Tip: "Do I need music theory?"

In “theory” (no pun intended): no.
In reality: some basic theory is needed.
Don’t confuse it with knowing how to read sheet music though.

If you want to carbon copy existing solos, you don’t need theory.
If you know some theory though, you will learn how the solo is built upon its underlying chords, how you can alter the solo to your taste and why some notes will sound better.

As soon as you want to step up the carbon copy solo, you should at least know a shape in a scale. Justin Starts out in his courses with one shape in the minor pentatonic scale (in A) and one shape in the major scale (in G). Knowing these two shapes in the not-so-coincidentally chosen keys, gives you a primer to your first improvisation. That means; making your own solos! The minor pentatonic is often used in blues and rock and even with only one shape in your fingers, you will have an essential tool in your toolbox.

As soon as you get a bit comfortable in a shape and tried some improvisation over a simple backing track, you will find that you answered your own question and know that you can’t do a specific specialty without a broad base of basic skills built under it.

See it as a pyramid. On the bottom you have your basic skills.
On top of that more advanced stuff and on top the specialties like “epic soloing”, “fast playing”,“squealing pinch harmonics”… it’s the stuff on top that impresses you the most…at first.
BUT it’s actually the broad base that lies beneath it that becomes your toolbox for music.

I’m not saying that you should learn all the possible basic stuff first but try to work as a pyramid: every time you add some basic stuff on the bottom layer, you can add a tiny bit of it on the layer above it.

As soon as that second layer has some stability as well, you can start to work on some “specialty” above. In the meantime, your base layers need maintenance and further expansion for more stability.

In another thread, I already explained that you can use this method for building a song repertoire as well, with basic knowledge of chords and structure in the base layer, nailing the riffs and lyrics and putting n the details and solo’s on last. Thy to have a broad base layer of songs of which you can fluently play the chords with but in the meantime, build a pyramid so that you have 1 song you can perform after a while.

I’m not forcing another “education” method into Justin’s lessons here, it’s merely one way to approach all this magnificent content; a pragmatic approach to learning with variation, challenge, comfort and of course; results that you can show. up to you to decide how you want to build your knowledge.
Justin’s method already is kind of incorporates this concept as the lessons don’t let you learn theory for a year first. try to go through the beginner and then intermediate course and have a taste of the different flavours the “base layers” offers you. If you feel there is more to playing guitar than building a narrow tower of skill towards epic and fast soloing, you will take a huge step forward in the mentality towards the passion that unites us all here ! :slight_smile:

Good luck!


@LievenDV your post has inspired me to take the plunge and I’ve took the subscription to learn music theory. Although I’m in my first year I figured I could take it slowly as I work my way through the beginner’s course and understand the principles behind what I’m learning and understand the theory references in the forum.


That’s great! :smiley:
Feel free to come to this community to ask your questions if you feel stuck

Great post.
Even if not consciously trying to learn theory it is surprising what you pick up along the way.

As you say a little theory goes a long way to understand the feel, the sounds and the possibilities of music. Justin’s course is full of practical information immediately applicable to the guitar.

Is it easy? Not always, in fact some of it is downright confusing. Take it step by step, keep revisting and eventually things fall into place.

Is it worth it? Most definitely.

Do I need it? Actually yes. In days of yore if I went wrong imrovising a solo I had no immediate safe note to go to cos I didn’t know what chord I was playing over or where it was going to go next.


Like James @Socio I at the very beginning of my journey, only 2 months in but music theory is of interest, never done any of this when at school. Just started the first lessons on the web.

Not ready to purchase the subscription but will be doing so.

A question, this might not be the right category, but the .com web site gives the cost in dollars does it change to GBP automatically or do you purchase from a different place. @dave.pritchard101 are you able to clarify?

This page? Practical, Fast & Fun Music Theory | JustinGuitar.com
Yes, it has to be listed in $ but payment just runs straight through if you are using £.


Even without subscribing there are bits of theory we are taught throughout the first couple of Grades such as The Note Circle, and Note names on the Open Strings so you will then be better placed to decide on whether you want to go further and subscribe. Also, I’m not sure now I’m subscribed but at least the 1st part of the Theory Course might still be free. Others may be able to confirm or put me right on that.

I hope Richard was able to answer your question about payment.

Good luck dude

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Yes, you are right, You get the first theory lesson sets for free!
That’s a nice chunck of knowledge to get you started already!


I am working through the free lesson which sparked my interest to follow these through then get a bit deeper. My guitar journey, which has just started, has led me in areas that passed me by so far in life.
I notice @Richard_close2u responds a lot on music theory and I believe is a maths tutor, makes me recall what I have believed as well as just music there is a lot of formulas regarding, frequency, modes of vibration, wavelengths behind the theory. This would be of interest as well, I did maths and physics at school and engineering at university, ending up as a structural engineer so maths don’t worry me.

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Hi @MAT1953 for the second time today I find myself writing - Maths & Music - it all adds up! :slight_smile:


Richard’s having fun :partying_face:

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Great advice @LievenDV , definitely I should put more effort into music theory, for now I’ve been focusing on ear training and my regular practice. Starting tomorrow I’ll be adding some minutes to music theory as well :slight_smile:

This reminds me a question I’ve been thinking of and not sure if I should create a new thread for it. (If any moderator thinks so, please tell me and I’ll create it). In any case here I go.

How would you add all the lessons and information Justin have aside from his guitar courses? I mean music theory, ear training, techniques, scales… there is a lot of stuff in the web site but I’m not sure how to gradually add it to my practice sessions…

With ear training I have 2 routine items for “Play what you here” and Interval training, but for the rest (Scales and techniques, for example)… don’t even sure if I should even think about it, despite of having modules tagged as “all levels”.

I’m on module 12 (Long live power chords :metal::guitar:), and I don’t know if later on Justin recommends when to enter into this topics as he did with ear training and music theory.

Thank you all!