Why music theory?

As you might have read in What is music?, the effects of listening to music are great. But, the effects of musical education are even greater. Experts say that “with music lessons, because there are so many different facets involved, such as memorizing, expressing emotion, and learning about musical interval and chords, the multidimensional nature of the experience may be motivating to the IQ effect” (“Effect of Music on Children’s Intelligence”).

So, the knowledge of music theory essential to be a good musician? Well, theoretically no and practically yes. You can learn to play any instrument given you spend enough time with it. If you want to play for fun, you can start right away, learn a few chords and strum away. Musicians learn to play and improvise by listening to others, copying their style and sound. You can compose you own song and not know anything about music theory. Let’s draw an analogy to human speech. Not being well-versed in grammar doesn’t deter us from speaking, reading or even writing.

But, once you try to understand music theory, all the dots start connecting and you get a good idea and grasp of what its all about. It opens up a whole new dimension of your playing. You would be able to critically listen to music and to be able to detect errors (and other deviations from the score). Music theory allows us to speak with other musicians in a common language. It serves as a short-hand for referring to important points in the music. It allows composers to analyze the work of other composers so they can develop their own style.

So, here is a short movie about  pure intuitive, instinctive feel based approach vs a structured, principle based approach


Next up: The guitar!

What is music?

Music is a complex amalgam of melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre and silence in a particular (intended) structure: Hanslick

Music is an art form, an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms. Since times immemorial, music has been one of the most influential art form. Music can put a baby to sleep and also incite a riot.

The popular form of music of a period reflects its culture.”There were times and places — in the Europe of the Middle Ages, as an example — where music might remain largely the same for hundreds of years,” says Selwyn Duke in “Influential Beats: The Cultural Impact of Music.” “And it is no coincidence that in medieval times something else also remained quite constant: culture. It is clear to me that changes in music hew closely to changes in society’s consensus worldview. This explains why musical tastes change so quickly today: With no dominant cultural stabilizer, such as the Catholic Church (whose medieval influence is undeniable); the ability to transmit ideas worldwide at a button’s touch via modern media…society is prone to continual arbitrary change.” .

Music is one of the very few activities which involve the most parts of the brain including including auditory, motor, and limbic. Studies have suggested that music plays an important role in the socialization of children and adolescents. Listening to music can improve your concentration, increase your attention span, improve athletic performance, motor control, and even intelligence. As a background activity, listening to music can reduce stress, aid relaxation, uplift your mood, and induce sleep too.

So, here is a beautiful piece of music by Frédéric Chopin


Next up: Why music theory?