Music is an art that has been developing for centuries. In fact, music existed even before any theories on it. People have been singing, playing instruments and creating music even before written history. Over time, they realized that some certain musical ideas sound good, coherent, repeats a lot. So they started giving them names. Those names and attempts of explaining them slowly created an accepted language for describing music. Basically, music theory is the general principles and practices of music. But it is not a set of prescriptive rules. Instead, it is a descriptive concept. It is a subfield of musicology which consists of scholarly analysis and researches of music.
What is theory?
A theory is the general principles or ideas about a particular subject. It is not the absolute truth about the subject. Instead, it is an attempt at explaining it. A theory consists of one ore more hypotheses that are commonly regarded as correct. We support these hypotheses with repeated testing. So we can say that it is a group of tested general propositions on a subject.
Why do we need music theory?
Today, most of the musicians try to avoid music theory. Because they think that it gives them the impression of mechanical rules and regulations. In fact, it is a daunting concept for every beginner too. Let me tell you this, you can make music without some initial knowledge about music theory. You can ignore it and your talent will still allow you to create music. Most of the famous musicians don’t know theory in depth.
So why do we need music theory? The answer is simple. Because it gives us a head start in learning to play and create good-sounding music. After all, music is a language. To use a language, first you should learn its alphabet. Then you should learn how to put letters into words. After that, you should learn how to put certain words into sentences. Then you can effectively use this knowledge and your innate sense and creativity to create something that sounds good. Also along the way you can contribute to music theory with your new concepts.
If you are curious about how music works, communicating with other musicians, playing with others and compose better musical works easier, you should understand the language of music, at least the basics. One of the best things about music theory is after you learn it, you will analyze, compose, play, even listen to music in a more conscious way. Without any knowledge of theory, you are pretty much at the mercy of your ears and you will always feel there is something missing while creating and performing music. In short, music theory is useful for everyone who is into music.
Music theory is a tool
One thing I should emphasize here is that you should think the music theory as a tool, not a primary objective. After all, theories about music were born out of music, not the other way around. It doesn’t give you the exact rules to create music. It doesn’t guide you in creative composition. In fact, creativity is a state or quality of being creative. It allows a person to think outside of the box. But when you look at the history of music, creativity always overcomes certainty. Everything can change in time. Music theory may provide you some stylistic norms and practices. But you can deviate from those norms. After all, it is music theory, not music law.