How To Learn Music – Fundamentals Of Music Theory

Explore how to learn music and understand fundamentals of music theory through simple and easy to understand music lessons. Read more for introduction to these basic elements of music.

Prerequisite: If you are a complete beginner I would request you to go through basic definitions at the following post – An Introduction To Music Theory For Beginners.

How to learn music?

I have met many beginners who ask me a specific question – how to learn guitar? My answer to this question would always be the same.

You are asking wrong question. You should probably ask – How to learn music and NOT how to learn guitar.

This applies for all other musical instruments as well. It’s not your fault because you have always seen musicians performing on stage and not while they were learning music.

We always aspire to play musical instruments like our favorite musicians. I play classical guitar and it all started when I heard neo-classical music by Yngwie Malmsteen. Soon, I aspired to play like Yngwie Malmsteen.

I failed miserably during my initial months only because I set my learning goals wrong!

That’s the common mistake every beginner make.

Despite instructions of my teacher, I started learning advanced songs and that probably ruined my learning cycle. My “mind” kept me saying learn things that probably my “body” was not ready for. One has to practice finger exercises in order to learn advanced finger stretches and movements. Finger muscles need some time for development.

This is the reason – many of you have either hanged your guitar to the wall or have already sold out to someone else – assuming that you are not good at it.

Here’s my first learning from those days.

Eliminate the word – ASAP from your music dictionary and DO NOT skip your lessons – even if they are boring! – Bharat

It takes a great teacher to bring all three elements – BODY, MIND and SOUL in unison. I am lucky to learn from great teachers who always showed me the right path.

One of my teachers said, “Knowledge of music is like that mighty ocean formed with small raindrops accumulated over a period of time through water flowing from mountains and rivers – finally ending their journey into the sea.”

It’s a continuous process.

Learning music is not a short term affair with your favorite instruments. Rather it’s a long term relationship that last till your graveyard

This lead us to know why it is important to understand fundamentals of music theory. Ideally, there are three fundamentals of music – Emotions, Rhythm and Melody. Let’s explore each of these – one at a time.

EMOTIONS lay the foundation for music compositions

Music is a language to express emotions. Whether we are sad or we are happy – there’s always a background music associated with it. You would listen to background music of your life only if you are passionate about music.

Many composers think about an emotion, whenever they start creating any composition. Obviously, we cannot play a funeral melody as a background music for a wedding party.

You have to decide if you want to play a happy song, a sad song, a romantic piece or a dance number? Every emotion has a corresponding musical elements like major and minor scales / chords etc.

Example: Classical music compositions defined as Waltz or Tangos are usually associated with dance numbers. 

As a part of my 100 Day Music Blogging Challenge, I would like to divide this article into several parts in order to learn music in step by step manner. Stay tuned for future posts.

We will have a live demonstration of creating a music piece from scratch based on the emotion – Happiness!

RHYTHM decides the groove for musical composition

The music is not in the notes – but in the silence between – Mozart

This silence is created using beats. Beats in any music is measured using beats per minute (BPM).

We have to decide the BPM for the song based on emotions. We experience our heart beating faster whenever we are excited or involved in any intense exercise. Also, whenever we are sad, the heart starts beating at a slower rate.

Let’s understand basics of rhythm through written piece of music of Nokia Tune.

Nokia Tune Music Notes
Nokia Tune Music Notes

Basic example of a written piece of music

Meter: A meter is expressed in terms of a fraction X/Y, where X says how many beats to count in measures while Y tells you a note value for the single beat.

Time Signature: It is the meter represented by X/Y telling us how to spread the notes over the available beats in a measure.

Example: In above illustration, we can see that there are 3 beats in a first measure. There are total four measures in above piece of music. How we share these beats with notes is defined by the melody and value of a note.

Bar: Bars are those vertical lines which mark the boundaries of different sections or measures in a musical piece.

MELODY – Soul of the song

Melody is the tune or series of musical notes that create a euphonious sounds that are pleasing to your ears. Melodies are built to match the emotions you are trying to express.

Each melody is associated with a parent key which categorizes the melody into a specific musical family.

Key is referred to as an indication of pitches or scale upon which a music composition is created.

In above example, we can say that the piece is in key of A Major since there are 3 hash symbols.

What are musical notes?

Musical notes specific sounds within a specific scale that constructs a melody when played in a series or rhythmic pattern.

In above example, the first measure has two types of notes:

  1. Quarter note = Crotchet
  2. Eights note = Quaver

A quarter note takes one complete beat. The notes represented by second and third beats (represented by black dot and a number) are the quarter notes.

The first beat is shared by two notes indicating that we need to play two notes in that beat.The time required to play a quarter note is actually divided into two, hence we call it Eighth note or a quaver.

We shall learn these musical notes with easy illustrations in future posts.

Speaking about the example melody called Nokia Tune – who will forget the greatest melody ever?

The above example is based on a Nokia tune that was inspired by the great classical composition called Gran Vals written by Francisco Tarrega. Read my previous article about Nokia Tune

Thanks for reading the part one of the lesson one. Please share the article with your friends who want to learn music.

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Published by Bharat

Hi, I'm Bharat. An artist, blogger, musician and digital marketing professional dedicated to sharing musing and stories about music, art and mindful resonance! Follow me @bharatpc

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