When it comes to learning music theory, I was a very late bloomer.
I truly learned music on the violin, and while I did learn to read music right from the beginning, I learned in a very utilitarian way that was specific to playing the violin. I just needed to know how to make those notes happen on the violin - when it came to everything from the names of the notes to the details of how and why key signatures worked, I did not take in a lot of detail. And chords - what was a chord? I heard about all these things and picked up as much as I could, but I simply didn't have any formal education in theory until college.
Another hole in my learning came from the fact that I didn't take piano lessons until I was in my late teens, so I did not learn to relate the logic of key signatures and other musical constructs to the logic of the keyboard, which is where it makes the most sense. Looking for such patterns on the violin can be an exercise in futility!
When I spoke to Eugene Watanabe about his inspiration for starting the Gifted Music School in Salt Lake City (see our article from earlier in the week) - I definitely could relate to his lamentations about American music students lacking a solid foundation in theory when they reach college. Even though I was a music student, I still began my college education with barely any formal knowledge of music theory. I even had to take an additional class to help me along - remedial music theory, or as we called it, "Bonehead Music Theory."
Not a good feeling, to be in the "Bonehead Music Theory" class!
Having that formal training at a much younger age certainly would have helped, but it just wasn't available at any of my schools (except as an AP high school class - which was hard to fit in with all the required academics). And I don't blame my private teachers. It's pretty hard for a private teacher to go into the kind of detail that is possible in an actual theory class, while also teaching the fine details of playing.
When did you start learning music theory? Did you study piano, and did that help? Did you learn it as a child, or a little later? Or did you simply never really get any training in music theory? Please participate in the vote, picking the answer that fits best, and then tell us about how much music theory you learned, and when and how you learned it.
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