Music Theory

Back when I was an active teacher, I remember several students giving me a hard time about learning music theory (what goes around comes around- I gave my teacher a hard time about it too)

Some kids would say “Just show me the riffs, that’s all I need to know”, and I would say “no theory, no riffs, sorry” I was not about to unleash another half-assed musician into the world. Someday I knew he/she would regret not learning the right way, and I was nipping that in the bud. Sometimes it took cajoling, and sometimes it took imploring, but everyone who wanted to stay with me eventually had to relent, and you know what? they all thanked me in the end.

major and minor chords arranged as the circle of fifths

major and minor chords arranged as the circle of fifths

Music theory is not hard (Orchestration is hard…), and involves little more than simple math, a little logic, and some memorization skills. The ROI on having and using that knowledge is incredible. I’m lumping scales, chords, harmony and anything else we’ll need under the music theory umbrella, so keep that in mind. Once you have it down, and are completely facile with the material, it can be applied to any instrument in the world. Playing the notes of a Bbm first inversion arpeggio on a piano will be the same sequence of notes if played on a violin, or an electric bass guitar, or a harmonica. Db,F, and Bb are all you need for that to happen.

I fooled around with lots of instruments in my day. Of course I had no technique on the instrument I was learning, but I already had the theory down, and I knew what I wanted to hear, so it was just a matter of getting the fingering correct. I was usually playing a Bbm chord in no time on whatever the instrument would be.

A lot of you guys will already know theory, but everyone has gaps.
With video sharing sites like Youtube, there is an unprecedented opportunity to learn anything you’ll ever need to know about music theory (or any other subject in the world) for absolutely free. Low cost online schools like Udemy, Lynda, Skillshare, and a host of others offer long and thorough classes for incredibly cheap money. It still blows my mind how much fabulous stuff you can learn online for next to nothing.

Get your music theory and harmony down – chords, scales, inversions, intervals, voice-leading – the whole nine yards- learn it all.

Next time someone asks you to play a perfect 4th above Eb, you’ll nail it, and won’t that be a happy day?


Some good basic info in this guy’s video: