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FDP Forum / The Chop Shop / Help me get my guitar Ph.D

Dripping Reverb

between surf & shore

Feb 6th, 2015 08:15 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Long ago user, long-term absence. Original FDP Strat buyer. Returning because I couldn't think of a collective that could render a more useful answer to my query. Please read.

I have played guitar daily for 20+ years but have never formally learned theory - at all. I understand the general concepts (7 notes in a key, add sharps/flats to achieve a different 'feel', etc.), but I do not know it. I could not improvise in a given key, etc. I don't play in a band. I play, write, transcribe, and record for myself. Like adherence to a faith.

I am a good song writer, but I compose almost completely in my head or happening upon short sections while playing and elaborating on them. I have a good enough ear to tell if something sounds 'wrong', but have no understanding of how to implement things like key/mode changes to further the song. In addition, because I don't know keys every note on the fretboard is available when I start writing (I don't know which 5 notes I can eliminate). This makes the writing process very laborious.

I am dedicated to guitar-centered instrumental music and my playing/writing most resembles an amalgamation of Sonic Youth, Kaki King, Jimi, Man...Or Astro-Man? and The Ventures.

After all that background (submitted to help guide your answers) on to my question. What is the best specific course/method of action for me learn the theory to express my musical ideas? I also want to learn this from the perspective of an enthusiast, like a Civil War buff (no real practical application, but personally fulfilling encyclopedic knowledge). 1/3/5 in D#? No problem.

I want this to be like graduate school in which I start with basic knowledge and emerge knowing the subject thoroughly. I don't want to take lessons in-person or anything on-line. I want to do this in my house by myself. From what I have seen books and or dvd's seem the best course for me, but with 1000's of them out there I have no idea which would be helpful. I have looked at books like the Guitar Grimoire series and while a fabulous resource for information, they don't provide any way to implement that info. I need an actual curriculum.

Sorry so long- winded. Felt necessary to give you an idea what my goals are. Thank you for taking the time to read and contribute.

Contributing Member

Slep in da graveyard

it was cool and still
Feb 6th, 2015 08:39 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

It's never too late to learn this stuff.

Take some piano lessons (seriously). The keyboard is a visual representation of the scales, right in front of your eyes and under your fingers.

Find a teacher that is experienced teaching adults (important!), and one that understands your learning goals are to get a good understanding of scales, chord theory, and harmony.

The stuff you learn on keyboard will sink in faster than learning it on guitar, because of the visual aspects of the black and white keys.

Contributing Member

Slep in da graveyard

it was cool and still
Feb 6th, 2015 08:43 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

If you don't want an instructor/student thing, get some books on learning music theory, and a keyboard to practice the examples.

One of the best guitar-specific books on this stuff is the one by Mickey Baker.

Contributing Member


Feb 7th, 2015 08:23 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

RGT - Registry of Guitar Tutors is a Brit organisation that registers guitar tutors (strangely enough!) and awards qualifications at various levels.

Their examination syllabus outlines what you need to know at each level and is a good guide I think to how to go about progressing from beginner to advanced. It should at least give you a roadmap and some new tools (scales; modes, chords etc).

You will need to source the actual material yourself not to mention the 'theory' of how it all fits together.

External link

Contributing Member

South Jersey/USA

She turned me into a newt!....
Feb 7th, 2015 10:51 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Consider Edly's Music Theory for Practical People (second Edition). By Ed Roseman.

It was recommended to me and I have it.

It is pretty good at explaining things for someone who has a basic understanding and want to get more in depth.

I admit I have not completed it but it is pretty good.


U.S. - Virginia

Feb 9th, 2015 10:42 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

My first inclination is to tell you to visit musictheory.net because it has basic lessons and building blocks for you, as well as quizzes. I still use that site. Very helpful.

"Take some piano lessons (seriously). The keyboard is a visual representation of the scales, right in front of your eyes and under your fingers. "

Piano is a must for anyone wanting to do music on a serious level, in my opinion. I have unlocked many principles in my mind using piano. Heck, I play piano more than guitar these days...

Theory is a very difficult thing to grasp on guitar because of its grid layout, which includes 4ths between strings and a maj 3rd between a couple(how is THAT helpful!)

Dots are one thing, but each key on a piano is instantly identifiable as unique.

We miss allot of strong fundamentals on guitar, because the most practical voicings of complex jazz chords are always some mish mash of inversions and multi octave spans. On a piano, you can learn the basic functions and positions built in one octave. THEN inversions etc...



Feb 9th, 2015 11:05 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

+1 to piano lessons.

Contributing Member

Lisle, IL USA

That's what she said!
May 7th, 2015 09:59 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I just stumbled upon this the other night. I have been involved with guitar for many, many years & found it interesting that people suggest piano. Well, I went up to music theory.net, also downloaded their app. I am not going to sat lights went of in my head, but I see where music theory is soooo much plainer when looking at a keyboard. I plan to investigate this a little more & pull out the old keyboard from downstairs, dust it off, and look through this sites info with the keyboard in front of me.

Great idea you folks passed on here, thanks!

Contributing Member

My cables are made

of copper-free *oxygen*
May 10th, 2015 04:39 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Tickle them ovories!

IVORIES. Sorry. I type too fast :o)

Once you get into keyboard playing, you will start hearing songs you've known for a long time and be able to tell whether the tune was written on a guitar or at the piano. There are conventions that seem to work for guitar and others that work for piano/keys.

There is so much to learn. And I still seem to know nothing about playing piano!

Contributing Member

South Florida

May 10th, 2015 05:51 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Reading your opening post the thing that jumps out at me is the part if 'I don't play in a band' but I want to learn everything about guitar.

I took piano lessons as a child and intuitively think of music theory in the context of a keyboard. I translate guitar theory to how I see a keyboard except that there are multiple ways to produce a note or chord.

It seems to me that guitar is one of those instruments that is not really designed to explore music theory. I do think there is something about 'fretboard logic' however. But mostly I think guitar is an accompanying instrument and it's all about 'being in a band'.

FDP Forum / The Chop Shop / Help me get my guitar Ph.D

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