Do guitar players need to know music theory?
The simple answer to this question is, absolutely! What guitar player has accomplished anything without some degree of musical knowledge? Even someone like Kurt Cobain, who wasn’t known for his virtuosity, had to understand how to navigate the fretboard and remember his parts. So the real question is, how much music theory does a guitar player need to know and what kind?
Music Theory For Guitar
Knowledge is power. Understanding certain elements of music can make a huge difference with how you progress. The right instruction can be like a giant light bulb going off in your head and really open up your playing. But, rather than focus on traditional music theory, which is best suited for people studying piano or orchestral instruments, guitar players need to focus on the unique perspective of their fretted instruments.
The guitar fret board is a grid. Everything played on the guitar neck becomes a shape or pattern. Visualizing these guitar shapes and patterns and how they connect is the key to becoming a good guitar player. Some of the greatest guitar players ever, like Eric Clapton and Eddie Van Halen, know very little about traditional music theory, but they definitely understand how scales, chords, and progressions go together and how they are mapped out on the guitar neck.
Guitar Music Theory
If you’re an aspiring guitarist who wants to get good at playing popular music, I recommend you skip most of the traditional theory and focus on a more practical understanding of the guitar fretboard. This is really what distinguishes “guitar theory” from general “music theory” and the focus of my Fretboard Theory program.