Why You Should or Shouldn’t Learn Music Theory

music theory basics

The opinion regarding whether one should study music theory varies among artists and musicians.

Some artists solely rely on their intuition and natural ability to compose songs and claim that they get their ideas when they are in the zone. Many famous performers like The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen, and Jimi Hendrix didn’t read notations or weren’t well versed in music theory. On the other hand, there are some who are well versed in music theory and recommend approaching the task of creating music within a framework.

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What is Music Theory and Should You Learn it?

Music theory is a study of how a melody or piece of a tune is constructed including the key signature, notations, chord progressions, and time signatures. Most teachers stress the fact that understanding theory is fundamental to music education.

Music theory is key for the students to understand their sound better. However, while you needn’t necessarily know theory to play harmonies, music theory helps artists ensure that the music they create confirms to all technicalities. In other words, it helps them get rid of any inherent glitches and create music that is technically correct and makes sense.

Even though there are several musicians who steer clear of music theory for fear of ‘losing their magic’, understanding the basic components of music adds more to a musician’s creativity.

Here are a few reasons why you should learn music theory:

It provides a framework:

Creativity needs direction in order to avoid producing music that sounds nonsensical and chaotic to the ears. While it’s definitely true that creativity doesn’t work as a formula, having a framework for approaching the task of creating music can not only make it a whole lot easier but also allow one’s creative juices to flow. Although a framework keeps musicians within certain boundaries and constraints, it doesn’t inhibit their creativity, but in fact, allows them to explore and experiment with it in different ways.

You learn new techniques:

While learning music theory and techniques by itself without any practical experience is not enough to be able to create music, it definitely adds to the process instead of taking away from it. Knowing the theory and logic behind the process can put things into perspective and provide a sense of clarity. Making a rational sense of what one is playing, saves a lot of time and effort down the road for learners who just want to acquire some level of skill or those who are on their journey of becoming professional musicians.

It helps you master your instrument:

If you want to dive deep into music and become a master of your craft, then you must have an in-depth understanding of your instrument. Learning songs through rote memorization of chords and notes is quite difficult and won’t prove to be beneficial in the long run without understanding the why and how behind it. Understanding theories is a much more flexible and dynamic way of learning the instrument that empowers you with the knowledge to actually come up with your own sound.

It gives an in-depth understanding of musical styles:

An advantage of learning theory is that it provides a fascinating glimpse into and unravels the mystery behind why things are the way they are, like why a bunch of chords sounds good while being played in sequence and why a set of notes go along with it well. Although learning music this way might seem to be tedious at first and appear to have a flat learning curve, eventually things will click. The theories help players develop a base understanding of styles that help in clearing out a lot of misconceptions and ambiguities.

Whether someone should or shouldn’t learn music theory might also broadly depend on how they intend to approach it as a whole. Learning the theories behind it is not necessary for a listener or an audience who just wants to be entertained as not having any knowledge of such theory won’t get in their way of being able to enjoy the harmony that tones produce. However, for an artist, it’s not quite the same. In fact, every artist should be concerned with how to learn music theory. Even though studying its theory is a time-consuming task with some hard-to-understand concepts, the musician shall benefit from the learning process and be able to apply it practically.


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