What is music theory and why is it important?

What is music theory? Why do I need it? Music theory is the reasoning behind how music works. It starts with the fundamentals, and as you work through concepts you form a deeper understanding of what exactly you are hearing in the music you listen to.

If someone asked you to describe a painting, but you had never been taught the names of any colors, would you be able to describe it?

Music theory starts with the notes on the staff, basic rhythms, and articulation marks. Notes are like the letters in a sentence, with rhythm being the number of syllables in the words and the articulation marks representing punctuation. These are the basic elements everyone needs to be able to read music.

Once you understand the notes and how to play or sing them, you will begin to see patterns in the music. The next level of music theory helps you identify those patterns, like repetition in the music or different chord progressions. While music is an art and can exist in many different forms, there are some common patterns that exist in many songs. Understanding the pattern in one may help you understand another song as well.

Music theory teaches you why music has different effects on us when we hear it. What is it about a song that makes it sound happy? Or sad? Or angry?

Perhaps most importantly, music theory teaches you how to perform well. If you do not understand articulation marks or the history of a piece, you may be ignoring things that contribute to how the composer wanted the music to sound. Once you understand all that is written on the page, you can use your own knowledge of musical elements to develop your own style.

Without music theory, musical traditions would never have been passed on. There is no way we would know what a piece written before the advent of recording devices was meant to sound like.

Music theory is an essential part of learning music and being a well-rounded musician.

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