Why Learn Music Theory?

Over the next few months, you will see me post a number of games and activities to do at home to help your child with starting to compose their own music, whether that be a piece of instrumental music, their own songs, or maybe even their first symphony. Who knows what may catch their imagination? I also intend to start having a look at some of the resources available to help children learn music theory and testing them out to let you know whether they are worth buying or downloading.

One of the first things you need to understand in order to write your own music, is at least a bit of music theory. When I started learning music I felt that music theory was about as boring a thing to do as learning scales. Eventually I learned that both of these things – learning music theory and learning my scales – were not only important but very useful for my instrumental playing as well as the music composition I was doing, and I wished I had got on with them earlier on in my musical journey.

So, how does learning music theory help your child and why is it important to encourage your child to stick with learning music theory?

Well, music theory gives your child building blocks to understand music and how it is made. If they are trying to write their own music, they can of course, play around with notes and rhythms, and combinations of them to see what sounds nice, but without having any music theory knowledge it might take them a long time to figure it out, they might become frustrated or despondent with the process, and ultimately give up. Understanding music theory can give them shortcuts – an idea of what might work when writing a piece of music. For example, they would understand that a particular chord progression (a chord progression, is a series of chords played one after another) would sound good – this doesn’t mean you have to use that chord progression, or use particular notes within that chord progression, but rather gives them an idea of where to start. Understanding music theory, will tell your child which notes in a scale sound harmonious together and which ones clash. Again this doesn’t tell them which notes they have to use, but they can use this knowledge to decide whether to write music that sounds harmonious, or music where there are clashes of notes. Understanding how to write music down on paper, means it is easier to share that music with other people – which is of course great if your child plays in a band and wants the band to play their own original music.

In short, learning music theory gives your child the foundations, or building blocks that they can use to start making their own music.

What about performing? You don’t need music theory for that?

Well, yes you do. Firstly, if your child is learning to play a musical instrument with a teacher, they will also most likely be learning to read music. Music theory starts by showing them how to read and write notes so that they understand which note to play and how long to play that note for. Music theory lessons can also help with understanding how to express music – once your child has progressed beyond the stage of learning to play a few notes and count the beats in a bar, they will start to learn how to play music to give it expression – where to play loudly and where to play quietly. Where to put an emphasis on a particular note, how fast or slow to play for example. And it is with learning music theory that they will do this.

So how do I help them with this?

If your child is having music lessons at school, or with an instrumental teacher, this will form part of their lessons. And sometimes they may come home with a music theory workbook to work through. Your support in getting them too actually sit and work through the exercises they have been asked to do, in the same way they need to sit and work through maths homework (for example) will help your child progress further. And by this I mean, encouraging your child to get the music theory book out and do the work set for them by their teacher – their teacher will only ask them to do the work that they are capable of, but as with all practice, children need to be encouraged to do the work, they are highly unlikely to just want to sit down and do it of their own accord. This is something I talked about in a previous post about music practice generally.

Why you can’t tell if your child enjoys playing a musical instrument by whether or not they practice by themselves.

There are a lot of resources available either to purchase or to download – some on sites like Pinterest. And in the coming months, I will try out some of the resources I find – some purchased, some for free – and let you know what I think of those resources.

In the meantime, here are a couple of blog posts suggesting ways you can help your child learn a little about music notation at home.

Musical Games: Notation on Craft sticks

Learning musical notation

If you have enjoyed reading my blog post, thank you. I am always looking for ideas for the blog, so would love to hear from you with suggestions for topics you would like me to cover in the future. Also, if you would be interested in supporting me to keep this blog running, buying the books to review here, and supplies to make the DIY instruments, for example, I would be absolutely delighted if you would consider buying me a coffee using the following link: Buy Me A Coffee Thank you!!


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