Learning Music Theory Effectively

Music Learning Process to Get to Performance

Posted by in Music Theory by Level

The Music Learning Process is explained in a 3 or 4 step process. In a simple 3 step, that process is learn it, work it, own it, which is reviewed in the music learning methods summary. In a 4 step process there is an ability to further subdivide the own it concept.

A New Music Learning Process?

Learning Music Process

Learning Music Process

I just attended my daughter’s concert where she is so privileged to study with my original mentor and teacher.  The music study still progresses along the same steps for music theory as outlined in our music lessons and courses.

However, she has adopted a 4 step process to better help the student with the technical aspects of playing the piano.

4 Steps to Musical Performance

The steps of learning to perform music follow this process to learn and play a song.

Acquaintance, Development, Best Friend, and I Am the Music.

The music acquaintance step is the “learn it” step, where you have to begin to explore the song with its key signature, rhythm, and structure for scales and chords. In essence, this is the applying of music theory knowledge to your song.  

The music development is the act of getting in and exploring the notes, phrases and expression which we refer to as the working it stage. This is where you are intently engaged on how to play the song and exploring how you fit in with other members of your group if working with other musicians. It's an act of putting a story together.

The music best friend stage is where you begin to own it. You can get to performance level and become very comfortable with playing your song and have an acceptable level of ability to play for an audience as well as the ability to integrate with a group. This is the ability to play with a group acceptably.

The I Am the Music is the stage where you have polished your skill with a song and have the ability to express and play around with the music. This is the full ownership stage. It's like the ability to type on a keyboard. It comes with practice and is most often directly related to the hours put in and the level of drive and devotion to feeling of the music.

 Just like learning anything there comes a time that things become secondary. I've seen this development happen with many developing musicians.

You will be going along and all of a sudden you are no longer concentrating on the notes, but on the phrase and then on expression of several phrases together. You don't even realize that it's happened. And you're picking up things at a phenomenal pace.

Why Practice Exercises Help Move the Process of Learning Music

We promote playing your exercises in a way that helps you focus on other aspects than just the exercise.

With scales we have you group the notes in fours and accent the first notes and then go soft and build loudness to the next accented note. Like a wave: loud – soft – medium – louder – loud. Count as 1 e & a 2 etc. 

This type of practice gets you away from the mundane scale and into using it as a way to express your music. This approach can be used for several exercise types.

On the piano and guitar the scale and chord exercises are used to help you become familiar with your instrument so that this natural playing much like typing a letter becomes built in.

Learning Music Studying Music Theory

Studying music theory, in my opinion, is a necessary part of becoming a good musician. Some people have the natural ability to listen and play, others of us need the structure of the language to be taught to us. Understanding music principles will help you in many ways, especially as you progress into your own composition and improvisation.

Where to Start Your Study of Music


If you don’t know how to read music then start with understanding note symbols.

If you are going to engage with other musicians and learn from sheet music you need a good understanding of the master staff and intervals. If you can name all the notes on the master staff in less than 45 seconds you are doing great.

If you can explain the 8 basic intervals and the related minor/augmented intervals you’re good to go.

If not you may want to consider the note lessons for music or the full course on music theory.


If your struggling with rhythm you’ll want to get into a concentrated effort on patterns and with timing and counting. Take a look at the lessons for rhythm to see how you can start mastering this concept.

Key Signatures and Scales

Next consider scales and key signatures, if you know the 15 major and minor keys you’re good.

Do you know the major scale associated with each and the 3 minor scales that are related to them? Also how about scale types like blues, gospel, diminished, or whole tone?

If not consider the lessons on keys and scales.


Chords are important in both the piano and guitar instruments, but you need this understanding for being in a band as well as you are part of that chord and chord system structure.

Do you understand the 4 types of triad chords? Do you understand inversions of chords? How about the harmonic diatonic chord systems or chord progressions within the systems?

Check out the lessons on chords for an idea of what you can learn in a very short period of time.

Music Learning Process to Get to Performance Summary

You need to learn as much as you can about music in structure and theory as well as the playing techniques of your instrument.

Stay focused on what you're already doing. Push the concepts of practice, and then find time to add as much music theory study as you can.

Take an approach of getting acquainted to begin the music. Embrace the 3 or 4 step program and you’ll see amazing results.

To learn more about how the music theory process is applied to learning music and for additional information check out the full Learn a Song Report.

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