Learning theory from scratch without a guitar

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by gsdejager, Mar 16, 2017.

  1. gsdejager

    gsdejager SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    3
    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2009
    Location:
    North of Mordor
    So. In about two weeks I'm going to be stuck without access to a guitar for about 9 months (though I'll have internet access).

    Instead of crying and moaning about it, I might as well do something I should have done years ago: learn some proper theory.

    If you had about 30 minutes a day and no access to a guitar, how would you go about teaching yourself music theory so you can emerge a better guitar player 9 months later?

    Do I just straight up memorize the fretboard and then systematically memorize all the scale shapes and intervals needed for all the chords or what?
     
  2. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear Vendor

    Messages:
    10,536
    Likes Received:
    1,169
    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2009
    Location:
    Southend-on-Sea, Essex, U.K
    I saw the thread preview "learning theory from scratch.." and was about to come in here and suggest that you do it without a guitar by choice, so.. :)
    In my opinion you are at a huge advantage.
    Forget the guitar for now, it will help.
    Also ignore 'guitar theory' resources. Get over to musictheory.net and just work through everything, maybe with a couple of basic music theory books if you like books.
    I highly suggest getting some notation software if you don't have any. Perhaps you have guitar pro or something already.
    But personally I'd download Musescore (free) and just use it on Piano score along with the onscreen keyboard.
    I think it's hugely advantageous to avoid guitar at least whilst learning the basics. You want to understand notation, be fluent reading that, not be confused by notes existing in multiple positions/shapes. Learning theory with a focus on guitar or from guitar resources tends to lead you down the path of memorizing fretboard shapes over fully learning and understanding music.
    Staff notation + piano is the perfect mental and visual interface for the language of music and makes so many concepts become clear.
    You can do a lot with 30 minutes a day - just make sure you understand fully everything you read before you continue, and apply it. Spend your whole 30 minutes maybe just on one page of musictheory.net, understanding a topic, backing it up with other resources, copying its examples in your own notation software, and applying the concepts to something original.
    30 minutes a day for 9 months is 135 hours. I've had just 50 hours of music theory lessons with perhaps another 50 hours of homework/exercises all ignoring guitar and it has changed my life completely and made me a much more creative guitarist :)
    I was already comfortable with note names and basic shapes along the bass strings of the guitar so I do uncontrollably imagine them sometimes when figuring things out, but the less you rely on it the better.
    You can then apply the music theory you have learned, to the fretboard with a fantastic understanding

    As I said, musictheory.net will guide you well but if I had to write a list of a few core topics in order to learn they would be :
    Note names/the chromatic scale
    Interval names
    The C major scale as built from intervals
    Types of triad chord and triad chord construction on any root using intervals
    Types of 7th chord and construction on any root using intervals
    The circle of fifths, Key signatures and major/minor scale construction in all keys

    Many lessons and resources I see seem to overload beginners with the circle of fifths/key signatures before they really have a solid grasp of the major scale and intervals
     
  3. gsdejager

    gsdejager SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    3
    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2009
    Location:
    North of Mordor
    That's a fantastic idea. So basically you're advocating I learn theory with the aim of becoming a better musician and not just a better guitar player? I'll check out music theory.net.

    Thanks a lot for the response.
     
  4. Eptaceros

    Eptaceros Wayfarer

    Messages:
    965
    Likes Received:
    92
    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2009
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    +1 on not using your guitar for learning theory. The guitar is a really ambiguous instrument when it comes to the layout of notes and intervals. A piano (or keyboard for convenience) is the perfect visual tool for learning and familiarizing notes and their relationship.

    All that being said, the best thing you can do without a guitar (or any instrument for that matter) is to learn the names of intervals and jump into some ear training. I can't tell you enough how beneficial and crucial these steps are. This will give you the bare fundamentals and allow you to ingrain them into your mind's ear. If you take this seriously and work at it, I swear to you, you will be able to actually hear what you're reading/looking at when learning anything theory related.

    http://dictation.ccdmd.qc.ca/presentation.php

    This is just one example of many for a website that provides ear training. If this one isn't doing it for you, there's loads of others out there. The main exercises for ear training are known as:

    Melodic Dictation
    Harmonic Dictation
    Rhythmic Dictation

    google those, and you're set. If you get into this for real and have any questions, feel free to shoot me a pm with any questions.
     
  5. Element0s

    Element0s Low Fantasy/Black Denim

    Messages:
    153
    Likes Received:
    106
    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2016
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    Since you'll be guitar-less anyway, make sure to do some ear training exercises while you're on musictheory.net and get to know yer intervals 'n stuff. If a person was going to learn one musical concept and one musical theory concept ONLY, I would suggest intervallic distances (minor 3rds, perfect 5ths, etc etc) because once you can recognize them by sound and know how to access the shapes on a fretboard, that info can take you pretty much anywhere.

    Actually, no. I'd learn rhythmic concepts first. But ear training on intervals (and chord quality recognition... hearing major/minors, dominants, diminisheds, etc etc) is some pretty deadly stuff and you can do a lot of damage with that skill.
     
  6. Rachmaninoff

    Rachmaninoff Amateur porn actor

    Messages:
    1,013
    Likes Received:
    76
    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2008
    Location:
    Brazil
    Start learning how to read music. You'll learn a lot of theory at the same time.
     
  7. TonyFlyingSquirrel

    TonyFlyingSquirrel Cherokee Warrior

    Messages:
    3,282
    Likes Received:
    532
    Joined:
    May 4, 2006
    Location:
    Auburn, Washington
    When I was a kid, learning at 7 years old, my teacher didn't even let me pickup my guitar until I learned some basic principles of site reading and pitch detection.

    Theory is theory anyway, doesn't just apply to one instrument. It applies to all of them so that you can more cohesively arrange for multiple instruments.
     
  8. leftyguitarist

    leftyguitarist SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2017
    Location:
    Earth
    I've seen dozens, if not hundreds of books on basic music theory, and Justin did an excellent job laying the basics out here, in an ebook/PDF you can stick on your ipad/iphone device and work on. It isn't a totally comprehensive theory book but isn't meant to be, it is to get you started on your journey:

    https://www.justinguitar.com/en/PR-010-PracticalMusicTheory.php
     
  9. Jaydarian

    Jaydarian SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2017
    Location:
    Austin
    Thanks for the answers in this thread :) I too am taking a week break from guitar - waiting for a new one to ship - and I want to learn more about music in general.

    What I've read about dictation will help me. Sometimes I feel like the note I'm playing isn't "satisfying" to my ear - even though I'm playing the proper note.
     

Share This Page