Theory and Musicianship
Joining the dots
Music theory is often thought of as an uninspiring part of learning a musical instrument because all too often that's the way it's taught: away from the piano without any relevance to the music the student is actually playing. However, by encouraging students to really think about how music works not only accelerate their progress, but enables them to make sense of the music they see, hear, and play every day.
Throughout your studies, you will have the opportunity to expand your knowledge of music theory and analysis, alongside developing essential aural training and musicianship skills, which will prove invaluable as your playing improves.
Learning how music is written on the stave and the symbols used to represent pitch and rhythm is the cornerstone of effective music reading in performance. And when combined with a sound knowledge of scales and chords provides the student with confidence to understand musical tonality from the ground up.
Through completion of a progressive series of theory handbooks, students practise how to write and recognise a wide range of musical aspects: from scales, intervals and chord progressions to understanding about rhythm and how time signatures affect how music is felt or perceived. At advanced levels, students learn how to write stylish and effective harmony, as well as learning about transposition, orchestral instruments, and how to analyse unseen musical scores to answer questions on compositional features and the harmonic language.
It is my belief that a sound understanding of music theory often leads to more insightful and enjoyable playing. And should the student decide to take a performance or music theory exam in the future, such knowledge and understanding becomes invaluable in these contexts.
Aural perception skills
Infants imitate the sounds they hear from a very young age to help them communicate; however, it is not uncommon for some students to play without really listening or engaging with the music. To be able to understand the musical sounds we hear when we play - or when we read music away from the piano - contribute considerably to the aspiring student's overall musicianship.
Alongside the development of piano technique, students are taught how to develop essential listening skills which can help transform their playing lending deeper musical insight. The ability to train our ears helps us to identify musical features including subtleties in dynamics, phrasing, articulation, rhythm, and tempo variation. And with more practice, we can train our ears to recognise specific scales, intervals, chords, and cadences, allowing scope to discover and learn new music through aural skills alone.
Many grade and diploma exams assess such musicianship skills, as well as in GCSE and 'A' Level listening papers , so it is considerably beneficial for all.
Harmony | Composition | Music Analysis
Students who take music at GCSE or 'A' level are sometimes quite surprised by the range of skills they need to develop alongside their playing. In addition to learning about musical history, music students will be expected to compose, complete harmony exercises that respect conventions, and to analyse music scores and recordings.
With a postgraduate degree in Music Theory and Analysis, I am well placed to support students wishing to study in a range of disciplines, such as historical performance practice, harmony, composition, and music analysis. I have also prepared a number of students for higher grade theory exams over the last twenty years, so am familiar with the format and content of these examinations.