Subjectively speaking, you definitely don’t need music theory to make music. There are a lot of people choose not to learn it because they say they either find it limiting or just tedious. But, it can also be super helpful, especially when you’re starting out or want to do something new and original. I recently read a really interesting reddit post about this ‘debate’ that made me want to learn more about both sides. I’ve been working on music with some friends and, since I only know a little bit about theory and production, it’s been on my mind. Do I need it more?
I’ve been studying music for almost two years now through the music minor program and before I started my music classes I knew absolutely nothing about music theory, but I have been playing guitar for about six years now. I really didn’t understand what it was before or what I would do with it. Then I wanted to start making my own music, so I was excited to start music theory because I was told it would really help me. I’ve only taken Piano, Music Theory 1, and joined the schools Music Theory Club at this point so I’m no expert but I definitely am starting to understand where both sides of the argument comes from.
I have written little pieces before (it’s not a musical genius by any means) but I was able to make something coherent ‘by ear’ as many people say. And I should also mention that there are so many programs these days that are made to help people who don’t understand theory too well or don’t care for it (free loop samples, chord packs, etc.). I personally feel like it’s really up to you and what you want out of your music if theory will matter much to you. If you’re simply doing it for fun or because it’s a good stress reliever, or an outlet for you, etc. then there’s really no right or wrong way to make music. I mean there isn’t either way BUT I do understand the side of the argument that says learning theory, or at least understanding some basic parts of it, will really help out a musician trying to do something new or unique. Having an understanding of how things work in music can help you do more complex things and evoke the emotions/ styles you’re going for. I’ve noticed that the more I learn the more I can break things down and come up with a more complex understanding that I can bring into my music making. It’s hard to put but as one of the Reddit commenters put it ‘if you learn theory you are more likely to do things you wouldn’t otherwise have done’.
Theory isn’t the easiest thing to understand but if you are interested in seeing what it can do for you, there are lots of videos online that can help and there is also a music theory club on campus. But again it’s totally up to you how you feel about this, you can definitely get into music without it. And you definitely don’t have to be an expert to try anything you want in music. So my question for you is, do you think music theory is fundamental for making music?
– DJ Psyched