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Using Music Theory to Speed Up Your Songwriting Process

The one thing that music theory gives songwriters is vocabulary. With one word or phrase, a musician can describe and communicate an entire idea to other songwriters: “I think if we modulate to E major at that point…”

The time you save is incalculable, but theory does more than offer you a communication tool. It is the starting point of improving your musical ear, allowing you to identify interesting musical effects that you hear in someone else’s songs, and that then gives you the chance to use them in your own music.

Imagine being a carpenter but not knowing any of the basic terminology that applies to carpentry. Biscuit jointer, pocket hole, leading edge, spade bit — these are all terms that professional carpenters know, and knowing what they refer to is a vital part of being a professional. Those terms are part of the theory of carpentry that professional woodworkers must know.

In a similar way, a knowledge of music theory is a vital part of being a professional musician, allowing songwriters to expand on their creative songwriting powers. It usually happens in two stages:

  1. Identification. A songwriter with a theory background can hear and identify interesting musical effects in other music.
  2. Adaptation. A songwriter can use the same effect from that song in their own, adapting the idea until it becomes their own.

In this sense, music theory speeds up the songwriting process. If you hear an interesting chord combination in some other song, your understanding of the nuts and bolts of theory make it possible to quickly identify those chords, and then theory steps in again to help you figure out a way to apply them to your own song, your own chosen key, harmonic rhythm, and more.

Without a strong understanding of theory, you might spend a lot of time improvising to identify those chords, time that’s better spent actually writing your next song.

A Theory Course That Really Works

Easy Music Theory with Gary Ewer - Songwriter and Performer Edition

My Easy Music Theory course takes you from the very beginning (“This is a note…”), right through to being able to write and read full musical scores in twenty-five lessons. Each lesson starts with a short video that explains the concept for that lesson.

Then there are worksheets that drill the concept. Each lesson ends with a quiz which will prove that you fully understand that lesson’s concept, and you can check your own answers with the answer sheets.

The entire program runs from within your internet browser.

I know you will learn from this course, because it’s the course I developed and used with my own students, in both senior high school and university classes. They learned, and marks below 90% were rare!

If you really want to get a handle on music theory, and truly enjoy the process of learning, Easy Music Theory will get the job done.

Gary Ewer Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

Clips from Easy Music Theory with Gary EwerEasy Music Theory with Gary Ewer” is a 25-lesson video-based course. It starts at the very beginning (“This is a note”) and takes you gradually and easily through to RCM Grade 2 Rudiments. It can prepare you to take a college-level music theory entrance exam, and you’ll be amazed at how easy it can be.

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