Music Theory: It’s the recipe for music!

Music Theory: It’s the recipe for music!

The term music theory is something that’s often thrown around a lot, especially when it comes to music education. But what is it and why should you care about it? Music Theory is the study of the language of music to better communicate and understand music itself. When looking at music, you may notice lots of markings in and around the notes. Each one influences how we play the music and can help to express the story or emotions being portrayed in the piece. Understanding each marking and incorporating them into playing will elevate your overall performance, and connect not only the audience to the music, but you as well! I like to think of sheet music like the recipe for the song, and each marking is an ingredient that helps make it. If you were to take one of these ingredients out, it would mess up the recipe and your cake, or uh, song, would be incomplete. Here are some of the fundamentals of music that make our songs deliciously awesome!


Rhythm has to do with the duration or length of the notes, indicated by different types of notes like eighth, quarter, half, and whole. These are affected by the time signature, written at the beginning of a piece. The top number tells how many beats are in each measure, and the bottom number tells us what type of note gets one beat.


Tempo is the speed at which we play, often found at the beginning of a piece, written in either descriptive adjectives or the classic Italian language. Allegro, Moderato, and Andante are some of the words you might see. Often you might see a number next to a note, showing the BPM or beats per minute that you can set a metronome to. You can also find markings that affect the tempo throughout the piece like ritardando or accelerando which tells us to speed up or slow down.


Dynamics affect the volume of the notes, indicated by symbols like p, mp, mf, and f, which stand for piano (soft), mezzo piano (medium soft), mezzo forte (medium loud), and forte (loud). Just by changing the volume of the song, you can change the overall feel and make it sound that much more interesting!


Articulations change how you play a note, whether that be staccato, legato, tied, or have ornamentations that add extra flair overall. It’s important to pay attention to the various markings, especially when there are multiple going on all at once.

Ensure that your pieces are completely mastered by adhering to all of these markings and knowing what the music is about. Studying your music can help you connect with your playing as well as anyone who is listening!

Hannah Petersen, B.A., Piano Instructor

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San Antonio Music Academy is very well organized. My daughter's piano teacher is wonderful! She's been taking lessons for 5 months and looks forward to each lesson. I really enjoy the recitals at the LOL Comedy Club.

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Jacob was an excellent guitar instructor. He was patient and prepared. I definitely recommend him to any person wanting to learn guitar.

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Steve Dell / parent
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