Music theory is often considered a set of rules. And let’s face it, musicians hate rules, dont’ they? Rules tend to limit and box a person`s freedom.
But you know what? They are not rules. They are systems and guidelines. And their purpose is to explain how and why music works.
If you are a songwriter, I’m sure you’ve come across bits and pieces that you like but you’re not sure what to do with it. Or have a tune that’s stuck in your head, but the chords you try to put beneath is don’t just sound right.
Can you put together a radio without knowing what each piece does and how they fit together? Yes, you can, if you have a kit with good directions. But knowing the theory behind how they are put together and how they work — you all the sudden gain the ability to troubleshoot when things are not working and options in terms of what features to give it and how to put it together.
Knowing the theory gives you a starting point, and from there you can stretch the system here, break out a piece there — and start brewing your own little concoctions. All the while knowing exactly when things are still working and when they stop doing so.
Or on the other hand, knowing the theory will give you the power to analyze what other people’s songs are doing — hear a cool chord, an interesting riff, or an impressive melody? Now you can take the song apart, figure out what’s going on, and be able to steal the pieces that sounded appealing to your own writing. Just like taking apart a radio and stealing cool bits to your own new invention.
Knowledge is power, there’s no doubt about it. Don’t engage in some kind of snobbism or "Everything That Reminds Me of School Is Uncool" attitude. Unleash your curiosity and learn at every opportunity you get, soak up everything you can. Because music theory is your tool box if you plan to build songs. The more tools you acquire and learn how to use, the greater the range of music you can create, and the better your creation will be.