Frequently Asked Questions About Music Theory

Frequently Asked Questions About Music Theory

If you want to learn how to play a musical instrument, the first step is to understand the compositions you are playing. 

When you have music theory knowledge, this information represents the wisdom you’ve earned by studying the mechanics, structures, and patterns that happen in most musical pieces. 

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about music theory that we get asked so that you can have an idea of what to expect when you’re ready to learn how to play an instrument.

Why is most musical theory centered on the piano? 

When you play most orchestra instruments, you must adapt your style or physical stance to achieve different notes. If you play a low C on the trumpet, your embouchure must adjust to the high C for the tone to stay pure. As you look at a piano, every note is already visually represented.

Is there a fast way to learn how to read sheet music?

When you start learning how to play an instrument, most band instructors provide a silly mnemonic to help you memorize the lines and spaces on both clefs. 

On the treble clef, the notes are E-G-B-D-F. Lots of teachers say, “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge,” to help you remember it. The notes in the spaces are F-A-C-E, which is self-explanatory.

For the bass clef, the notes on the lines are G-B-D-F-A. You’ll find lots of variations here, such as “Great Big Dogs Fight Animals.”

On the spaces, the notes are A-C-E-G: “All Cows Eat Grass.” 

How do I identify the key for the composition? 

When you can recognize if a musical number is written in a minor or major key, you can determine what notes should get played with your instrument. When the signature doesn’t contain any flats or sharps, you play in C major or A minor.

If it contains one flat, you’re in F major or D minor. Although you might not think about these facts while playing the notes, it will let you recognize when you sound out of tune compared to the others around you. 

How do I change a piece of music into a different key?

The easiest way to change the key of any song is to move every note in the composition up or down by the same amount. That means you could go a half-space, a full line, or even more to maintain the melody while producing something that works better for your skills. Many vocalists ask to make these changes if a song is too high or low for their natural resonance.

What if the only thing I want to do is to play the drums?

Although it can be a lot of fun to make percussion sounds, taking on the drummer’s role means that you need more musical theory instead of less. It is up to you to provide each piece’s rhythm while keeping everyone at the correct time. That means it is your responsibility to understand how note values and time signatures work.

Musical theory feels like classroom work when you first learn how to play an instrument. When you can understand some of these essentials, it’ll make your understanding of each composition a little better. 

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