Why Is Music Theory So Hard? (9 Reasons Why)

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Freya Crawford

Freya Crawford is a self-confessed geek. She loves gaming, watching classic movies, and her guilty pleasure is trashy reality TV. She also enjoys collecting old NES and Gameboy games.

You may aspire to lay the guitar like Eric Clapton or to play the piano like Billy Joel. However, it is known that learning music theory is incredibly hard.

Learning music theory takes a lot of patience that most people do not have. It also requires a lot of practice. I have found nine reasons why music theory is so hard, and I would like to share them with you.

Why Is Music Theory So Hard?


1. Music Theory Uses Visual Methods

Music theory is problematic because it uses visual methods to illustrate what we hear. It is incredibly complex, especially since we understand music much faster than it takes to explain it.

There are four terms involved in music theory:

  • Pitch 
  • Time 
  • Loudness
  • Timbre

The above are challenging concepts to grasp when you are first starting out. Most of the confusion that arises is concerned with pitch and time.

For example, if you are playing the guitar, loudness and timbre become issues. There is a lot of visual learning integrated with music theory.

2. Melody Can Be Maddening

Many of the notes in the melody are also used in harmony, which can be somewhat perplexing—if you are a singer, overlapping means that the lower voice passes the upper voice.

Overlapping in music is a difficult concept to understand. The melody may use the same notes as the harmony, but it is not considered a part.

Overlap is how you interpret the notes at the boundary of two musical phases. Music theory can confuse the person starting and may seem like another language altogether.

You can overlap chords with other chords. Groups of chords that sound good together:

  • D, C, G, F
  • E,D,A 
  • F, C, G, Am
  • G, C, D, Em
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Country music often uses f, C, G, and Am. D, C, G, F is rock progression, often used in drop D.

3. Harmony Is Hard To Understand

Harmony occurs when more than one note sounds at the same time. The harmony generally has instrumental accompaniment. When you play the guitar, you should be singing underneath it.

If there is too much harmony, it sacrifices the impact of harmony. It is a complicated process altogether. Many people confuse melody with harmony.

4. It Is Based On Relationships

It has been said that when you comprehend scales and harmonic relationships, the rest is easy from that point on.

Music theory attempts to define the pitch range of human hearing with undiscernible symbols that seem to take forever to learn. A diatonic scale containing eight notes is referred to as an octave.

There are twelve piano keys in an octave. It is a lot to take in, as these concepts are basically foreign to most people. Relationships between the harmony and the octaves tend to be complicated.

There are also a lot of scales you need to learn if you want to be successful in music. All the most outstanding musicians had to start somewhere.

The idea that twelve notes are in an octave is confusing enough for many people. Memorizing octaves and chords is a seriously mundane process.

5. Major And Minor Scales

Major And Minor Scales

People have a difficult time differentiating between major and minor scales. Who can understand it? It takes a veritable genius to be able to understand music theory.

At the very least, it takes years of dedication and practice. There is only a tiny difference between major and minor scales, as you need to have a well-trained ear to be able to listen to it.

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The minor scale must be adjusted when it comes to descending pitch. Trying to learn and memorize all these complicated processes and concepts is maddening.

Some people actually love music theory because of how hard it is to learn.

6. Learning Guitar Chords Is Tedious

Learning guitar chords is difficult because you need to remember where your hands go while remembering the chords you need to know to play.

The best thing to do is to take your time and not try to learn all the chords at once. Take things slowly, and you will get better with practice. Learning the guitar:

  • Improves eye-hand coordination
  • Involves very specific muscle movements
  • Improves concentration and memory
  • It is an emotional release 

If you are interested in gaining these advantages, stick to it. Music theory takes time, and if you are genuinely invested, you may be able to succeed.

7. Music Theory Is Boring

Many people who have tried music theory and failed did so because music theory is boring. It is like napping 101, especially when you come to find that you are not invested enough.

However, if you are invested, the best way to approach learning the guitar is to understand it in little bits at a time. Learning in smaller increments can be tedious, but it is necessary to be able to play.

It will be worth your time when you have a good grip on how to play the instrument. Teaching yourself music theory is going to be rough.

Unless you have a good teacher, you may need to give yourself some time. Do not expect to be Jimmy Page or Prince right away. You need to aim to learn a few chords at a time.

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8. Scales And Keys

Many people confuse scales and keys. A scale is all eight notes of an octave performed in a descending or ascending sequence, and a key is a device for making the sounds work.

The alphabet keys can be confusing. Why would you use the alphabet and not numbers? It creates a lot of questions for those who are not well versed in music theory.

9. It Is Another Language

The main reason why music theory is so hard is that it is like a whole other language. Some of the funny words incorporated into music theory that can be difficult to understand:

  • Sharps
  • Flats
  • Scales
  • Intervals

The above is complicated to understand because they do not follow any pattern. However, they are the very basics of music theory. Learning music theory is like studying a foreign language.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why rappers grab their crotch, why people hum, and why you love music so much.

Conclusion

Music theory is so hard for a number of reasons. The piano, guitar, and any instrument can be challenging to master. It all depends on your commitment to learning.

Music theory may be better for the geniuses who can figure it out. However, if you stick with it, you never know what you can accomplish.

Author

  • Freya Crawford is a self-confessed geek. She loves gaming, watching classic movies, and her guilty pleasure is trashy reality TV. She also enjoys collecting old NES and Gameboy games.

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