Sooner or later any serious guitarist comes to realize that a solid theoretical background is the only way forward. Your ear can only take you so far, that’s when your musical theory can kick in and remove any musical obstacles in your way to fully expressing yourself.
Seems pretty straight forward… just go to the music shop and pick up a theory book and away we go; away we go alright… pick up the wrong book and you’ll end up more confused than you ever were before.
Musical fact of life # 1: Not all theory books are created equal.
I remember when I started my first job, it was at a music store teaching music; I had a bit of a reputation as a player in the local area playing in dance bands etc., and since I had already sold quite a bit of musical equipment for the music store based on my track record they thought I would be the obvious choice; if
the store had a potential guitar or amp customer they would leave a message with my mum, then after school I would go down to the store and demonstrate the gear.
Everything started out fine, I stumbled and fumbled my way through the guitar lessons, I’m not sure who learnt the most me or my students I know I learnt heaps everyday mostly about how not to teach.
Anyway, very early in the piece the store manager informed me that if I was going to continue teaching for the store I would need to be “qualified”; I didn’t know exactly what that entailed but it did sound scary
As it turned out what he meant was I needed to be formally qualified… just being able to play the guitar was not good enough if I was going to teach guitar for them.
The good news was they were going to pay for my lessons so that was neat… there was even more good news I could go to the theory lessons instead of having to work at the shop.
So I began my theory lessons and very soon became frustrated, confused and perplexed… things I knew worked on the bandstand the night before didn’t match up with the theory lesson the next day.
The more confused I became the more determined I was about finding the “truth”; so I started studying with other teachers to augment my “paid” lessons from the music store… boy, did that make matters worst; it seemed as if each theory teacher had their own slant on things many basic concepts did not match up.
Long story short… after a lot of playing, thinking and research I discovered….
Musical fact of life # 2: there are different types of theory… in fact there are three distinct 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.
They world is full of traditional classical theory books so I won’t discuss them here. Modern theory as applied to improvisation and the music of our time is what I’m about… it’s great to know what happened 400 years ago but it’s unlikely to help you secure that rock gig next Friday night,
Here’s 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 get in on the ground floor and study guitar and theory as applied to the guitar fretboard, this is the place to start!
Available in three volumes; the first sixty pages of volume one covers the basics of reading music in the first position of the guitar.
Part two of Berklee volume one introduces the five standard fingering patterns for reading music over the fretboard.
Title: Jazz Studies – by Bruce Clarke (ed clinch v.i.s.e text)
Available from: BillyHydemusic.com.au
Overview:A fantastic book that takes off were the Berklee book volume one finishes; the Jazz Studies book is ideal to use in conjunction with Berklee Volume two.
Fantastic explanations of how modes, cycle 5 and cycle 7 concepts work Jazz studies is a great introduction into the world of improvisation, if you have studied traditional theory this book will “blow the lid off” how you look at theory. Step by step instruction, very easy to understand. Highly recommended.
Title: “See It – Hear It / Hear It – Play It” – by Dick Grove
Available from: DickGrove.com
Overview:A complete course with DVD/text instruction from the man himself Dick Grove, you could easily pay $100,000 in college instruction and never get this type of tuition.
Everyone learns differently the DVD’s bring the written text to life helping to maintain the student’s motivation and enthusiasm. Any one of these individual courses or combination of all three theory texts will clear the way for you to express yourself on the guitar.