By: Jerry Mathis
I'll never forget it. Several years ago I was on my way to see
KISS in concert (first time seeing them with makeup, I might
add) with a good friend of mine. She was interested in music as
I was; she had taken piano lessons for ten years or so.
Inevitably the conversation during the drive turned to
music...all different aspects of it.
We got to the subject of what exactly music instrument lessons
really teach you, and I asked her a very simple theory question:
"What is the chord spelling for a minor chord?" (in case you are
wondering, the answer is 1, flat 3, 5...more on this in later
I was shocked to find out that she had absolutlely NO idea what
I was talking about.
I tried to explain to her the basic theory behind this question,
but see seemed to get more confused as we went. I just could not
understand how someone that had taken lessons for ten years
could not have the slightest inclination as to what she was
playing. She stated "all I ever was taught was how to read music
- what notes on the page corresponds to what key on the piano".
This simple conversation had shown me how important it was to at
least have some sort of understanding of basic music theory. I
know...there are many, many guitar players and musicians out
there that are perfectly happy with their level of knowledge (
my brother-in-law has been trying to learn guitar for the past
year simply to be a chick-magnet).
I guess my point is this: going beyond the chord books and scale
charts and guitar tab and standard music notation is this
living, breathing "thing" that you can't really appreciate until
you "get into it". I have found that once you get the urge to
develop more knowledge about theory, it can be hard to stop.
Granted, everyone has a level where they are comfortable...but
you would be doing yourself and your music a dis-service by not
trying to get to that point. It kind of struck me as sad that I
would never be able to jam with my friend and be able to yell
out "follow me - play a 1-4-5 12 bar blues in 'E'".
Do I know or claim to know everything about theory? Absolulely
not...but I am comfortable with the level I am at. I can sit in
with any rock back and hold my own. Now jazz on the other
hand...I know I would have to do some work. But you know what?
By the way (just in case you were wondering)...the concert was
About the author:
Jerry Mathis has 25 years of guitar experience - playing,
teaching, recording and performing live. Visit his website 1StopGuitar.com to get
your guitar tablatures, articles, reviews, accessories and more
all in one place!