Music theory is a way to explain how music works.
Some people explain music theory by comparing it to grammar. Just like grammar helps us to learn the rules for writing sentences and paragraphs, music theory is the rules and structure for the language of music. The rules are not restrictive rules; rather, the rules are the foundation on which the music is built, the structure, or the skeleton, for our music. It is a way of explaining why some sounds work better than others. The ideas that help us understand music and how it is put together is music theory. On its most basic level music theory deals with the notation, structure, rhythm, melody, and harmony of music. Music theory explains how to take the sounds a composer wants and express them on paper.
Why should I care about music theory?
If you are learning to play music, knowing some basics of music theory will be a big help to you! Can you look at a piece of music and understand what all the black stuff on the page means? That is music theory.
Knowing music theory will help you learn your music faster.
At some point you need to learn your music by reading it off the page, not by listening to someone else play it for you. If you know music theory you can read the notes off the page, understand how the notes should be played, and understand why they work together. The better you can do that, the better you can learn new music.
Knowing music theory will help you memorize music more easily.
Sooner or later, if you keep taking music lessons, you will have to memorize some music. The more you understand how the music is put together, the easier you will be able to memorize your music. You can look for patterns in the music, you can understand what the music is doing. Can you tell if a group of notes is just a scale in disguise, or if it is a chord with the notes played one at a time instead of all together? Understanding the logic behind the music will make memorizing your music easier.
Knowing music theory will make you a better sight reader.
Have you ever had anyone place an unknown piece of music in front of you and tell you to play it? Can you do that without panicking? Music theory to the rescue! If you have some understanding of music theory, you know what to look for before you start to play. You know to check the key signature and the time signature. You know to glance through the music and look for patterns. Music theory helps you look for all the clues that make playing the piece a little bit less intimidating.
Music theory helps to improve your improv.
If you want to improvise on your instrument knowing some music theory will help you do a better job! Do you know what key you’re playing in? Is the piece major or minor? What chords are you using? Knowing how to figure out all those things helps you be a better improvise.
Some basic music theory knowledge helps you help your child.
Are you the parent of a music student? Do you know anything about music? If not, learning some basic music theory will help you help your child. You can listen to them play and hear that something is not quite right, but can you help them find what they are missing, what they are getting wrong? Learn some basics along with them, and you can help them find their playing errors.
Learning some basic music theory will help beginners learn music better and faster, it will help more experienced students understand their music better, and it will help parents be able to help their children. Stop by next week, and we will learn some of the basics!