Where to start with theory

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  • vizviz Frets: 5090
    edited November 27
    Nothing wrong with AB Grades, Eric Taylor's book is excellent, but IMO it
    • doesn't get you to generate scales and key signatures from first principles (It either teaches by rote or assumes you know why the circles of fifths/fourths is the way it is)
    • doesn't go a whole lot on commonly-used chord progressions (I vi IV V, ii V I, I IV V etc)
    I think the first is a bit of a drop-off. The second is to be expected because it is not primarily aimed at the readership for which those chord progressions are significant.
    I agree, the only quibble I have with the ABRSM theory course and the like is that they leave harmony till relatively late, whereas playing chords is the first thing guitarists do. Still good though. 
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  • TimmyOTimmyO Frets: 3095
    I asked about this  year ago (and got into to it briefly - really should do so again) and got the AB book and another - but I also found a couple of really handy iOS apps for practicing/applying some of it that I liked - I'll dig out my iPad and see what they were called... 
    "Congratulations on being officially the most right anyone has ever been about anything, ever." -- Noisepolluter knows the score
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  • TimmyOTimmyO Frets: 3095
    aha - Waay was one I liked - I've just bumped the thread for anyone interested 
    "Congratulations on being officially the most right anyone has ever been about anything, ever." -- Noisepolluter knows the score
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  • DeeTeeDeeTee Frets: 257
    Nothing wrong with AB Grades, Eric Taylor's book is excellent, but IMO it
    • doesn't get you to generate scales and key signatures from first principles (It either teaches by rote or assumes you know why the circles of fifths/fourths is the way it is)
    • doesn't go a whole lot on commonly-used chord progressions (I vi IV V, ii V I, I IV V etc)
    I think the first is a bit of a drop-off. The second is to be expected because it is not primarily aimed at the readership for which those chord progressions are significant.
    Thank you for this. I was looking at getting it, but I want to know why things are and learn the basic principles. This is why I hated music theory at school. I spent a lot of time asking "why?" because it confused me, and being told to shut up.

    Is there a book that you recommend that does explain the whys and theory?
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  • @DeeTee  ; tbh I'm not sure. None of it made any sense to me until I heard Alan Limbrick expound the subject at The Guitar Institute in the early 1990s.

    I don't think I've ever seen anything like his exposition in a book. If you PM me an email address I'd be willing to discuss it with you further.
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs. (Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!)
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  • equalsqlequalsql Frets: 3210
    As others have mentioned to really learn theory you need to have a basic keyboard. It's literally laid out for you in black and white (no pun intended) on the keyboard. It's easy to see how chords are constructed and musical notation is really structured around a piano's layout.
    (pronounced: equal-sequel)   "I suffered for my art.. now it's your turn"
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  • vizviz Frets: 5090
    equalsql said:
    As others have mentioned to really learn theory you need to have a basic keyboard. It's literally laid out for you in black and white (no pun intended) on the keyboard. It's easy to see how chords are constructed and musical notation is really structured around a piano's layout.
    The keyboard is the perfect model of our sharps and flats / keys system. With it and the Cof5 wheel you can derive everything else. 
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  • stratman3142stratman3142 Frets: 772
    edited December 1
    equalsql said:
    As others have mentioned to really learn theory you need to have a basic keyboard. It's literally laid out for you in black and white (no pun intended) on the keyboard. It's easy to see how chords are constructed and musical notation is really structured around a piano's layout.
    We're all different. I learned the theory I need for the music I want to play and create without reference to a piano keyboard, and solely based on visualisation of the guitar fretboard. I started with my own version of 5 shapes for an integrated approach to scales and chords, then years later discovered that it was actually the CAGED system.

    I've been playing guitar for nearly 50 years now and my knowledge of theory is tightly locked to the guitar. In recent years I've been trying to get into keyboards and struggle with visualisation in that context. I find it hard to instantly see intervals on the piano keyboard (especially the intermediate intervals around a 6th) whereas I can instantly see them on guitar.

    I hear and see things in terms of patterns, and those patterns are easier for me to relate to guitar than a piano keyboard.

     So in summary I'm not sure about the 'keyboard argument' but @viz knows much more about theory than me so maybe I'm wrong.


    It's not a competition.
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  • Phil_aka_PipPhil_aka_Pip Frets: 9298
    The guitar is like 6 pianos, each one shifted left by a few places. If you like you can visualise the layout of notes up & down one string, then shift it left by a few frets for the next string so that going from one string to another on the same fret is the same as going up a 4th (or a 3rd) on the same string.
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs. (Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!)
    Seriously: If you value it, take/fetch it yourself
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  • vizviz Frets: 5090
    edited December 1
    equalsql said:
    As others have mentioned to really learn theory you need to have a basic keyboard. It's literally laid out for you in black and white (no pun intended) on the keyboard. It's easy to see how chords are constructed and musical notation is really structured around a piano's layout.
    We're all different. I learned the theory I need for the music I want to play and create without reference to a piano keyboard, and solely based on visualisation of the guitar fretboard. I started with my own version of 5 shapes for an integrated approach to scales and chords, then years later discovered that it was actually the CAGED system.

    I've been playing guitar for nearly 50 years now and my knowledge of theory is tightly locked to the guitar. In recent years I've been trying to get into keyboards and struggle with visualisation in that context. I find it hard to instantly see intervals on the piano keyboard (especially the intermediate intervals around a 6th) whereas I can instantly see them on guitar.

    I hear and see things in terms of patterns, and those patterns are easier for me to relate to guitar than a piano keyboard.

     So in summary I'm not sure about the 'keyboard argument' but @viz knows much more about theory than me so maybe I'm wrong.


    That’s a bold claim that might not stand up to scrutiny!

    For me, what you say about your experience with the guitar is definitely valid, and lots of violinists, flautists and trombonists I’m sure would agree with you. In fact come to think of it, I’m a guitarist and violinist and I also know exactly what you mean. Your point about being able to see a 6th better on the guitar resonates with me.

    I think it’s possibly because you’ve just grown up that way, but also possibly because the guitar really is a better tool than the piano for showing intervals, because it is a more key-agnostic instrument. Although the guitar is basically tuned to G major / E minor, it’s not as rigid as a piano which is more grounded in C major / A minor. 

    And Phil’s point about each string being like a piano, just offset by a few notes, is aligned with that point too. 

    So in terms of playing, I’d be comfortable with what you say. What I think I’m trying to say is that the piano is a very good theoretical model of C major and the other keys too. I’m not saying that it necessarily facilitates playing in different keys as well as other instruments (though a pianist would definitely say it does!), but that it actually models the entire construct that the diatonic system is founded on.

    It means that you can build up the keys, one-by-one, perhaps referring to the circle-of-5ths wheel or other mnemonics like Father Charles Goes Down..., and see exactly how the accumulating sharps or flats get added to each key, very simply and intuitively. The piano effectively models the whole construct of the key system. And of course therefore you can do the same with modes. And you can also use it for harmonising the scales - for example, a ii-V-I in C major (Dm, G7, C) uses only white notes. And for knowing which neighbouring notes don’t have sharps between them. That sort of thing. 

    If you don’t have a picture of a piano keyboard while trying to work through this stuff you are just working a bit more blindly, and I think it takes that bit longer. 
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