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All Musicians Should Learn Music Theory

Image courtesy of punsayaporn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of punsayaporn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As you learn how to play an instrument, music takes on a new role in your life. The more you learn, the less you realize you know. You have probably listened to a song and wondered “How can I write something like that?”. An important tool to learn how to do just that is music theory.

What is it?

Music theory is the science of rationalizing music. Through it, we can understand what gives a song its character. For centuries, theorists have studied chords, intervals, and melodies. Music theory instruction is today one of the capstone courses of a music degree. Many graduates take it for three years while they are in school.

Why Learn Music Theory?

Many “self-taught” musicians eschew the process of learning it. Their ear is the tool they think they need. These novices are making a crucial mistake. Learning theory actually improves your mind’s ear. It can be frustrating because there is no end to the study of theory. You can’t know everything about music.

Express Yourself

Knowledge of the science behind music helps musicians express themselves more fully. It expedites the process of getting a piece of music in your head down on paper the way you hear it. Without a good foundation, you could spend hours just trying to figure out what you are hearing. A good background in music theory gives you the ability to focus on the details when writing.


Improvising is a huge part of American music. It started with jazz, but now soloists in every genre do it. It is the act of creating music on the spot with no preconceived idea. Of course, there are people that have a natural talent for it. Even they can benefit from applying theoretical knowledge to the natural ability they already possess.

How to Learn it

There are a few ways to improve music theory knowledge. A lot of books have been written about the topic. Companies like C.R. Carole music offer music theory workbooks. They offer the most basic music theory instructions all the way up to advanced level courses. It can be a tricky topic to learn at first. So, it’s a good idea to hire a private instructor to help with your studies. Private teachers are professionals with a vast amount of knowledge on the topic. They will make the process of learning theory go much quicker. When you understand the mathematical concepts behind music, your relationship with it is much more rewarding and fruitful.