By Bobby Kittleberger, a long-time
Available in nearly whatever form you could want there’s no shortage of places to learn about
Topical content as it concerns our
What happens after we’ve learned the chords and scales? How do we apply a major pentatonic scale shape musically? Where do those things take us? If we don’t know those answers, we get stuck. Stuck between bouncing around to different scales and chords in the hopes that more topical variety will make us better guitarists. Unfortunately, it won’t.
You can do a lot on the
What is Topical
What exactly are we talking about when we say “topical knowledge?” When learning the
- Fretboard Notation
These topics are static and don’t change without an appropriate designation. Take an open C major chord for example.
In order to play the chord, this is always how you do it. That’s something that we can memorize.
So a topic could also be thought of as anything that has a predefined set of musical properties and designations.
If the chord changes, we have terms to define that change. If we change to a C minor, a barre shape C or an entirely different chord, that’s not innovation. That’s just basic music theory.
So a topic could also be thought of as anything that has a predefined set of musical properties and designations. It doesn’t require creativity, just memorization.
How This Impacts
Guitar and Music Education
This type of learning makes up most of the
We leave material unexplained when we get into territory that can’t be conquered by simple memorization. When you move past topics and into creativity or application, you’re working in something that’s more subjective and abstract.
For example, soloing in the key of E isn’t the same for everybody. You need to consider the genre, the scales and the chord progression behind the solo. And that’s just to name a few of the variables involved.
This has a negative impact on our
To avoid that, you engage in creativity and application once you’ve mastered enough topics to start putting the pieces together. You move on.
Musical Creativity: The Next Step
Just as we’ve defined topical knowledge, we’ll do the same for musical creativity.
Many are of the opinion that you can’t teach creativity. That’s true in part, though you can teach the constructs that allow it and even the experiences of those who have proven themselves to be tremendously good at it. In a sense, you can help draw out the creativity that’s already there. You can also help them establish a framework under which it can flourish. The
But what about the
Here are a few things that set up a
- Chord Progressions
- Timing Accents
- Lead Patterns (solos)
All of these things can be taught and can serve as mechanisms by which to encourage the creativity and ingenuity of a developing guitarist. They require a certain amount of guess work on the part of the player. In many cases they’re abstract and without specific instruction. So the learning process goes from static to variable and far less of an exact science. Chords become progressions and scales become melodies, improvisation or layering; whatever you want your music to be.
So the trajectory looks something like this:
Topical Memorization –> Developing Creative Constructs –> Application or Creation
The Importance of Teaching and Learning Application
If we never get to the point where we can apply what we know about the
So if you’re a
If you’re learning yourself, know the learning process and what you need to do to engage in it fully. Look for more in-depth resources and material or consider paying for your educational material in the form of books or instructional DVDs.
However you do it, make sure you drag yourself through the whole nine yards. Learn how to be creative and how to apply your knowledge. That’ll make three or four chords and a couple of scales go a long way.
Bobby is a long-time