I’m the first to admit that I really don’t love music theory. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I find it very dull and boring. However, if there is just one thing that being at music college has taught me, it’s that being able to play music isn’t enough – you have to know how it works too. That’s why I’ve realized how important it is for musicians at all levels to have a good understanding of music theory, and why I’m now encouraging all budding musicians to start learning music theory at a young age to simplify the process of making music for the rest of their career.
Although many students of music see learning music theory as a challenge, it’s essential to understanding how to communicate ideas through music. Think about any language – if you can’t read or write it properly, how can you communicate with others? Music is a language like any other, and knowing how it works is the key to being able to use it properly.
So, what is the theory of music?
Although it may appear that music theory is just a set of ancient rules that prevent you from creating the music you’re dreaming of, in fact, this is not actually the case. Western music theory has been developed around music which already exists and it describes common trends that music in the west seems to share. It is essential if you want to remember chords and tunes that you’ve played and want to recreate in the future and is also vital to understanding appreciating the sounds which you like.
Yet, while music theory is vital for composers, it’s also important for instrumentalists and singers too. You are sure to be a better musician if you study the theory of music. Sight reading would be impossible for a singer who doesn’t know intervals, and without knowing the chords or notes in a song, how can you recreate them? You can also improvise more effectively if you know the basics of chords and notes.
How do you start out with music theory, you ask? Think of the finished product of creating a piece of music as a fresh loaf of bread. The preparation begins in the kneading. You can accomplish this by learning a little basic piano, as this will allow you to see the intervals and the chord structures that you are learning about. When they are laid out in front of your eyes, it’s much easier to visualize what you are talking about.
When you have a good grounding in music theory, you will eventually become more versatile as a musician in your own right. The key is to avoid thinking of theory as a challenge or a chore, but instead to think of it as an essential tool which can supply you with a communication method that can be used universally across all types of western music and which can give you a way of communicating your own emotions and feelings through music.