Learning music theory

At the very core of things, music theory is the study music notes. Broken down, it’s the understanding of the little dots and lines you see on sheet music and the ability to be able to translate them into sound. Having a good or at least a decent understanding of the theory can really help a musician, not only because it helps playing a little easier, but it helps when it comes to communications with other musicians.

So how do you learn or teach it to someone? It’s important to try and get the most important aspects across to the person learning without confusing or overwhelming them. It’s hard enough to play chords or notes, then adding the reading of it on top and it can become tough for some.

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There are a few things you can do, a few tips that will help you through this, including; Starting with the sounds first, then moving on to the overall theory. Keeping what you are learning as relevant as you possibly can and learning and understanding just one thing at a time (K.I.S.S.).


  • First start out with music/sounds, then move on to learning the theory

Something that most teachers or students agree on is that starting with sound first is the best and easiest way to learn, once you understand that you can move onto or incorporate the theory. When practicing something should always be started with or introduced with sound, then helping understand why it comes out that way. A good example would be if you were teaching chords to someone new, you would start with the major and minor and what sound those are conveying and why they would be chosen for a certain situation. Once the sound is understood, then the reason it’s used (theory) will slowly start to make sense.


  • Keep what you’re learning relevant

The music a person (typically the student) is learning is something that they should be able to relate to their music theory. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a person to be playing metal music, but studying jazz theory. The two need to align so when they put the sound and theory together it makes sense. I know this seems like common sense, but you would be surprised how often I see someone trying to play something and learn the theory for another.

  • Only do one thing at a time when starting out

Music can often be described as multi-layered, which means in order to be able to understand and or read the music, there are  quite a few different pieces of information that need to be absorbed at one time. When you combine it all and look at a note for example, it has a pitch, duration and a volume; don’t forget expression that needs to be added as well. These reasons are why music can sometimes be hard to read.


Putting it all together, there are many other concepts and ideas for learning music theory; these were just a few to get you started in the right direction. Start out with the sounds of music, then move onto the theory, don’t do both at the same time. Keep relevancy high on learning, if you like rock music, and then learn the theory of it as well. Last, but not least, just try doing one thing at a time when starting out, if you try to learn too much too fast, you will confuse yourself and you could end up detoured or even quit. Relax and remember that learning ANY new thing takes time and effort, if it happened over night everyone would be playing an instrument.