Do you really need to spend any of your valuable time learning guitar scales and theory?
The argument that a guitarists will use to not learn any type of theory is that they will be in danger of losing there originality. They will not be able to be or sound like themselves, they will be caught up and constrained in the confines of rules and regulations. The only problem with that kind of thinking is that you are in danger of not growing and progressing as a musician.
All basic lead guitar instruction courses at the root level will tell you to learn chords, scales and arpeggios because they know that you will gain a greater understanding of how the music process inter-grates and works together, you will expand your playing with new possibilities and concepts, rather than the reverse.
And here is the most important factor. A lot of self taught musicians tend to suffer from episodes of self doubt because of not knowing what to play, which in turn can breed insecurities and lack of self confidence in your playing.
Knowledge is power as they say, so if you want to advance your guitar playing to expert status as a lead guitar improviser or if you want to be taken seriously as a professional musician, there is no two ways about it, you are going to have to set some time aside to practise modes, scales and learn notes on your guitar fretboard.
Here are some pointers you might want to keep in mind when getting started.
1. 5 or 10 minutes a day of disciplined practise will yield more results than 10 years of picking up your guitar and ‘noodling’ about, sitting on the end of your bed.
2. Set aside ten minutes for a practise session and decide before hand what it is you are going to do and learn. Too many guitarists tell me they practised for 8 hours a day and when I ask them what did you learn – I’m not mostly given a clear answer.
3. Always use a drum machine or metronome when practising as you will learn in time that timing is everything.
4. You don’t have to practise at the speed of sound when you start. You will find most guitarists who play fast, find out that speed is not what music or guitaring is really about and end up going back to their roots and playing melodic phrases that satisfy themselves.
5. Don’t beat yourself up because you are not Steve Vai or Dave Gilmour after 2 weeks.
Also, something that is not discussed very often about practising guitar scales or modes or arpeggios is that it doesn’t have to be drudgery and boredom. Spending 10 or 20 minutes a day working on the theory aspect of your playing will yield benefits far beyond what you can come up with on your own. I don’t think that there is a single musician on the planet who has spent time learning theory and said I wish I hadn’t have spent all that time learning all that crap.
Conclusion: If you want to advance your playing or write songs that are original and express who you really are, you should consider opening yourself to some solid theory because the road to originality is through other peoples stuff. If you have a good working knowledge of guitar scales, you will identify what your favourite players are up to and be able to duplicate those phrases in all keys for yourself.