Can Music Theory Improve Practical Skill?

Thursday, February 18, 2021 by George Miller | Uncategorized

Let's be honest, most of us picked up an instrument because it seemed fun, and any phrase with the word theory in it was definitely not a part of the plan. 
Music theory sounds boring, rather dry, and looks almost mathematical, which makes us question its point altogether—why does music theory even exist? But turns out it's all sort of essential. 

The Link Between Theory and Music 

The simplest way to understand the connection between theory and music is by comparing it to language and speech. We can all mimic a word or a sentence from a foreign language, but you can only put in the expressions and enunciate on the right syllables if you understand the words being said. That way, you're not just speaking; you're also communicating. 
It’s exactly the same with music. If you play an instrument without understanding how each note works, it’s basically just a well-memorized, mimicked practice. Knowing music theory will help you feel the music from beneath the surface, enhancing your performance's overall tone and delivery. 

Can Music Theory Help You Become A Better Musician?

Most people don’t prefer studying music theory because, initially, practicing an instrument is pretty overwhelming. Adding nerdy music theory to the mix doesn't sound like a great idea. But once you’ve mastered the basics, studying music theory can do you good; it’ll help you make sense of the music you’re playing. 
But it also does come down to your long-term goals. If you just want to play a few of your favorite songs for fun, you don't really need to understand music theory. But if you want to play like a pro and want to compose your own music, knowing music theory can change your entire experience with an instrument and help you get the best out of it. 

Music Theory Allows You to Be Versatile 

If you're hanging out with other players, it's not always easy to just see their hand movements and follow-through. It may be simple if you're using the same instrument, but it won't help you with the vast range of instruments across a band.
For instance, if you play the guitar and watch a bassist, you can probably mimic the simple chords by just watching, but you'll get lost pretty quickly if they're a bit more advanced. 
Similarly, you could be around a pianist or a harmonica player, and none of them will tell you where to place your fingers on a fretboard; they don't know your instrument, so the only way to communicate is through musical terms, i.e., chords, progression, and so on. 
So, knowing music theory will definitely help you be more competent in a band setting. 
Want to sound like you really know what you’re doing? Sign up for music lessons at Miller School of Music in Rochester, NY. We offer bass and guitar lessons to teach technique, theory, chords, rhythms, and more. 
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