A question about learning scales and theory.

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by BornToLooze, Feb 23, 2019.

  1. BornToLooze

    BornToLooze SS.org Regular

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    So, a little backstory, I've been playing guitar for probably 15 years, but 99% of it has just been playing along with tabs, minus 4 or 5 years where I had more interest in getting drunk than learning guitar.

    Recently I got the same guitar bug I got when I was a teenager. I've been busy relearning how to play guitar sober and realizing I need to learn all that theory stuff I didn't bother learning when I was more interested in just rocking out. I do have a college fine arts credit worth of music theory, so basically I know that a major scale is wwhwwwhw and that C major and A minor don't have any sharps or flats.

    So I've watched plenty of videos about you have to learn you scales and how to make your solos not sound like scales and all that jazz. But with all my playing along with guitar pro and trying to improvise solos that I'm too lazy learn it seems like when I'm trying to wing it that if it has say, a 16th note run up to bending an E up a step, it sounds a lot worse if I land on an Eb and try to bend it up to the right pitch than if I hit a Bb instead of B in the 16th note run. So I have realized that there's not so much a wrong note, but there is a wrong time to play a note.

    Plus say you're playing in A, A uses D and E, and A has F# and C# and E uses F#, G#, C# and G#, so I would think that depending on where in the solo you play them, they would sound good too. And if you and in the other chords besides the 145 progression you'll get some other sharps.

    So am I wrong or would the easier thing to do be memorize the fretboard and what notes are in the scales over sitting there and trying to memorize all these scale boxes that I have to figure out again if I want to play in a different key?
     
  2. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Contributor

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    There's theory and then there's understanding how to use it.

    The easy thing to start with is knowing that you can always land on the I III and V in the Major scale and I iii and V in the Minor scale and it will always sound good.

    Check out Justinguitar... it is has prob the easiest to understand free lessons on how to apply theory.

    https://www.justinguitar.com/categories/scales-modes

    Matt Warnock also has great free stuff, more so relating to jazz theory, but once you get the Justinguitar stuff it's a great follow on IMO.

    https://mattwarnockguitar.com/

    You should always memorize the fretboard. What worked for me:
    • saying the note when you play it
    • playing octaves (e.g. you play a C on 5th string 3rd fret and then play the 3rd string 5th fret with it and then 5th string 3rd and 2nd string 1st)
    • play fifth the same way... also say the notes out loud or sing them.
    • play the scale (AKA modes) from note to note... so play in key of G from G to G, then A to A, then B to B, etc...
    For guitar... easiest two keys (and most used!) is to learn key of G Maj / E Minor and C Major / A Minor. Learn the box pentatonics for these (IMO the CAGED method works well for getting you to learn the pentatonics and note names all over the board the quickest, but some will disagree). Justinguitar has some good lessons on the scales and shapes. I can find a couple of CAGED lessons that were really good and easy to understand when you are ready or if you want.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2019
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  3. Solodini

    Solodini MORE RESTS!

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    I'd go with neither. I'm not keen on memorisation as a tactic as it misses out how things relate. I'm a firm believer in improving your ability to work things out, rather than just having them memorised. If your ability to use the notes of a key is based on a memorised shape, you'll be screwed if you change tuning or pick up a different instrument. Get familiar with how everything relates and how to work it out, theoretically and how to apply that on the guitar, and keep practising that and it will get so much quicker and easier.

    Choose what note you're looking for and find it in isolation. Go through the notes of a key like this and you'll get more familiar with the distances between notes. Learn intervals and this will improve more quickly and to a higher level. With an understanding of intervals you'll be better able to play passages which fit the current harmony, and the broader harmonic context of the piece of music. As you said, knowing the right times to use notes and not just seeing them as wrong notes.

    Pay attention to the spelling of your intervals and notes in a key, as well. Eb and D# sound the same, but you'll be mighty confused if you're trying to work out the notes of B major and you end up with an E natural, an Eb and no D, but you're trying to think of something as functioning as a 3rd. BCD, 123, so your B Major chord will have BD#F# (135) as if we count through alphabetically, BCDEF; 12345.

    Revoice things as much as possible, too. Take notes of the thing you're playing and move them to a different octave to see how it sounds. Transpose melodies to different keys, but play them in the same position as the original key, or as close a position as possible. You'll become much more aware of the notes overall, not just a rigid shape.
     
  4. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    Have you considered getting a teacher to help as well?
     
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  5. sezna

    sezna undermotivated

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    Lots of different philosophies will be presented here, so I'm just gonna say what I do:

    Being able to know what note you're playing will go a long way towards seeing shapes, inventing your own shapes, and understanding what's happening when you're playing. Also get familiar with triads (chords) and what their shapes are. Fretboard visualization is crucial to my thought process of what to play, and I practice it often. At first, things were very slow, because I had to wait for the name of the note/scale degree/chordal function/whatever to come to my head as I played, but after doing it a lot, it happens more quickly.

    That's just for me, though. I also started playing in an orchestra and moved to guitar, so my visualization of music is much different than those who come up through guitar only.
     
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  6. Solodini

    Solodini MORE RESTS!

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    Agreed. We're all musicians so it's good to be able to communicate and understand other musicians.
     
  7. BornToLooze

    BornToLooze SS.org Regular

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    I used to have one, and that's where the memorizing scales shapes came from. But now I don't have time for one.

    But I bought a book on fretboard mastery, I figure that'll help.
     
  8. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    No room for half an hour a week?
     
  9. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    A book also takes time to read. If you have time for the book, you have time for a teacher, IMO.

    I'd put forward that music theory is not a need, necessarily. Knowing more theory is a valuable tool, but not a requirement. I don't mean that to discourage learning though. I think a lot of people sort of learn an "intuitive" version of music theory just by virtue of spending a lot of time playing and trying stuff out. I know that a lot of the writing and playing patterns I use fall into a theoretical framework, but don't ask me to explain it because I wouldn't be able to. Not having the "academic" version of it, or the capacity to put it into words or explain it, doesn't mean that I don't know what I'm doing - it's just approached a different way.
     
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  10. sezna

    sezna undermotivated

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    Theory is analytical, not prescriptive. We developed theory to understand and analyze what we think sounds good, in the same way that grammar attempts to describe but not prescribe language (unless you're in elementary school).


    A lot of people fall into the trap of thinking they need theory to write. No. You need theory to understand patterns and "why" things sound good, and perhaps replicate them, but you don't need it to make things that sound good. That's up to you.
     
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  11. BornToLooze

    BornToLooze SS.org Regular

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    But a book I can read whenever. It's not so much I don't have time for a teacher, it that the time I do have is going to be too late to go to one.

    Basically, what I'm trying to figure out, is a bunch of the main guitar players I like are ones that "don't know theory", but still write killer solos, which is the approach I'd rather take. And I've figured out a couple little lead patterns that sound good, but I want to expand on that without having to sit around forever trying to figure it out by ear, because my ear's not that good.
     
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  12. Solodini

    Solodini MORE RESTS!

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    I think you'll need to push yourself harder to be able to keep your playing from getting stale. I find it very easy to mix up what I'm doing as I know what patterns I'm falling into so I can reappropriate those in a different context, or know to try to change it up a bit. Spotting proximity of notes is easily enough done in lieu of understanding intervals but not knowing how those relate to the chord and analysing the effect of WHEN a passage falls makes things difficult to change, I feel. The more I understand, the easier things are. It's just like with languages, the more you learn about, the better you understand your own and the easier it is to understand people in both. At least in languages with Latin/Greek/Germanic roots.
     
  13. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Contributor

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    Two best pieces of advice I ever got when it comes to playing guitar and it sounds stupid to have to say, but...

    • Use a metronome
    • Tap your foot (in meter)
     
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  14. BornToLooze

    BornToLooze SS.org Regular

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    Back when I was taking lessons my teacher was always trying to get me to tap my foot in rhythm, and it always screwed me up, but I've gotten to where I'll either bob my head to headbang (depending on how much I have to pay attention to what I'm playing) and that doesn't mess me up. But I'm weird like that. Just like when I started and I was practicing with a metronome, I was still trying to figure out how to keep time with it when I joined a band. I could barely keep time with a metronome, but I could lock in with the drummer and keep time just fine. Which is better IMHO, because you're not going to play with a metronome live anyways.
     
  15. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Contributor

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    No, but you might play with a click track when recording. And playing along with a metronome, especially to all different types of meters and BPMs, should make you a better player.

    But to each his own!

    Guys like Becker were self-taught and figured everything out by ear, until years later when they learned theory to make sense of what they were already doing, vs guys like Petrucci and Broderick were formally trained. EVH learned music on a piano first, which impacted his approach years later when he swiched to guitar (and I suspect MacAlpine was the same). Paul Gilbert didn't know about down-stroked picking, meanwhile guys like Hetfield didn't use up-strokes. We all get there somehow, and the beauty of music is the results from the different pathways of learning.
     
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  16. InCasinoOut

    InCasinoOut syncopAZN

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    But, people always say to learn how to practice to a metronome because it really helps. I really wish I learned it sooner, because at a certain point where I plateaued for years, finally learning to play to one unlocked a new level of technical skill for me and all of a sudden I could start tackling riffs and solos that I forever believed were far out of my technical ability. I would just repeat to myself, "if you can't play it slow, you can't play it fast" and find whatever tempo I needed to slow something down to to be able to run through it cleanly, and then increase from there. Before, any fast run that came my way, I would just wing it and hope for the best lol. No wonder I didn't get any better.

    When it comes to recording, I think it absolutely makes better players. I have one buddy who writes amazing, creative riffs. I absolutely love what he writes, but when I try to record him, his playing isn't tight enough to get the huge double-tracked effect because he never practices to a click or even bobs his head in time. On the other hand, my friend who went to school for guitar and used a click religiously, could track all guitars in a whole 6 minute song in a couple hours. That was a breeze, and I could even just focus on getting the mix to sound good instead of dealing with sloppy takes.

    Don't discount it, especially if you haven't actually put in the time to learn how to use one and benefit from it. Bands might not always need metronomes live to sound great, but the ones that do and play to click every time, always sound tighter, especially when it comes to more technically demanding metal.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2019 at 1:40 PM
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  17. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    This could come back to bite you when it comes time to record though. I've known some guys who were pretty good in a live setting, they were able to sort of "feel" the groove and run with in in a live show setting, but when trying to play against a recorded track, it was all over the place. Turns out that maybe they weren't actually in time at all, and the drummer was compensating. When everything is live, you can all play off of eachother that way. Recording though...... the time spent making sure you can play to a click becomes a lot more important.
     
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