Music has a language all of its own that can be taken anywhere in the world. Musicians everywhere can share ideas and experiences because they speak the same language.
For me, there have been many times when I have experienced this. One that comes to mind was when I went to Ireland to see my, now, wife. I took my guitar everywhere with me and turned up at Galway in Ireland.
There I met a very talented young lady who was a champion accordion player. The Irish love music so much that they have championships for musicians and dancers. The winners are celebrated and loved. So she said to me that there is this amazing thing in the pubs in Ireland that if you go and play music in the pub they give you drinks for free. I don’t know if that is the case now but 25 years ago it was.
I had never played Irish music but she played a couple of songs. She told me the Key of the music and then I worked out the rest for myself.
I knew that the songs she was playing were straight forward in structure and only used Major chords. That was because they were up-beat and happy and the Major chords give that feeling the best. By knowing the Key, say G Major, I could then work the Major chords in that Key – G Major, C, Major and D Major.
I also knew that the songs always started on the 1st Major chord. In the Key of G the 1st Major chord is G Major (G). So then for the next chord I had a choice of either C Major (C) or D Major (D). I listened to the melody or tune and tried a chord. If it didn’t work I quickly went to the other chord. Using this process I worked out that the chord changes were:-
G – C – G – D.
Most Irish songs repeat with only a few changes so I continued to play the chords and when we got to the chorus the chords changed to:-
G – D – G – D.
And so it went on. By listening I could then pick out the rhythms and variations and with my knowledge I could play complimentary rhythms.
By the end of the night I had played more songs than I could remember and had people come up to me and were talking as if I was a professional Irish musician.
I said to them that I had just learnt the language and had a confident musician to follow.
So, for me, over the years I have learnt that the more knowledge that I have and the more I use my ears and knowledge together the better a musician I have become and the more rewarding experiences I have had.
My advice is don’t deny Music Theory as not necessary but don’t turn it in to some god that needs to be obeyed. Take it, use it and be a better musician. Enjoy.