able to give us each chord that occrus naturally in the C major scale. You would do this by knowing the theory of triads!

After you know the natural major, minor and diminished chords in a major scale, by commanding a solid understanding triad theory, you should be able to tell us what type of 7th chords occur, weather or not they are major or minor 7th chords and then move onto your 9, 11 and 13 chords, respectively. Also, you should be able, by this point, you should know the meanings of Tonic, Dominant, Subdominant, Median, Submedian etc., what notes are perfect and either major or minor etc and why.

Also, if you can tell us what notes are in a simple major bar chord and why they are arranged as such on a guitar, then you defintely have a firm grasp on triads, in which case, after you can confidently identify and command the knowledge behind major scale triads and and complex-chords, you should then learn your inversions for all such respective triads and complex-chord structures... (Note: inversion theory usually takes place during triad theory, nevertheless, I like to impliment this practice during and after the introduction to complex chords, since many times during building complex-chord we often substitute notes or omit notes such as the domintant...).

Only after this should you move onto the circle of fifths, since then and only then will you understand that everything is merely a matter of transposition and that the scalar and chordal structures and patterns remain a "constant" and work everywhere on the neck.

After you then get the circle of fifths down...and are able to recognize key signatures, especially the most commonly used key signatures and feel confident you can muster around fairly compentently, then and only then should you move onto your modes!

After you have a firm understanding of modal theory (all such theory up to this point still encompasses Major Scale theory...) then and only then should you move onto minor scale studies, such as your Harmonic and Melodic minor scales...

When you approach the Harmonic and Melodic minor scales, you will want to utilize the same approach you did for the major scales...

I have to admit that this may seem daunting and even perplexing, however, you can posses all this knowledge in a relatively short amount of time, that is, given your schedule and the amount of time you put into your practices. About ten years ago, when I lived in upstate New York and was teaching and studying theory, one of my new students, who had just turned 14 at the time and had been playing for about 2 years...doing the guitar magazine thing, was a fairly decent begining guitarist.

This kid on the other hand, couldn't get enough! Within his first week of lessons with me, I gave him the tools necessary for working out a major scale, and we started in "C". I told him that if he really wanted to impress me, that he should be able to find all the "C's" and respective notes on the fret board and be able to play a C major scale in any position I asked him to... The following week, he not only knew the entire fretboard and could play a C major scale anywhere on the neck, but he could also play each mode in any position in the key of C! When he left after the first lesson, the only thing he knew about the neck were the notes:CDEFGABC, which I showed him

And the names of the strings: E,A,D,G,B,E. But with the proper tools for working out the major scale with nohng but this information, he was able to expound on the basic ideas to achieve the bigger concepts!

This kid was unbelieveable! To this day, he remains as my most well practiced student in comparrison to many others... It only took him a matter of a few months to absorb all this knowledge! Implementing and executing the usages properly with a full understanding of the why's and when's on the other hand were a matter of time and needed experience! My point is that if you really wanted to, you could know all this theory in a very short time! And then, it's a matter of time and practice to command a proper execution of the tools at your disposal...

Good Luck!
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2004 12:55 pm

start in the key of C
do circle of 5ths
do circle of 4ths
learn the order of sharps and flats
practice :idea:
Post Reply