Learning Music Theory in the 21st century

At its core, Music Theory is the study of the written manuscript. It is the understanding of the symbols that make up music scores, and the knowledge of how to effectively turn them into sounds.

An knowledge of music theory assists musicians, not because it makes them play better, but because it helps them communicate better with other members of their group.

What do you do to communicate it? how do you get across the critical parts of it, without frustrating or boring the student?

I’ve come up with three critical concepts which can help in this area.

Critical Concept Number One – Start with the music, then move to theory.

Nearly all music teachers agree that music tuition should start first with sound, and then move onto written understanding. Therefore it is important to always start with what something sounds like, then explain why it is the way it is. For example if showing students chords it is very important for a student to know at first what a major or minor chord sounds like, the emotion that it is conveying and the reasons why a major or minor chord might have been chosen for a particular piece of music. Once they can hear the sound, and its reason for being the mechanical knowledge will come.

Important Idea #2 – Learn one thing at a time

Music is a multi-dimensional language. How do I mean? Well it means that in order to understand written music many different pieces of information have to be taken in at one moment. That is the thing that makes it most challenging. A given musical event has both a pitch (what note it is), and a duration (how long it is played for). Add to that it also has a dynamic (how soft it is) and also expression marks that have to be read by the musician. That is why music can be so challenging to learn to read music. Well written Music Theory Worksheets will help in this area, because they only focus on one thing at a time.

Important Concept Number Three – Ensure it is always relevant

The final critical concept with music theory is to keep it relevant. The music that the student is currently learning is the music that should be used to connect with their music theory. For example if a student plays jazz music then they should study jazz music theory. The music that students are playing is what should be used as the basis for their music theory tuition.

If when teaching music teachers keep in mind these basic philosophies then music lessons will be more rewarding and fun for music students of all ages.