Everybody seems to love music, but nobody seems to want to put in the time and effort to learn how it is structured or performed at a high level. Most people would make music at an amateur level or for fun. However, the grind of perfection is unappealing for most people, even for many musicians.
It is hard to criticize this approach. There is little momentary award or respect for high-level music-making. It’s always okay to sing in the shower, but reaching the excellence of someone who can sing Bach oratorios is not something that many students or their parents want for them.
What makes this all the more interesting is how everyone claims to be so supportive of creative subjects like music. However, just look at how much time a child spends practicing and developing whatever gifts they have in music. It indicates that, generally, music is a neglected second-class citizen of education. It’s something most people want to have around without really putting any serious effort into it.
Music performance is something appreciated, but when it comes to music theory, which is essentially the structure or how composers make music, there is no sympathy from many parents and students for an additional academic subject at the K12 level. Especially a matter that has little direct financial gain. There are several benefits to learning music theory, even for students who will never touch an instrument after completing high school.
A significant benefit of studying music theory is the development of analytical skills. Analytical skills involve splitting something apart into its component pieces down to whatever fundamental level is necessary. When learning music theory, students have to look at the music structure, such as the Ternary form (ABA) or sonata form.
Music theory can be focused on the overall structure mentioned above or on the chord progression of a single measure. In other words, a student develops the ability to analyze complex information at different levels of analysis. Such a skill can be transferred to whatever field the student chooses as their profession, whether it is a detailed work level such as a personal account or a big picture form of thinking as a company leader. Learning to think analytically is always valuable, and studying music theory can help to some degree.
Learning a Language
Every domain has its specific language or terminology, whether physics, chemistry, math, or some other discipline. Music theory is yet another discipline that has its form of communication. The benefit of learning the language of one domain is that you use this knowledge to understand a different field better. This is what people do when they are learning foreign languages. We take what we know about our mother tongue and compare it with the language we are learning.
People who are well-versed in music theory can take this knowledge and compare it to whatever profession or discipline they plan on learning for their employment. For example, there are many patterns in music and patterns in mathematics. The patterns of music can also relate to other fields such as architecture and physics, in particular sound physics.
It may sound strange the rules of music theory can help with creativity, but anything that forces someone to think differently can lead to creativity, and music theory truly forces people to think differently. Creativity needs to be guided by some sort of restraint, such as rules.
Music theory provides rules for the development of music that can be applied in other domains. This is because it is rare that a person can do whatever they want. Often, there are some sort of constraints that someone has to work around to achieve success. The alternative is to find a brilliant way to break the rules that push things to a new level. Either way, creativity is about finding great ways to follow or break the rules.
By studying music theory, students are exposed to how great composers found clever ways to make music that followed the rules or how the composer found a clever way to break long-standing rules to create fantastic music. If you don’t know what the rules are, you cannot find brilliant ways to follow them or break them.
Music theory is not the direct cause of success for most people. However, music theory can play a decisive background role in helping people develop the thinking skills they need for success in whatever domain they choose. Not too many people will be disappointed if they develop the analytical and creative skills they need, as these are skills that are hard to find in most disciplines.