It happened again just the other day. A guy named Ed came in to inquire about taking private guitar lessons from me. He had actually been playing for several years and was even in a Blues garage band. He's asking me how my guitar lessons will help take his guitar playing to the next level. I asked him a few questions and it became apparent that, like a lot of folks, he didn't really know ANYTHING about music. He's totally self taught. He knows a few guitar chords and some riffs. His friends have been showing him some finger patterns but he doesn't know what they are or how to use them.
I tell him that I think it's important to understand guitar/music theory in order to get where you REALLY want to with your music. How are you going to MASTER that instrument if you don't UNDERSTAND how it works?
He says "Yeah ... but I'm not interested in becoming a PRO or anything. I just wanna' jam with my friends ... play what SOUNDS good. What the heck do I need to know all that music theory crap for?"
I get that all the time and it's so frustrating to me. I know that if I didn't understand what I do about the LANGUAGE of music, I wouldn't be able to do ANY of the cool things I can do on my guitar. I have so much fun. I write my own tunes, jam my brains out and play anything just by listening to it. I owe it all to the excellent teachers I had and the hard work I did learning my theory and getting my ears trained. I want everybody to get to where they are as happy with their own guitar playing. It's kinda' my mission in life and it can be pretty discouraging when you see how many folks become blinded by all the misinformation there is out there ... so I'm always looking for ways to answer folks when they raise these objections. I suddenly had a flash of inspiration.
I said to Ed "Hey, do you play sports?" He said yes.
I said "How about Baseball?" He said it was his favorite. He's in a softball league.
I said "How the heck ya' gonna' play ball if you don't know the RULES OF THE GAME?"
He looked a little confused so I elaborated. THEORY is like the "rules of the game" for the sport of MUSIC. I guess you could get up there with your bat ... but why is this guy throwing that ball past me so fast? What am I supposed to do now? Hit the ball? Run to a base? What's that? What does it mean if the guy tags me with the ball? What the heck is an inning ... or a bunt ... or a pop fly?
We all seem to understand that games have rules. There is stuff you have to know to make sense of what is going on around you. Otherwise you would be totally lost. And it doesn't matter whether you're in the Little League, your local softball team or shooting for a career in "The Majors". Ya' gotta' know the rules of the game. Why is it so hard for folks to see that music has rules too?
Music is an ART FORM and I know a lot of you want to believe that there are no rules in art ... and indeed there AREN'T. Art is about SELF EXPRESSION ... right? You have my full permission to get up there and make whatever stupid racket you want. But is anybody else going to care or appreciate what you're doing? Will you be able to add anything of value to the history of the form? Probably not. You've heard it time-and-time again. You have to KNOW the rules in order to creatively BREAK them. In music, as in most everything else in life, KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. You can believe me now or believe me later.
And remember ... the main reason that folks resist learning "the rules" of music is that they are under the mistaken impression that this stuff is complicated and confusing. But the truth is it's actually pretty simple if you get it explained to you the right way. Music is very much like a simple language. It's pretty logical and straight forward. It ain't rocket science. It's just so often TAUGHT really badly that folks get the idea that it's this big deal. So now that you know better, why wouldn't you want to take a little time to learn the rules? The rewards are very real. You could ultimately play guitar as well or even BETTER than the guitar heroes you have now.
I guess I made my point because Ed signed up for some lessons and I'm sure he'll do just fine. So batter up and let's hit one out of the park! Give our DVD guitar lessons a try. By the time we're done, you'll know pretty much everything about music and how it works on the guitar ... and call me anytime if you have questions.
Otherwise, you'll probably just wind up "sitting on the bench". Tennis anyone?
All the best, Scotty West