Three practical ways to teach Music Theory

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

An knowledge of music theory really helps people who play music, rather than making them play better, it helps them communicate better with other musicians.

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

There are three important ideas which can help in this area.

Critical Idea #1 – Begin with the sound, then move to theory.

Nearly all music teachers agree that music learning should start first with sound, and then move onto written understanding. In practice that means we should always introduce something with a sound, then explain why it is the way it is. For example if teaching chords it is critical for a student to know firstly what a major or minor chord sounds like, the emotion that it is showing and the reasons why a major or minor chord might be chosen for a particular piece of music. Once they can hear the sound, and its reason for being the mechanical knowledge will follow. This is the concept that most good Music Theory Worksheets should follow.

Critical Idea #2 – Learn one thing at a time

Music is a multidimensional language. How do I mean? Well it means that in order to read music many different pieces of information have to be absorbed at one moment. That is the thing that makes it most difficult. A music note 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 loud it is) and also expression marks that have to be interpreted. That is why music can be so difficult to learn to understand music theory.

Critical Concept Number Three – Keep it 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 is playing classical music then they shouldn’t be learning jazz harmony. The music that students are playing is what should be used as the basis for their theory lessons.

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