Music theory – the understanding of written music – provides a language for composers and musicians to communicate with each other. Music theory therefore helps us see the thought process of the composer, understanding how the composer would like a certain piece to be played in the process.
Music theory also helps us understand which notes work well together and which notes don’t work well together – therefore, understanding intervals, scales, and keys, will help us understand the way certain notes are placed together, and why some keys require sharps and flats. Music theory is also indispensable to those who are collaborative musicians, as one can see where one’s part is in the whole of the ensemble, making it easier to perform with others in the process.
Without an understanding of how music is written and read, one can only learn music by ear and memorisation – while aural skills are immensely valuable to any musician, learning only through memorisation creates many barriers in learning new music over time, especially where music that has never been recorded before is concerned. Furthermore, an understanding of music theory will also make it easier to learn different musical instruments.
An understanding of music theory makes it possible for musicians to add their own personality to a piece of music, and make it their own in the process. More importantly, for those that are interested in learning many different styles of music, an understanding of music theory will make it easier for them to play these styles after learning the fundamental principles of each (particularly styles that require one to improvise, such as earlier music and jazz). Music theory is also indispensable to those who are interested in writing their own music due to the fact that it is needed to communicate what needs to be played to the performer. Composition is an advanced creative practice for which a strong foundation is built through the learning of music theory early on.