To learn or not to learn: chapter 1: Harmony and theory


We’ve all heard the debate; “I refuse to learn any music theory because it will stump my creative ability”. Or probably; “harmony and theory will only take away the feeling from my playing”. And the last but not least; “it’s just too hard”. Well, I have come up with a list of the different benefits of learning some of that there theory you folks have been so shy about learning.

1. Improvisation: Harmony and theory will do wonders for your improvisational skills, it does not matter whether you play rock, jazz, hip hop, funk, whatever. By understanding what is going on in the harmony (or accompaniment) you will understand the purpose of each note on each chord. This is probably the greatest thing you can do for yourself when improvising since improvisation is basically composing on the spot.

2. Communication: If nothing else is acquired from this knowledge; you will be able to communicate with your fellow musician in a very direct manner. This will cut rehearsal time for some people by half since it will be a lot easier to communicate exactly what you want and where.

3. Composition: In terms of composition it will add a complete new arsenal of possibilities when you sit down to write music. New rhythms, chords, melodic possibilities, chord progressions. It is always up to you to get creative with these. It also allows you to dissect other people music and parts of songs and pieces that you might like so that you can use it for yourself.

4. Learning: Probably the biggest change in your musical persona will be the ability to learn new music with a whole different level of ease. By dissecting a piece of music as soon as you lay your eyes on it, it becomes a whole different thing, way easier to remember essentially letting you provide your voice within the music in a more instant manner.

5. Consistency: Probably the most important part of being a professional musician is being consistent. Harmony and theory allow you to be a more consistent player and writer. By knowing what you are doing you will deliver a more consistent product always. Be it in any of the different fields already mentioned above. Better solos, better songs, and improved communication between band members.

6. More gigs: The more you know the more possibilities of playing with more people. Why? It’s easy you are not really going to get a session with the top guys in the area if you are not up to par with them. Why? First of all, communication, if you have no idea what these guys are doing or telling you than you can’t really play with them. Nor will they take the chance that you can’t play their music or improvise over it. It’s simple really; you wouldn’t be able to maintain a conversation about molecular science with a scientist if you have no clue of what you are talking about.

Fact of the matter is if you are truly creative and passionate about music there is absolutely no way that this can be taken away from you. It’s not like by learning a few notes your mind will be incapacitated and all of a sudden your humanity will be dragged out from under you. Truth is it will actually aid in creativity when it comes to practicing and opening up to new music and concepts.

True, there is a growth process in which you have to learn to use these new tools, and you might probably not use them correctly at first which might lead to sounding kind of mechanical, but this is just a phase that you eventually grow out of. This is music, it’s what you do, and it’s what you love, so if you’re planning on doing it for the rest of your life and live off of it, then take it seriously. Who cares if you have to go through a little awkward stage? Once you get out its WAY better!!! There is no point in discarding new sets of skills and tools because of make believe fairy tales of the boogieman stealing your thunder.

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© 2015 by Juan Antonio Music.