Why Study Music Theory?

Music education in schools results in better outcomes for development and growth of students. Research has shown that learning about music and playing an instrument can be beneficial to a child’s social, emotional and academic development. One study found that music learning “enhanced neural processing of speech sounds and accelerated auditory brain development after two years.” Other research has shown that student musicians had “heightened responses to the subtle acoustic details of speech, suggesting that music training generalizes to language.”

By enrolling in the online Master of Music in Music Education program from Eastern Washington University (EWU), you can amplify your knowledge of music education by learning technological advances, music best practices, research and groundbreaking approaches. In addition, students will examine critical philosophy, issues in social justice and tactics for music theory and composition in the classroom. This online Master of Music program can help prepare you to provide ongoing music education and spark creativity in your students’ minds.

The Importance of Music Education

As schools strive to perform better on standardized testing, budget cuts often result in the elimination of art and music programs around the country. Unfortunately, many schools fail to understand that music education positively impacts vocabulary and increases reading comprehension skills. In young children, music education affects the ability to learn and speak words correctly and to process new sounds. Studies from the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California have shown that music training can change the structure of the white and gray matter of the brain and boost the networks that manage decision-making and attention spans.

Music theory is philosophical, theoretical and practical — it helps students understand how music works. When students learn music theory, they can understand and appreciate how to write, interpret and perform music. Learning music theory allows students to speak the same musical language as their teachers and be on the same page while discussing, performing or analyzing a piece of music.

Some Benefits of Learning Music Theory

Music theory explores the basic elements of music and integrates the topics of composition, performance, history, philosophy and ear training. Here are a few ways learning music theory can improve learning ability and make students well-rounded learners:

  • Boost music performance. Eventually, music students are required to perform from memory. Learning music theory allows musicians to recognize patterns in music and become fluent readers of notated music. By understanding the structure and form of the music they’re performing, they can access harmonic memory and recount large sections of music from memory.
  • Improve improvisational skills. While learning to play written notes is essential for a musician, knowing how to improvise is a learned skill that additional knowledge and experience can build on. Aurally predicting chord progressions, knowing musical forms and being aware of harmonic substitutions allows students to actively practice improvisation and create music that sounds cohesive.
  • Become a literate musician. Students become literate musicians when they understand the inner workings of a piece of music. Understanding the language of music creates a deeper grasp and appreciation of various genres of music, whether it be a string quartet, a pop song, an opera aria or a scene from a Broadway musical. Music theory creates a musician that can speak, write and read the language of music.

Next Steps

An online Master of Music in Music Education degree from EWU can prepare you to understand diverse populations and cultures in teaching music, exemplify creative and critical-thinking skills as they relate to music education and apply different approaches to teaching music in a classroom setting. This program offers seven start dates per year and convenient online six-week courses for the working professional.

Learn more about the Eastern Washington University’s online Master of Music in Music Education program.

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