“Do everything you can to learn your craft. Score student films for free, attend conferences, learn music theory – do anything and everything you can.”
– John Keltonic
When learning an instrument, you have probably been encouraged to work on your music theory as well. Music theory is an incredibly important part of any music learning journey. Some call it the “grammar of music” because it provides the rules by which music works. Learning music theory will help a student understand the different written elements that make up a piece of music including; note reading, note values, time signatures, chord progressions, articulation, and much more. A holistic musical education should include theory each week because it will help a student to become a better musician!
Music theory can help us become better sight readers of music!
Many students will have heard the term ‘sight reading’ before. This is when a musician reads new music for the first time and tries to play the music. For the first while, students will have to learn each individual note, and it may take some time to read the beginning notes such as “C-D-E”. However, reading notes is a skill that can be improved with written practice…like any other. Music theory is one way to quickly improve this skill. With regular written practice, students will be able to instantly read the notes “C-D-E”. This is very similar to when we first learned the letters of the alphabet, and then eventually we were able to read words! As you learn the various components of music theory, you will start to understand the structure of music better, not just the individual notes.
Theory can make memorizing easier!
Understanding how music works can make memorizing it even easier! Once a musician understands a song’s form, chord progressions, or themes and variations of a song, it becomes much easier to predict how the piece will go, and subsequently memorize the sections. Even contemporary pop songs have forms that can be followed and memorized quickly!
Not only will memorizing become easier when you work on music theory, but you will find it easier to play and jam with other musicians. Music theory allows musicians to understand each other — imagine if you are working with another musician and they told you to “start from measure 42”, or “begin at the third movement”? If you didn’t know your theory, you might not know what they are talking about.
Be a better improviser!
This one definitely applies to all manner of musicians, not just pianists! When you understand music theory you understand chord progressions. This can improve a number of skills previously talked about, such as sight reading, composition, and memorizing, but it can also help you become a better improviser. Improvisation is when a musician creates something new on the spot, usually within a song they are currently playing. This can happen during solos, over vamps, or if musicians are jamming together and accidentally lose their spot. In many cases, good improvisation skills allow a musician to find their way back to the music without making it look like a mistake. Guitarists will find music theory important because they will know which scales they can play over which chords for solo purposes, or for writing riffs into songs. Improvising is an important skill for all musicians, but especially important for jazz musicians.
And, most importantly, LOVE music even more!
Usually, understanding and mastery of a skill will mean that a person enjoys the skill more. A good reader loves reading; an excellent golfer will enjoy golfing, and so on. The more you understand your instrument, the better you will become at playing it, and the more you will enjoy it! The same can be said for music. If you know your music theory you will appreciate music even more, as you will understand how it was made, what type of work and creativity went into it. You might be able to hear the different instruments, or see if the composer broke any of the ‘rules’ music theory teaches to create something memorable.
So Should I Be Learning Music Theory… YES!!
We encourage all students to learn music theory, and we promote a holistic musical education with a balanced amount of theory each week. Music teachers will always say yes to theory! We believe that Musicians who understand theory are better musicians.
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The Importance of Music Theory | Resound School of Music Blog
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5 Music Theory Concepts Every Musician Should Know
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Why Should I Learn Music Theory? Will I Become a Better Musician With It?
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