Have you ever wondered how your favorite musicians make such great
music? The answer is this: They fully understand how musical emotion
works, and how to use this to create intense emotions in YOU while you
listen to them. Understanding musical expression is key to becoming a
great guitar player and musician. When you control emotion in music, you
will gain the power to greatly affect the listener’s experience.
Most guitarists want to be able to express themselves better with their
guitar playing; however, the majority of guitar players have no idea
how to actually practice this skill. This leads to a lot of time being
wasted on practicing guitar in a way that does not produce big results.
The solution to this problem is to develop a more accurate fundamental
understanding of how to develop musical creativity.
Many guitar players try to enhance their musical creativity skills by
searching the music of their favorite bands for cool riffs and guitar
ideas and playing them over and over. This is certainly an enjoyable
activity to do when playing guitar, but in reality it does not do very
much to help you to learn musical expression. If you spend a great deal
of time on this, you will be missing out on the two most critical parts
of being able to create emotion in music:
You have to understand the manner in which great guitar players and
musicians ‘think’. More specifically, this means determining WHY they
choose the specific notes and musical ideas that they do. This is
something that you cannot learn if you simply copy the “notes” of your
favorite songs and guitar solos. Rather than just playing the same notes
as other musicians, you must spend time thinking about the musical
emotions you want to express, and what specific musical choices you need
to make to achieve that goal. Once you gain this level of musical
creativity, you will develop your own unique sound as it relates to the
ideas and emotions that come from your mind.
You must know how specific musical emotions can be created and
expressed by making certain musical choices while composing music or
playing a guitar solo. Additionally, you need to be able to make your
audience understand exactly what emotions you want to express with your
music, without having to say a single word. Many guitarists struggle
greatly with doing this and as a result they end up limited to only
playing the music of others without ever really expressing themselves
through their guitar playing.
There is a big divide between most guitar players when it comes to
music theory. Many people avoid music theory, because they believe that
it is a bunch of rules that restrict their freedom of musical
expression. Other people think that music theory is required for knowing
how to make music. Both of these views are incomplete when comes to the
big picture of the purpose of music theory.
So what is the real purpose of music theory? Music theory is a tool to
accurately describe the effects of musical ideas on the emotions of
whoever listens to a piece of music.
Change Your Mindset About Music Theory
Understanding how music theory really works likely means changing your
current idea of what music theory is used for. Forget about music theory
as simply explaining the function of scales and chords in music.
Instead, music theory is all about explaining why we feel certain
emotions when certain musical ideas are used. Knowing this is
instrumental to you developing great musical expression skills.
Here is an example to illustrate how you can use this idea. As a guitar
teacher, I spend a lot of time showing my students how to increase
their skills with musical creativity. One of the exercises I use is to
have my guitar students write down specific emotions they want to
express in their guitar music. Then, I have them write down the specific
ways to accomplish these musical expressions using a variety of music
To see and hear a detailed explanation, check out this video:
Here are the most important skills you will get from learning music theory:
You will gain an understanding of exactly WHY you enjoy listening to
certain kinds of music. This will allow you to create the same musical
emotions that you get from the music of your favorite artists without
copying/cloning their exact guitar licks and solos. This skill will
greatly enhance your musical creativity.
You will be able to create music in a way that much more accurately
expresses your ideas and emotions. It is common for most musicians (who
are trying to write a song) to simply improvise on their instrument
until something sounds “good enough.” This songwriting method is very
limited and does not bring a lot of results consistently. However, if
you have the knowledge of how to express specific musical emotions in
music, it will be much easier to write great songs with less effort.
Music theory gives you all the equipment you need to put together new
musical ideas much more quickly, without having to rely on remembering
the way something sounds. Having the ability to associate specific
feelings and emotions with the musical tools needed to express them
allows you to compose and organize entire sections of your music on
paper (or by ear) before even playing any notes.
When you understand exactly which musical choices to make in order to
accurately convey a certain musical emotion, you will be able to
anticipate how people will interpret your music.
What Do You Need To Do Right Now?
If your goal is to become highly skillful at musical expression, then
you need to follow these steps to start achieving this on guitar:
Expand your current thinking about music theory by watching this video:
Remember that although music theory is extremely important for
maximizing your musical creativity, you need to also develop a variety
of musical skills to achieve the most freedom in your musical
Understand that music theory skill is not developed by merely taking a
certain number of music theory lessons, but rather by your ability to
use your current knowledge to accurately bring out your emotions through
your music. Use the exercise mentioned earlier in this article to see
how well you can use theoretical music concepts to make music that is
consistent with the ideas you want to express. If you struggle with
this, this either means that your music theory skills are low or (most
commonly) you do not understand how to use what you know in music theory
in an actual musical context. If you play guitar while integrating
together music theory and musical expression, you will notice a HUGE
surge in musical creativity!
The most important thing I want you to take away from this article is
the way I have defined music theory, and how you can use this
understanding to enhance your own musical expression on guitar. If you
keep all these things in mind, you will be able to take your musical
creativity to a new level.