Guitar Music Theory For Players

Elvis Elvis

When I first started to play guitar music theory was the last thing I wanted to learn. The whole idea sounded about as fun as piercing my own tongue with a char-broiled screwdriver, so as you can imagine I took my time getting around to it. I wanted to learn electric guitar and shred, man! So that’s what I did, or at least, what I tried to do. And then one day…

It happened. I tried learning a song and discovered that I couldn’t play it. It’s not that I wasn’t “good” enough to play it. The problem was that I simply didn’t know “how” to play it. I saw something that just froze me in my tracks. It was one of these:

[quintuplet] Or, a “tuplet” as I later learned. At this point, I realized that if I didn’t learn how to handle such basic musical notation I was going to miss out on playing some great music. In other words, without a little theory knowledge I’d never be able to shred to my full potential. That was all the inspiration I needed. I got to learning and resolved those basic issues, and now my only challenges are technical, which is how it should be for you.

If you can’t play one of Yngwie Malmsteen’s songs just yet because he’s extremely good, no worries; you’ll get to that level if you want to. On the other hand, if you can’t play something because you don’t understand how, that needs to change. Your guitar problems should be physical, not mental.

Don’t let the easiest part get in your way. This is what you need to know about theory as it relates to playing guitar. If you want to learn about just intonation or some other obscure concept this won’t be the place for you, but if you want to learn how to interpret the basic notation that pops up in tab and standard notation as it relates to playing guitar, look no further.

Guitar Music Theory For Players

Those basic topics, in some particular order, are:

  • Basic Music Theory – Or, definitions of key terms, primarily.
  • Tempo – or how fast the song is. Pretty simple stuff, really.
  • Basic Note Values – or how long to hold things for.
  • Tuplets – Or, odd groups of notes.
  • Time Signatures Or how many of which note get put in each measure.

Again, don’t get too caught up on all the intricate aspects of guitar music theory just yet. There’s a ton more to learn, but whether you go into it or not depends on your goals as a player.