You probably know the old riddle, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” The answer of course is that there is no answer.
Music theory is kind of like that. Is it better to learn the theory first and then gradually put it into practice? Or is it best to “dive right in” and figure out how to play before painstakingly “catching up” with the theory?
While each of these options has worked for some great musicians, I’ve seen a “middle ground” approach works best for most people.
Learn a little theory, and then immediately put it into practice, applying it to as many tunes as you can. Then learn a little more theory and repeat the process. Or you can start by figuring out something by ear or intuition. And then spend a little time studying how what you’ve learned can be explained theoretically. And so on and so on.
This balanced approach will take you far with your music.
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