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