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Piano Lessons: What is Music Theory and Why Do I Need to Study It?

Feb 27, 2008
You want to learn how to play the piano and would love to jump right in playing, but the teacher hands you a music theory book instead. Your homework is several pages of repetitive worksheets on scales and definitions. Ugh!

Though it may feel like boring and tedious work, it is absolutely necessary to understand the music.

Music theory is the heart, soul and guts of a song. Anyone can play notes on a page, but if you do not understand the make-up of the song, you can not give it the feeling, the voice it is trying to have.

It is like reading a book. Maybe you can read all the words, but if you do not know what they mean, the book makes no sense to you. No, theory is not glamorous but it is an essential part of piano lessons.

If we could all play by ear, there would be no need for piano teachers right?

Most of us need instruction to make sense of those black and white keys and the sounds they produce. And, if you ever want to try your hand at actually writing or improving a piece, you have to understand how the song works.

As a beginner, you learn about the staff, the five lines that the notes are arranged on and the placement denotes the pitch. You will spend hours learning scales, drawing them on a staff and practice them over and over again on the piano. A scale is the ascending or descending order of notes. This is good for not only learning the notes on the keyboard, but also for hand control.

Chords are a little more advanced. They are three or more pitches played at the same time. Learning how the pitches work together to create a desired sound, either consonance or dissonance, gives the student a tool for creating their own sound.

Other elements of music theory include the symbols that tell the play how to play the song. If you do not know what that little dot is above the half note, you won't know to play that note as staccato, short and abrupt. Or, if there is a pp you won't know to play that pianissimo, which means very softly.

These symbols are what give the notes action and life. It can be a lot to take in and that is why practice is important. As a beginner, you start with the basics and once you have mastered that, you move on. Eventually, if you keep up with your piano lessons, you should be able to recognize all the elements in music you hear every day and perhaps be able to improvise with your favorite piece of sheet music.

If it is your ultimate goal to write music, you will have to delve more deeply into music theory and the mechanics of writing. There are courses available that teach nothing but music theory. Your piano lessons will give you a head start towards a lifelong enjoyment of playing and listening to great piano.
About the Author
Learning piano requires dedication and the assistance of great piano lessons. With Louisiana piano teachers available across the area as well as the return of free kids piano lessons in their Metairie showroom, Hall Piano Co is your full service Louisiana piano dealer. http://www.hallpiano.com
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