Music theory is the study of how musical compositions are put together. For instrumental music, music theory lessons may include specific information about the instrument the student is learning. While some instructors avoid music theory lessons or include them only as an afterthought to learning to play, music theory lessons can help create a well-rounded musician. Music theory benefits include a deeper understanding of chords and harmony, the ability to read complex music and a shared language with other musicians.
Chords and harmony are what make different parts of the same song work well together. Without knowing how notes work together and what scales are, a person may be unable to hear the subtle blends of musical compositions. In the early years of music training, this knowledge isn't always necessary; as one gains ability, however, being able to coordinate notes with those of other musicians will become more vital.
Reading complex music is at the heart of music theory lessons. When students begin learning to play music, they learn about basic lines of music. Most music students can pick up the basic notes and rests easily. As students progress, however, music theory lessons help with proper counting and learning to play the rhythm inherent in the music. Being able to read harder pieces and to work with others, such as in an orchestra or choir, requires music theory lessons for most students.
Communicating with other musicians also is easier and less intimidating for students who have a solid grasp of the theory behind the technical skills that musical ability requires. As students develop, they need to be able to discuss their parts with others in their section, for example, and familiarity with the appropriate terminology will aid in this process. Participating outside of individual performances also means knowing how to speak with other musicians using the shared language of music as an intermediary.
Though not all students will want to move beyond playing a single instrument or singing songs written by others, some may want to teach music or write their own songs. Doing so requires extensive knowledge of musical theory. Even amateur composers need a thorough understanding of how music is put together, while music teachers need to be able to communicate musical concepts to their students. Learning those skills early in one’s musical career makes the process smoother than trying to learn them after developing technical playing or vocal skills.