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Music Theory Noob Makes Major Discoveries?

blurry guitar

Pun intended when I said that a music theory noob just made MAJOR discoveries. I probably mentioned this a few times on my blog that I avoided music theory a lot. Of course, I know some bits and bobs but for the most part, if I can play the guitar, then just because I spent thousands of hours with the instrument over many years. I avoided theory because it confused me a lot in the past and I really preferred to spend time with the instrument, discovering things on my own. It confused me that much, that I sometimes believed that it would be more likely that I learn Chinese than music theory. But I got some bits and bobs of theory because, once in a while, my curiosity came back.

This just happened recently again when I was messing around with the major scale. But this time, I made some discoveries. It isn’t really about playing the major scale but the fact that I never really spend time to analyze it. But now I tried. I just counted the notes and they are seven. But arrived at the last note, if you go a half step further, you’re playing the root again but this time an octave higher. You can continue to the next octaves until your fretboard doesn’t allow you to do it anymore. That’s no real magic because I’ve done that all the time, for example when playing solos, just not counting and looking.

So, again, it wasn’t really the playing but the way how I started to look at it. For example, paying close attention to the root notes in each octave. For example, the G Major Scale obviously starts with the G note. Now it started to become obvious to me where the next G note would be in a higher octave. Then, while playing some arpeggio notes out of boredom, I realized how easy it is to create a G Major chord from any G note on the fretboard, maybe because my ears are now used to that Major tonality after so many years of playing, which makes it easy to find the right notes, I don’t know. But out of a sudden, it just worked to create Major chords, myself.

It’s not that I didn’t already know several ways to play a G Major chord across the fretboard, I do, but that playing the notes individually, made me realize that you don’t need to look them up, you can actually create them yourself, anywhere you want, from the root note to different directions on the fretboard. That made me discover the chord variants I already knew, but also very exotic, to me new ways of creating a G Major chord. And then again, it started to make me become more aware of where all the root notes are, so, now I also started to do it with other root notes. But now I was confused about why I started to be able to do that. It was clear, I needed to open the browser and Google.

The music theory nerds under you will probably start to laugh now if you haven’t already. Excuse me, I am really that bad at understanding music theory. But it seems like I was finally on the right track to put some puzzle pieces together. Ashamed, I asked Google and YouTube stuff like “What is Major”, “What is a Major chord” and other cringe-worthy search queries, at least for someone who is playing the guitar for two decades. So, I got a reminder that did send me right back to my childhood and the poor music lessons we had in school. Chords basically consist of three notes, ok, I still remember. But here is where it became interesting.

In the case of a Major chord, you play the 1st (root), 3rd, and 5th notes from the major scale. I immediately grabbed my guitar and tested this. I sat there with opened eyes and thought “What?”. Not that it didn’t work, it absolutely did. But here is the major discovery. I finally realized what the heck all those guitar teachers mean when they speak about 1st, 3rd, 5th, and all those numberings. It’s related to the notes within the Major scale. Am I stupid! Why the hell did nobody tell me this earlier? Why do guitar teachers on YouTube or in articles expect you to know what a 5th or any other number is related to? Maybe it’s because all these guides are so scattered, often even hidden behind paywalls, so that there is no visible connection, how things come together. Maybe it’s like with math, when you skip one part, you get difficulties with the more advanced stuff. You need a guiding thread.

At least, it seems like I don’t have to avoid these cryptic online lessons about numberings anymore because I finally understand the numbers are related to the major scale. Maybe I’ve just been too stupid to understand it, or just grabbing the guitar was the far more attractive option. No matter what, but one thing is clear, I got some puzzle pieces together now and I wonder if they make me find the other ones. What next? I think I will look into how a Minor chord is built. Apart from being able to play Major scales, Minor and Major pentatonic upside down, I am also not quite sure how they’re related and if more cool stuff to that can be discovered. But I know I might have learned how to build chords from individual notes by ear via arpeggios, rather than looking at them as chord shapes as you see them on paper. I might also have learned a little bit of the theory behind it.

One thing is sure too, I lost a little bit of fear about music theory. Let’s assume I can put more puzzle pieces together, I wonder if it makes me navigate the fretboard better than I already do now. One thing became clear too. Out of boredom, even if I don’t own a digital piano, I watched some piano lessons online. I couldn’t lose the feeling that some things are way more apparent on a piano than on a guitar. I love to listen to classical music, that alone sometimes made me wonder if I should get a digital piano but I’ve been afraid as learning it would be another time-consuming task. But now I can’t get it out of my head, that it might be beneficial to understand music theory better, which would then also expand my knowledge about the guitar. Hmm, maybe someday?

Now I need to take a break to find out if my latest discoveries are as big as I made them appear in this post, or if it won’t open the gates to a better understanding of music theory either. Let’s see.

4 Comments »

    • I just realized, the most enlightening moments with the guitar don’t necessarily have to be the jams but the silent moment when you have your guitar on the lap out of pure boredom, with no real idea what to do except stupidly messing around with individual notes.

      It felt good to see the concept now. Made me understand a few more theory articles and videos now.

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