Musical Theory vs. Musical Instinct

April 22, 2009 at 10:12 pm (Music)


As I have learned to play guitar it has become increasingly apparent that their are two different schools of thought on song writing. My guitar teacher has always taught me to look at music from almost a scientific point of view through musical theory. He hammered it in to my mind that the memorization of scales and chord progressions would allow me to write better and more effective music. On the other side of the spectrum, one of the people I have met in the music industry told me that playing guitar is more about instinct than anything else..Who cares if a songs main riff doesn’t fall into a certain scale or key; as long as it sounds good, who the fuck cares? He also noted that some of the most successful musicians can’t even read music (example: Dave Navarro of Janes Addiction).

I am really torn between these two worlds. Looking at the guitar and just playing instictually can allow you to come up with some really unique things (like the riff I posted yesterday)..That riff was just a happy accident from warming up. On the other hand, the memorization of scales and chords can also allow you to explore the guitar (such as my Blues solo in a previous post). I think the best musicians tend to take bit from each train of thought, combining personal creativity with known and accepted musical theory. As always, your thoughts on this subject are appreciated!

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1 Comment

  1. guitaraddict said,

    Take a bit form both camps – my style is mainly improvising – I use very basic scales and treat them as sort of sound flavours. I don’t think – here’s a minor run heading into a dominant seventh chord. I allow my solos to grow & change from day to day. I find that I mainly join scale shapes & chord patterns together to come up with whatever I need to say on the day. I thinks scales just lay out the safe territory but all the rest comes from you. This is what I get when I put it all together – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZusjafwDVOc – Cheers Paul

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