Sooner or later every serious guitarist realizes that a solid theoretical background is the only way forward. Your ears can only take you so far, then your music theory can step in and remove any musical obstacles on your way to full expression.
Seems pretty easy… just go to the music store and get a theory book and there you go; away, we’re going alright… pick the wrong book and you’ll end up more confused than ever.
Musical Fact of Life #1: Not all theory books are the same.
I remember when I started my first job it was in a music store teaching music; I had a certain reputation as a player in the area, playing in dance bands etc and as I had already sold quite a bit of musical equipment to the music business based on my track record they thought I was the obvious choice; if
The store had a potential guitar or amp customer, they left a note for my mom, then after school I went down to the store and demonstrated the gear.
It all started well, I stumbled and fumbled through the guitar lessons, I’m not sure who learned the most, me or my students. I know I learned a lot every day, mostly about how not to teach.
However, very early in the play, the shop manager told me that I would have to be “qualified” if I wanted to continue teaching for the shop; I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but it sounded scary
What he meant by that, it turns out, was that I had to be formally qualified…just being able to play guitar wasn’t good enough if I was going to teach them guitar.
The good news was that they would pay for my tuition, so that was nice…there was more good news that I was able to go to theory classes instead of having to work in the store.
So I started my theory class and very soon I was frustrated, confused and at a loss… things I knew worked on the bandstand the night before didn’t line up with the theory class the next day.
The more confused I became, the more determined I was to find the “truth”; So I started studying with other teachers to supplement my “paid” lessons from the music store… Boy did that make things worse? it seemed like every theory teacher had their own take on things that didn’t conform to many basic concepts.
Long story short… after a lot of playing, thinking and researching I discovered….
Musical Fact of Life #2: there are different types of theory… in fact there are three different types of theory: classical, jazz and rock/blues!
These are very broad categories, they are all important and the complete musician needs to be aware of their similarities and differences.
The world is full of traditional classical theory books, so I won’t discuss them here. Modern theory applied to improvisation and the music of our time, that’s what I’m about…it’s great to know what happened 400 years ago, but it probably won’t help you secure that rock gig next Friday night,
Here are my top three modern theory books for guitarists
Title: Modern method for guitar – By William Leavitt (Berklee Press)
Available from: Berklee.com
Overview: If you want to jump in on the ground floor and study guitar and guitar fretboard theory, this is the place to start!
Available in three volumes; The first sixty pages of Volume One cover the basics of reading music in first guitar position.
Part two of Berklee, volume one, introduces the five standard fingering patterns for reading music across the fretboard.
Title: jazz studies – by Bruce Clarke (ed. Clinch-Vise lyrics)
Available from: BillyHydemusic.com.au
Overview:A fantastic book that takes off when the Berklee book volume one is finished; The Jazz Studies book is ideal for use in conjunction with Berklee Volume Two.
Fantastic explanations of how the concepts of modes, cycle 5 and cycle 7 work. Jazz Studies is a great introduction to the world of improvisation. If you’ve delved into traditional theory, this book will blow your mind on the theory. Step by step instructions, very easy to understand. Highly recommended.
Title: “See – Hear / Hear – Play” – by Dick Grove
Available from: DickGrove.com
Overview:A complete course with DVD/Text tuition by Dick Grove himself, you could easily pay $100,000 for college tuition and never get that kind of tuition.
Everyone learns differently. The DVDs bring the written text to life and help keep students motivated and enthusiastic. Each of these individual courses or the combination of all three theory texts will pave the way for you to express yourself on the guitar.
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