Do You Need Music Theory? (RIGHT NOW)

Do you need to study music theory right now at this moment? Advanced scale, chord and music theory is a deep subject. It is important to decide whether or not it’s necessary to know and understand theory for where you're at currently as a player... 

For a lot of guitar players the area of music theory is weak. Many guitarists will learn the “A Minor” Pentatonic scale as their first scale. Then, they’ll discover that they can slide it around and they find out that other locations create other keys.

Quite often the keys of “A and E” Minor are two of the earliest keys guitar players will learn. Then, as their skills develop they will often hash out that little bit of knowledge for many years to come. At some point however, either the information they comprehend or their skills for playing music will hit a ceiling.


A large percentage of guitar players tend to use only a few Pentatonic scales for many years. So, a legitimate question is whether it is it actually necessary to go a lot further with the study of scale and chord theory in the early days of playing guitar.

For many guitar players, scales and chords are nothing more than shapes on the fingerboard. Throughout the early years of playing, more often than not, technical ability seems to play a bigger role for guitar players than music theory.

However, if a guitarist continues to play long enough and if (and when) they are hit with situations where they feel lost (unable to grasp concepts in certain musical situations), they very likely will tend to want to begin study of more advanced music theory.

Let’s have a look at an example. Perhaps you’re playing in a band and you get asked to perform a short guitar solo over a common sounding chord progression. Something like maybe a; classic rock, country or blues riff in the key of, “G.”

Example 1: Typical common riff

That riff from example 1 is pretty basic. We can use some “G” Pentatonic and have some fun over those chord changes quite easily.

But, what do we do if things get a little more complicated?

What would you do if you encountered a chord progression that is based upon more complex chord and scale theory, perhaps a progression like this one.

Example 2: Complex harmony

When chords are applied across progressions that are more complex harmonically, or that perhaps present no direct relationship to any of the standard diatonic harmony principles, most guitarists (who are uneducated with higher levels of theory), will get lost.

Normally, if a guitarist can’t even play the chords in a song or a riff with advanced harmony, they certainly would not be able to play a guitar solo over them either.

Back to the question of how important it is to know music theory... Or, perhaps rather is it the “right time,” to start learning theory.

If you’re just jamming on basic chords and the progressions you play over never leave the sounds of diatonic harmony, then maybe you don’t need to spend several weeks learning about advanced scale application and non-diatonic harmony.

Plus, on top of that, spend several more months after that practicing how to play lead guitar in those situations. Everything will come down to how much time you have to invest into this stuff, and if you feel like it will be something that you can start to apply in the music that you enjoy playing.

If you stop and think about all this, the entire topic of what we’re discussing here is actually a much bigger issue than you likely thought when we started this discussion in the first place.

If you have no motivation (and no real tangible reason) to study an advanced musical topic, and if you examine the playing situations that you’re participating in at this moment, realizing that you’re never going to play music that uses certain topics, the answer is probably this…

It is perfectly okay to leave information alone that does not relate specifically to where you are at as a player right now. Unless you’re attending a music college program, or maybe working on your bachelor’s degree in music at university, advanced theory may overwhem you rather than help you.

It might be the best to just save the learning of advanced topics for when you feel that you’ll be able to apply them. Instead, work on topics that you know full well that you’re involved with now, but weak at. Improve those topics – especially if they directly relate to the music you normally; perform, write, or record within your own immediate musical network of musicians.

I hope that this discussion on whether you need to know music theory has helped you to better understand where you’re at and what topics are important to you right now.

That was really my underlying goal with making this video. There are a lot of subjects and “topics of study,” to learn about within the world of music training and guitar education.

There are also a lot of guitar techniques and music philosophy topics with respect to composing songs. Plus, let’s not leave out rhythm education - that is another one which is often neglected.

So, divide your learning into compartments. Think of your education as subjects with groups of underlying topics. And, be sure to do all that in combination with asking whether you’re going to be able to immediately apply what you learn. That approach will be the best way to really start improving your skills.

If you’d like to learn more about how to really zero in on specific areas of your guitar playing, join my web-site as a free member and start reviewing my “Guitar” Courses.

They cover a ton of specific information on improving general and advanced playing skill. There are dozens of lesson plans with very detailed videos along with PDF worksheets that you can download and print out to start covering all types of exercises, Music Theory, rhythm training and technical drills.

The lessons are all well planned and easy to follow – and they work in a very organized way so that in the end, you’ll increase your knowledge about theory and guitar, plus you’ll be able to start incorporating higher end guitar skills into the music that you enjoy playing. 

If you’d like to learn more about topics like this one and many others, join my members site as a free member and start looking through my, “Guitar Courses.”

I’ve spent years creating hundreds of detailed step-by-step guitar lessons for my website members that show all kinds of beginner to advanced ideas to help improve your playing.

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It’s 28 pages of jam-packed studies for mastering all of your technical skills at playing Guitar.



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