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What exactly is music theory?

You may have heard that learning music theory is very important and so you might be wondering what exactly does that mean? Music theory essentially means the nuts and bolts of how music is put together. In music theory, we have a set of terms and definitions of how to write the three elements of music. There are certain rules that we generally learn to follow according to what type of sound you want to occur.

Music educators stress the importance of theory so you not only know how to play or compose but also learn the ‘why’ behind how music works. Of course, if you know ‘why’ then you also learn ‘why not’. Perhaps the best way to explain music theory is to briefly explain the three elements of music: rhythm, melody and harmony.

Rhythm is made from sound and silence. Clapping your hands makes a sound and then that sound dies until you make another sound. Certain instruments like our voice can hold a single sound out much longer than a clap.

Melody is a group of pitches (notes) that create something sing able and memorable. Examples of great melodies are Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

or Happy Birthday. You don’t need anything but those specific notes and rhythms to recognize those tunes.

Finally, harmony is all other notes that support the melody notes. It is with harmony that we can create the mood of a song. Sometimes there are additional melodies found in the harmony.

So since music theory refers to terms, definitions, rules and patterns, when a student clearly understands music theory, they increase as a musician.


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