Tips On How Musician Can Begin Learning Theory

Written by Tommaso Zillio

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Tommaso Zillio - professional guitarist and guitar teacher

Learning music theory can be fun, interesting, and hugely beneficial to your playing. That is, if done correctly. With so much to learn, starting the process can feel a little overwhelming. However, there are a few things you can do to simplify the whole experience.

One of the first steps to learning music theory is taking a deep breath and accepting the fact that you don’t know very much and that your knowledge it probably very limited as a beginner. A lot of people will go into learning theory already disappointed about how little they know, but trust me when I say that every single great guitar player started where you are.

While knowing very little is nothing to feel badly about, the sooner you get to learning the sooner all the amazing benefits of theory knowledge will reveal itself to you.

Theres a lot of false information thats spread around about how many great music legends never knew any theory. The truth is that without theory, these musicians would not have made it very far. Besides gaining a deeper understanding of your craft, learning music theory is useful in ways you may not of realized.

The following are some tips to get you started learning music theory on the right foot.

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.

You Know More Than You Think

When sitting down to learn theory for the first time, you probably think you are going into it with nothing. However, consider the following…

Can you play at least one scale on your instrument? Are you able to strum a rhythmic pattern? Could you hum a simple melody over a chord progression?

Being able to do any of the above means that you are already deeper in the world of theory than you realize. Music theory is what helps us to write chord progressions, notate rhythmic patterns, and improvise over a piece of music. At this point you might not fully understand why a certain scale is played as it is, but simply knowing the sound of it is an extremely useful first step.

The amount of knowledge that you already have gained from simply playing your instrument is going to make the whole process of learning theory a lot easier, so don’t discount the work you have already done.

Slow And Steady

Its easy to begin looking into a book of music theory and think "Oh jeez I have so much to catch up on!". There is no need to fret. While the amount of things you can learn when it comes to music theory is endless, you by no means need to learn all of it. Don’t overwhelm yourself by tackling the biggest hurdle first. You will want to focus on having a complete understanding of the basics before expanding your study.

There are many resources that can help you start small, including my eBook that is available for free on my website titled "Beginning Music Theory". This will help to narrow down the expansive world of music theory and provide you with a great place to start. Take on just a little every day and I promise you will notice an improvement in your musicianship.

Find Someone Who Knows What They Are Doing

The story goes that Hayden learned everything he knew about composition through books and self practice because he was too poor to pay for someone to teach him. In those days, poor meant not knowing if you were going to be eating that day and that a bit of rain could mean the total wreckage of your home. Chances are, if you are reading this article right now you have your next meal planned and your house is not on the verge of collapsing.

What i’m trying to say is that more than likely you ARE able to afford a teacher.

These days, there is an abundance places you can search locally for someone to teach you. Otherwise there are plenty of teachers that are available to you online. However, there are a few important things you want to keep in mind when choosing a teacher…

  1. Make sure the teacher is a good communicator and can clearly teach you the things you want to learn (communication is KEY)
  2. Make sure that the teacher is competent and knows how to play
  3. Make sure that the teacher will help you achieve your goals (for instance, you probably don’t want to learn rock music from a classical player)

Get To It!

With all this useful information at hand, the only thing left for you to do is to start learning. If you follow through with the advice listed above, you really cannot fail. Remember to take in just a little bit every day.

The world of music theory is both useful and fun, so time to start exploring! If you need additional help with anything I talked about today, I can be found at the link below.

About the Author

Tommaso Zillio is a professional guitarist and guitar teacher. Visit Tommaso’s site to know more about music theory for guitar