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 creativity in music.
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 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 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 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 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 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 theory ideas.
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 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 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 the video in the link at the end of this article.
Remember that although music theory is extremely important for maximizing your creativity, you need to also develop a variety of musical skills to achieve the most freedom in your musical expression.
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 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.
About The Author:
Tom Hess is a professional recording artist, composer, and the guitarist in the band Rhapsody Of Fire. He teaches and trains guitarists how to become great musicians in his online rock guitar lessons.