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The Benefits Of Learning Music Theory

Aug 18, 2007
That's music to my ear is a common phrase used to express a person's emotional response to how a particular tune can make them feel. Some people listen to music all the time. Some study the art of playing an instrument. It's therapeutic; it's enriching; it's a way of creating moods in any environmental setting. If you are interested in music for more than the pure enjoyment people get out of listening to it, then learning about music theory is an ideal mode for you.

Music theory can be an important attribute in a person's life, for many reasons. People often ask, "Is music theory necessary?" "Why do we need it?"

First of all, even though you don't have to understand how to read sheet music to perform as a musician, you will need an understanding of music theory. It opens so many other doors for you in the world of music. Music theory will not show you how to understand music, but with music theory you will be able to communicate musical ideas, explore music in whole new ways, and redefine the tremendous scope that entails the magical world of music.

Music theory allows you to voice your opinion with others in the field, expand your musical horizon. Give a little input to a fellow musician and you'll get something in return.

Notations And Communicating With Other Musicians

Music lovers all develop a keen sense of awareness, musically speaking. Sometimes, musicians explain that if they study music theory, then it'll stunt their creativity. Wrong! The world's greatest composers were all masters of music theory: Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, J.S. Bach. These experts composed a keen understanding of the theoretical concepts. Years were spent studying the concept, down to some of the smallest details.

Music can be played by ear, picking out tunes without the aid of written music. Your ears can be your guide. The reason this is brought to light is that some musicians with strong theoretical training often disregard the art of playing by ear.

Think of playing music by ear this way: We're all born as non-verbal creations. Communication begins with crying, making sounds, displaying body language. Parents quickly become experts on baby talk. It's an innate sense. Over time, language develops by mimicking sounds. Toddlers don't learn nouns and verbs; they learn to speak by example. Music can be the same way. Hence, the reason so many people pay top dollar for live performances. It's invigorating, magical.

Understanding Harmony And Chord Progression

Chord progression and harmony, two features of music theory, help broaden any musician, regardless of their genre of study. Chord progression is a series of chords that are used to harmonize music. All compositions use chord progression. Those that improvise - which, as already mentioned, adds charm and magic to the environment of music - invent brand new melodies that blend in with an existing chord. It's a musical transition, something that must be practiced, repeatedly. The great composers and musicians develop chord progressions and transitions until it becomes natural, a second-natured maneuver.

If a musician improvises in a more interconnected manner, these new melodies show the musician the progression as one whole unit, and not a series of bumpy transitions. The more practice that goes into this aspect of music learning theory, the more interesting substitutions they will develop along the way. Once the concept of chord progression and its structure is understood, it will be easier to remember. Jazz musicians, therefore, show a keen interest in the study and analysis of chord progression.

The study of music theory will show musicians and musical scholars that the objective, initially, is not to consider an entire composition in one sitting. Instead, musicians, students and teachers alike, view a chord progression in segments, or units. These units correspond to musical sections known as stanzas.

A stanza is the complete statement and development of a single musical idea. It's a fairly simple act of dividing pieces into small manageable sections, with the melody itself forming, or suggesting the boundaries for sound.

Tonality, another element of chord progression, means different things to different people. Some would consider it to be this: any piece of music with a well-defined key center. Others envision any music that uses the conventional chords as tonal.

Music without the use of chords in a functional manner to reinforce a tonal center is not tonal. It is referred to as non-tonal music. The names of these styles are not always agreed upon between musical connoisseurs. But expressing difference is one key element that makes music such a beautiful art form, with countless possibilities.

So, if you are considering studying music, be it to play an instrument, teach music, or simply hone in on personal curiosity, learning music theory is a must for you.
About the Author
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of MusicianHome.com, a site that provides information and articles for musicians at all stages of their development.
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