THEORY or TECHNIQUE: What To Practice First For Maximum Gains?

THEORY or TECHNIQUE: What To Practice First For Maximum Gains?

Tommaso Zillio

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theory before technique

If I had to say in one line what most guitarists get wrong about music theory… it would be this:

“You may think you have to ‘study’ music theory (booooring…). Instead, it’s best to practice music theory”

And yes, by saying this I just signed myself up for a couple hundred emails that will tell me that it’s impossible to ‘practice theory’ (…groan…)

… because “theory” and “practice” are of course opposite and there is no way that we can put them together (… eyes rolling…)

Listen, I agree with you that maybe calling it “music theory” was not the smartest thing ever. And indeed before the 19th Century, what we call ‘music theory’ was simply called ‘music’.

But that does not give the right idea either. Personally, I’d call it: “Standing on the shoulder of musical giants”

Or: “Genius tricks that musicians have found out, given to you so that you won’t have to spend 90% of your musical life reinventing the wheel”

Regardless of how you call it, the first rule of music theory club for us musicians is:

  • Thou shalt practice your music theory

The second rule of music theory club is about when to practice your music theory… and in my not-so-humble-but-definitely-well-informed opinion, guitar players get this completely wrong.

… “is that important?”, you may ask.

Well, I found out that if you practice your music theory at the wrong moment, then you are going to waste around 70% of the time and effort you put in.

Or if you prefer: if you practice your theory at the right moment and change nothing else of what you do you will learn roughly 3 times faster as before.

So… yes, I think it is pretty important to know when to practice your music theory.

If these number seem exaggerated, try what I show you in the video for 2 weeks and report back:

For the ultimate way to practice theory directly on your guitar fretboard and being able to make music with it, I refer you to the Complete Chord Mastery guitar course


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