Music Theory Lessons

Spy Tunes GuruMusic Theory Lessons – Intro

As a guitar player you might have learned open position chords, the minor pentatonic and maybe even the major pentatonic scale shapes.

If so, you are at the classic next barrier of starting to practice the modes and arpeggios.

Up until now you didn’t really need music theory at any depth, you just learn some chords, play some songs.

Should you have played blues solos using the minor pentatonic you haven’t really needed theory either, actually, at that stage it won’t really help at all!

Blues based guitar music is theoretically very complicated, it breaks all kinds of rules all the time, so trying to fuse theory with blues solos isn’t going to sell the concept of music theory to the aspiring student very well.

However, if you start playing with arpeggios and modes, need to change key for a song last minute, read a chart, explain a musical concept to a musician that doesn’t play guitar, anything like that, an understanding of music theory suddenly become vital.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at normal music theory, the stave and how all this works.

Who knows, maybe you’ll even start reading and writing music on the stave yourself!

Music Theory on the stave

There are many basic rules in music theory that become more clear from seeing it on the stave.

Most of these rules get pretty advanced in practice so it is often a case of you ending up knowing a lot more about music theory than what you can execute on the guitar.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, it might even be good to put your mind at rest now, you could learn how to play it all as you go through songs and scale exercises further down the line.

To start understanding how music work you need to first understand a few basics, like: How many notes there are in an octave; 7, 8 or 12?

Dan (your guitar guru)

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About Guru

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8 thoughts on “Music Theory Lessons

  1. Nal

    I haven’t really read much music on the staff until last year. A couple of things I have found helpful are:

    - Learning note names ( that’s a given)
    - Being able to tell the size of the intervals I.e two space or lines = 5th, or a line next to a space is a second.
    - The music mental calculator (it’s on th Web somewhere)
    - A little booklet called 333 reading exercises, it gets u reading and inner hearing the intervals bit by bit, u don’t need to play an instrument to use this, although it can help

  2. Guru Post author

    I think you have an important point there with reading exercises.

    I should include a bunch of reading exercises in the ebook version of this blog series.

  3. Nal

    Yeah maybe:-).

    I think what you’ve said is so true. When I’m playing the guitar I’m not thinking much about theory, but when I’m composing or trying to learning a new song (singing), all this stuff helps.

    I’ve learnt that there are heaps of things you can do with a simple exercise to make it more complex and valueable – for example:

    If you can sing the major scale on a neutral syllable, can you sing the scale in tune with letter names? You can do this in each key.

    If you can do that, can you sing the scale letter names while tapping an ostinato on your body? Or can you tap a written rhythm whilest singing the scale in letter names (with correct pitch).

    Or the otherway around, sing the letter names of a written melody on the staff (on pitch) while tapping an ostinato or rhythm.

    You can tap two rhythms and sing the pitches. There’s so much you can do with a simple exercise to milk it.

    Another exercise:

    Write a bunch of numbers. Randomly place an arrow above or below the numbers…

    Then start on the tonic and sing the pitches either ascending or descending as indicated. Once you’ve got that you can sing on pitch with letter names. i.e.

    Starting on the I of a major key:

    | | |

    So you’d sing something like:
    do re, so, fa, ti in solfa or C, D, G, E, B
    pitch names in the key of C.

    These kind of things I’ve found reinforce the letter names while at the same time increasing your inner hearing and limb independence.

    That’s just me… But you’ve been there done that haven’t you Gu? :-) .


    1. Guru Post author

      It’s all about independence exercises yeah!

      Singing and anchoring the intervals in your body is important.

      Always have a guitar at hand, find that melody, connect with that scale shape and you have a holistic future :-)

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