If you want to become a better music producer, learning music theory is not just helpful — it’s essential. But starting with something that seems as vast and complicated as music theory can be difficult.
And because plugins and presets are so widely used in DAWs, it’s easy for music producers to figure that they can get by creating great songs without a solid music theory foundation.
However, anyone who tells you that music theory isn’t essential to being a great producer isn’t telling the full story.
Mastering music theory concepts will make you a better, more solid producer. There is a lot of power in learning these building blocks to make solid musical choices and break and bend the rules with intention.
Fortunately, diving into music theory to enhance your music production process has never been easier. This article will cover some of our top tips for music producers looking to learn music theory online.
1. Assess where your skills are at the moment
Before you start learning any concepts, our first tip is to ensure you have a solid idea of where your musical knowledge currently stands. This will help you determine what kinds of resources are best for you.
For example, would you benefit most from a book that walks you through the entirety of music theory, starting with the basics? Or do you have the basics covered and only need to brush up on more complex music theory topics?
A few quick ways to assess your skills are:
- Watch YouTube tutorials covering the concepts and check in with yourself about how much you understand.
- Discuss theory concepts with fellow producers and musicians to gauge your current understanding.
- Listen to interviews with your favorite music producers and songwriters. Can you follow everything they’re talking about? Take note of concepts you aren’t familiar with and compile them into a list for later.
2. Build your knowledge around structured resources
A structured resource is essential in any course of study.
It’s wise to have a book or course that you can return to whenever you have questions or need practice applying what you’ve learned. These kinds of resources can be invaluable tools as you continue to learn more advanced concepts — and they’ll help keep your momentum going even when things get tough.
Our interactive music theory books are a great go-to resource for any music producer looking to become more informed about music theory.
Each book uses audiovisual examples from popular artists to introduce and reinforce music theory topics. Book I covers the essentials of music theory, and Book II ventures into intermediate and advanced topics.
3. Connect music theory concepts with the music that inspires you
It’s important to remember that you can take your time with the process of learning music theory. You will learn much more effectively if you work at your own pace and enjoy the process.
Don’t just memorize what you’re studying or work through resources to check off boxes for specific topics. If you relate what you’re learning to your own work, it will become much more meaningful.
This is another reason why our music theory books are popular with producers. We draw examples from popular music rather than classical songs, so you can see how theory operates practically in the music that is likely most familiar to you.
Another way to connect music theory concepts to the music that you’re most inspired by is to try out our TheoryTab database.
You can browse chord and melody analyses from over 40,000 popular songs here.
Try looking up your favorite songs or artists and studying their song structures. Which music theory rules do they follow? Which do they intentionally break?
Applying what you’re learning directly to today’s music is a great way to reinforce your music theory knowledge.
4. Take notes and study them frequently
As you start learning music theory online, making a practice of taking notes is very important. This is an important way to reinforce new concepts as you learn.
Some of the best benefits of note-taking:
- You can build your own knowledge base to return to if you have questions.
- It creates a record of your progress that you can look back on during your music theory journey.
- It’s a helpful way to practice and review concepts. For example, you can hand your notes to someone else and have them quiz you on the information. This is a great way to test your grasp of the material and identify gaps in your knowledge.
5. Stay focused on your goals
It can take work to stay motivated when facing a challenging new concept. To stay focused on your goal of learning music theory, try to set short-term and long-term goals for yourself.
Short-term goals should be something achievable within an hour or two. For example, aim to watch one or two videos on a specific music theory topic. Long-term goals can take days or weeks, like reading an entire book or implementing a new concept in your next songwriting session.
When you continually remind yourself that the concepts you’re learning apply directly to your own work, studying doesn’t have to feel like a chore. It can actually be a fun and captivating experience that brings you closer to achieving your goals of creating great music.
Enhance your music production skills with online music theory
Learning music theory is crucial for any music producer looking to improve their craft. While diving into such a vast and complex subject can be daunting, numerous online tools can make the process more manageable.
With some determination, solid resources, and consistent practice, you can break down and bend the essential building blocks of music to create your own unique sound.
Don’t be afraid to take the leap and start your music theory journey today. You’ll be well on your way to becoming a more solid and versatile music producer!