Learning music theory from the very beginning is a pretty sensible idea if you’re just getting started as a musician.

It’s not nearly as difficult as some people imagine, and in this piece, I’ll outline exactly what you should be learning, how to do it, how long it takes, and why knowing and comprehending fundamental music theory is so important for your music-making right away. 

Music theory is not mysterious, and if you enjoy the music you should enjoy learning about the theory that underpins it.

Learning music theory can initially appear complicated or challenging. It’s neither of these things, I’m here to tell you. Over the years, I’ve taught music theory to hundreds of students and personally witnessed how understanding music theory has improved the playing and singing of myself and many other musicians.

Learning music theory is one of the finest methods to advance your abilities if you sing or play an instrument. Even learning the fundamentals of music theory can help you gain a deeper understanding of music and provide you with the skills you need to express yourself musically.

Don’t put off learning theory because you believe it to be challenging. By learning the science underlying what makes music such a potent means of expression, you will be doing yourself a service. You should be enthusiastic and eager to learn as much as you can about music. Let’s begin immediately.

What Is Music Theory?

The various components of music theory are not all covered by a single definition. The foundations of how music is created are a focus of music theory as a practical subject, as is the investigation of acoustic phenomena, such as silence, and how they relate to music. 

For a beginner, music theory consists of the study and explanation of the fundamentals of music, such as key signatures, time signatures, rhythmic notation, pitches (notes), scales, modes, chords, tensions, and compositional aspects like rhythm, harmony, and counterpoint.

The harmonic series, musical acoustics, orchestration, improvisation, scales, tonal and rhythmic relationships, performance, and electronic creation are all topics that are frequently covered in detail in modern music theory textbooks.

Even though this may seem like a lot of knowledge, beginners should concentrate just on the fundamentals because this narrows the field of study and makes progress easier.

Imagine music theory as an analysis that takes place after the music is performed.

A musical composition remains unchanged after analysis. Learning the terms we use to explain what happened in a piece of music is part of the beginning theory. 

Whatever we choose to refer to it as, music is music, regardless of our interpretations of it. The many methods that different cultures and languages use to describe music theory serve to highlight this truth.

For instance, I teach a lot of international students who do not speak English as their first language. Their understanding of music theory may be strong in their own tongue, but when they come to the US to study, they find it difficult at first to adapt to our terminology. 

This is typical, and it’s crucial to remember that music theory is always grounded in a specific period and location. Instead of concentrating on specific compositions, a musicologist could decide to study music theory from its historical perspective.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Music Theory?

Going back to the fundamentals and generally speaking, a musician may learn a lot about music theory quickly IF they are well-prepared and ready to absorb the information. 

In my experience, if a beginner is persistent in their study of the material and receives some coaching from an experienced instructor, they may acquire the majority of the fundamentals in around six months. 

Learning all you will ever need, including the advanced themes, will take around two years of daily study for career-minded music students. The first two years of college, also referred to as core music studies are where the majority of college music students receive all the theory they require.

Advanced core topics cover contemporary music styles, composition, ear training (solfege), arranging, improvisation, chord scales, traditional harmony, and counterpoint. 

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Do I Need an Instrument to Learn Music Theory?

Being able to play an instrument will be helpful, especially due to the keyboard’s linear layout, the piano is perhaps the most helpful instrument for visualizing theory. This doesn’t imply you have to play the piano, but being able to identify the notes on the keyboard will be helpful right away. Most individuals can pick up on this information fast and effortlessly. begin there. 

Traditionally, musicians learn to play an instrument or sing “by ear.” This means that they mimic what they hear, much like a young toddler learning to talk. Receiving affirmation and support from others encourages practice and advancement.

The concept of reading music may be introduced at some point, typically during private instruction. Although not all musicians learn to read, the majority do. In the beginning stages of studying music, developing the ear and muscle memory is more crucial than reading. 

It will be crucial to have access to a keyboard instrument after you are familiar with the names of the notes on the piano so you can hear how the chords and scales you are studying sound. In addition to visualizing on a piano, you could also play the notes on another instrument or even sing them, but doing so would be far more difficult and ineffective.

If you play the drums, keep in mind that the piano and vibraphone are both percussion instruments. Given that it can play both chords and melody, the guitar can be a useful instrument for learning music theory. See more about How Long Does It Take To Learn The Ukulele?

Is Learning Music Theory Difficult?

Although none of the aforementioned topics are very challenging, you will need to concentrate on learning the content in an organized fashion if you want to make any significant advancement. Having a Teacher lead you, whether in a one-on-one or group lesson, can be beneficial.

Additionally, buying some books is a smart idea. I’ll list a couple below when I discuss independent learning. Finding a teacher is something I do heartily advise, though you might also take a virtual music theory course if you study well online.

Learning theory will not be any more difficult for you than learning any other topic if you are a generally excellent student and put in the effort. Since music has a mathematical foundation, performing well in math classes—especially geometry—will give you an advantage.

This does not imply that theory will be more difficult if you struggle with math. Keep in mind that learning music theory is all about music, so most things won’t be too difficult if you’re already skilled at music. Many new words and approaches to analyzing what you already know by ear will be introduced to you.

Since music theory is an applied subject, it must be put to use in order to be fully understood. It’s crucial to put your new knowledge to use as soon as possible in the creation of music, whether you’re composing, writing songs, improvising, reading, or improving your instrumental playing skills. See more about How To Learn To Play Mandolin For Beginners?

Should One Learn Music Theory?

Playing or composing music does not require knowledge of music theory. It undoubtedly aids you when listening to sophisticated and intricate types of music, but it is not necessary. 

Nevertheless, most music institutions do have entry standards that make sure applicants have at least a fundamental grasp of and ability with theory.

Most college music majors have a strong theoretical foundation, such as what is referred to as “grade 5” theory, and are pursuing degrees in music. 

Although some people use the terms grades or levels, there is essentially a worldwide norm that people with a grade 5 in music theory comprehend a few themes that will allow them to pursue their individual interests. 

It enables universities to make sure that prospective students can grasp the fundamentals and muddle through tedious material for their own musical advantage. 

I just needed grade 2 theory when I pursued my minor in music. I didn’t have much of that, but fortunately, the voice is the “genuine” instrument that allows you to fake it till you make it the most.

If you wish to pursue music theory as a pastime or interest. Look for theory topics that mirror the type of music or composition you wish to write.

A grade level that will provide you with a broad foundation is what you should aim for if you need it for future school applications.

 While not absolutely necessary, music theory can be extremely beneficial when used skillfully. See more about How To Learn To Play Mandolin For Beginners?


Learning music theory has a lot of benefits, whether you do it independently, formally, or both. 

Being literate as a musician actually has no downsides, and one of the biggest advantages of mastering music theory is being able to communicate with other musicians about music in mutually acceptable language.

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