A Sure-Fire Way For Beginners Musicians To Learn Theory

While there are some people who are convinced they don’t need to know any theory to play music, there are a few basics that every musician should familiarize themselves with. It is important to have a basic idea of what it is that you are playing, and why you are playing it. Understanding these concepts are actually not as complicated as you might think.

There’s a hard truth you will need to accept when first learning music theory, and that is that you probably don’t know very much about it. That probably sounds obvious when you read it, however many beginners will feel discouraged about how their own lack of knowledge. The old, “I should be better than this” problem.

Truth is, every great musician once started out where you are. It’s impossible to start anything new as an expert. At the same time, the longer you wait to learn, the long you are limiting your abilities as a player.

There is a common misconception that many successful musicians get by without any theoretical knowledge. The fact is, you aren’t going to get very far without at least a basic understanding of music theory. Chances are, you already know a little more than you think! So keep reading for tips on how to continue your learning with the right foot forward.

0.1 Keep Calm

There is no such thing as “not being smart enough” for theory. Learning does not require you to have a four year degree and crippling student debt. Music theory is for everyone (not just the academic types) and all it takes is a little patience and determination.

So don’t panic next time you hear someone talking about music theory, instead you should embrace it! The only thing holding you back from learning is yourself, and you are probably much more capable than you think. Theory is a wonderful tool that works to expand your musical language, so just enjoy the process and take in the knowledge at your own pace.

0.2 Figure Out What You Already Know

  • Are you familiar with at least one scale?
  • Are you able to strum a basic chord progression?
  • Are you able to play simple rhythmic pattern?

The ability to do even one of the things listed above means you already know more music theory then you probably realize. As much as people try to avoid music theory, it is naturally engrained in many things including scales, rhythms, and chords. Whether or not you understand the reasoning behind what chords go together, an important first step is simply identifying how they sound.

The knowledge you already have should not be discredited just because you don’t quite yet have a full understanding of it. Don’t bring yourself down if you can’t quite keep up with your more experienced guitar player friend. You are simply at a different point in your musical journey and you are more than capable to continue growing.

0.3 Focus On The Basics

Learning theory is really only as complicated as you make it. There are endless things that you can learn, but don’t feel like you must learn all of it. There are a few important basic elements that every beginner should start with. If you are not sure what those basics are you are welcome to check out my free eBook that is available on my website titled “Beginning Music Theory”. This will help you to not take on too much at once.

You are not trying to impress anyone with the amount of information you are learning. Realize this is only for your own benefit, and that it is okay to go at your own pace. Its much more important to understand a few things really well, than to have a vague understanding about a lot of things.

0.4 Find Someone To Help You

Music is best when shared. The same goes for learning. Sure you could go to the library and take out the first theory book you find and flip through it, frantically trying to separate the things you need and don’t need to know. Or, you could find yourself a teacher who is fully prepared to instantly guide you through what is important.

Before you try to tell me that you can’t afford it, really ask yourself if that is the truth or if it is just an excuse. A good teacher will not only help you with your playing, but will also teach you the fundamentals of theory and build your confidence along the way. Nowadays you aren’t limited to who is available in your home town, but you can also look for teachers online. When looking, however, keep in mind to find someone with the following qualities:

  • You want a teacher who is a competent musician and knows how to play
  • You want someone who has good communication skills
  • And someone who has musical interests that are relevant to your goals

That means if you are looking to play jazz music, you probably want to stay away from someone who only knows rock. Again, there are plenty of places for you to look at a range of prices depending on what you need, so get looking!

0.5 Don’t Wait Any Longer!

Now that you know exactly what you need to do to begin your music theory journey, don’t put it off for a moment longer! Theres no time like the present to get started, and the above information should provide you with more than enough tools to do so. All that you need to know is out there just waiting for you to learn it, so its time to get cracking! If you need any additional guidance, feel free to find me at the link below.

Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.

Tommaso Zillio