Do I Have to Learn Music Theory to Learn Piano?

Have you been performing Piano pieces and songs on your own? Are you wondering how to improve your piano speed, techniques and add a degree of realism to your piano playing style? You must have come across a terminology called as the PIANO MUSIC THEORY, either from your Mentor/Trainer or from any internet articles.

Piano Music Theory precisely refers to a set of rules relating to music structure, note names, progressions, time signature and the composition of various notes. Piano Music Theory helps musicians to understand the architecture and design of a specific song or a music piece and elements of composition.

In order to play any songs on a piano, it is not necessary to have deep knowledge on Piano Music Theory. It is not a mandatory system to learn or master if you want to play any musical instrument. However, piano music theory is an integral part of advanced piano or instrument training and helps musicians to decode the detailed purview of the music that is being played or practiced. Also, with the help of piano music theory, the playing techniques, realism with complex chord progressions can be achieved.

In this article, as you further read, we shall coverup aspects of piano music theory and what is exactly required to learn and which stage of playing the piano.

Application of Piano Music Theory in Piano Learning

Piano learning is a step-by-step process and requires patience, skill, passion and dedication to be a pro level pianist. Many beginners start playing piano without any technical knowledge and rather play by ear based on the sound, tune and the pitches of the song notes. Although they are able to play the songs or music pieces, yet it is not a fulfilling experience as players do not play with full dynamism and skill.

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Piano Music Theory helps amateur and beginner piano players to get deep understanding and knowledge of notes, chords, progressions and overall structure of the song. We hereby breakdown the components of piano music theory for everyone to understand:

Components of Piano Music Theory:

  • Part 1 – Note Composition

Note composition refers to the notation names used to compose a piece of music or writing a song. A piano player can play the basic structure / melody lines of the song using the note composition content.

Here is an example of Note Composition / Notation using English Notation

CC – DD – AA – GG | FF – EE – DD -C (first 2 lines of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star notation)

  • Part 2 – Time Signature of Rhythm

One of the most vital aspects of piano music theory is the time signature. Time signature is defined as the number of beats per measure in western notation, represented as a fraction usually. Time signature is an indicator of the beat or rhythmic pattern followed in the song.

Time Signature = Number of Beats / Number of Bars

Examples of Time Signature:

For any song usually, the time signatures could be 4/4, 6/8, 7/8 or 5/8 measures usually, depending on the nature of the rhythm used in the song.

  • Part 3 – Chord progressions and structure

One of the key features of piano music theory is chord progressions and structure. Chord progressions provide a completeness to the song and helps the listener to relate to the melody of the song.

Example of Chord Progression:

CEGE -> DFAF -> EGBG -> FACA is a simple chord progression using the C Major Family Root Chord used in major tone songs with C scale as root.

  • Part 4 – Family chords and ranges

Family chord chart defines the complete range or set of chords that are under scope of play for a particular music piece or song. Here is an excerpt of C Major Family chords used in music compositions:

















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An essential portion of the piano music theory is family chords, which educates the pianists to play left and right hand portions with melody and chord backups for any piano music score.

  • Part 5 – Double hand staff notation with bass, mid and treble clefs

Sheet music or staff notation is the key for all compositions and arrangements using piano or any other instrument. Piano music theory explains about the importance of learning and playing sheet music with double hand segments of chords, melody lines.

The entire song piece is notated using the staff/sheet notation for left and right hand finger playing. The greatest advantage of them all is that a professional pianist with the knowledge of Piano Music Theory, can play the notes in both Left and Hand Right Hands without any practice.

Below is an example of a Sheet Music / Staff Notation sample. Observe the clefs and the grid lines in the sheet for a better understanding of the music sequence

Two hand piano sheet music sample

  • Ornaments and Rudiments

Piano Music Theory provides detailed study of articulations, expression, ornaments and rudiments for all music pieces or notation. Professional piano players therefore can go an extra mile to understand, decipher and play these articulations which adds variety to the songs.

With the above components of piano music theory, a piano player who is well versed with the concepts can make his song sound unique, vibrant, melodious and highly fulfilling to listener’s ears.

Is Piano Music Theory really essential for playing the Piano?

Essentially for playing the piano, picking tunes with ear and playing melodic pieces of music – Piano music theory may not be required. However, we already discussed about the advantages of the skill level of players who have knowledge about Piano Music Theory.

Needless to say, Piano Music Theory helps a beginner piano player to get upgraded to become a pro pianist with practice and proper learning. It makes a pianist complete in all aspects where he or she understands the technical, ornamental and melody parts of the song or composition.

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The below figure shows the approximate preparedness matrix for pianists who are beginners without music theory knowledge versus Skilled Pianists who have mastered the Piano Music Theory concepts.

As evident from the above infographic, Pianists with full knowledge of Piano Music Theory are more skilled in terms of complex chord knowledge, have better ear training qualities and able to produce richer and complex music arrangements in piano.

Woman in White Shirt Holding Pen Writing on White Paper

If you are highly passionate about learning Piano Music Theory and upgrade yourself to become a professional Pianist, we have an great offering for you.

Join our 90 Day Piano Music Theory Course and Learn from Certified A-Grade Pianists from Berklee School or Music and London School of Music.

Take our Online Classes now. For more details please visit our website in Piano Section.

Final Verdict and Conclusion

Piano Music Theory is therefore not a mandatory concept for all musicians, pianists or composers. Without the piano music theory knowledge, many performers are still able to compose, play and create high quality music pieces. However, this fact cannot be ignored that piano music theory becomes critical for advanced instrument playing techniques, adding complex chord progressions to the compositions and live performances with piano.

For every piano player who learns and masters the piano music theory, it offers it’s own set of advantages. Piano Music theory is a proven way to understand the structure, compositions properly and provides an edge of the untrained players to present chords, notes in an expressive manner.

We hope our readers have enjoyed this article and understood the importance of Piano Music Theory for advanced technical piano training and how it helps to improve and beautify the performances and compositions holistically.

So Get -> Set -> Go for a Piano Music Theory Training program, which helps to become a better skilled piano player.

For more information on Sheet music, composition, time signature and notation; please visit our Piano Section and click on the corresponding articles as per your needs. Also, for more insightful information and articles about music, please visit our website under PIANO and VST Sections.

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