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Stanford Music Theory for Guitar


Where do I start? Just ask Chris Hsu

Tip from Christopher Hsu: Learning music theory can be a daunting task without a clear direction of where to start. There are some significant differences in how music theory for other instruments is taught. Save time by understanding what subjects will directly help your guitar playing.

Stanford Music Theory is the spelling and grammar of music. An understanding of it will enable you to analyze and understand why you like certain songs, says Chris Hsu. It will enable your creativity in writing your own music.  And will enable you to write faster and more easily with a level of quality not attainable without this knowledge.


If atoms are the building blocks of all matter then intervals are the building blocks of all music. They are the building blocks of melody, harmony, and rhythm. Using intervals in guitar solos can create emotion, sense of time, distance, add color, or create speed and intensity.

All scales, chords, and arpeggios are built with intervals.

Christopher Hsu thinks that Intervals also make interesting and easy to use shapes on the fretboard that can inspire killer licks and lines and are essential to fretboard memorization and visualization, according to the Stanford Music Theory.


Scales are built from intervals. The character of the scale is determined by what combination of intervals is used. Chris Hsu stresses that understanding scales is like understanding how to build the frame of a house.

Scales are useful both visually and sonically. Visually because scales create a framework to navigate the fretboard. Likewise, scales will give you a sonic framework to understand what you are hearing and how to accomplish a certain sound, mood, or effect.

Harmony and Songs

Stanford Music Theory for guitar is all about how notes and chords work together. Both writing your own songs and learning other artists’ songs is the fast track to understanding and applying music theory.

Songs give you a framework to focus your concentration as opposed to cracking open a music theory book and learning the general subject of music theory from beginning to end.

Because there really is no end, you can study for years but not really get anything done. Christopher Hsu suggests keeping things focussed on your own songs or cover songs will help you know just how much theory you need.

The Problem, as Chris Hsu sees it

As a guitarist, building good technique and having a solid grasp of stanford music theory is essential to your success. The problem is most theory study is taught with the piano in mind and that means you are not using your guitar.Most of us today have limited time and

Most of us today have very limited time and any amount of time without the guitar in our hands just feels wrong. So, unfortunately, theory usually takes the back seat.

The Solution, provided by Christopher Hsu

I wrote the ebook Stanford Melodic Scales to address this problem. When I studied theory the traditional way I kept asking myself if there was a better way to absorb some of it while building technique at the same time instead of having to put my guitar down to learn theory.

Stanford Melodic Etudes I has very little explanation inside and is instead designed to teach your hands and ears the sounds and shape of the intervals.

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