By Dylan Andrews
Most musicians who don’t know music theory either think it is too complicated for them, think they would only need it as professional musicians or just think it won’t help them in playing their instrument. All these ways of thinking are wrong! Do you need to know music theory in order to play your instrument? No. Will understanding your instrument more deeply bring you to a new level of playing you never thought possible? Yes.
Why should I know music theory?
Without doubt you will become a better player of your instrument. Understanding theory will allow you to:
- Be more comfortable with your instrument
- Be able to express what you feel with your instrument
- Be able to actually think about how you want your instrument to sound
- Learn new techniques and ideas you’ve never thought of
- Increase you skill in every aspect of music such as songwriting, improvisation, transposing etc.
- Write music away from your guitar
- Develop your ear
- You will not longer be just a guitar player, you will be a musician
Are you sold on the idea of learning music theory yet?
What’s the first step to understanding music theory?
Alright, here we go! The first step to understanding music theory is to understand intervals. The most common definition for an interval is the distance between two notes. So if you were to play two different notes you would be playing two different intervals. Let’s take the C major scale for example.
Above you will see all the notes that are within the C major scale. Below each note are the intervals that correspond to that note. So let’s breakdown each of the intervals you see above.
- A whole step is a 2nd interval (C to D)
- 2 whole steps is a 3rd interval (C to E)
- 2 and 1/2 whole steps is a 4th interval (C to F)
- 3 and 1/2 whole steps is a 5th interval (C to G)
- 4 and 1/2 whole steps is a 6th interval (C to A)
- 5 and 1/2 whole steps is a 7th interval (C to B)
- 6 whole steps is an octave (C to C)
I would suggest that you sit down by your instrument and try to play through all of these intervals to get a feeling for where everything is. The distance stays the same no matter what notes you are hitting. A second interval will always be a whole step away from the root, a 3rd interval will always be 2 whole steps away from the root etc. Let’s look at another key to really sink this in.
Above you see the key of G. The notes have changes but the intervals are still in the same place. The notes G and A are a whole step apart, which makes it a 2nd interval. G and B are 2 whole steps apart, so it’s a 3rd interval. Is this making sense yet? If not, that’s okay. When it comes to music theory it could take up to 5-10 times of things being explained to you before they clicks. Be patient and keep reading this until you have understood everything.
So far we have only looked at major intervals but there are many different types of intervals. There are major, minor, perfect, augmented and diminished intervals. Here is a list of every interval and the distance between each of them.
How Do I Use Intervals?
Do not worry about how exactly to use intervals right now. Only start working on that when you fully understand them. When everything makes sense and you can playas the intervals on your instrument, then you can start working on how to implement them into your playing.
About The Author:
Dylan Andrews is a professional guitarist, teacher, and entrepreneur living in Lawrenceville Georgia. Dylan has been teaching guitar for over 5 years and has helped over 100 people learn the guitar. If you are looking for guitar lessons in Lawrenceville, Dylan is the person you want to see.