Do you need to know music theory to be a good musician? That’s one of the commonly asked questions I hear when speaking to aspiring guitarists. It seems to be a source of confusion and concern for many. Here’s something to ponder: whatever you are interested in, you will naturally seek out to understand because you are interested in it. If you nd yourself fascinated with understanding the language of music, nothing will stop you from seeking it out and making it part of your musical vocabulary.
But, if you are not interested in understanding music theory, chances are, you will struggle through the tedious process of employing discipline and memorizing things that may eventually be only nominally helpful at best. The good news is that it’s not the academics of music that will make you an effective musician; of vital importance is your creative imagination and your enthusiasm for a good idea. Perhaps the most powerful connective tool to your instrument is the quality of your inner musical ear. This is what manifests the invisible into the physical.
There are many who couldn’t care less about knowing anything regarding the academics of music, but are powerful music creators nonetheless (I refer to music theory and technique as the “academics” of music).
Then there are those who have a strong desire to master the language of music, but the whole process seems overwhelming and intimidating And some may even feel embarrassed that they are virtually musically illiterate and have a quiet but insidious belief in their head that they just aren’t smart enough to comprehend it. Whatever you believe will be true to you... until you change your mind about it.
Some people can be very critical and may tell you that, if you understand music theory, it will compromise your ability to “play from the heart”. I would recommend not buying into that premise. This may or may not be the case. The trick is in nding the balance.
And some people may start to study the language of music and realize its vast hidden potential in unlocking deep creativity in their musical imagination; they discover that it’s not that complicated at all, it makes sense, and
feels very natural to them with a little study. They start to see the in nite creativity it allows, in ways that not understanding music would never be able to unlock. In this case, it’s not uncommon to develop a voracious appetite for the study of music theory. It’s all good.
The question is: What do you want?
- Steve Vai
This gargantuan effort was designed to help both beginners and veteran guitar players. Vai takes a deep dive into the basics of music theory to help players better understand the language of music and become more musically literate. Through in-depth discussions of music theory fundamentals, the esteemed player combines practical exercises, diagrams, tips, practice methods, and various ways of looking at music to help kickstart a new view of the guitar for readers. Topics covered include: Academic vs. Experiential Learning; Notes on the Neck; Music Notation; Reading & Writing Music; Scales; Intervals; Key Signatures; Circle of 5ths; Chords and Chord Scales; Rhythm Basics; Time Signatures; Guitar Harmonics; Modes; and more.