An old perennial

Here’s one I hear all the time.
“I’m an ear player, I just feel the notes, I don’t want to learn theory as it will make me lose soul”.

First off, COP OUT. You don’t want to learn theory, is it put simply.

I have a stupid amount of theory lodged away in my bean of a brain, I know the relationships of all notes at any given time so I can make informed decisions on what my next note maybe. This however isn’t at the expense of using my ears. It is possible to be both. Just because I studied hard and continue to study hard doesn’t mean my ears have dropped off. I listen to everything, but my listening comes with labels. I can give ideas and names to what I am hearing as well as emotional responses. This allows me and many other guitar players/musicians to speak in the same terms. We have a vocabulary that allows us to converse. For the purposes of musical grades you are partly required to demonstrate your understanding of this concept.
This does not mean that suddenly your ears will cease to hear and all emotion will drain from your notes. Far from it. If you already had it the knowledge will just supplement and augment this ability.

By all means remain an ear player, but complaining that you fail exams is down to a reluctance to learn something to help.   In fact part of the grades system requires Aural  assessment and you will need to know the note relationships and that comes from theory.

Lets look at this from another angle.   Equate notes to letters of the alphabet and music as the ability to communicate.  Many people can speak and talk and get by perfectly well doing just that.  These days though it is considered shocking if someone has reading and writing issues after a certain age.  As a small child you were no doubt taught how to learn the alphabet and then make simple words.   This is scales and chords/arpeggios. Scale = Alphabet,  Chord = Word .  Theory is akin to being able to spell, you don’t necessarily have to be able write down and read the notes but being able to spell is paramount.

None of this being able to spell is going to detract from your ability to have a conversation, if anything you’ll have better ones and be able to understand even more complicated concepts.  Being able to use eloquent language has never detracted from someone’s passion and emotions on a subject far from it. It actually allows you express your feelings far more accurately.   So why someone would think learning some theory would detract from their ability to play guitar is a mystery when considered in this comparison. In fact you had applied that logic to your linguistic abilities you’d struggle to have read this piece anyway.

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~ by Geoff Lea Guitar on October 1, 2012.

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