Music Theory for Classical Guitarists

Music theory is the conceptual aspects of how music works.  Like syntax and grammar in language, music theory form the rules and patterns of music.  For most questions about music that start with “why…”, the answer is likely to include music theory. Music theory is a never-ending study, and as such can get very detailed and specific.

Tip: When first starting out as a beginner, theory can be a distraction and actually demotivate us for practice.  It’s better to spend time with hands on the instrument, rather than studying the rules.  If you’re a beginner, click here.

Table of Contents:

Getting Started with Music Theory for Guitar

  • Lessons in Music Theory – This page has many short lessons on the basics of music theory.  It also has quizzes and games for practice and recall.
  • How to Clap and Count Rhythms in Music – In this lesson you’ll learn how to vocalize and count basic rhythms.  This is a foundational skill that all serious musicians should master.
  • Bridge the Gap from TAB to Music Notation – This article explains how to wade into music notation (instead of jumping in all at once).  If you’ve already aced TABs, this is a good option for you.

Chord Theory on Classical Guitar

Rhythm in Classical Guitar Pieces

  • How to Clap and Count Rhythms in Music – In this lesson you’ll learn how to vocalize and count basic rhythms.  This is a foundational skill that all serious musicians should master.
  • The Eight Common Rhythms – A simplification of rhythms.  This chart condenses most rhythms we’ll encounter into just 8 common patterns.  Useful for working out complex rhythms in pieces.
  • How to Use a Metronome in Guitar Practice – Tips on practicing with a metronome.  Includes a link for a free 14-day email course on metronome rhythm practice.
  • All About Triplet Rhythms – Triplet rhythms discussed.  How to count and play, and how to make them more musical.

Musical Analysis and Form in Guitar Music

Other Helpful Music Theory Links


All Articles and Tutorials About Music Theory

Below you’ll find all the CGS articles on music theory topics.

  1. A Quick Way to Find the Key of a Song – Key Signatures Made Easy
  2. All About Drop D Tuning: Open D Tuning for Guitar
  3. All About Triplets – How to Count and Play Triplet Rhythms
  4. An Introduction to Musical Form for Guitarists
  5. Clap and Count Rhythm Aloud: How to Learn the Rhythms in Your Music
  6. Classical Guitar 101: String Names, Finger Names and More
  7. Classical Guitar Scales: Shapes Explained
  8. Classical Guitar TABs: Both Terrible and Wonderful
  9. Cross the Bar Line for Better Phrasing, Better Classical Guitar Practice
  10. Dotted Notes in Music – How to Count Dotted Rhythms
  11. How to Learn Classical Guitar Chords (and Why They’re So Great)
  12. How Chords and Scales are Related (How the Guitar Works!)
  13. How To Count and Play Mixed Meter Time Signatures and Rhythms
  14. How to Listen to Music (and Become a Better Musician)
  15. How to Play Beautiful Tied Notes and Syncopations
  16. How to Play Guitar From Chord Charts and Lead Sheets
  17. How to Play Polyrhythms on Classical Guitar
  18. How to Play Rests in Music: Theory and Notation
  19. How to Play Stacked Rhythms on Classical Guitar
  20. How to Use a Metronome for Guitar Practice
  21. Introduction to Roman Numeral Analysis (Harmonic Analysis)
  22. Introduction to Slash Chords for Guitar
  23. Lessons in Music Theory for Guitar (and everyone else)
  24. Musical Definitions for Classical Guitarists (Common Words Explained)
  25. Musical Roadmaps: Navigation Symbols and Definitions for Sheet Music
  26. Note Duration – The Different Types of Musical Notes (Music Theory Lesson)
  27. Practical Musical Analysis: First Steps in Learning New Music
  28. TABs to Notation: How To Bridge the Gap
  29. The 8 Most Common Rhythms (and how to simplify tricky rhythms)
  30. The Four Elements of Music – Musical DNA, and How Music Works
  31. The Four-Measure Musical Formula for Practice, Phrasing and Memory
  32. The Most Common Chord Progression in Music
  33. The Power of Half-steps in Classical Guitar Music
  34. What is an Agogic Accent in Music?
  35. What is “Phrasing” in Music? Interpretation and Expression in Pieces of Music