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Practical Music Theory for guitar Players
This tutorial teaches the bare minimum amount of (western) music theory needed by an amateur
guitar player to work with groups of musicians (“OK, everyone – this song is in the key of B flat, and
here are the chords”), arrange songs, and transpose songs from one key to another. Most music
theory courses are geared toward the use of “standard” musical notation (G clef, notes like this ♫ on a
staff, etc.) and assume that the student plays and has access to a piano. The emphasis will be on just
the practical aspects of music theory, not the near-infinite complexities beloved of ivory-tower
theorists. If you ask a professional musician whether he or she knows music theory, the answer you'll
almost invariably get is “not enough to hurt my playing”. That minimal amount of theory is what we'll
cover here. We'll concentrate on the theory behind popular music forms, while providing further
reading references for the more technical aspects that are relevant to jazz and experimental music.
This tutorial assumes you know how to play (at least at the beginner level) and have access to a
guitar. It doesn't assume that you read standard notation. And it assumes you know how to read guitar
tablature or tab, which is about as difficult to learn as zipping up a zipper. (But if you don't already read
tab, see Appendix I at the end of this document.)
You cannot learn theory just by reading words on a page; you really have to follow along on the guitar.
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