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The word 'Theory' refers to the study of the workings of music, although there's nothing theoretical about it. The mechanics of music is factual and that's what we'll touch on in this next section.

Since music is something we hear, it's not always easy to describe it in words. Notation has long been the accepted way of translating music into a visual format and I highly recommend that you learn how to notate and 'sight read' music. The guitar, however, often attracts players who are not interested in the finer points of notation and 'just want to play'. Some of the most famous guitarists can't read or write notation, but they certainly know how music works. There is a very definite structure to music and over the years I have formed an image in my mind of that structure. That is what I will try to impart to you in these next pages .

What is music?

Before I go into the answer to that rather large question, I would like to say that my teaching method is somewhat unorthodox, and has been frowned upon by some teachers. Their main complaint is that I don't emphasize enough the importance of reading and writing notation. My answer to that is that if I don't know how myself, how on earth could I teach it? What I can do is play the guitar. I learned by ear starting at a very young age and I have my own way of 'seeing music'. Standard notation is another way of seeing music, a way I never learned properly. I wish that I had, of course, and I've certainly given learning it a good try over the years, but I think perhaps I'm a little dyslexic in that regard. I just can't seem to make those little symbols stay still on the page. There is a structure to music, though, and that structure can be described in plain old English and depicted using graphs and the guitar fretboard itself as notation or graph paper. One more time for any frowners: I wish I could read music and teach notation, but I don't. I agree that it would be better to be able to read than not, but I also believe that it's the making of music rather than the notating of it that's important, and that implying to beginners that you MUST read music is plain wrong. I'm living proof. It's lucky for all of us that the Internet is jam packed with sites that do teach standard notation, in fact one of our contributing members right here at Guitar for Beginners and Beyond has posted some very comprehensive lessons on the subject of reading standard notation.

OK, here goes: What is music?

Music is a system with rules and regulations

Its raw ingredients are sound and time

The basic units of sound are notes, or pitches

The basic units of time are beats

Let's start out with notes —››