For the majority of my professional music life I've been trying to "catch up" basic chord/harmony theory. As you can imagine, this has been quite a problem for me as knowledge chords and harmony make up a significant portion of being a musician (particularly in contemporary/jazz spaces, which I'm becoming more and more involved in).
The other issue is that my peers don't quite understand just how big these gaps are: i.e when I tell them "don't tell me the chords, they don't mean anything to me" they don't believe me.
A little context. When I was a young fresh musician learning the basics I was unfortunate enough to have two pretty terrible (for me/my learning style) teachers.
The first was my very first flute teacher who only ever explained basic concepts once, expected me to learn my scales without ANY sheet music and would insult me when I got things wrong. I almost quit flute after a year and a half with her, because she made the experience of learning the instrument entirely unpleasant (fortunately my mum found me a wonderful teacher to take me on, and I've been enthralled by the flute ever since)
The second teacher was my very first theory teacher who was ill equipped to teach theory to anyone 1) who had no piano skills 2) had never learned theory before and 3) already had significant "basic" knowledge gaps. Somehow under his tutelage I managed to fudge my way up to a third grade theory level without ever understanding anything I was doing.
Fortunately after I'd moved on from these teachers I went on to have some wonderful instructors. Unfortunately their instruction was always time sensitive to the AMEB schedule, and never allowed for the diagnosis of how bad the gaps were, let alone being able to work out exactly how to fill them in. Similarly, at uni, I just had to fudge my way through because there was no way I could catch up on theory, complete my assignments, work and keep up the crazy practice routine I had set.
Since leaving uni I've made many a failed attempt to fill in these gaps, but due to the nature of playing a single lined instrument, being time poor, and the fact my ear is "good enough" to be able to work out what I need to play whilst improvising it simply hasn't happened...
All this has changed. I'm starting to understand chords, and it's one of the most exciting progressions in my post study musical explorations. What changed? I picked up ukulele and got just a little *too* into it. Having the ability to not only play chords, but see the intervals AND the progressive relationships of how the shapes transfer between chord changes has revolutionised the way I'm thinking about chords, harmony and music in general.
There are a few morals you can take from this. 1) If you're a musician who's been playing forever with significant gaps IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO FILL THEM IN (yes, there was a while I thought I'd never understand the things I'm starting to understand now about music) 2) If you play a single lined instrument, don't understand how chords work and can't play piano (context: I tried very very hard for a lot of years to play piano. It's just really not my instrument) try a stringed instrument instead (it doesn't have to be ukulele. It could be guitar, or mandolin, or banjo, or bouzouki) 3) If you have a student who's struggling gap filling, try taking them off script for a little while. I wish one of my early teachers had had the opportunity to do that for me back in the day before the gaps in my knowledge snowballed into a huge pile of nope.
I just want to finish off by saying a quick word about my outfit: This was a really different one for me. I unearthed both the velvet tights and pom pom jumper from the bottom of my closet. I'd put the pom poms on the jumper ages ago and never worn it. You'll never believe the reason ;P I thought it was too much! (I can be a ridiculous human sometimes)