Music theory is the study of how music is composed. It deals with the rudiments and fundamentals of music. Music theory tells us exactly what makes up a piece of music or why certain sounds in music are sounded they way they are. Music theory is really broad and is a very essential subject for anyone who is interested in any aspect of music (instruments, vocals, production etc) to know.
Learning music theory helps you develop and expand your musical vocabulary, it serves as a better guide in making music, it also helps you become an efficient and professional musician by making you understand your own instrument in relation to other instruments and how best to work with them. There are several benefits of learning music theory, click here to find out more.
As opposed to what people say or think, music theory does not necessarily have to be taught hand-to-hand or face-to-face by a professional personal music tutor or in an academy. Music theory can be learned online the same way any other instrument can be learned, find out how to learn guitar online here.
As with every other self-taught lesson, teaching yourself music theory can be tasking, it requires a great deal of patience, commitment, resilience and practice. Yes! Practice! You should ensure that you apply everything you learn in your day-to-day music life, otherwise you’ll end up wasting your own time. I’ve outlined some steps that can help you learn music theory completely on your own, let’s begin this journey together:
Get your writing tools
You’re going to be learning a theoretical course, not a very practical one, so do well by ensuring you have your writing materials with you: a pen, a book specifically meant for this purpose, sticky notes, a board (if you can get one), a ruler (as you would need to draw lines and spaces and maybe musical notes) and every other thing you think you may need for your lessons.
Have a dedicated time for study
To successfully gain and retain knowledge, consistency is key. Map out a time to have your lessons depending on your schedule; even if it is 30 minutes to 1 hour 3 times a week, be consistent with it. Do not just study whenever you like or stop whenever you like.
A steady internet source
As most of your lessons are going to be sourced from materials like texts and videos from the internet, it is advisable to get a steady source of internet supply for you to enjoy your lessons and just flow along.
Begin with basics
Start with the most basic concepts of music that are common to every musical structure. These basic concepts are harmony, melody and rhythm. Harmony means the fusion of separate musical sounds together to form one perfect sound that is pleasing to the ears, melody is a succession of musically pleasing single notes while rhythm means organizing music in time or beats. Delve into these concepts fully and study them in-depth, not just on the surface. These concepts will guide your understanding of the more advanced topics in music theory because you’ll come across them often.
Proceed to the more complex ones
Chords, scales, keys, key signatures, intervals, octaves, notation etc. are the next to study in your music theory lesson after understanding the rudiments and basic concepts of music theory. This is where the main theoretical part of making music starts to come in. Each of these subtopics are very broad and it will do you good to take your time in exploring them fully.
Stick to one teacher
With the ever-increasing amount of content poured into the internet every day, it is easy to get confused, but that wouldn’t be a problem. The glad part about music theory is that it is a one-way traffic, i.e, the meanings, definitions and applications of music concepts are fixed; the definition of harmony is the same from one website or teacher to another, okay you may get a simpler and easier-to-understand meaning from somewhere else, but it basically means the same thing. The upside to this is that you can learn from everywhere without fear of being confused or lost. BUT! I would strongly suggest that you find one teacher, one website or one text document and strictly learn from there. Even if you want to compare teachers or have more than one source of lessons, let it be a maximum of 3 (it’s just my advice).
Make studying easy and fun for yourself
Do not see studying music theory as a set of “rules” or “tedious homework” that is imposed on you and you just have to do and get done with. Instead, see it as a set of procedures that have been put in place to guide you. The latter will help you develop a positive mentality about learning music theory. Take breaks when you can, you must not finish an entire topic in a sitting. If you’re experiencing a block in your learning process, rest, take a walk, eat some snacks, take a drink, go on social media…anything to take your mind off the task at hand, and then come back into reality and face your task.
Give yourself assignments and score it with sincerity
At the end of every lesson, give yourself a take-home assignment that you would be required to present to yourself in the next class. Sounds silly right? Yeah I know, but it will help you take yourself more seriously. The take-home assignment may not even necessarily be a written down one, it could be an assignment of memorizing some terms and definitions and reading them aloud. Giving yourself an assignment will also help you put in extra minutes of learning asides your designated learning time. When you’re given an assignment in school, no matter how busy you get, you have to do it one way or another. When you show up with your assignment and are required to score yourself, do it with sincerity. No one is there and it would be a shame to cheat your way into the next topic or lesson when you have not successfully passed the last.
Be patient with yourself
You must not get it right or know it all at once. Be patient with yourself, don’t beat yourself up about it. Take your time to study gradually, patiently and consistently. Remember, slow and steady they say, wins the race.
Get started on your self-taught music theory journey today, it’s not that hard!