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How important is it to learn music theory? (Read 1826 times)

Offline pianoville

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How important is it to learn music theory?
« on: April 27, 2018, 05:20:26 PM »
What do you think? I would say I have a pretty basic knowledge of structure, harmonics etc but am not sure if it is better to learn a lot of theory, or if it can help in improving my playing.
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Offline visitor

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Re: How important is it to learn music theory?
«Reply #1 on: April 27, 2018, 05:57:19 PM »
how important is it to understand sentence construction, advanced vocabulary, and structure to understand literature or adequately interpret a poem.

therory is the basics of the musical language, and i am frequently asked at advanced levels of study to discuss and make decisions in lessons w regard to form, ie unity in longer expanded works, understanding where we are in the piece in sonata allegro form, etc
where harmonic tension lies relative to true tonic, how to enhance the effect of modulations, etc.

you don't have to , but you'll understand the music you play better if you do and you can make better and more informed decisions on interpreting and expressing yourself in those works.

likely not as big a deal in intermediate and early advanced but as you move towards more complex and abstract works and concepts, it becomes more relevant, at least for me and past past few instructors at least

even the theory of orchestration, register, instrumentation etc can help when deciding on voicing in thick textures with 'orchestral' type sound and construction and writing (ie Brahms for example)  or in transcriptions, etc. too, it's all related

Offline Bob

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Re: How important is it to learn music theory?
«Reply #2 on: April 27, 2018, 10:56:09 PM »
Critical.  Part is being able to understand/to see more patterns.

There's also the drill/skill side of it, like being to identify things at sight.
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline ted

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Re: How important is it to learn music theory?
«Reply #3 on: April 28, 2018, 08:37:58 AM »
Critical.  Part is being able to understand/to see more patterns.

There's also the drill/skill side of it, like being to identify things at sight.

I do not think so Bob. How is learning a mass of rules and guidelines to produce sounds I do not like going to help me create sounds I do enjoy ?

how important is it to understand sentence construction, advanced vocabulary, and structure to understand literature or adequately interpret a poem.

therory is the basics of the musical language, and i am frequently asked at advanced levels of study to discuss and make decisions in lessons w regard to form, ie unity in longer expanded works, understanding where we are in the piece in sonata allegro form, etc
where harmonic tension lies relative to true tonic, how to enhance the effect of modulations, etc.

you don't have to , but you'll understand the music you play better if you do and you can make better and more informed decisions on interpreting and expressing yourself in those works.

likely not as big a deal in intermediate and early advanced but as you move towards more complex and abstract works and concepts, it becomes more relevant, at least for me and past past few instructors at least

even the theory of orchestration, register, instrumentation etc can help when deciding on voicing in thick textures with 'orchestral' type sound and construction and writing (ie Brahms for example)  or in transcriptions, etc. too, it's all related

Is this analogy really valid though ? Is music a language ? I think a strong case could be made that it is not, that music has no communicable meaning outside itself, that it is purely abstract sound, referring only to itself, its only meaning being that which the listening mind cares to impose. The ultimate musical theory could be something like David Cope's program, provided all we want to do is imitate music of the past, which endeavour, however worthy an intellectual achievement, seems to me too much like living someone else's dream.
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Offline sucom

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Re: How important is it to learn music theory?
«Reply #4 on: February 09, 2019, 08:55:55 PM »
If I never wanted to remember anything I have ever composed, or if I never wished to play anything that anyone else has ever composed, then I could argue that music theory is a waste of time.  If I never wished to improve the sound of something I compose or if I never wished to learn from anyone else's compositions, then I suppose music theory could be argued as a waste of time.

I remember trying to play a midi song and the notes were written - C#, Db, C#, Db in various places, often one after the other.  Eek!  Trying to play something that has been written by someone with no knowledge of music theory can be difficult if there is no sense of key, as in, the composer didn't understand the difference between F# and Gb so used these notes randomly.  Eek!  What chord would that be, I wonder?  Practicing scales and arpeggios wouldn't help me if there was no sense of key in what I was playing.

A rule not to double the third is a good rule and is something learned while studying music theory.  It does sound better if you don't do it.  You could argue composer's license like poets license to write whatever they wish but some things do sound better and the rules have not been made without reason. Tried and tested techniques based on experience can be helpful although I do believe they can be a little restricting at the same time.

If a song appears in my head during the day, and I want to remember it, the chances are that I will forget it as soon as the moment has passed.  How do I reproduce it again?  Never, the moment will have gone.  Being able to write it down is going to be helpful on these occasions.  Playing something I've heard also requires music theory knowledge; playing at sight requires music theory knowledge.  I'm sure there are tons of other reasons and benefits of learning music theory if I had more time to think about it. 

Will it help me to know what a Neopolitan 6th is while playing Ed Sheeran?  No.  On the other hand, it will definitely help me to understand music theory when someone hands me a sheet of music and asks me to accompany them during a performance.

I think it might have been easier to answer this thread if the question had been 'How important is it to learn music theory for random improvisation?' or perhaps 'How important is it to learn music theory if I wish to learn pieces quickly or write down something I might forget by tomorrow?'