music theory

Power of Music Theory: Unlocking Your Creativity as a Musician

Nicole McCray
Nicole McCray

Creativity and music go hand-in-hand. There are plenty of musicians, songwriters, and independent artists who don’t utilise music theory when developing their musical compositions; plenty of musicians work just by sound and feeling, rather than with theoretical knowledge. In some cases, musicians may even believe that understanding theory can block the flow of creativity.

Music theory is not a discipline, but rather a usage and understanding of it can help broaden your abilities. Theory helps to explain music and its non-restrictive, meaning it opens up more opportunities for you to thread together complex harmonies and notes. 

Here are some compelling reasons and ways that music theory’s power helps unlock your creativity with music. 

What Is Music Theory?

music theory

Understanding the symbols, structures, key signatures, and more gives you a foundation for making music. Studying theory allows musicians to learn how to write music in a more organised way by creating scales, naming intervals, creating chord progressions, and more.

Music theory dives deeper than this, too, when you’re ready to advance in your learning. The basics of music theory give you the use of notes as pitches in a master staff, and how to apply rhythm and time, scales, and chords. Learning all of this is important because musicians who can’t read and write music will struggle without basic knowledge.

Some of the world’s greatest-known composers like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig Von Beethoven were masters of music theory. It’s true; and knowing how creative and ahead of their time the music they made was, it’s hard to argue that the knowledge of theory stifled creativity. 

Music Theory Builds Communication

When you study music theory, you’ll likely analyse pieces of music. When you use your understanding of the fundamentals, you are given more clarity as to why and how these compositions work so well.

Songwriters take that understanding a step further. The theory provides the ability to easily communicate in words your musical ideas. While you may not think it’s important to understand the musical terms and symbols, it will save you tons of time when you can more accurately explain yourself. It can also result in learning songs more quickly, leading to more gigs.

Consider if you play in a band, and you need to explain the chord progressions. When you understand how things like thirds or fifths work, your bandmates can quickly apply those adjustments and create the proper sounds. 

It Helps You Become More Versatile

Your ear is also improved when you learn music theory. When you listen to a song and identify a cool rhythm, harmony, or key change, you may not know what the song is doing. But, with solid knowledge of music theory, you can easily say “Oh, that chord added a ninth!” 

The knowledge that gives you a good ear also demonstrates your ability, which is impressive to many people. For example, consider that your band gets an interview to play at a prestigious or well-attended festival or venue, and they only take so many bands to represent. Your theory knowledge may help you stand out above other bands since you portray better organisation and easier lead-ins between songs and sets. 

Music theory helps you to more easily identify keys and rhythms that you like, so you can take note of them for your own musical compositions. Music has the power to create and evoke emotions, so when you can hear a track that does just that, it moves you; and you may want to recreate a similar feeling with your own songs.

Music Theory Allows Songwriters to Write More Effectively

music theory

With this kind of progression in learning theory, you can more easily write down those types of harmonies and chords on your own, without the need for assistance. Music artists with song ideas in their heads usually can write down the lyrics, but without any comprehension, you don’t know how to write notes on the staff and create sheet music for your original work.

Consider if you create music but don’t know musical theory. How do you know what chords to play, and what notes to sing? Some composers may try and rely more on instinct, but at some point, you need the guidelines or even a place to go back to when you become lost. 

Songwriters can experience writer’s block, and sometimes it can help to delve into music theory so that you can work to stick to your music composition. Exploring some varying chord progressions, key changes, or expressions within the music can actually help you be more creative since it can develop a new appreciation for your piece.

It Builds Creativity

The bottom line is that music theory can provide a path to you understanding yourself more creatively as an artist. It provides you with building blocks, so when you sit down to hammer out your next song, you have the tools and knowledge to not only bring your idea to fruition but help you get to it faster.

You don’t want to choose notes, scales, chords, and keys that you play or create music based on theory, but rather, how they sound. However, you still want to make sense of those notes, scales, and chords throughout the creative process. Your knowledge is going to make it much easier as you develop. 

Music Theory has the power to open up more opportunities and ideas within your creativity that you may never have explored before. Don’t squash the idea of learning theory as a musician; it’s an excellent way to help bring about a better clarity and understanding of how to convey your musical ideas more powerfully!


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