The Importance of Learning Music Theory

The Importance of Music Theory

Students learning music often think of music theory as a chore–they think it’s boring, a waste of time, and something they’ll never actually need. While some musicians wear their lack of music theory as a badge of honor, there’s a reason most music majors are required to take at least four semesters of music theory–it’s the primary way in which composers and musicians communicate with each other. Without understanding music theory, your child won’t be able to “speak” with composers, and vice versa. And, if your child seems serious about performing or becoming a professional musician, learning music theory is key. Don’t take our word for it–read on for more reasons why music theory is important to the future of your child as a musician.

Understand How Music Works

At its core, music theory helps students understand how a piece of music works. When learning music, students may find themselves wondering why a certain note was chosen or what those funny symbols in a piece of sheet music actually mean. Fortunately, music theory helps students answer these questions, and many more. An understanding of intervals, scales, and keys will help students see why notes are placed together, or why a sharp or a flat makes sense in a certain context. For students who want to play in an ensemble or band, music theory will show them where their part is in the group–making it easier for them to play with other musicians. Whether they’re casually jamming in a garage or playing in an official band or orchestra, understanding how written music works will make it easier for them to play in harmony with other musicians.

Write and Perform Accurately

Although this is a point that’s overlooked in many music theory classes, music theory will actually help your child become more creative with their playing (and perhaps even elsewhere in life). Your child may not be interested in writing their own music right now, but having a strong foundation in music theory will help set them up for future success as a composer or songwriter. If your child enjoys listening to classical music or plays the Star Wars theme on repeat, you can use these hobbies as a way to let your child now how important learning music theory is. After all, Mozart and John Williams wouldn’t be household names without having a strong foundation in music theory. Plus, as your child begins to play with other types of musicians, being well-versed in music theory will help them detect everything from errors in others’ playing to slight deviations from the score.

Independent Learning

Without a strong foundation in music theory, your child will be dependent on their music teacher or memorization in order to progress past the piece they’re currently working on. As soon as they become exposed to music theory, your child will be able to run through pieces of music on their own, and can even develop their own warm-up exercises. In addition to progressing more easily, students who know music theory tend to be more confident in their abilities, and are more likely to want to continue learning music over time. So, if you’re concerned that your child will give up the cello or clarinet after a couple years, perhaps getting them interested in music theory now could help prevent that from happening. Plus, music theory creates a foundational understanding that makes it easier for students to pick up multiple instruments down the line.

Improve Critical Reasoning Skills

Though this is not specific to music, learning music theory can be linked to improved critical reasoning skills. Students, particularly older ones who are accustomed to the “monkey see, monkey do” method of teaching, need to think beyond the exam and maximize their learning and critical thinking skills. And, music theory classes are the perfect place to do so. Since music theory students have a lot of information that needs to be processed in a short amount of time, students can pick up desired skills, including critical thinking and time management. Plus, class discussions can help students put their thoughts into words. Many professionals claim learning music theory is like learning a different language because it stimulates the same areas of the brain–don’t trust us, it’s been proven.

Music Theory as a Foundation

At the end of the day, learning music theory will help your child become a well-rounded musician, and make it possible for them to progress more successfully in music. If your child has ever considered learning multiple instruments or writing music themselves, music theory is a critical component of their goals. Even for students that are content playing one instrument, understanding music theory will help them play their instrument better. Though some students find music theory frustrating and difficult, your child’s music teacher should be able to pace the theory lessons so as to not overwhelm your child. Learning music theory hand-in-hand with learning an instrument will not only spread out the “boring stuff”, but it’ll make their theory lessons easier to understand.


Want to enroll your child in lessons? Check out our Lesson Studio or visit your local Music & Arts for more info.


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