Why should you learn music theory? You may have many of your own reasons, but here are just a few to get you motivated.
Reason 1: Being Able To Write Down What You Hear In Your Head
First, and most importantly, it gives us the ability to describe what we hear in our head on paper. You may be the greatest composer that has even been on the earth, but if you don’t know how to write down what you hear in your head, then it stops right there. Having the background in understanding will allow you to say, “okay, what I hear in my head is a phrygian scale, or that is a neapolitan 6th.”
Reason 2: Get Yourself Out of a Compositional Stagnation/Rut
Having a solid background in theory allows you to push through the times when you are not just being driven by “creative genius.”
If all else fails, you will have the technical knowledge to finish the piece you are writing. You can always come back and rewrite.
Reason 3: Restriction is the Best Path to Creativity
It may seem that theory can be too restrictive, but often, restrictions are the key to true creativity. Think about the last time you sat down to compose music. If you stared at the blank sheet, with limitless possibilities, it was probably hard to get started. Now imagine if you knew, you wanted to write a Bach-style chorale, in E minor, using only first through third species counterpoint, in binary form. This can give you a head start in creativity.
Reason 4: Theory Will Allow You to Understand What Great Composers of the Past Were Doing
Most people who have never composed before believe that composing is pulling music out of thin air. But it is far from the truth. All of the great composers from the past had extensive musical training, and built upon what had been written before them. A solid understanding of music theory will give you the toolbox to analyze and incorporate what they have done. To quote Clark Terry, a famous jazz trumpeter, “Imitate, assimilate, innovate.”
Reason 5: You Will Understand What You Compose
When it comes down to it, composing is about making music that sounds good. You have probably composed something that you think sounds good, but do you know why? Do you understand what is going on in your composition, and can you add it to your own personal “composing vocabulary” so that it can be used in the future? Without music theory you can never “Know thy musical-self.”
Knowing How to Compose versus Actually Composing
Learning theory and practicing specific examples to hone your skills is like practicing drills for a sport. They give you the technical facility and mental conditioning to play the game. Learning the theoretical concepts will always help you to bring out your true inner musical genius, its just a matter of practice.
What should you learn? There are many aspects to music theory. To find out more, go to the Art of Composing Academy. Here you will find all you need to know to get started composing music. Learning to compose music is a life long journey, but every journey begins with a first step.
Let me know what you think.