Best complete guitar theory methods?

Creighton

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I've been playing over 20 years and in an effort to become a better player have taken Jazz guitar lessons which I find is a great way to learn theory no matter what style you play, but it is hard work definitely. My most recent Jazz teacher has his own book he wrote entitled 'Pitch Name Scale Degree', which goes from the most basic theory through the most advanced, so it is definitely a complete method, but it is tedious going through it. Maybe that's just the way it's going to be, I know you have to put in effort, but I am wondering what other complete guitar methods and programs are out there? Maybe there is something out there that will work better for me.
 

dewey decibel

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11,481
I've been playing over 20 years and in an effort to become a better player have taken Jazz guitar lessons which I find is a great way to learn theory no matter what style you play, but it is hard work definitely. My most recent Jazz teacher has his own book he wrote entitled 'Pitch Name Scale Degree', which goes from the most basic theory through the most advanced, so it is definitely a complete method, but it is tedious going through it. Maybe that's just the way it's going to be, I know you have to put in effort, but I am wondering what other complete guitar methods and programs are out there? Maybe there is something out there that will work better for me.

Do you want to play jazz? IME learning jazz theory isn't necessarily going to make you a better player (in fact, maybe quite the opposite). Not trying to dissuade you, but I don't see the point in learning, say- the modes of the melodic minor scale and their uses if you're playing pop or blues or rock.
 

Creighton

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2,152
Do you want to play jazz? IME learning jazz theory isn't necessarily going to make you a better player (in fact, maybe quite the opposite). Not trying to dissuade you, but I don't see the point in learning, say- the modes of the melodic minor scale and their uses if you're playing pop or blues or rock.

I play rock and indie music. I have a grasp of basic to intermediate music theory but to go further requires study. I have found that Jazz teachers tend to not only have a very deep understanding of theory, they usually also have an organized method of teaching that takes you from where you are at, and studying with them opens up tons of new possibilities in my playing.. It's not about learning Jazz for me, it's about learning the fretboard and learning to play and solo intelligently. Just wondering what else might be out there.

I disagree completely with your last sentence. Do you think Jimmy Page knows all the modes and how to apply them and why they work? I can guarantee he does.
 

stevel

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There's no such thing as Guitar Theory.

There's Music Theory.

There's Guitar Technique.

Ne'er the twain shall meet - well, ok, there's crossover but I hope you see my point: "Theory" is applicable to all musical instruments.

There are certainly styles of theory - Early Music Theory is different from Common Practice Period Theory which is different from Jazz Theory and Atonal Theory.

Like pedals, there are billions out there - everyone's trying to make a buck...

I think though you're right in your OP - it is tedious. If you're looking for a "shortcut" which is what it sounds like you're trying to do reading between the lines, there probably isn't any. There may be more complete approaches, more practical approaches, more logical approaches, and things like that, but a C7b9 is a C7b9 is a C7b9.

You could take some "real" theory at a university. But that may not be at all what you want.

What I think you need to do is play music. Lots of it. And especially that which forces you to learn the fingerboard - namely, reading music off the page and sight reading.

In addition, study how all the greats improvise.

The answer is in the music. Learn it, absorb it, tear it apart and figure out what makes it tick, and so on.
 

JonnyQ

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I play rock and indie music. It's not about learning Jazz for me, it's about learning the fretboard and learning to play and solo intelligently. Just wondering what else might be out there.

I don't think @dewey decibel is off base.

Advancing one's knowledge tends to point to a focused area of interest and specialization. You could, for example, learn the fretboard and apply theory by studying a classical guitar method.

But for a great primer that runs from reading music through advanced theory concepts I'd recommend the very accessible and concrete...

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Or if you are into more abstract thinking and discovery:

51hwiacaK8L.jpg
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
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25,185
The best guitar theory method is: a piano.
Guitar has too many redundant pitches in the exact same octaves to make a natural study of theory possible. In other words...theory is 3-4X times more difficult to 'see' on guitar. Study theory on a keyboard and then guitar will make a lot more sense.
 

Creighton

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2,152
theory is 3-4X times more difficult to 'see' on guitar. Study theory on a keyboard and then guitar will make a lot more sense.

That's exactly the problem. I understand scales and chords but I haven't had the 'aha' moment where I understand how it all fits together and I see the fretboard mapped out. I feel like that realization can be had but I'm not sure how to get there. Learning to play triads in all positions on all three sets of strings and then harmonized scales has helped, but not quite there yet.

And to Stevel's post, yes I guess I am looking to see if some kind of shortcut or trick to learning the fretboard exists. The main thing for me too is having an organized method where each lesson builds on the previous material, which I find most beneficial.
 

guitarjazz

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25,185
That's exactly the problem. I understand scales and chords but I haven't had the 'aha' moment where I understand how it all fits together and I see the fretboard mapped out. I feel like that realization can be had but I'm not sure how to get there. Learning to play triads in all positions on all three sets of strings and then harmonized scales has helped, but not quite there yet.

And to Stevel's post, yes I guess I am looking to see if some kind of shortcut or trick to learning the fretboard exists. The main thing for me too is having an organized method where each lesson builds on the previous material, which I find most beneficial.
The George Van Eps Guitar Method.
 

dewey decibel

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11,481
Ok, I should say I'm pretty sure he does. At any rate I appreciate your input.

I love Jimmy Page. After The Beatles, Led Zep was one of the first bands I really got into. And I think that he was probably waayyy ahead of his contemporaries in his understanding of music theory. But if he were asked what scale to play over an F7susb9 chord, no, I don't think he would know. I'm sure he could figure it out, or at least figure out something to play that would sound good, but I'm pretty sure he's not going to know the name of it off hand. And why would he? It's not likely to occur in any of the music he makes.

I spent the last two days in the studio with one of my most talented friends- great ear, tremendous musical vocabulary, and a damn good player (even though he never practices). It's amazing to watch him, he can create and hear 3 or 4 simultaneous parts in his head, clear as a bell. And yeah, he could play through a jazz standard and probably solo, but it's not going to be in a jazz idiom, and it's not going to be using advanced jazz harmony. And if I asked him off hand what he'd play over an F7susb9 chord he'd probably just laugh and walk away.

I get what you're looking to learn, and if you find a jazz teacher that respects that then by all means, dive in. But IME many jazz teachers want to teach jazz, and only jazz. You don't need to play jazz to learn theory, and many people have burned out on theory because they didn't understand that.

I agree with the others, it's best to learn theory away from the instrument (often on piano), then take it to the fretboard. So the question is , how do we envision the fretboard as we do a keyboard? As in a linear fashion? It's not easy, but there is a "trick"; it's all about intervals. You learn to take all those shapes and patterns that you feel locked into and which hold you back, and learn the intervalic relationships within. Then you can use them to your advantage, rather than disadvantage.

My buddy might not know the sound of an F7susb9 off hand, but he'd know how to construct it on his instrument (as well as on a keyboard). And he might not know which scale to play over it, but he would be able to figure out some good notes to use, and some to avoid. That's really all there is too it, get there and you'll be in good shape (even if actually want to play jazz).
 

JonR

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Do you think Jimmy Page knows all the modes and how to apply them and why they work? I can guarantee he does.
Sounds like a guess to me. Do you have any evidence? In the 1960s, at least, nobody in rock music knew anything about modes (with the exception of Ray Manzarek, who wasn't a guitarist so doesn't count :D). I guess he may well have studied modes since then. What he certainly did know, from early on, was chords, and the blues. He certainly had a more inventive frame of mind than most rock musicians of his generation, explored open tunings and unusual voicings, stole ideas from everywhere, but whether any of it was informed by an understanding of modes, I very much doubt.
 

JonnyQ

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In the 1960s, at least, nobody in rock music knew anything about modes (with the exception of Ray Manzarek, who wasn't a guitarist so doesn't count :D).

But Robbie Krieger counts, if to no one other than Mrs. Krieger, but also to those who may have noticed he knowingly wrote many songs in Dorian, which he called his favourite mode.

As far as Mr. Page, I recall being at a screening of IT MIGHT GET LOUD. There's a scene when he lovingly scolds The Edge for placing a chord in a U2 song that did not comply with Page's understanding of the song's key. A snarky film composer sitting near me muttered out, "It's called Modal Interchange, genius." But Page didn't hear him, for the fact he was merely a moving image projected on a silver screen.
 

Creighton

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2,152
Sounds like a guess to me. Do you have any evidence? In the 1960s, at least, nobody in rock music knew anything about modes (with the exception of Ray Manzarek, who wasn't a guitarist so doesn't count :D). I guess he may well have studied modes since then. What he certainly did know, from early on, was chords, and the blues. He certainly had a more inventive frame of mind than most rock musicians of his generation, explored open tunings and unusual voicings, stole ideas from everywhere, but whether any of it was informed by an understanding of modes, I very much doubt.

Well, he was only the most in demand studio musician in England for years before before Zep was even formed, which required reading lots of charts, in addition to his exploration of lots of traditional styles of music and alternate tunings. Modes have been around a very long time. Beyond all that though just listen to his playing and composing. It's fairly obvious that he understood and used them.
 

dewey decibel

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11,481
Sounds like a guess to me. Do you have any evidence? In the 1960s, at least, nobody in rock music knew anything about modes (with the exception of Ray Manzarek, who wasn't a guitarist so doesn't count :D). I guess he may well have studied modes since then. What he certainly did know, from early on, was chords, and the blues. He certainly had a more inventive frame of mind than most rock musicians of his generation, explored open tunings and unusual voicings, stole ideas from everywhere, but whether any of it was informed by an understanding of modes, I very much doubt.

For the record, I said modes of the melodic minor scale, which I find to be very jazz centric. Lots of examples of mixolydian and Dorian ramblings from Jimmy...
 
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Most guitar manuals that go beyond rock, blues, and country major and minor chords and pentatonic soloing that aren't going in a folk or classical direction tend to be jazz-oriented. If I was, hypothetically, you, Creighton, I would start studying jazz whether your intention is to become a "jazz player" or not. From your post it seems like you are at a point in your musical development where the things you want and need to know you will find as you go through the process of learning jazz.

One thing I highly recommend is that unless you know how to do it already you should learn how to read music in standard notation without tablature on guitar. Most of my favorite jazz guitar books do not have tablature, though some may have markings for fingerings and positions. And none of the jazz books written for all instruments or all treble clef instruments have guitar tablature. For me learning to read music, especially learning to sight read, was less about memorizing the things I read or reading music so I could use it on the job but more about the stuff I could learn from books not written specifically for guitar.

Here is a link to a book about reading music on guitar.


I think the best jazz theory book is Mark Levine's The Jazz Theory Book. And you may learn a lot of stuff from it. But I think you should also get yourself a stack of jazz guitar method books. Here are some of the ones I dig. Get as many of them as you can. They all contain some of the information. But they have different exercises and lines to play over and over again.

Patterns Scales & Modes For Jazz Guitar by Arnie Berle
Chords & Progressions For Jazz & Popular Guitar by Arnie Berle
Joe Pass Guitar Style
Jazz Single Note Soloing Volumes 1 and 2 by Ted Greene
Jazz Guitar Lines by Vincent Bredice

I also recommend books of jazz lines and patterns for all treble clef instruments. Here are some of them.

David N. Baker's bebop books- my favorite is Improvisational Patterns The Bebop Era Volume 3
Bebop Bible by Les Wise
1001 Jazz Licks by Jack Shneidman
Patterns For Improvisation by Oliver Nelson
Patterns For Jazz by Jerry Coker and James Casale
Intervallic Improvisation The Modern Sound by Walt Weiskopf

I also recommend The Advancing Guitarist by Mick Goodrick. It is rather esoteric. But there are some good ideas in there. And I recommend Thesaurus Of Scales And Melodic Patterns by Nicolas Slonimsky.

Also, listen to a lot of African American and African music- funk, soul, R&B, soul jazz, free jazz, black gospel, hip hop, go go, Nigerian juju, reggae, dub, rural blues, and lots of Sun Ra and Lightnin' Hopkins.
 

strike3

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1,202
check this out:
Serious Guitar, by Michael Hoffman
He has some youtubes out to give you a feel for the book
good luck!
 

ZeyerGTR

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4,243
There's learning theory, and then there's learning what to do with it, when and how. The former you can get lots of places - books, youtube, teachers, etc. The latter has really one way: play. I suppose you could say "learn songs that use it" but it's kind of the same point. A lot of people stop their learning at "I read the book" or "I did the exercises." The problem is that it doesn't become a part of their playing that way. That's certainly been the case for me in a lot of things. Sounds like you've learned a lot of things, but the lightbulb hasn't come on and you don't know wha to do with them. You need to find a way to not only learn the stuff, but find a way to let you practice applying it. A teacher could help but depending on where you're at it might just be a matter of sitting down with the Real Book, backing tracks, writing songs, transcribing songs, etc. The pieces will fit into place once you hear them used in actual music. Just my 2c.
 

LaceSensor1

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4,329
The way I did it. I dove into anything I could find around me, including Internet forums. I asked questions after question until I could watch any youtube theory video and actually comprehend what they were talking about. Now playing crazy stuff is a whole different thing as suggested above. I would dive into the genre you have more feelings and connection with to supplement the theory injections. Jazz is cool, you can get fairly tricky in just about any genre.
 

gennation

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8,106
First take a year or so and delve into music theory. It's very straight forwards, logical, by the numbers, and it makes sense to almost everyone. You can answer test questions with it but might not be a musician because you know it.

Then you can spend the rest of your life learning application of the theory to the point of understanding, seeing it in action, and leaving it behind...and realizing why you can leave it behind...because you see it, recognize it, and understand it.

IOW, you can spend a year on music theory and the first time you try to apply it to a song you play, you might be left scratching your noggin. The theory is in there but it's not logical, it's musical. So instead of looking for the logic in your music, look for the music in the logic.

Sounds weird, but you will learn about Major, Minor, and Dominants in "theory" and that they are connected together logically in theory. But in a song they are connected together musically, not cut and dry logically...but it is all there.
 




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