Why Music Theory SUCKS

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Don’t ever do music theory. I never did it. And look at me now!

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Music theory, chord shapes, modes, scales, circle of fifths … who needs any of that? I don’t! (I probably do and i would probably be way better if i did. I’m just bitter and this video was fueled by my negative emotions).

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Sam Griffin Guitar says:

I appreciate any and all perspectives on this! I'm seeing some good arguments both ways in the comments. I think a lot of this comes down to how theoretical knowledge has or hasn't led you toward better music making. Everybody has had their own experience with theory. Differing viewpoints are totally valid. Even though mine is still the best.

flaro38 says:

Really loved your video.
Amateur bass player here, I went to jazz school for 3 months and it almost made me quit music. Now I feel like I miss something, I dream of improvising in a jazz band, but I also know it's not the way I enjoy making music.

I really suggest to watch a video on the same argument told by Victor Wooten:

Jon Armstrong says:

I just really freakin' love every video on this channel.

Tibor Marusic says:

Hahaha you are funny man : )

Jesse Freeman says:

You spent 5 years studying something you don't use?

Kraken Sack says:

Sam, bubby, I love ya, and I think you're absolutely right on this. I have always considered music theory to serve as just a method for categorizing sounds in your brain. You could switch out all the terms for nonsense but as long as you remember what the terms mean, it serves the same purpose. If you call a diminished seventh chord "that weird creepy jazz shit" and can remember what that means to you, you get the same results compared to learning the term diminished seventh chord.
Learning the actual terms has the added benefit of being standardized, so you can discuss it with others. But it still doesn't necessarily help with composing. For me it helps with learning guitar heavy songs, because I can recognize certain sounds and more quickly figure out what the chord is. But I doubt the composers were thinking "alright next up I wanna do a Dsus4add65" when they wrote the thing.
That chord just sounded good there.
Point is, don't trip about learning theory. It can be helpful in learning songs, but even there it's not necessary. Just pick that fucker up and start playing notes until it sounds good!

7th AngelAD says:


—that’s your theory.

Jesse Hennessy says:

I think you can be bound by both a lack of theory knowledge OR by following theory as law. There's a sweet spot where you know enough to have a toolkit that can help you develop ideas, whilst still experimenting and letting your ears guide you. I think this video provides an important lesson for guitarists though, which is just to really listen to what you're playing and make decisions based on that, rather than the visual shapes and muscle memory you've accrued.

Chombey says:

You've all been fooled. Ear training is just hearing theory.

dooder says:

Adam Neely has entered the chat..

Prax Music says:

In regards to returning to familiar shapes I find myself doing that as a non-theoretical musician. I strive to leave those comforts but I think that’s something anyone can fall victim to. Someone teach me some fat solos?

natejessee says:

Sam, you fool. Everyone knows that the sound of opening a music theory book is way cooler than a rockin' guitar solo. Good video!

Rustan Crane says:

I've been playing guitar for 31 years and I know no theory. I wish I did, but I've never needed it

Kaykeywakey says:

Personally, I'm a middle man on these opinions. I think theory is great when it comes to knowing your basic chord shapes and the CAGED system so that you always know where you're at on the neck. Knowing notes on the finger board is helpful as well. However, I never use theory when composing either. I have always just gone off of how the song feels rather than over analyzing it. The only times I really use theory is when composing solo, and that's really just so I know what will fit with the current chord progressions, and then it's just winging it from there.

Snailmann01 says:

I don’t understand what is so bad about theory. I believe that music school does people wrong when introducing theory. Its not viewed in a functional way, but in a rote memorization type of way. Theory can open you up to musical ideas that you never knew possible and can help you wrap your head around other musicians compositions, allowing you to replicate them in your own way when composing music.

Rose Juliette says:

Ooh you were just trying to get me going with this title. I actually wrote my dissertation about alternative conceptualisation of theory and how classical theory can be limiting because of how it is framed. My conclusion was that theory has been misrepresented in academia.

I think of music theory like the theory of gravity. I don't use the theory of gravity to stay on the ground… Gravity does that no matter what.

If I was struggling with gravity then maybe I could look at the theory to figure out what the heck is going on. Maybe I'm trying to plan a safe descent of a space rocket and I need to check that I'm not gonna explode my astronauts? Theory might help.

Music theory helps explain how music works and shouldn't be used to make the music.

I use theory every day because I'm jazzy but another thing I found in my research for my diss was that the "theory" that all the jazz greats were using didn't fit into the classical music model at all.

-Sharpening the minor 6th by a quarter note in a minor pentatonic scale…
-And adding a chromatic passing note between the perfect 4th and 5th
-And using dominant7th variation of the 1, 4 and 5 scale tones…

That didn't fit into classic theory and nobody would have thought of it like that. They would say "gimme them 12bar changes and let's make it blue" and the theory in their head was already working without that classical context.

If it makes sense to you then that is your music theory. Don't worry if some old white dudes want to explain it in a convoluted and restricted way and be like "this is the real theory"

Ahmed Enaya says:

Greetings from Saudi Arabia.
Man your words really make sense and I really appreciate your videos. I have learned so many Zelda music from your videos really and you are actually the best. I don't usually see Americans play the classic nylon guitar yet you are amazingly good at it.
Thanks again and keep it going Bruh

Dbrewski says:

I know some great composer that are not fan of theory. Just like Nobuo Uematsu!

CelloAfterDark says:

I’m a decent professional musician (on the cello) and I use very little theory, but I do mostly just read music so that requires some theory- just not the kind they teach in a theory class. When I write songs (on the guitar) I mostly use singing and just getting the sound how I want. Luckily on guitar I have an instructor that is amazing with theory and has a great approach to teaching songwriting and chord patterns/voicings :). Very catchy title and thumbnail!

Wolf Hammer says:

What’s up bro? Music theory sucks

Jason Hall says:

I'm digging the hair cut

Juts says:

Right now I'm starting to learn how to write songs. And I'm always relieved when I can just pick a key and start trying out those chords/notes. Because from the bajillion possible chords/notes it limits me to just a few and that really helps me. But I also hope that in a few years, when i have a better understanding, I can break free from those limits.

Programme021 says:

Just out of curiosity Sam, what's your level in music theory & music theory applied to guitar ? I guess you still know a lot from 5 years of music theory.
You said in the video that you don't always know the note you're playing, I guess it means you don't know by heart all the notes on the fretboard ? You could know what note you're playing but you have to compute it, it's not instantly, is that it ?
Do you know by heart the intervals your playing on the guitar ? Like, are you able to know what interval you're playing from a shape without having to count it in your head ? Thanks

Dan Urech says:

I already learned theory so all i gotta do is (for)get it

Programme021 says:

Very interesting to learn about your relationship to composition and music theory, I love to see those when they're genuine like this one 🙂
In my own experience, it took me a great while to learn that you don't need much at all to start composing/improvising. For me, music theory helped me to get a lot of confidence, since I had this basis of theory that I could rely upon. Had I this confidence earlier, I could've started composing and improvising much earlier, and learn a ton from playing w/o theory. I think music theory is very helpful in a ton of ways but theory-detached playing on a instrument is very powerful too. Ultimately, I think that every musician seeking development should explore both of these.
Thanks Sam ! 🙂

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