Essential Theory For Guitarists

If you’re relatively new to music theory, or concerned that you have gaps in your experience, then this one's for you! This course is all about understanding the foundation principles of music theory, as well as knowing how to apply them across your guitar neck. You’ll learn all of the essential music theory concepts in a musical setting, so that you’ll be able to understand them and quickly apply them into your playing.
· 15th October 2018
  • Categories: Theory
  • Duration: 4+ hours of video
  • Total Enrolled: 330
  • Last update: 20th October 2023
  • 40 total steps
  • 12 Jam Tracks
  • On-screen tabs & diagrams
  • Complete written transcripts
  • Interactive tabs
  • Downloadable tabs
  • Progress tracking
  • Difficulty: Intermediate

About This Course

Navigating the vast world of music theory can be a daunting task without proper guidance. In today's digital age, with an overload of conflicting methods and approaches available online, it's easy to feel lost and confused. That's why "Essential Theory For Guitarists" is here to offer structured, straightforward instruction. Say goodbye to unnecessary complexities and let me provide you with the clarity you've been searching for!

"Essential Theory For Guitarists" is perfectly tailored for guitar players who already possess some familiarity with basic principles of music theory, but still sense gaps in their understanding. This masterclass is designed to cater to both semi-experienced music theorists and complete beginners to the subject.

We will begin with laying a solid foundation of the fundamentals before systematically exploring three crucial core topics: Scales, Chords, and Arpeggios. Throughout the course I demonstrate how these topics interlink, providing you with a thorough understanding of essential theory for guitarists.

You’ll learn all of the essential music theory concepts in a musical setting so that you’ll be able to understand them in a fun and engaging way that will help you apply the theory into your playing effectively.

The course is organised into five sections. Click through the section names below to learn more about what each section entails…

  • Section 1: Theory Primer

    As the name suggests, this section will prime you for the entire course and your entire outlook on music theory. If you want the maximum benefits from music theory then it’s very important that you have a solid understanding of intervals, which is the primary subject within this section of the course. I will provide you with a thorough understanding of intervals, as well as show you my methods of interval visualisation across the neck.

  • Section 2: Scales & Chord Relationships

    In this section you will acquire a thorough understanding of Pentatonics, The Major Scale, The Minor Scale, and Modes, as well as the ability to Understand Keys, Diatonic Chord Sequences, and Modal Chord Progressions. Not only will you learn this plethora of musical tools, but I'll teach you how to apply them in your Songwriting and Improvisation. All music theory is developed from scale knowledge, so I’ve taken extra care to make sure that this section of the course is very thorough, easy to follow, well annotated, and relevant.

  • Section 3: Chord Construction & Application

    You will learn all of the essential theory and practical applications of chords. After following the lessons throughout this section you will be able to confidently: build the 4 primary chord types in all areas of the neck, invert triads, visualise and play diatonic chord progressions in any key and area of the neck, and understand roman numerals in relevance to music theory. You will also be able to construct extended chord voicings such as seventh chords, suspended chords, slash chords, add chords, and more!

  • Section 4: Arpeggios

    This section will combine much of the previously learned topics to help us understand and create Arpeggios. I will show you how to build your own arpeggios across the neck, as well as share some of the more common shapes that you will be able to use immediately. By the end of this section you will understand how to use Arpeggios in your Lead and Rhythm guitar playing.

  • Section 5: Summary

    You guessed it! This section will be a short overview and summary of the course and what you’ve learned, where to go from here, and I have also included a list of examples where I have applied some of these theory concepts to help inspire you further.

Read more

Suggested Prerequisites

  • A limited or vague understanding of music theory is advised, but not essential.
  • Discipline to practice and focus.

Course Perks

  • Content On Demand
    After purchasing a course, you will have immediate access to all of its resources from any device that you log-in from. You only require an internet connection. No huge downloads are necessary!
  • Comprehensive Diagrams & Tabs
    Where possible, diagrams and tabs are provided both on-screen and as downloads to help you to fully engage with the topic at hand. Tabs are always available for download in both PDF and Guitar Pro format.
  • Support & Community
    Utilise the Community Forum to get personalised feedback on your progress directly from Darryl and your peers.

Course Content

Expand All

Introduction: Primer

Scales & Scale/Chord Relationships
Chord Construction & Application
+327 enrolled
Membership Plan


per month
Unrestricted access to all classes and resources across Fretwise.
Single Course


One time fee
Timeless access to this class for you to explore at your own pace.
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Course Summary

  • 40 total steps
  • Tabs, Backing Tracks, and Diagrams throughout
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • 4+ hours of video

Course Summary

  • 40 total steps
  • Tabs, Backing Tracks, and Diagrams throughout
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • 4+ hours of video


Feedback from participating students of this class.

/ 5
5.0 out of 5 stars (based on 12 reviews)

All you need to know to gitgud

Stop reading and get started on his courses already! – For me, I decided to return to basics and despite knowing most of the material prior, it enforces what one may already know in a very easy to understand and structured manner. Not only did I pick up new ways to practice old tricks, it also provided me great insight on how to approach teaching this vast topic to my students. Absolutely great resource as always, can’t wait to go through the other courses. Less typing, more practicing 😉 Darryl, you da man!

Avatar for ETHAN
23rd January 2024

Another fantastic masterclass put together by Darryl.

I’m going through all the courses in Fretwise and I’m again blown away by the way Darryl presents material and gradually escalates the concepts and difficulty. This course starts by going over the basics of harmony, reviewing all the diatonic chords and inversions in a key, but also presenting the function these chords have in a progression. Then the most common (and useful) progressions are reviewed and analyzed in popular songs for you hear their practical application.

THEN the fun starts by going into the weeds of advanced harmony, where you will learn how to completely transform repetitive progressions into something completely new and interesting with diatonic and non-diatonic substitutions. The cherry on the cake is the run-down at the end where you review the whole course by creating everything from the ground up, from basic to complex; and then understand the different levels of melody/solo creation to perfectly tie in to your creation.

WELL WORTH the investment. Darryl, THANK YOU for such a well presented, thorough and easy to follow course. JUST TAKE THIS COURSE, beginning to end, then go through it again! You WILL be a different musician by the end.

Avatar for Alvaro
23rd September 2023

As Good of a Theory Primer as it Gets

This course goes along perfectly with the CAGED course that he offers and I personally have gone through both at least twice and plan to reference it as needed over years to come. Lessons are concise, yet thorough. I’d recommend doing one lesson per day to really get the most out of the material and to help it stick. The material he’s sharing is all very relevant and pertinent to your every day playing. There’s actually no section in any of his courses thus far that I’ve found to be redundant or non-practical. Keep rockin’ my friends!

Avatar for sdavisjr
12th May 2022

A gem of a course from a gem of a player/teacher. Hands down winner here. I've learned so much from Darryl. Thank you!

I haven’t finished this course as I’m being as thorough as possible but its already provided so many incredible tools and lessons for hours of endless learning. It’s already a 5-Star course in my book. Darryl is an incredible teacher and player that has heaps of wonderful insight to the basics of guitar and music theory. Not to mention his tasteful playing is such an inspiration to my own. I’ve learned so much here and on youtube and I have you to thanks Darryl! Thank you. I love feeling the progress and finding connections through your lessons and my everyday playing. Hope to become my own best version of musical self on my guitar journey.

Personal side note as someone who has play guitar for over a decade and never learned a lick of theory. As I move through the course I make sure to take breaks in between learning the course material and try to apply it to both writing and learning other musicians music. I then go back and try to take a deeper dive and truly learn the theory behind what I’m playing and not just “memorizing” the shapes but really understanding the intervalic value and understanding what I’m playing (I happen to be learning triads). I find this more digestible and advise other to do the same if it feels overwhelming. I compare it to learning a new language – if you just memorize a sentence/words do you really know what your saying? It takes time and effort to truly understand it all. Multiple visits to the same lesson is it’s own lesson I’m learning! – You’re your own boss when truly learning and no ones watching so make it count! Good luck to everyone!

Avatar for ronnietyler
12th November 2021

A truly brilliant course and unbelievable value!

This course is absolutely fantastic (and worth way more). If you want a better understanding of Music Theory then this is 100% for you. The structure of the lessons and the content proves that Darryl not only can play the guitar (obviously) but can TEACH it too which is rare. I feel I’m already improving and actually understanding what I’m doing rather than just relying on memory. You get the structure, content, transcripts for every lesson, PDF’s when needed, and can ask questions too. Honestly, it’s been the best purchase in my guitar learning journey so far. If you’re thinking about it, get it! Thanks so much, Darryl.

Avatar for Ross
30th March 2021


Most frequent questions and answers. If you can't find your answers here, please send a message!

Is Fretwise right for you?

Fretwise is designed specifically for intermediate to advanced guitarists who find themselves at a crossroads in their musical journey.

  • Do you often feel lost or uncertain about how to progress?
  • Are you unsure how to practice effectively?
  • Do you want structure and accountability?
  • Have you been playing for years but you want to fill in the gaps in your understanding of the guitar?
  • Are you inspired to play in the style of Darryl Syms?
  • Do you want a concise learning pathway without all of the fluff and boredom from some YouTube teachers?

If you answered yes to any of these then you're in the right place!

What makes Fretwise better than other guitar lesson sites?

So many things!

  • I'm a firm believer of quality over quantity. Many lesson sites have many hundreds, even thousands of lessons and sometimes it feels like a game of numbers. There's already an overwhelming amount of lessons on YouTube, so I'm here to “cut the b.s” and deliver the juicy goodness in the quickest and most effective way possible. You'll spend less time getting lost, and more time on effective practice and learning!
  • I actually break down and discuss topics thoroughly, with demonstrations! Many other learning platforms post video demos, and only written explanations. I provide both video and written lesson notes, both in such intricate detail.
  • I recognise that teaching is a skill in itself beyond just being a great guitar player. Teaching is a skill I've been developing since my mid-teens, and not only in the area of music. I've taught thousands of one-on-one lessons, worked in schools, taught group classes in multiple venues, and helped millions of people via my YouTube channel. What you see on this website brings all of those skills together.
  • I settle for nothing less than best. Everything about this platform has been carefully put together and is always in a state of improvement.
  • My lessons accommodate beginners, intermediate, and advanced players. No matter what your genre or style interests are, there's something that every guitar player can take from this platform.
  • Fretwise isn't just a place that you come to learn, but also a place where you can get social in a community of like-minded guitar enthusiasts from around the world. Connect, get feedback, discuss, and grow together!

What's included in each masterclass?

At Fretwise, each masterclass is designed to provide you with a comprehensive and enriching learning experience. Here's what you can expect to find in every masterclass:

  • Video Instruction: Concise video lessons with on-screen tabs and diagrams to visually guide you through each topic.
  • Written Transcripts: Full written transcripts of every lesson, complete with diagrams and tabs available for download in both PDF and Guitar Pro formats.
  • Backing Tracks: Where applicable, we provide backing tracks to enhance your practice and enable you to apply what you've learned in a musical context.
  • Structured Learning: Fretwise classes are meticulously structured to help you build your skills progressively. You'll find a clear path from fundamental concepts to more advanced techniques.
  • Practice Ideas: We offer practice ideas and exercises to reinforce your understanding of the material and ensure you're making consistent progress.
  • Progress Tracking: Our platform includes tools to track your progress, making it easy to monitor your development and set achievable goals.
  • Support: Take advantage of the community forums to ask any of your questions or discuss challenges that you encounter on your journey.

With these resources and features, each masterclass on Fretwise is designed to empower you with the knowledge, skills, and the support you need to excel in your guitar playing journey.

How long should you expect to spend on each masterclass?

At Fretwise, we understand that every guitarist progresses at their own pace. Here's a general guideline to help you plan your learning journey with our masterclasses:

Time Commitment: On average, it takes about 3 months of frequent study to really grasp the material covered in our masterclasses. While the instructional time for each class typically lasts between 2-3 hours, we recommend that you watch and read through the provided resources multiple times to fully absorb the information.

Lesson Duration: Each individual lesson is designed to be no longer than 15 minutes in length. This provides you with bite-sized chunks of information that you can study and practice over the course of many days, without feeling confused and overwhelmed of your task at hand.

Practice Along: To maximize your learning experience, we encourage you to practice along with your instructor, Darryl. Repetition and hands-on practice are key to solidifying your skills and understanding of the content.

Remember, there's no rush when it comes to mastering the guitar. Take your time, focus on the details, and practice regularly to see steady improvement. Our platform is designed to support your journey, whether you progress quickly or prefer a more gradual approach.

How frequently are masterclasses updated?

Masterclasses are a big undertaking. We aim to bring you updates to Fretwise resources about once a month. However, creating entirely new masterclasses is a more extensive process and can take between 4-6 months to complete.

It's important to note that our main focus isn't just to flood you with "thousands of lessons" like many other guitar lesson websites. Fretwise is not designed to be an endless sea of resources, which typically leaves players feeling as lost as they were on YouTube. We believe in quality over quantity.

Fretwise Premium membership vs. Single Class purchases: Which is right for you?

At Fretwise, we offer two distinct options to suit your learning needs: Fretwise Premium Membership and Single Class Purchases. Here's a breakdown of the key differences:

Fretwise Premium Membership:

  • All-Access Pass: With a Premium Membership, you gain unrestricted access to our extensive library of masterclasses, bonus YouTube resources, and exclusive gear discounts. This means you can explore a wide range of topics, techniques, and resources to enhance your guitar skills.
  • Comprehensive Learning: Enjoy the flexibility to dive deep into multiple classes, allowing you to broaden your knowledge and proficiency in various aspects of guitar playing.
  • Community and Progress Tracking: Like Single Class Purchases, Premium Membership also grants access to our vibrant community forums and progress tracking features. Connect with fellow guitar enthusiasts, share experiences, and monitor your growth.
  • Video Exchange: Post videos of progress and playing, inviting personalised feedback from your instructor, Darryl.
  • Cost Effective: Fretwise Premium Membership offers the best value for money by providing you with an extensive range of resources and benefits at a cost-effective price.

Single Class Purchases:

  • Class-Specific Access: When you opt for Single Class Purchases, you gain access exclusively to the specific class you've purchased. This is an ideal choice if you have a particular area of interest or want to focus on mastering one specific skill.
  • Community and Progress Tracking: You still enjoy the benefits of connecting with our community and tracking your progress, just like Premium Members.

Choosing between Fretwise Premium Membership and Single Class Purchases depends on your learning style and goals. If you're eager to explore a wide range of topics and access additional resources, Premium Membership offers the most comprehensive experience. However, if you prefer a more focused approach or want to take one specific class, Single Class Purchases provide that flexibility.

Whichever option you choose, Fretwise is committed to supporting your guitar journey, ensuring you receive the guidance and resources you need to excel.

Is Fretwise worth the money?

Yes, you'll struggle to find a better and more cost or time effective investment in your guitar education. Here's why:

  • Affordability: Each of our masterclasses are priced more competitively than a single one-hour private lesson with Darryl or any top-tier instructor. This means you're getting high-quality, in-depth instruction at a fraction of the cost of traditional lessons.
  • Fretwise Premium: Our premium membership starts at just $18 per month which is less than $0.60 per day!

You're likely here after spending countless hours of learning from YouTube videos. YouTube and free online tabs are excellent resources, but if you want to get better quicker and ensure that you're not missing any critical knowledge, then look no further than Fretwise.

Signing up to Fretwise removes the need for guesswork, providing you with clear daily and weekly objectives to enhance your guitar skills.

Simply put: spend your time or your money - whichever is less valuable to you.

Can I cancel my membership at any time?

Yes! Cancelling your membership is completely hassle-free. Simply click the cancel button in your account settings. No gimmicks and no confirmation emails - it couldn't get any simpler.

Your membership will stay active for the remainder of your billing cycle, but you will not be charged again for renewal. Access to all membership resources will expire on the originally scheduled renewal date.

Should you wish to resume your membership, it's just as easy. Log in to your account and go to your account settings to renew or crossgrade your membership to pick up right where you left off.

Is there a free trial available?

No, we don't offer a free trial. However, we provide a generous 14-day money-back guarantee for all purchases! If, for any reason (though it's quite unlikely), you're not satisfied with the resources and materials on Fretwise, you can reach out to staff to request a full refund. We value your feedback, and if there's anything we can do to improve your experience before taking this step, please let us know!

Find out more from our terms of service.