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MaisyS's avatar

Will learning music theory help me play an instrument?

Asked by MaisyS (734points) August 25th, 2019
11 responses
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I really want to learn to the play the guitar but my parents have forbidden it. They refuse to get me lessons. A friend online has offered to teach me music theory. I own no instruments and initially my friend had offered to teach me to play the guitar if I could procure one. I’ve been trying to a while now to no avail and so he’s suggested we start with theory at least for now until I can get one. It has to be behind my parents’ backs so it will take time.
I’m just wondering will theory help me? As I said before I own no instruments and I play none either so will learning theory help for when I finally do get a guitar? Or is it a waste of time and unneccessary? I’ll learn anyway because I’m passionate about music but I kind of want to know if learning theory will help me pick up guitar playing a little faster than if I didn’t learn the theory.

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seawulf575's avatar

Music theory helps. I learned to play both the piano and the cello when I was young and both used a certain amount of the theory. It helps you understand how the music fits together without sounding jangly. The mechanics and the practice are what you need an actual instrument for. Just out of curiosity…why do your parents forbid you from learning guitar? As a parent I tried to encourage my kids in their interests. And music is a great thing.

MaisyS's avatar

Two reasons, one that is highly personal and religion related and I have received a lot of taunting online about it before so I hope you don’t mind that I’d rather not divulge it :) the other reason is that they want me to choose a science related career because I have shown talent for it, biology especially.

seawulf575's avatar

@MaisyS I don’t taunt over personal or religious reasons. But I also don’t pressure to have you reveal something you’d rather not. But I will tell you that from a religious aspect, I find that most religions praise God with music. God created music and I believe he finds it pleasing to have us use his gifts. And even Atheists enjoy music. But that is my opinion on the religious aspects. I am not your family so they may not be the same.
As for choosing a field to go into for a career, I have several feelings on that. First, the field you choose should be something you find interest in and have an aptitude for. Often parents see things in you that they believe you would be good at and that could provide guidance to urge you towards that goal. Parents usually want what is best for their children. But in the end, one day you will be an adult and have to do things that you can live with. I’m not suggesting open rebellion against your parents, just maturity enough to make decisions and have rational discussions with your parents.
Secondly, and more pertinent to this question, what career you choose does not imply you can learn nothing else. As I said, I learned piano and cello when I was younger. I ended up working most of my adult life as a chemistry and environmental person in nuclear power plants. But I still enjoy music in my personal life. I haven’t played an instrument for years, but still enjoy listening to music and appreciate the talent and beauty of it. Even if you study biology in school, you will have to learn things about chemistry, math, humanities and social sciences, and a variety of other topics that will offer nothing you will use regularly in a biology related job. Music might be one of those things.
My last thought is one of a personal view. We don’t live to work, we work to live. Our personal lives are often very different from our jobs. Very few people find complete satisfaction with their jobs…they want other things in their lives. We find enjoyment in things that have nothing to do with our jobs. We call them hobbies. They are the things we do to decompress from work and to add variety in our lives. Playing a musical instrument can be that.
I would say it sounds like your parents are afraid you will spend too much time focusing on guitar at the detriment of your studies on biology. I don’t know you nor your parents so this one you have to figure out on your own. You need to understand the reasons your parents are resistant to your interest in guitar and address them directly. I always told my kids it was okay to disagree with me, but not to be disagreeable with me. Don’t be rude. Be calm and rational when you deal with your parents. They are often much more fragile than you think.

gondwanalon's avatar

You need an musical instrument, desire and lots of practice time to learn how to play a Musial instrument.

Music theory is nice but won’t help you master a guitar.

MaisyS's avatar

@gondwanalon I get that of course. Imagine trying to learn to play the guitar without a guitar haha. I’ll probably have to use rubber bands stretched across a piece of cardboard at different lengths. Just kidding. That probably wouldn’t work very well.
Anyhow all I’m saying is, I know what you said obviously. But the question was whether theory would help me learn faster once I got a guitar, since I already have enough desire for three people and I can scrape together practice time. Trust me I’m not going to attempt to learn to play one when I don’t even have one.
Thank you for your response :)

dabbler's avatar

A harmonica is easy to smuggle in and out of the house. Sounds like you have some personal experience that could lend some weight to playing the Blues. Prof. Adam Gussow has some terrific online lessons and on Youtube
Pick up a Hohner Special 20 or a Lee Oskar, graduate to a Seydel.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Musc theory is surprisingly related to physics. I didn’t study it in detail to learn to play the guitar but it would have made me a much better player.
I don’t want to undermine your parents but speaking personally learning an instrument gave me the discipline required to succeed in the advanced courses required for a STEM major. The earlier you learn your instrument of choice the better. Many great scientists also played an instrument. Guitar is a good choice but that instrument is not a career choice. It’s a hobby choice.

kritiper's avatar

No. It might help you more to write music, but it wouldn’t hurt to lean theory when learning to play music. I think it’s best to learn your fingering, learn to read the music, and learn to keep proper time that will serve you best in leaning to play an instrument.

snowberry's avatar

There are also apps for cell phones. It’s not the same, but it would be a start, and I bet it would be quite satisfying. The author says they really help you to learn.

Strauss's avatar

Learning to play a musical instrument with no understanding of music theory would be like learning the vocabulary of a foreign language without learning anything about grammar, syntax, or definition of words.

Sagacious's avatar

It will help you play what is written. It will not help you become proficient on an instrument.

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