The Fallacy of Just Learning Music Principals


in Learning Music

Why you have to do more than just learn the theory principal once.

One of the issues that music students face, especially those that try to self teach is that they think they can run down to the book store pick up a one of those books for dummies or idiots and learn music. Thinking “this will be what I need to learn music.”

I have written about this concept on our site, in articles, and in the workbook pages about the problem with this approach to learning music. I want to expand on this fallacy of learning and talk about why you need to do more than get just the principal.

Principals Taught at Music Learning Workshop

Through-out the Music Learning Workshop site you will find a lot of information about how we can learn music faster, methods that improve that ability, and attitudes that can influence our behavior in learning. Of course you will find a whole series of lessons on the fundamental music theory and the music elements that one has to study.

music-book-notesYou find the same information free on these web pages that you would find in the books. Don't get me wrong, I think the books make a great resource and reference. I would even in courage you to buy them for that purpose, a handy reference guideWhat's Missing with just Learning Music Principals

Music principals are a must know, but you have to apply the principal in order to master and get the music theory down cold.

You learn how a major scale is created by using the formulas. You even get to know two or three of the easy ones. However, the next thing you have to do is apply the music scale formula to all 12 keys to learn the specific sharps and flats associated with each key signature and scale.

Then you have to go practice them on your instrument by applying additional techniques that group and vary the notes to gain abilities of expression in music.

Of course this again applies to the minor keys, blues scales, and the other variation of scales available to us.  Not to mention that you have apply this again to chords and their inversions.

Jumping a Vital Step in Music Learning


The book resources will spell out the principals for you. They do all the work of showing you the scale or chords. This leaves a big gaping hole in your learning process!

I personally think you have to work through the principals by physically doing the work yourself to truly master them in record time and with ease.

As an example you may read about a scale, then jump to the piano or pick up your instrument and begin to play the scale by reading the notes. What happens is you never take time to really learn the scale formula, apply it to the key signature, or internalize the scales. This will have a tendency to slow down your learning process rather than speed it up.

How To Command Your Music Learning

You can learn the basic principals of the various music elements here in the music theory section. The series of getting it down cold music workbooks will help you fill in this missing gap of learning music.

I can tell you from my personal experience that taking the time to work through the various music theory principals and applying them to each and every key has allowed me to personally go from a keyboard pounding, single bass note playing, melody stumbling novice to playing the full 30 minute classic Beethoven's Sonata Pathétique.

The real accomplishment was that I performed this piece of music one year from opening the first pages of sheet music to playing at performance quality. If it weren't for this deep study of music theory I don't think I could have even have completed one movement of this piece let alone all three in this period of time.

Was it Carnegie hall ready? No, but that would likely require many more hours of technique and concentration than a working man has time. Still it was quite a feat in that one year.

By the way this is even while I was struggling with my new adventure to learn jazz structures and play with a jazz band. But that's a different story for another time.

Your Thoughts?

You may or may not have the same experiences. You may not even agree with me. So go ahead and tell us what you think. If you think you want to fill in this missing gap be sure to check out the GIDC workbooks and the resource site for additional help.

Stay in tune. And tell us what you think.

Stephenie March 14, 2009 at 11:24 am

I completely agree. I took piano lessons for many years. I can read music and follow scales, but I never really learned the concept of the techniques. Now that I am interested in composition and jazz I find myself lacking the basic knowledge that I need to play well. 

My plan is to revisit the scales and chord progressions. Refresh my memory on each sound and focus on why the music sounds the way it does. 

Brad_C March 14, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Stephenie, You go girl. That’s exactly the attitude you have to have to move on. Studying the theory is where you gain the knowledge to accomplish these goals.

Composition and jazz hope you don’t separate them. Jazz is composition on steroids. Start with re-harmonization of songs you know. That’s when my eyes got opened wide to the wonders of music and theory behind it.

jiong wah foo March 5, 2014 at 7:14 am

Just a small feedback: the word ‘principals’ used, should be spelt ‘principles’

Brad Chidester March 9, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Thanks, for the catch, corrected always did get the spelling mixed up on those two.

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