Several times a year, I find myself turning down prospective students. The most common reason is, an intermediate/advanced player thinks they want to learn theory, but they don't really want to. I make no character judgment about that, it's just a fact. The conversation usually goes something like this: "I've been playing for 15 years and want to learn theory." "Fantastic, I can definitely help, but I have to ask, are you OK with lessons which will be 50% hands-on playing or less, sometimes not hands-on at all?" "No." That prospect doesn't really want to learn theory. Generally, that type of student wants to get better at what they are already good at. Like I said, I have no character judgment about that kind of player, but if the style they are trying to improve is not one that I have mastery of, he/she'll be better off with someone else who does. Music theory is an intellectual pursuit. Of course the end goal is to be able to apply it into your own writing and playing, but that takes months, years, decades to apply. I love the quote of 90-year-old cello virtuoso Pablo Casals, when asked why he continued to practice every day, "I'm seeing progress." Let me repeat, music theory is an intellectual pursuit. You'll learn fastest when you can relate what you're learning to an instrument you know, but much of the learning has to be done on paper or in your head. To quote mediocre multi instrumentalist/teacher Nick Weiss: "musical problems are solved with your mind, not your hands." Make no mistake: music does not need theory to exist. There are many great players who know surprisingly little about theory. There are also many players who know a lot more than their image would suggest. None of that matters, as long as the notes coming out of their instruments sound good. But if you're going to bother learning theory, you are going to have to get out of your comfort zone, force yourself to do some things that might be a little boring, with the understanding that music theory can help you to learn, play, and write music better and faster in the long run. Do you need to learn textbooks full of classical theory to be able to understand modern rock and pop? No you do not. Do you need to understand the chords and modes used in the style you want to learn? If you're studying with me, you do, and if you don't, that's what we will be working on up front. A classic frustrating teaching moment happened to me several years ago, which, as usual, was a great learning experience, for me at least. Similar to the conversation above, a student called wanting to learn theory on guitar. No problem, I can definitely help there. In our first lesson, I explained and wrote the major scale, explained and wrote some broken chords, and started explaining a basic chord progression the player was already familiar with. After the lesson, I get a text that the student wants to quit, he didn't learn or play anything (that's actually not true, I absolutely showed him several new patterns to learn, but yes, a good portion of the lesson was spent with me explaining theory basics). I politely let him know, first of all, he is welcome to ask me to change the direction of our lessons at any time, but he specifically asked to learn theory, the information I gave him was extremely valuable, and mastering a scale and arpeggios is plenty of work to leave a student with after one session. I got no response, of course. Because the student did not really want to learn theory. It's not easy, it's not comfortable, and you will not see instant results. So now I know how to better vet prospective students, and help them make a better choice to get the teacher that is right for them. Is this all to mean that learning theory is scary and too overwhelming to bother with? Hell no. The more you know the better. Any opinion that says that understanding music theory ruins your enjoyment of music, is the opinion of a coward. Plain and simple. With a weekly hour lesson, if you are dedicated and really learn what your instructor gives you every week, a decent, working understanding of keys, scales, modes, chords, and common popular chord progressions, can be obtained in 6 months or so. That's a drop in the bucket in a musical career. Of course if you want to learn jazz, classical, etc., studying theory is the work of a lifetime. At a lot of music conservatories you have five days of classroom (no hands-on at all) theory and harmony instruction per week for two years, I also had two semesters of jazz theory added to that. I'm glad I had it, and I use what I learned at music school every single day. Rest assured however, that's just not necessary to be able to communicate intelligently and pragmatically with most pro and solid amateur musicians. If after reading this you've realized you're not interested in learning theory, you're not alone, hopefully you'll have a better understanding of what kind of instruction you want should you seek it. Good for you for being honest and making an intelligent decision. If you do think you want to learn theory, better for you Edit to include: I did not do a good job of explaining this above, but every student definitely leaves my studio with hands-on work to do at home, every session. How much hands-on work we do in the session itself, varies based on what the student is working on. Edit After a day of reading and responding: Very interesting to see the range of opinions, I have learned a lot from those that differ from mine, although I don't think we were too far off to begin with. When you write a post, you can't put in every detail, and it's interesting to me what people have responded most strongly to. The biggest dissent to what I wrote is based on the "hands on" thing. I find it surprising, I truly didn't think it was a big deal to expect an advanced adult player to sit and listen for a portion of a lesson. I think what I haven't communicated well is that everything I teach is applied and students have specific hands-on homework after every session. I didn't give every detail of a lesson with me, but suffice it to say, students do have instruments in their hands pretty much the whole time, and I do analyze and teach theory based on their requested songs and genres. I accompany on guitar, bass, or piano, or program sequences and backing tracks on the spot when it's time to work on playing. But if they're going to be focusing on theory, they can't expect to be playing every minute and going home with flashy new licks every week, unless they consider modes flashy I do consider part of my job to be a motivator, I don't consider it my job to jump through hoops and make every little thing fun. I think there's a difference there. If you think my expectations are cruel and judgmental, so be it, I'm being honest, it's way more interesting and educational. I think I can explain my process more clearly now thanks to what I've read here. Thanks all!