Music theory is often disregarded by some guitar players, and despite its clear benefits several musicians and professionals guitar players choose not to study music theory. Is it really necessary to learn music theory to play guitar? No, you do not have to learn music theory to be able to play guitar, but there are several reasons why you should. Today, we will look at the main reasons why music theory is important for guitar.
Is music theory important for guitar?
Music theory is an essential part to master any musical instrument, and it is no different when it comes to playing guitar. You can obviously become a great guitar player without studying music theory, but that does not mean that you should. Learning music theory has several major benefits, and it will make your guitar learning journey easier, and faster.
Why learn music theory guitar
Learning music theory guitar can be extremely beneficial for a number of reasons. Firstly, it can help you to better understand and appreciate the music that you are playing.
Secondly, it can help you to develop your musical skills and abilities.
Thirdly, it can help to improve your overall musical ability, while making you a better musician overall. In some music genres like classical and jazz, it is a prerequisite to know music theory in order to play and become a professional musician.
These complex music genres require not only a lot of practice but also theoretical study.
15 Reasons why guitar players should learn music theory
Here are the main reasons why learning music theory can be extremely helpful for guitar players:
1. Improves your creativity
There are several research studies that show that learning music theory can have a positive impact on your creativity, not only when it comes to music but also related to other areas.
Learning about scales, chord progressions, and harmonic theory helps you better understand how to create and arrange melodies, which in turn makes you a more creative musician.
Additionally, studying music theory teaches you how to think about music in a more analytical and theoretical way.
This certainly helps you compose songs, and when it comes to coming up with harmony and melody ideas. Music theory can also be extremely helpful to boost your creativity when soloing.
Understanding how chords, melodies, and rhythms work together, allows any musician to be more creative and express themselves in a more creative way.
2. Develops your hearing ability
Music theory can also help you to develop your musical hearing ability by providing a framework for identifying notes, chords, chord progressions, scales, and rhythms. This allows you to easily understand the structure of a song just in a theoretical way while being able to learn songs by ear faster.
Music theory will also help you to listen to music more critically and understand how each song is created and allow you to interpret compositions in a more personal way. Music is about expressing yourself, and you want to make sure you have all the tools you can to express yourself in the best way possible.
3. Understand music
Understanding music, composition, chords, melodies, and rhythms is essential for every musician. While this can be achieved just by training your hearing ability, it is a lot easier if you combine it with studying music theory.
The reason is that it allows you to identify certain progressions and scales for example by a specific name. This makes it easy to understand music, and communicate with other musicians.
You will also understand how certain composers use certain chords, progressions, or even notes, and what they are theoretically trying to accomplish.
4. Identify chords just by hearing them
A great advantage of learning music theory is that you will be able to identify chords just by hearing them. This allows you to solo just using arpeggios, and even come up with different versions of a song by using a different chord voicing.
If you are able to identify chords just by hearing them, you will also be able to engage with other musicians in a simple and effective way. Without having to stop the song to ask anyone what chord they are playing or in what key they are.
5. Know exactly what you should play at any moment
If you do not know music theory and how it works, you will have a harder time knowing exactly what notes, chords, or scales to play at any given moment. Especially when you are playing with other musicians, in a band, or in a jam session, it can be extremely frustrating and demoralizing to not be able to interact with other musicians and express your own music.
If you take the time to learn and study music theory, you will know exactly what to play at all times.
6. Know what other musicians are playing
As we have mentioned one of the best reasons to learn music theory is that it helps you to communicate better with other musicians. You may be able to recognize some chords or progressions, but the only to truly know exactly what other musicians around you are playing is by studying music theory.
Knowing what other musicians are playing is essential to be able to be in a band, and play live. It is also crucial if you want to jam.
7. Jamming anywhere with anyone
Music is a way of expressing ourselves, and just like we express ourselves through words, and language, music has its own language. Each note, chord, and rhythm is a way of talking and interacting musically with other musicians. If you do not study music theory it will be like not knowing how to speak and trying to interact with other people.
This is why jamming is such an interesting experience, because it allows musicians of all styles to come together, and interact with one another. If you do not know how to communicate with them you will be at a disadvantage. Plus you can’t stop a jam to ask everyone what key they are in, or what chords they are playing.
8. It will help you to become a better musician
Overall music theory helps you to become a better musician because you improve your understanding of music, and its foundations, and it also allows you to express your music better. Understanding theory is also the only way to play certain music genres like classical music, and jazz. They rely heavily on theoretical musical concepts that you will not be able to learn unless you dedicate enough time to studying music theory.
9. Music theory is essential for composing
If you want to compose songs, it is essential to learn music theory. It is possible to create and compose songs, without necessarily learning music theory, but it will take a lot more time, and you will not be entirely sure of the possibilities you have, and exactly what you are composing.
Studying music theory will allow you to experiment with different chords, and chord progressions, while also mixing in a different rhythms, and music genres. Knowing music theory also makes it easy to come up with new ideas, because it improves your creativity. This will make you a better composer overall.
10. Helps you understand music genres
Understanding certain music genres can sometimes be difficult and it takes practice and dedication. However, music theory can make everything easier. If you are able to understand theoretically how some music genres are played, you will be able to play and understand them better. This makes it easy to compose songs in other music genres, and it will also make it easier to learn new songs and music genres.
11. Helps you learn new instruments
If you want to explore other musical instruments, learning music theory is a great way to create a solid foundation you can apply to guitar and other musical instruments later on.
It is extremely common for guitar players to experiment with bass guitar, and other string instruments because they are somewhat similar. Knowing music theory will make it easier for you to learn a new instrument because you will know all the foundations of how to create and play music.
12. Learn songs faster
If you study music theory it will also be extremely easy to learn new songs, while also being faster. In some cases, you can even predict the chords, or notes that are going to be played because you have already studied certain arpeggios or chord progressions. This can be extremely important if you want to have a career for example as a session guitar player.
Session guitar players are employed by music studios, and record labels to play on certain albums. Most of the time they are called to the studio and need to learn songs on the fly to be able to record the album. Knowing music theory will help you a lot if you want to be a session musician.
13. Understand how songs were composed
Understanding how certain songs are composed and written is absolutely crucial to be able to learn them by ear. It will also help you when you are trying to compose your own songs because you can use what you learn, and get inspired by ideas you have heard in other songs.
If you intend to deeply study music, and songs, understanding how a certain song is composed is a great way to become a better composer and musician.
14. Improvise on a whole new level
Improvisation is mostly a mix between your own individual musical expression and your creativity. While music theory can help you become more creative, it can also make it easier for you to express yourself in a unique and special way.
Music theory can also help you to learn new scales, chromatisms, and even different musical perspectives and ways of expressing yourself. Using this in your own improvisation will only make you a better musician and improviser.
15. Improve your playing by identifying mistakes
Music just like anything in life requires constant practice and improvement. The best way to improve is to clearly identify your own mistakes and work on them, in a way that is simple and allows you to become better.
Learning from your mistakes is only possible if you are able to clearly identify each mistake. This is why learning music theory can help you to identify every mistake in your playing, and be able to work on them, by improving them slowly.
Does music theory make you better at guitar?
There is no question that learning music theory will certainly help you become a better guitar player. It will allow you to understand how music is created, and it will give you the musical foundation required to become a professional and experienced guitar player.
While there are plenty of musicians that are able to have extraordinary music careers without studying music theory, or reading music there are clear advantages to learning music theory and using that knowledge to incorporate it into your guitar playing. By doing so you will be able to become a better musician and improve your playing faster. You might even want to learn music theory without playing a musical instrument.
I have been playing guitar for the past 15 years, and my knowledge and passion for guitars prompted me to start Guitaresque to share my knowledge, tips, and tricks with other guitar players. The sole purpose of this website is to help and inspire guitar players worldwide, to improve their playing and their love for guitars.