Music Theory – Why Bother?

Introduction to Music Theory

Music has always been around, long before music theory. So why bother learning it?

music theoryMusic theory is the rules and conventions of musical language, much like those of any spoken language, like Spanish or German. Just as many people in the world are able to communicate without reading or writing, numerous self-taught musicians learn to play instruments without knowing music theory. However, becoming fluent in language and comprehension improves your ability to communicate thoughts and feelings.

Knowing music theory is similar. It will help you develop and master your musical skills, try new styles and instruments, and become confident in your abilities. As you work through this course, you might find that you actually know more music theory than you realised; you just didn’t have the words to describe what you know and feel.

It would be lovely to be able to pick up any instrument and just play without any prior learning, but most people can’t do that. We need some basic information first about how to understand the language of music (plus how to translate this knowledge to playing our chosen instrument). When we put these elements together, we accumulate a wide range of knowledge enabling us to become better players, readers, and singers.

Analysing music and its forms enabled composers to transcribe what they created long before we had the facilities to record audio. By writing notes on sheets, with additional directions, they knew musicians could reproduce the compositions as they were meant to be played.

If we want to play Classical music it is essential we can read notated music. While not essential for studio session musicians, the ability to sightread sheet music gives us a huge advantage in certain genres over musicians who play by ear. The musically fluent player is able to quickly scan a piece of sheet music and hear it in his head. The best session musicians who play by ear still understand key centres and how to move between tonalities, which is especially important when improvising over a chord sequence, e.g. playing a metal guitar solo or blues saxophone interlude.

Songwriters and composers need to know music theory. Music producers, too, can greatly benefit a fundamental understanding of musical language when working with artists in the studio. Knowing how music is put together will enable you to become a better producer.

All popular music follows certain patterns and forms, and the songwriter who understands how to analyse what makes a song a hit can emulate and develop his own strong material. Catchy vocal melodies are based on scales and arpeggios, and other repetitive riffs that belong in the key of the song. If a songwriter understands how chords are built and which chords work with one another, it makes the job of creating a new song much easier and more enjoyable, especially when writing to a brief and to a deadline.

Becoming a great musician takes discipline and hard work, but it is worth it and it is also a lot of fun. As with all pursuits, our results as musicians are rooted in our efforts. When we understand the basic elements of music theory, such as counting beats, rhythm and a steady pace, harmony, key signatures, time signatures, time values of written note and rest types, we become better musicians.

In this course, we will start with the basics and build upon this foundation to take your understanding of music to a higher level. Even if you have some musical experience but never learned to read music, developing this additional knowledge will add extra skills to your toolbox.

So, let’s begin! If you would like to join my music theory course, please send me a message on the Contact page for more information.

Emma L.M. Sweeney