Dobro Lessons – Music Theory + Playing by Ear = Super Musician!

Here are 3 things I recommend you memorize.

1.    All the notes of the dobro or specific instrument

2.    All the Key Signatures

3.    All the Chords and Chord Tones for each key

Question: Why do this?

Answer: To gain a more complete understanding of your instrument, and to know where you are at all times and to know why what you are playing may sound good and why it may sound not so good.

Question: Is there an easier way? Can I get around not knowing any music theory and not knowing where any of the notes on my instrument are located?

Answer: I have found if you do not want to learn any music theory one can still play and in fact get quit good. Tons of great players have done it, and this is what I think ones options are if they want to get really good, but do not want to learn any music theory.

No Music Theory Option 1:

(I highly recommend doing this “In addition” to also understanding music theory)

To simply transcribe tons and tons and tons of songs, solos, rhythm playing, song forms, etc…so many that you can use the memory of those solos to dictate what you should play when you hear it in the context of a song. Your memory of all the songs and solos that you’ve learned and transcribed will trigger a muscle memory with your fingers and mind, and it will be like you are speaking with your instrument. Simply reacting to what you hear like you would if you were carrying on a conversation with someone. You will see all the patterns, and scales, and key signatures more as shapes that you equate to things that you’ve learned from solos, songs, and other musicians. You will have a working knowledge of the theory, but will not know why any of it works. You just know it does.

This is actually a great way of learning, and this way combined with an understanding of music theory can dramatically improve your playing and improvising in a much quicker way than just theory alone, or just transcribing alone.

Wtih theory you can take one thing that you transcribe and play it in other keys. Know how to change it around and play it over other chords. Basically multiplying everything that you already know.

No Music Theory Option 2:

(I do not recommend doing this)

The slowest way of improving….Not transcribing solos and simply to use trial and error or “noodling” around, fishing for the right note, not having a clue why anything you play sounds good or bad.

Getting Started:

The Keys:

The Sharp Keys:

C MAJOR – C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C

G MAJOR – G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G

D MAJOR – D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D

A MAJOR – A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A

E MAJOR – E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E

B MAJOR – B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#, B

F# MAJOR – F#, G#, A#, B, C#, D#, E#, F#

C# MAJOR – C#, D#, E#, F#, G#, A#, B#, C#

The Flat Keys

C MAJOR – C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C

F MAJOR – F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F

Bb MAJOR – Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb

Eb MAJOR – Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb

Ab MAJOR – Ab, Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab

Db MAJOR – Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C, Db

Gb MAJOR – Gb, Ab, Bb, Cb, Db, Eb, F, Gb

Cb MAJOR – Cb, Db, Eb, Fb, Gb, Ab, Bb, Cb

To Start Memorizing the Chords and Chord Tones Just Use these simple rules:

1) Chords are built in 3rds – Root, 3rd, 5th. Start with your root, skip a note, then you’ve got your third, skip a note, then you’ve got your fifth.

2) If you do that in a major key you end up with this pattern, harmonizing over each note of the scale: (examples are in the Key of G major)

1. = MAJOR ex. GBD

2. = minor ex. ACE

3. = minor ex. BDF#

4. = MAJOR ex. CEG

5. = MAJOR ex. DF#A

6. = minor ex. EGB

7. = diminished ex. F#AC

* NOTE:

To memorize anything quickly, simply use NOTE CARDS, and make out a set for your Key Signatures, a set for your Chords per Key, and a set for your chord tones per key.

Carry them around with you and when you are waiting in line or just don’t have anything to do. Pull them out and start memorizing them. In a month or so you will see dramatic improvements.

Think Music Theory Is Too Hard? Here’s Why

In my opinion (as a 35+ year music professional), music theory is taught in the most confusing and painful way imaginable. One example of this, students are often confronted with multiple sets of systems to described the same thing in different classes.

For example, Scale Degrees are referenced using numbers (0-9) in private lessons, roman numerals (both upper and lower case) in analysis, terms like Tonic, Submediant, Dominant, etc. when you get to theory class, and something called “Solfege” (Do-Re-Mi) in ear training. Too often the student has no idea all these systems are referring to the same basic thing, scale degrees. And this is just one example!

Scale Degree Naming Schemes…

  • Numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  • Names: Tonic, Supertonic, Mediant, Subdominant, Dominant, Submediant, Leading Tone
  • Roman: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII
  • Solfege: Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti

Can Music Theory be made easier to understand?

Yes it can. All it really takes is boiling theory down to its simplest form. Then, present it in a uniform way, much easier to understand. For example. Let’s take a better approach to Scale Degree presentation mentioned above.

Instead of using different systems for private lessons, analysis, music theory class, and ear training, we could use standard numbers (0-9) for all of them. We’ve removed the obstacles of having to learn solfege (including all the solfege names for notes not in the scale), english names for each scale degree, proper use of upper and lower case roman numerals, etc., BEFORE any functionality of music can be learned. We get right down to business using a system every student is already familiar with, the numbers 0-9. Again, this is just one example.

With consistency across the board, all of this can be learned and retained easily. If planning on attending college where all these terms will be needed, you can always learn these terms and systems AFTER you understand how music works. Believe me, it is MUCH EASIER that way!

As indicated before, this is only one example how something that can be explained so simply has become unnecessarily complex.

So, the solution is to make music theory simpler, not the current trend of making it harder. I believe the study of how music works can be reduced to these two basic concepts… First, learn the major scale. Then, use the major scale to learn everything else. Sounds pretty simple to me!