Do you think you need to be able to read music in order to become a good musician? It’s a question that immediately divides people into two distinct groups. Some firmly believe you have no clue about music until you’ve learned the basics of music theory. Others are of the opinion that you can be an excellent musician without actually knowing why it sounds good, as long as it does.
Learning music theory is very much like learning how to read. You start out with easy texts and learn gradually over time. Just like you might speak a language fluently without being able to read, you can be really good at playing an instrument without reading music. But reading definitely makes life a lot easier.
If you know how to read, you can pick up any book and see what the author wants to say. It’s the same with music. Learning to play by ear is, of course, very important. But it is far more convenient to just pick up a sheet of music and play what is written on it.
If you can read music, you’ll also know more about the tools you can use to compose your own songs.
You’ll understand how key signatures work, what chords go well together, and what rhythm combinations are available to you. Ultimately, you’ll be able to write everything down, so that you don’t forget it, and then share it with others who can play it without having to learn it by ear.
Some people don’t like the idea of learning music theory. They are under the impression it’s just rules that somebody has made up. This is true in some cases. However, there’s actual science that makes certain intervals sound differently, for instance. This is something that Pythagoras (yes, the math guy!) realized long ago. He noticed that if you press down a string exactly on the middle, it produces the same note as when you don’t press it at all, but with a higher pitch. This is what we call an octave. The science behind it is that the vibrations double when you press the string down on the middle.
Overall, when studying music theory, you’ll notice that there is a lot of natural mathematics involved. Rhythm is the ultimate example of this, since we split whole notes into half notes, half notes into quarter notes, quarter notes into eight notes, and so on. If we want to write down a rhythm that is between these values, we use dotted notes, but everything is still mathematically dividable and accurate.
If you’ve been studying music theory for a while, you know that a whole new world opens to you. It’s often a mind-blowing experience when all the pieces are put together and you realize how incredible music is. There are so many components that need to work for music to happen. And yet, we are able to produce organized sound that can touch our very souls.
To sum up, here are the advantages of learning music theory:
- You learn how key signatures, chords, and scales are connected
- You understand how rhythm works
- It becomes easier for you to compose your own music
- You might actually become better at playing by ear since you know what to listen for
It’s perfectly possible to play an instrument without knowing much about music theory. But learning about it opens up endless possibilities you’ll never see if you don’t make the effort. So, if you want to learn the basics of music theory, why not read our book Music Theory for Beginners? It’s a great place to get started!