I have been learning musictheory.net. It seems adequate for reading notes. But, I don't know how much I want to learn about music theory if I want to play an electronic keyboard well enough to enjoy doing it and to progress.

I realize, if I wanted to write music later, then I might need to learn more than the basics taught on musictheory.net.

But can I just play keyboard for the fun of it, it it necessary to learn music theory?

  • 1
    This might end up being a bit opinion based. Personally I don't think you have to learn any music theory to have fun or write your own stuff. Nov 9, 2015 at 12:45
  • Will I be able to enjoy music without knowing how to read music sheets in the long run? I doubt it. The basic music theory taught on musictheory.net teaches how to read music notes. But, I don't know if learning a bit more beyond the basics will bring asymmetrically large benefits.
    – user24421
    Nov 9, 2015 at 13:07
  • A lot probably depends on what kind of music you want to play and how you want to make music. If you want to form a jam band then playing by ear will be important and you most likely will never read a single note. If you want to play a Beethoven sonata on the piano you'll have to learn to read music at least, and understanding the keys, scales, and chords and how they go together will make that easier to understand what's happening. Nov 9, 2015 at 13:12
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    Not sure why I didn't think of this two hours ago, but you're doing this for fun. If you think music theory is fun, then study it and learn it. If not, don't. You don't need it to play an instrument for fun. I took (and paid for!) three semesters of college music theory for fun, because I like analyzing things, especially things I like, and I love music. Most of the musicians with whom I've enjoyed making music over the years have learned little to no music theory at all. I've learned to talk about music without using note names. Nov 9, 2015 at 14:24
  • 1
    If I were you, I would postpone the music theory until you are a little farther along with learning to play. When you are ready, I recommend visiting a shop that sells sheet music, and browsing their section of music theory workbooks. If you see something there that seems like the right level, and not too obnoxious or annoying for your taste, buy one volume and try working your way through it. Don't be afraid to buy a book written for young people (but don't buy a book aimed at young children). The book will cost around $10 -- not a huge investment. If you like it, go back for vol 2. Nov 9, 2015 at 18:43

4 Answers 4


Yes it really is essential. Asking whether you can become a musician without doing theory is like asking "Can you become a mathematician without doing algebra? Whether you do music to become a world renowned pianists or just to play some tunes at a party should not preclude you from doing theory and doing your music well.

Whatever your musical ambitions are it still takes many years of money and effort to become proficient. Do yourself a favour and include some theory work. Your musical education will be all the better for it.

  • Physics and psychology are arguably as essential to sport as anything in music theory is essential to music - but would you say that studying physics and psychology are essential to becoming a sportsman? Dec 30, 2015 at 20:32

Music has been played in caves over stone ages before any musical theory has been invented, so knowing it is unlikely to be an essential requirement to perform. First flutes are as old as 40 000 year or about, questionable if even writing existed at that time.

In these days, there are computer programs that teach to play directly without teaching the musical notation first, using largely similar approach: just learn which keys should be pressed in a sequence, and the rest can be more or less precisely reproduced from memory if you know how the melody should sound (especially if the melody is simple). Children often play this way. But probably you will be limited if you take solely this approach.

  • Well, I disagree with you. These days there are so much tools or games which promise you to teach how to play an instrument. And in fact they do, but nothing else. You may develop some motoric skills and be able to play a song by learning when to hit which keys (or strings) but that doesn't mkae you a good musician. When it comes to improvise, or writing own songs, you definitely will have some problems with that. Such tools are a good starting point, like learning the theory behind also is. The key is to learn both and be able to combine the knowledge you gain from them. Nov 10, 2015 at 16:03

Depends on the style of music you want to play. If you're playing Classical music, then it's not very important at all. If you're playing Popular music, it's going to be pretty beneficial to at least know the basics--it's common to say something like "oh, that song is just a one-five-six-four in E". You don't have to go beyond what's on musictheory.net unless you're getting into jazz.


It isn't necessarily "essential" but it helps out dramatically. Say you want to play a piece more smoothly the first time you look at it. Generally many people want to do this, right? That in itself takes practice and it may vary for you, but I've noticed personally that after taking music theory it seriously helped me strengthen certain key abilities while playing.

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