A background in music theory is not a requirement for being a great musician. However, if one can master its fundamentals, knowledge in music theory provides an invaluable foundation for understanding musical concepts. It can be a boost for early learners, in particular. When exposed to music theory at a young age, students can have a chance to develop a root understanding of concepts that can guide them throughout the rest of their education and lives.
Music theory’s core skills and practices are universal learning tools, and students can also utilize them in other subjects. An advanced education degree in music curriculum and instruction can help educators use knowledge in music theory to inspire learners.
Here’s a look at some of the benefits and long-term effects of studying music theory for students, regardless if they pursue a career in music or not.
Understand Music’s Fundamentals
The value of music’s fundamental concepts and early exposure to music theory is undeniable. This knowledge can help make the many symbols or annotations of sheet music less intimidating. It’s also a gateway to collaboration with other musicians, given that musicians with sound theory can transpose music quickly. Between keeping time and calculating intervals, music theory features a number of basic math principles that serve individuals.
Write and Perform Accurately
As noted by music arts education blog The Vault, a strong grasp of music theory helps students to become more creative in their musical expression — not vice versa, which can often be the stereotype. When students eventually want to express themselves as a composer or songwriter in a song, “having a strong foundation in music theory will help set them up for future success.” In other words, these aspiring artists will have the tools to express themselves when they feel compelled to do so, thus removing a potential barrier to expression.
Analysis and Reflection
Composition and performance are both crucial elements of a comprehensive music theory education. In a 2019 research article titled “An Enactive Approach to Learning Music Theory? Obstacles and Openings,” the author explains how these practices are ripe in allowing for analysis and reflection — both of which are universal skills that serve students well in any classroom and in life. Through research and review, students uncover patterns and other key details in musical works, not to mention their own strengths and weaknesses. These perception skills will strengthen their ability to make assessments across subjects.
In order to help students take full advantage of a music theory education, teachers need to be prepared to meet the needs of all students and adapt instruction strategies, just as any other subject.
Individualized feedback is a key element in helping students cultivate their musical interests. Individual feedback is one of the most important ways to help students progress through their musical education, given that it is a way for students to directly demonstrate their abilities to instructors. No other strategy offers students of all abilities a pointed critique of their strengths, weaknesses and goals.
This kind of individual feedback can take time and effort, feedback is “most successful when [it leads] to students understanding how they are going now, where they are going next, and how they might get to the next level or reach defined personal goals,” notes research on music education feedback. Thanks to technology, reviewing student performances is a much more efficient process. Instructors can harness this for the betterment of their course and students.
Educators seeking further professional development with music theory can gain the knowledge and skills necessary through a graduate program such as the online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction in Music from Southeastern Oklahoma State University (SOSU). The coursework offered by SOSU’s program provides graduates with a thorough understanding of teaching music theory to all ages. Upon completion, graduates will be able to demonstrate and apply current harmonic and formal theories in order to create their own approach to music theory education.