This is an old discussion among amateur musicians that has been twisted and turned in such a way that requires my immediate attention. For the sake of music and your marvelous master pieces. For the sake of all this power you harnes, I will do my best to put this to rest. Should you learn music theory? I will answer with a simple yes followed by “if” statements.
What is music theory
In simple terms. It is a tool. This is a method a mechanic uses to work on an engine. There are tools available in every discipline and every field of science and technology to perform as best we can. These processes and technologies sometimes we call theory. There is a theory of how everything works. That is, someone, at any point in time, has an idea of how something works. So far so good, yes?
Music theory explains why the music sounds the way it does. It explains why a melody sounds dark or happy. Music theory helps you harmonize a note in many different ways. It is only the tool, though. It doesn’t make you more creative or take away from your talented self. Your creativity stems from your brain, and everyone is creative.
So I invite you to analyze this from this point of view. Think of all the other trades. Think of all the other activities around the world. Everyone is using information and knowledge to accomplish things. Everyone uses information (theory) to perform, to know where to go when improvising, or creating a new thing.
The big If’s of this learning
If you want to create with the least amount of resistance, the shortest period of time, learning music theory is the right thing to do. I can tell you that going from chord 5 to chord 1 (the root) is a very strong tendency, and results in a sense of finality in a musical phrase. Or you can play for a few hours or days with your preferred instruments and find the same thing yourself.
If you want to have a great time discovering the theory on your own, no problem. It is still a lot of fun, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re not learning theory. You are just learning it on your own, and your own pace. Theory is acquired either through books or personal experience.
Quick answer. Learn it. Stop this non-sense of feeling like you’re cheating if you learn theory. The world is a better place when you resist unfounded beliefs and embrace all your talents. You have the capacity to learn anything. You have the creativity to compose fantastic music. Why would you throw all that away because someone online says theory sucks. Everyone! Everyone uses theory whether they learned it from a book or discovering it on their own.