Learning Guitar Theory Can Improve Your Playing

The great thing about learning to play guitar is the way it can be approached. One perfect strategy doesn’t exist, because people are different. Everyone is going to have a special way of learning. But this diversity has also sparked a continual debate on whether learning guitar theory makes or breaks the creative side of playing. The truth is that theory does open up a whole new world, but it is your choice if you want to use it.

Theory Breaks The Writer’s Block Cycle

Close-up: Hands Of A Musician Playing Electric GuitarGuitar players who have been at the forefront of creating music will tell you they have several bouts of writer’s block. It comes and goes like any other emotional roadblock. But for a professional musician who makes a living through music, this is more than just a roadblock.

When the creative juices just don’t want to flow anymore and you can’t get past the first two chords, theory can be like a saving grace. Because the moment you know the fretboard and understand what notes, scales and chords work together, you can simply explore until you find what you are looking for.

For players who don’t know theory, the writing process can turn into a non-stop nightmare of messing around with the hope of discovering something.

Theory Serves As A Guideline

By now you have probably heard other players say that learning theory is going to limit your creative capabilities. Now, the possibility of this actually being true is slim, unless you are forced to take classes and have no interest in actually creating something. For some reason, there are individuals who feel they need to rebel against the “rules” of guitar playing.

In truth, theory is only meant as a guideline. It helps you to get a better idea of how the instrument is structured and how to chain together notes that work well together. There are no rules forcing you to conform to a certain technique or style. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a famous guitarist who doesn’t know guitar theory, simply because theory forms the building blocks for development.

Think about it this way – would you climb Mount Everest without training and research? For a novice guitar player, a fretboard is like a huge mountain. But instead of risking your life, you run the risk of creating bad music.

Theory Is A Universal Language

If you want to be a solo musician all your life then there’s nothing stopping you. Unfortunately, it’s not very entertaining listening to one person for two hours straight. At some point, you’ll want to play with friends or maybe even form a band.

Now consider the communication gap if nobody in the band knows anything about theory. How are you going to relay the notes of the song you are playing? How can you collaborate when nobody understands what you are saying?

Apart from breaking the writer’s block cycle and helping you develop your guitar playing skills, theory forms the common ground of communication between musicians. Not much is going to get done if the band messes around the whole day and just hope that they play in-sync at some point.

Theory Gradually Turns Into Art

You’ll never find a seasoned guitar player who wishes he or she didn’t know guitar theory. However, you will find a seasoned guitar player who conveys how important theory can be in order to reach new levels.

The more you play and the more you learn the theory behind what you are playing, you will notice how it gradually turns into an art form. You will become aware of smaller details and sounds that wouldn’t have come by simply messing around. Once you know what you are doing, you will be in a position to transform it completely, and make it your own.

Some Final Thoughts

Very often, the reason people advocate against learning guitar theory is because of intimidation. It requires effort and for many people, it contradicts the whole reason they started playing in the first place. Once again, there are no strict rules you should be following, but there is an important question you should ask yourself. Do you want to play guitar as a fun hobby, in which case you just mess around until something sticks? Or do you want to master the instrument and create sounds that will blow people away? If you choose the latter then start making guitar theory your friend right now.