Music theory is totally interesting. It is a subject all to itself. If you are just starting out on guitar take this slowly.
Music theory can only be understood in the context of playing actual music. You should learn what different types of music sound like first and then look to find out what kinds of music theory are behind the music so you can re-create that sound or just simply understand it. Learning music theory out of the context of what it sounds like is like learning the names of all the colors without ever having seen any of them. As you learn songs come back to this page once in a while and re-read material that didn’t previously make sense. It will start to sink in through experience and repetition.
I don’t recommend reading everything here one after the other. You could but it won’t sink in that way.
Also read my music theory warning before you get started…
Reading Music Notation
Before we get into theory itself it’s a good idea to get a working knowledge of how to read music notation. Don’t worry we will talk about tablature and chord diagrams first which make this really easy for guitar players.
How to Read Tablature The great thing about the guitar is that you don’t need to know how to read music (notes on the lines called a staff) in order to learn to play music that you like. Because the Guitar is laid out like a big grid, you can read Tablature or TAB for short.
How to Read Chord Diagrams Another way to take advantage of the guitars unique structure is the ability to read chord diagrams. A chord diagram is a quick and easy way to read and write the fingering for guitar chords.
The next two pages are a brief introduction on how to read traditional music. It’s not essential to becoming a successful guitarist but it can be very helpful to understand. You should at least be familiar with this before you dive headlong into music theory.
How to read Music Part 1: Notes Learn how to read the pitch (notes) portion of traditional music. This guide is informational, to get good at this you need to practice, but at least you will understand what all the “dots” are about.
How to read Music part 2: rhythms Learn how to read the rhythmic portion of traditional music. This guide is informational. You won’t be able to really do it without some practice, however you will at least understand what all those crazy look squiggles are for.
Intervals Whenever you have two notes you have an interval! Every interval has a different sound and a different quality. Intervals are the building blocks of scales, chords, and harmony. Learn the names of all the basic intervals, what they sound like and how to construct them.
Major and Minor Scales A scale is simply a pattern of different intervals. Major and Minor scales are the foundation of western music. Learn what they are and how to build them!
Triads The simplest of chords! Built from the notes of scales, these simple chords are essential for any guitar player to understand. Learn the names of the different triads, why they have those names and how to construct them.
harmonizing scales Combine scales with triads and you can harmonize a scale. The basic ideas of “key” and chord progressions come from this essential concept. Lear all about it.
7th Chords A logical extension of triads, these chords are critical to your understanding of harmony. Explore what they are how to make them and what they sound like.
Major Tonality Tonality is the idea that he harmony of a song or section of music is related to a specific note. The concept of major tonality dominates the music world of western music. You need to know about this to understand music theory.
Major Chord ProgressionsIf you know what tonality is you might still not be able to understand how chords go together. Learn how to make great sounding chord progressions, and learn why your favorite music sounds so good.
Minor Tonality Like major tonality minor tonality is fundamental to the understanding of music theory. minor tonality is very similar to major tonality but with some critical differences. It also is responsible for that “darker” “sadder” sound.
Minor Chord Progressions Learn how to make great sounding chord progressions in minor.
Extended Chords Ever wonder what crazy chord names like C7b5, or Gmaj7#11 mean? Learn what they mean, and how to figure out what notes are in them! These are often generally referred to as “jazz chords” but they can be used for so much more!
suspended chords (comming soon)
“slash” chords(comming soon)
Breaking “the rules”
So you learned how to make basic chord progressions in a key. This can get kinda boring… Trust me. Learn how to break these rules and still sound good! Make your music stand out from the norm, and/or learn why some songs don’t follow the “rules” but still sound amazing!
Intro to Chord Substitution Learn the basic principles of chord substitution. This concept opens the door to more interesting harmonic ideas. It’s sounds hard but it’s really easy and fun!
Chord Quality Substitutions Learn the easiest method of chord substitution and start adding more interesting colors to your music right now.
Borrowing from Minor
b5 (Tritone) Substitutions A b5 substitution is a substitution for the V7 chord. This is also called a tritone substitution. This idea is widely used in jazz but can also be adopted into other styles of music. How will you use it?
Modes are too often shrouded in mystery. Like some magic trick you know is pretty simple but just can’t quite figure out. NO MORE! follow these lessons and you will find how cool, and simple modal harmony can be! Use it to add to your soloing skills, write your own music, or just sound really smart.
What the heck are Modes? Modes are simply new scales that are derived from a major scale. Each one has it’s own color and harmonic properties. These are used in every style of music from classical to jazz rock and everything in between.
Modes Over a “Drone” This is the easiest way to learn how to play a mode and develop a sense for what each mode sounds like.
Modes Over Chords Tired of using the same ole’ scales and colors when you solo?Learn how to solo over a chord progression using modes.
Modal Chord Progressions
Intro to Modal Progressions Learn how to construct a chord progression based on modes. It’s cool it’s fun and it’s pretty easy!
Dorian Progressions Learn how to write chord progressions in the cool sounding mode of dorian.
Phrygian Progressions Lean how to write chord progressions in the phrygian mode
Lydian progressions Learn how to write chord progressions in the lydian mode
Mixolydian progressions Learn to write chord progressions in the ever useful mixolydian mode
More Modal Concepts
The Pitch Axis System The pitch axis system is often misunderstood. Find out how to make use of it and how it works in this easy lesson.