Why Guitarists Are Shit at Music Theory

Guitarists are notoriously crap at music theory; this is partly due to it being the most accessible instrument on earth i.e. anyone can pick up a guitar and learn a few chords without knowing jack shit about music, let alone music theory, and this brings the level down for everyone else. Let’s see you do that with a violin or some kind of horn. Aside from the accessibility problem, there are a couple of other major impediments to guitarists being able to communicate with real musicians…

The guitar is an amazing instrument because it’s one of the few where you can (appear to) be extremely proficient without knowing the frickin’ notes on the neck! You just wouldn’t do this on virtually any other instrument as you’d be shitting on your own doorstep. Imagine refusing to learn the notes on the piano for the first 5 to 10 years of playing; this is beyond dumb.

Why do it on guitar? The truth is that as guitarists shapes save our assess on a nightly basis to the point where a healthy dose of shape-memorizing and gratuitous technique will have your ass covered in most playing situations.

The Short-Cut Con

So, you thought learning a bunch of shapes was a short-cut to guitar glory? Truth is, shapes are by far the longest route to being shit-hot at guitar and getting laid regularly. Check it out: if I know the notes on the neck, and I know that an F7 chord is made up of the notes F, A, C and Eb, I just find groups of notes on the fretboard and make my own freakin’ F7 chords – and a boat-load of them.

Shape whores, on the other hand, are still waiting for their browser to open to go to some chords site with all the possible shapes for F7, sit there for hours on end and maybe learn (memorize) 2 or 3 at the most.

It gets worse: you may have learned 2 or 3 F7 chords, but you have no idea what’s in those things. It’s like ordering a hamburger and just eating the bun – all the good stuff is inside.

I think you get the point.

Communication Breakdown

Here’s a great idea: there’s a system called music theory which is universal and can be used by players of any musical instrument to exchange information and understand each other. Fuck that, let’s use the CAGED system, which is completely unique to the guitar, is not even a system, and makes communicating with anyone who’s not a guitarist (of the CAGED persuasion) virtually impossible and slightly embarrassing.

So there you have it; and you thought the lazy-ass way to learn shit was to just memorize a bunch of shapes, when all you need do is learn the frickin’ notes on the neck and run like hell from the CAGED system and all those that pedal it.

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