How To Incorporate Music Theory In Lessons

In this article, we discuss ways for music teachers to easily incorporate music theory in lessons each week, as it is an important component of instruction that can be overlooked if a solid plan isn’t in place.

Key Benefits of Music Lessons for Children with Learning DifferencesFor music teachers, it is easy to focus solely on performance pieces or technique exercises during weekly lessons.  We only have so much time with a student each week, and to keep progress on the instrument going, it’s easy to neglect another equally important area of music instruction—music theory.  The reason is often that working on music theory is more of the academic, non-playing portion of music study, and we can get in the habit of just working on songs instead.  However, there are several simple ways to teach music theory while keeping the flow of the lessons focused on the progression of pieces and technique refinement.  Plus, learning music theory for students enhances their music reading and playing ability by giving deeper insight into the way music is put together!

Make Sure Students Have A Theory Workbook

This is probably the most obvious, traditional way that music theory is taught, but it is definitely a method that works and is reliable.  It’s best if the theory book is part of the same curriculum so that lessons and theory topics are matched, but even if they are not, having a student working out of any theory workbook that is age/level appropriate is advantageous.  Simply take 5 to 10 minutes out of the allotted lesson time to explain a theory lesson and concept in the workbook and assign a page or two for the student to do during the week; you can check it in the next lesson.

Explain Theory Points in Weekly Assignments

Another way a teacher can cover music theory in lessons is to make it interactive and applicable to pieces of study.  This way, you are explaining how the piece was built and building musical vocabulary all while working on a piece.  For example, as a piano teacher, I make sure to point out what chords the student is playing to build their familiarity with harmony and chord progressions, or I point out where there is a musical sequence, or pattern, present.  This works well when students are studying a piece, because once they understand the composer’s methodology and the theory concepts, it becomes simpler.

Quiz Your Students

You don’t have to announce that it’s “pop quiz” time, but essentially, you can cover music theory instruction by also asking your students lots of questions.  Once a theory topic is explained, occasionally ask a student to point out examples of it in their music.  Also, asking them what certain terms mean, to explain how a major chord is constructed, where musical patterns are in an example, etc., are great ways to seamlessly build a student’s understanding of music theory.  Ways to expand the “quizzing” of students is to bring in flashcards or a weekly example to dissect from a theory standpoint.  Not only is this process constructive, it can also be a fun break for your students, especially if you create a break in playing time using this method.

Music Theory In Lessons

Though music theory instruction can take playing time out of a lesson, it is an important point of musical study that all music teachers should emphasize.  It doesn’t have to be a by-the-book practice, but every teacher can find a way to make it a part of the lesson plan easily, even if it is conversation or game based.  Through learning music theory, students are able to see the underlying structure of pieces, which in turn, makes their understanding of music grow.

One thought on “How To Incorporate Music Theory In Lessons

  1. I definitely agree music theory should be taught through the pieces that they’re looking at. It shouldn’t be a separate thing that they look at!

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