Benefits of Learning Music Theory

When learning to play an instrument, we occasionally have “ah ha” moments as Ian Stich from Youtube’s Sitch Method likes to call them. Today I’ve had another of them as I run piano scales. If you’ve ever had a child in piano lessons, there’s a good chance they would have balked at the notion of doing scales. The piano teacher would say, there’s a long term benefit to learning scales which you’ll come to understand later. Well, unfortunately…later doesn’t arrive for too many music students because they view the task a just too boring with not enough melody.

Here is the thing: When running scales on the piano, we are hitting every note in a scale consciously and the mind develops awareness visually which aids in recalling chord triads and sevenths instantly. The visualization of roots, thirds, fifths and seventh via the keyboard would be akin to visualizing the notes on a staff. 

Additionally, if students run major and minor scales chronologically around the Circle of Fifths, the circle itself is memorized concurrently with scale tones. Consequently, chords within a key using the context of the circle take shape with repetition. Of course, there is the technical side of developing muscle memory around piano keys and efficient fingerings concurrently.

Imagine then moving the versatility of scale /chord / key mastery over to another instrument having put in the repetitions of running scales. Whole steps and half steps intuitively developed from running piano scales could be subconsciously applied to the new instrument with the Circle of Fifths lurking as an improvisational tool.

Guitarists could potentially take the theory of scale tone distances learned in piano and apply them to the fretboard accounting for the third / second string pitch differential or stick with the standardized three note per string pentatonic patterns taught more traditionally.

If a person can honestly espouse that they lack perfect pitch, lack some sense of relative pitch, and cannot intuitively “play by ear”, then that person might consider concepts of music theory practically to further advance play.

Over at my youtube channel, I hope to deploy more improvisation guitar / piano as I continue to apply concepts.