Music Theory: What is it? — Alex Taylor Lessons
If you’re just starting out learning to sing or play an instrument, or if you’re just curious about music, you’ve probably come across the term “music theory” and wondered “Huh, what’s that? Isn’t a theory just a guess? Is this just guessing how to play music? Why do I need to know about this musical guess to make sounds I like?” So let’s take a look at music theory, what it is and why it’s important.
Music theory is, fundamentally, the way music works within a certain set of rules or guidelines as well as a way to analyze music within a certain viewpoint. This includes things like notes, rhythms, chords and chord progressions, and key signatures.
There are many different music theory approaches based on the performance practice of a particularly type of music. For example, while you might use note and rhythmic analysis while learning a piece by Bach, you would use a completely different method of pitches and rhythm when learning an Indian raga. Music theory is not a one-size-fits-all approach to all types of music throughout the world. Dynamics (how loud or soft you play/sing) are irrelevant when talking about electronically produced pop music, for example.
So how does this stuff help you become a better musician? Think about it like learning to write versus learning to speak. Everyone learns to speak, but learning to read and write will allow you to expand your speaking skills. Or another metaphor: Learning to play and instrument without learning its theory is like learning to drive without knowing how to repair your car. You can drive just fine, but it can save you a lot of time, money, and convenience to learn how to tinker with it on your own.
Music theory encompasses a wide range of subjects and concepts, and each style and musical culture has it’s own theoretical approach. At its core, music theory is all about the fundamental knowledge required to be a competent musician, regardless of style or culture.
Originally published at https://www.alextaylorlessons.com on September 8, 2020.