Did I want to learn music theory?
To my mind it was something that was only getting in the way of my high school music grades; merely impeding my prodigious potential and guitar greatness. I was learning every Led Zeppelin song by ear, you see, and anything I couldn't get, was waiting for me on the internet during the golden age of guitar TAB.
I don't quite remember the first moment it happened, but the feeling of hitting a ceiling did come. My playing was mimicry more than anything. Everything I played was the same, no matter what the situation. I realized that I wasn't soloing or shredding, just playing a half learned scale pattern.
Then I heard real jazz for the first time.
Miles Davis' famous quintet with John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderly had decidedly shut my teenage ass up because I could not explain or understand what it was I was hearing. What was Red Garland doing on the piano? Were these guys even playing the same song?
I paid a little more attention in class, asked a few more questions, took the practicing a little more seriously. My teacher pulled me aside and scribbled some notes on a piece of paper (which I still have to this day) and my head exploded.
I saw the fretboard for the first time. I saw the movement. The connection. The fluidity.
It was a note that seems so simple now; explaining the relationship between the modes of the major scale and their related chords. For me, it flipped that switch in my brain that allowed me to connect a bunch of seemingly unrelated ideas into more soluble concepts.
From that point my relationship with music theory changed. Even the years following, I was far from the perfect student, but I allowed myself to be given freely to the theoretical language of music. Finally, I accepted that guitar and theory must exist in the same world; they could no longer be at odds with each other. The ceiling above me was put there by my own limitations set by my entitlement.
And I smashed through it.
I found that my understanding of the musical language allowed me to be more free on the guitar, whether writing or improvising. Like my newfound heroes at the time, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, I began playing the guitar more like a piano than a guitar. A pianist has the notes stacked and laid out clearly before them. A guitarist will cling to a few patterns and shapes and fool themselves into thinking that's all there is.
As reluctant as Bilbo Baggins, I was pushed outside my comfort zone and could never return knowing there was a whole world out there with infinite possibility.
So, many years later, here I am. This website is about to go live. I will publish this post and hope that it inspires you to continue reading the posts and articles that I am yet to publish in the future. This whole project comes down to this:
I am building now what I wish I could give myself twenty years ago.
I hope that with that foundation, others less inclined to believe they truly know it all can peel back the layers, destroy the stigma of your perceived ignorance, and transform your playing and your composing by educating yourself.
So poke around, and see if anything makes your head explode.