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09/07/2017

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The importance of Music Theory.

Many musicians play by ear and they play very well, but they can't read a note. So, "why do I need theory?" 

Many musicians play by ear and they play very well, but they can't read a note. So, "why do I need theory?"

Music theory is the study of how musical ideas are communicated to each other. Put more simply, it is how we read and write music. Even the musician described above, who can't read and write music, uses music theory in terms of knowing, for example, which chords to use on his guitar. 


Without an understanding of how music is written and read, students can only learn music by ear and memorization. This often requires listening to a piece of music multiple times until they can play it by themselves. Although this is a valuable skill, how would they learn a piece if it had never been recorded before, or there was no-one to demonstrate it to them. Learning just by memorization, creates barriers in learning new music. If you can read music, you can learn it much more quickly by yourself and without the need to listen to someone else's performance on a CD, itunes or YouTube.

Further, if you have a musical idea, you can communicate this idea much more easily and with many more people if you can notate your ideas.

Imagine you couldn't read or write English, you could only speak it. For a start you wouldn't be reading this blog, but seriously, think what limitations that puts on you. You could never find out information for yourself, but would always have to rely on someone else to tell you verbally. Also, you could only communicate verbally thus greatly limiting the audience of people you can share your thoughts with.

It is well known that in order to take a higher grade (6 or above) practical exam with ABRSM, you first need  to take their grade 5 theory exam. This is not the case with Trinity College London exams, but you may not be aware that in Trinity exams, theory knowledge is required in the practical exam, as part of the supporting tests, where you need to answer theory type questions about the specific pieces you are playing. For example, in a Grade 4 Trinity Practical exam, you may be asked about modulations to closely related keys, about tonic and dominant triads, or about intervals.

The ABRSM way of doing things is completely different, separating theory from practical into a written exam, which doesn't relate to the pieces you are playing. One disadvantage to this is that many students don't even think about doing any theory until they get to grade 5 practical and then they panic. If you are an ABRSM student or teacher, it would be a good idea to always do theory alongside your practical work and relate it specifically to the music you are playing. This would do much to dispel the reputation that theory is dull and boring book work.

Beside simply being able to read music, learning theory will give you a keen sense of musical awareness and enhance your creativity. It also will help your aural skills. For example, recognizing a modulation or a cadence  is a lot easier if you understand what a modulation or a cadence is.

Some might argue that theory makes music too analytical. Music is all about expressing emotions. However, I will finish with this thought. Think about some of the great masterpieces of music that you have heard, that have really moved you emotionally. Don't you think that the composers of such masterpieces, were masters of music theory.

If you are interested in improving your music theory, try our Complete Theory Course from Grades 1-5 or if you just want to test how much you already know try one of our Android Apps.



3 comments:

  1. Could you please kindly assist of me if I can get the London university certificate . Can I went to

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What exactly do you need assistance with?

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  2. Learning theories will help students to appreciate and have a deeper understand about music

    ReplyDelete

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