Music theory is often a chorister’s least favourite part of choir. But learning to read and understand the technical aspects of music, though difficult, is ultimately extremely rewarding.
Singing requires an excellent understanding of the relationship between notes, because unlike other instruments, singers do not have keys, or strings, to manipulate to elicit the appropriate pitch. Instead, singers must have a clear understanding of pitch in their brain, and then employ a wide variety of other techniques in order to produce the correct pitch. Understanding the fundamental aspects of music theory is essential in developing good musicianship skills, and will enable singers to excel.
Unfortunately mimicry is often what happens when singers don’t learn music theory fundamentals. ‘Learning to sing’ via mimicry (which is enabled by the ubiquitous nature of YouTube and similar platforms) is incredibly limiting, and does not allow singers to learn anything about music outside the context of the song they’re mimicking. Without the crutch of the piece they’ve learned to mimic, singers who learn in this way, flounder, and have difficulty succeeding.
Improvisation is the ability to take a musical idea, and make it your own. It is a feature common in jazz music, and more popular music, although there are aspects of it in classical music – particularly in the Baroque style. Although improvisation is technically ‘making something up’, those musicians who truly excel at improvisation and composition, are ones who have an incredibly detailed knowledge of music theory. They excel at ‘making things up’ because they know how the rules of music work, and thus know which rules can be ‘broken’ in a way that sounds interesting and creative. Singers interested in improv or composition must have a solid knowledge of music theory!
What are some other reasons music theory is important in singing? Tell us in the comments below!