Don’t introduce Guitar Music Theory too Early!

Music Theory For Guitar Teachers

It’s a good idea not to introduce guitar music theory to your students too early?

Introduce Guitar Music theory at the right time?Music theory is very important but to focus on it in the early stages of teaching guitar to a complete beginner  is not neccesarily the best way to help someone to become able to play the instrument?

In the early stages of study aspiring guitar players  need to be encouraged by developing their physical and technical abilities rather than be discouraged because they are introduced to a body of knowledge that (if we as guitar teachers are not careful?) can appear to be so complicated that it may even put them off playing.

Music theory is not complicated and your students should study it but not neccesarily within the first few months of a their  “journey”. They need to first feel that they are becoming guitar players. Imagine the frustration that they will experience if after a few months spent developing an understanding of the “nuts and bolts” of music theory as it applies to a guitar player (scale and chord construction?)  to suddenly realise that they are not really a great deal closer to making a noise like a musician than they were when they first came to you for guitar lessons? Such a realisation will most likely lead to one of two results?

1: They will become discouraged and give up playing the guitar?

2: They will find a guitar teacher who makes them feel that they are making progress?

For obvious reasons neither of the two options presented above are what we are looking for either as effective educators or as people who put bread on the table using money that we earn by helping people to become guitarists?

We should develop an awareness of just when aquiring a knowledge of music theory will become a tool that our guitar students can use rather than a hurdle that they have to get over and that point is (for me) when they have developed the dexterity to play and change between the eight chords in the basic CAGED System.

The chords (C A Am G E Em D and Dm) represent the easiest shapes for a novice guitarist to learn and mastering the ability to change between them using a few basic strumming patterns will just about put a guitar student in the place where he or she can derive benefit from knowing how it works (rather than just that it works).

At around about this stage (during a small section of each lesson – we are still spending most of each session continuing to develop physical skills) I introduce the concept of intervals of a whole and a half step on the guitar. I then go on to  use these intervals to construct a scale of C major (naming the notes as we go).

When my students undestand this we look at using the first, third and fifth notes of the C Major scale to construct a C Major chord. Following on from there we look at constructing a couple of other major scales and chords (G and D since you ask?) using the same series of intervals. Next up its minor scale and minor chord construction and the differences (the flattened third) and similarities (the root and the fifth) between the two chord types.

From this point it is to be hoped and expected that the world of music theory as it applies to guitar hopefully does not seem so scarey to a novice player?



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