An understanding of Music Theory is the single most important skill for musicians outside of playing an instrument. Knowledge of theory helps you compose, perform, understand and appreciate music at a much deeper level. Gain an understanding of Music Theory to prepare yourself for the world of gigs. Here are four Music Theory concepts every musician should know.
To be able to talk about the arrangement of a song there needs to be a solid understanding of form and the vocabulary to compliment this understanding. It’s not quite as simple as knowing what a verse, chorus, and bridge of a common song is. Will you know what to do when the keyboard player tells you to solo over 4 choruses of the ‘A’ section then jump to the coda? You won’t get far as a working musician without a solid grip of form and the terminology that accompanies it.
Knowledge of harmonies will absolutely be the one thing that helps you learn material the fastest. Being aware of chord tendencies will help you predict what the next chord in a song will be, and will help you find mistakes when one player isn’t in sync with everyone else. What if a situation arises where you need to play a tune in a different key? Which will happen, often. From songwriting to performing, knowing the functions of chords is absolutely necessary to reach your top musical potential.
There is nothing more annoying than being saddled with a musician who is always speeding up or slowing down the tempo. Practicing with a metronome can help you develop a steady internal pulse, and playing a variety of styles will help you develop your ability to syncopate and play ‘off the beat’. It’s all well and good to be able to play in 7/8, but you must have a solid internal clock while you’re doing it.
Like functional harmony, ear training will help you learn songs at an astonishing rate. Being able to hear a musical line, internalize what you think the notes are, then repeat it on your instrument is key to being a successful musician. You’ll also be able to pick out mistakes, properly arrange vocals, and identify intonation issues with a performance when your ear is attuned the way it should be.