Learning Music Theory
I often meet guitarists of all styles and levels, from students to professionals, who talk about music theory as if it's some esoteric science that they'll never even be able to understand the basics of, yet they wish they could learn in hopes of improving their understanding of their instrument and music in general. The truth is, of course this stuff is not out of reach, and in most cases, a musician of any level already knows some theory whether they realize it or not.
If you can jam on a 12 bar blues, you already know some music theory. If you can tell whether a song is in 3/4 or 4/4, you already know some music theory. If you've ever written a song, you already, on some level, know music theory. If any of this applies to you , then the next step is to just start filling in some blanks. If you're new to playing, or you honestly just feel like the only type of guitar playing you know is repeating finger patterns from rote memorization, that's cool too, you have a clean slate to start with.
Music theory is the key to being able to read, compose, improvise, and understand the songs you are learning. The term “music theory” itself encompasses a huge range of topics, from the basics of pitch and rhythm, to how chords and scales interact, all the way to specific composition techniques and stylistic approaches. Learning music theory can easily become intimidating if approached from the wrong direction; however, if you manage to keep a few things in mind, the whole process will feel much more natural, and make a lot more sense.
Understand The Basics First
This point is often lost on students beginning to study theory. They get stuck thinking about exotic scales, complex rhythms, or trying to compose an elaborate piece, but can't correctly count a simple beat, or transcribe a basic melody. Try to always be honest with yourself about what you need to be working on, even if it doesn't seem like the most exciting thing in the world. Be patient, if you stay consistent you'll get to the good stuff sooner than you might think.
Keep Moving To Keep Things Interesting
If you keep up a daily routine, you'll rarely find yourself getting bored, since you'll be making steady progress. If you only look at this stuff once or twice a week, it's easy to get lost and feel like you're not getting anywhere. However, once you get past the initial learning curve, it's easy to just incorporate your music theory studies into your regular practice routine, since it will apply to almost everything you do musically.
Of course not everything you learn will pertain to your playing/writing at that very moment. You can usually, however, find some way to relate the music theory material you study to music you are either playing or composing at the time. This is the best method I know of to understand any type of theory, music or otherwise. If you're learning about new rhythms, pick an instrument from a favorite song and try to count it, or better yet, write out the rhythm in tablature or notation software like Guitar Pro or Sibelius so you can hear it play back and see if you were correct. If you're learning about a new type of chord progression or harmonization technique, try using that in a song you're writing, or use it to improvise a new part over an existing song you like. Get creative, there is always a way to apply these concepts to whatever you're doing musically, no matter how basic or advanced. And remember, doing so allows you to instantly take studying theory from something that can feel like memorizing equations you'll never use and turn it back into playing music, which is the whole point anyway, right?