Music theory is the language of music and the study of how music is put together. Having an understanding of music theory is helpful in many ways. For example, when teaching it is much easier & quicker to communicate ideas to a student if the student has a good knowledge of theory. If you play in a band ideas can be passed around and expressed clearly and concisely if the members have good theory knowledge. For lead guitarists theory helps you put the right scale with the right chords. For writers and composers it provides clear direction on chord progressions and melody.
Almost all of the top guitarists today have a good knowledge of theory as well as strong technique. If you want to join them you will need the same.
Music was around a long time before theory came along so it could be said that theory is just a way of writing down and remembering things that sound good. I have come across students who have no musical knowledge what so ever but have written some great music. When we have sat down and analysed what they have written we have found that their music conforms with accepted music theory. The reason for this, I believe, is that we grow up listening to music and are conditioned to hear music in a certain way. Therefore when we write music it conforms to the musical patterns we have grown up listening to. If somebody can write music with no theory knowledge what is the point of learning theory? By learning why your music sounds a certain way theory can help you recreate that sound or avoid it. It should also open up new musical avenues for you to explore.
Finally, music theory will help you gain an insight into how your guitar works. Attempting to jam with other musicians without theory is guesswork usually. Theory gets you straight in and playing something cool which surely is what playing an instrument is about.
Next up: Lesson 2 – Naming the notes
Randy Rhoads was most famous for being Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist on the albums “Blizzard of Oz” and “Diary of a madman”, Ozzy’s first albums since splitting with Black Sabbath. Randy played guitar for the band “Quiet Riot” before joining Ozzy’s band and was also a dedicated classical guitar player and would seek out classical guitar lessons whilst on tour. Randy was one of the first “schooled” rock guitarists and had a deep knowledge of music theory, composition, and guitar techniques. This coupled with his natural musicality combined to make him one of the greatest guitarists ever. Randy was tragically killed in a plane crash on March 19, 1982. In 1987 Ozzy released “Tribute” a live recording of Ozzy and Randy in concert plus some studio out-takes. Have a listen to the clip above to hear Randy playing both in a classical style and also some great lead guitar. The solo at around 2 mins 40 secs is a masterpiece. Enjoy.
One of the greatest jazz guitarists of the 20th century Joe Pass was known for his chord melodies, walking bass lines, and, outstanding knowledge of chord inversions and progressions. New York Magazine said of him, “Joe Pass looks like somebody’s uncle and plays guitar like nobody’s business. He’s called “the world’s greatest” and often compared to Paganini for his virtuosity. There is a certain purity to his sound that makes him stand out easily from other first-rate jazz guitarists”.
Wilko Johnson played guitar for Dr Feelgood and the Blockheads amongst others. He has an unusual style of playing particularly with his right hand, no pick, which allowed him to play an aggressive punchy style of guitar whilst combining rhythm and lead. He also had a long curly lead which allowed him to follow his guitar around the stage. Check out Wilko explaining his style to BBC show rock school and then watch him perform the whole song in the bottom video.
Eddie Hazel was the guitar player for Parliamant-Funkadelic putting down some seriously funky grooves and psychedelic guitar. Have a listen to “Maggot Brain”, recorded in one take in 1971. Legend has it that George Clinton told Eddie Hazel to imagine he had been told his mother was dead, but then learned that it was not true. Enjoy the ride.
Guitar tab is a method of getting guitar music on paper without having to read music. The advantage of tab is it is relatively easy to learn and you can be learning songs very soon after learning to read it. The disadvantage is tab has no rhythm notation so can be tricky to learn songs you are not familiar with.
The horizontal lines represent the six strings on the guitar. The thickest E string is at the bottom up to the thinnest E string at the top. You read tab from left to right so the first three notes in the above example would be played one at a time.
The numbers on the lines tell you which fret to play. The first note you would play on the above example is the 3rd fret on the A String.
A zero represents an open string, so the second note on the above example is an open D string. The third note would be the second fret on the G string.
When the notes are stacked on top of each other like at the end of the above example this means you play the notes at the same time. Hopefully if you play the last stack of notes together you should end up with an A Major chord.
There are many more symbols associated with tab but we will learn these as we go along.