Guitar LessonsMusicString Theory: All Notes Are Relative

September 8, 2020by Christian0

Music theory sounds complicated. It doesn't have to be.

During my first few years of playing guitar, I had always imagined the term “music theory” as an intangible, mysterious language reserved only for academics and high-level jazz musicians. I completely fell in love with guitar and learned to play hundreds of songs within a few short years, but as time progressed I found myself beginning to hit a plateau. It seemed that my playing simply couldn’t get better despite the amount of practice. That’s not to say I didn’t learn songs. I did, but I didn’t understand them and how they worked.

It soon became clear that I would have to dedicate some time to learning the fundamentals of music theory if I wanted to go beyond the level I had reached. After a bit of research, it became clear to me that music theory doesn’t only apply to classical music and jazz. In some capacity, whether consciously or not, it has been used to write and arrange all of the songs that I had already learned to play. I began to understand every note of the songs I loved. Knowing how to put the pieces together, I could write my own songs and play my favorite solos more easily. I not only knew how they were supposed to sound – I knew why they worked.

I had built a foundation on music theory without even realizing it, and if you have been playing guitar or bass for any length of time – it’s likely that you have too. At its core, the simplest application of music theory is understanding the major scale and how it works. It is used to build chords, songs, and intervals.

Each “chord” of the major scale has a number that corresponds to it. For instance, one of the most popular chord patterns in the vast majority of today’s pop music is: I /¬†IV / V. This simply means that the chords of the song translate to each “number” of the scale.

The chords of the key of C are as follows: C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am.

To play a I / IV / V progression, we would look at the scale and play C, F, G. There are millions of songs that have been recorded using that simple progression.

After forming a rudimentary understanding of this simple method, I immediately dove head-first into understanding music theory, harmony, and chord inversions. Years later, I am eternally grateful to my curiosity and it has led me to a career in music. On the outside, all of this can sound incredibly complicated – but I promise you – it doesn’t have to be. Knowing the building blocks of music isn’t pretentious; it’s game-changing. As your guitar playing progresses, there is a chance you will find that same curiosity. I can help you apply it and understand it. I’ve already made the mistakes for you on my own musical journey. As a teacher I can help you learn as much (or as little) music theory as you want, but if you are interested in taking your playing to the next level, I’m here to help.

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