This article is a general breakdown of some of the biggest benefits that learning music theory can offer you.
For readers in a hurry to learn it, please feel free to check out our article on The Best Ways To Learn Music Theory Easily for some tips on how to get started.
Otherwise, this article will lay out some of the numerous benefits that learning music theory can have. I highly recommend taking a look at it once you’ve finished reading this one.
1. Studying Music Theory Lets You Understand Music
This list isn’t presented in any particular order, but this benefit is listed at number one for sure - and for good reason. Music theory isn’t just something dull and formulaic, although many people studying it might not enjoy it as much as other aspects of musical learning.
It is the fundamental building block of musical composition, and can really be an asset to your growth as a musician. This benefit may sound a little obvious, but it can be surprising how many people seem to have a phobia when it comes to learning theory - a lot of musicians worry that it will damage their creativity or hamper it with a set of unnecessary rules.
In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth - music theory is no more restrictive to innovation in music than bricks are to the shape of a building.
2. It Can Broaden Your Knowledge Of Pieces & Composers
A particularly in-depth study of music theory can expose you to music outside of your comfort zone. Unfamiliar pieces with historical significance or pieces that demonstrate particular techniques are a great asset to any aspiring musician.
Broadening your horizons is a great way to expand your musical repertoire, and even some non-western and early pieces aren’t discussed in traditional theory classes.
Sampling niche works can give you a dynamic and flexible approach to music that isn’t as restrictive as rigid theory. Aside from this, most classics are classics for good reason - they pushed the envelope for their time period, or demonstrated a unique interaction in their tone or instrumentation.
The musical progress that has been made through the ages is at your fingertips in today’s modern age, and it can be a huge help - utilize it if you can!
3. Music Theory Can Help You Sight Read
Studying theory will help build your ability to match written notes with tones at a glance. Part of developing this skill comes with exposure to music, both written and performed, and helps form a bridge between your fingers and your brain.
Practice really does make a difference when it comes to sight reading, but studying theory can help as well.
Knowing how chord arrangements fit together in practice and in composition makes them easier to spot when sight-reading, and can even help you understand where the piece is going next based on when it was written and what style it’s in.
Having this knowledge in your toolbelt gives you a sixth sense when it comes to piece-progression, particularly if you take the time to learn about different movements in music and how they changed throughout the ages.
4. Theory Can Help You Play More Accurately
Naturally, having a solid grasp of the fundamental building blocks of music is quite helpful when it comes to actually playing music.
Possessing a working knowledge of different musical styles can help you understand how the composer intended a particular piece to be performed when writing it, all without having to work through the tone via practice or recording of a performance.
History and music are inseparably intertwined, and the global changes that humanity experiences as a whole effect how we express ourselves as times change. Having a good knowledge of the musical past is a great way to both deepen your understanding of music as a whole, and better yourself as a musician.
5. It Can Help You Improvise More Freely
Knowing more about how music fits together in a complementary way can save you a lot of the hazard associated with improvising. Knowing how scales typically progress and having a good physical aptitude on your instrument allows you to focus less on tone and key concerns and let the creative juices flow while you improvise.
Learning theory is a lot more practical than a lot of musicians tend to give it credit for!
Good foundational theory gives you an “instinct” when improvising - like almost all skills, mastery comes from practice, and theory helps you understand what works and what doesn’t.
6. Theory Can Help You Transcribe Music
Studying music theory is a great way to familiarize yourself with musical conventions, especially when it comes to composing pieces. When you have a good grasp of fundamental theory, transcribing music becomes a lot easier. Learning by listening is helpful and intuitive, but making that connection between sounds and notes on paper is crucial.
Music theory helps you work in both directions - taking notes from sheet music into the real world, and being able to take real world performances and understand them as notes. This ability is honestly an invaluable skill for any aspiring musician - doubly so if you have an interest in being a singer or a songwriter.
7. It Can Help You Develop A Holistic View Of Music
One of the most important things that music theory will help you realize is that all disciplines are fundamentally interconnected. Theory does not exist in a vacuum, separate from the art that it governs.
No matter what you happen to play, whether it is piano, guitar, drums, or vocals - learning music theory can help you better your craft. This is simply because music is subject to the same fundamentals no matter where it comes from or how it is played. It can be expressed in an almost infinite number of ways, but in the end, music is music, and there are only so many ways to make it.
Understanding how the rules work lets you break them when you see fit.
8. Learning Music Theory Can Streamline Your Learning
This is probably the most practical reason to being your career learning music theory as a foundation. Knowing the names of chords, notes, the role of different instruments in a composition, the list goes on - all of these can be fantastic time-savers that pave the road towards advancing your understanding of both your instrument and music as a whole.
New pieces can be recognized by the components that make up their melody, chord progressions become understandable rather than rote memorization, and practicing as a whole simply becomes much more time effective.
What To Take Away
The main point that I want to make clear is that music theory is not nearly as restrictive as some seem to think.
Learning about theory is not at all detrimental to one’s creativity - in fact, the opposite is true.
Learning more about the anatomy of music is one of the best ways to push the boundaries in new and innovative ways. A healthy grasp of musical theory is simply another tool you can work with to improve yourself as a musician - and it is never too late to learn something new, so don’t get discouraged!