5 ways to incorporate music theory into your lessons

By Jade Bultitude
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Knowing how to incorporate music theory into your lessons is absolutely vital but it can be tricky! Here are a few of my ideas to make it fun!

Ask music theory questions!

questions, music theory questions

You can never underestimate how useful questions can be. What type of note do we have here? What does this time signature mean? What does allegro mean? You get the idea! Children really respond to this, they love answering questions! It is also definitely nice to not have to constantly write things down. 

Apply your new music theory knowledge to the music you are playing

If you have asked a question such as, what does allegro mean? This should be seen in the music clearly. Discuss the meaning and how you could apply this to the piece of music! Practice playing that piece fast and lively! 

By incorporating the theory lesson to a practical result will not only solidify your student’s knowledge but will also make it far more enjoyable for them! You can even take a piece of music that your student knows really well and begin altering aspects of the piece such as the tempo instruction, the dynamics, the articulation, maybe even the key or time signature? All of these things will take you away from that dreaded theory book and make the act of learning theory seem relevant! 

Use flash cards and other games

dice, games, music games

Game are always fun right?! Students respond so well to playing games in lessons. Not only is it a practical way to learn theory but it will also serve as a way to break up your instrumental lessons. Sometimes student’s concentration and stamina cannot last the full length of a lesson and having a nice light-hearted, but still educational, break in the middle will help. 

This is particularly useful when we are working with young students. It is great for children to start music from a young age but playing an instrument for a full 30 minutes is a challenge. Why not begin their music theory journey from the beginning of their music education so it seems less of a surprise when they are a few terms into learning…! 

Use the circle of fifths to choose the scale to play!

circle of fifths, games, scales, music theory

The circle of fifths is always one of the most important aspects of musical theory that a student should learn, so why not use it every lesson? 

Encourage your student to look at the circle of fifths and pick a scale? Or why not grab some dice and turn it into a game… if you roll a 1, C major etc. Be creative. 

Use the interactive circle of fifths on my website to help you in your lessons!

I know I have already said it multiple times, but making music theory education practical will ensure that your students will solidify their theory knowledge much quicker and will also be less likely to resent it! 

Compose music in your lessons!

music theory, composing, writing music

All of the elements we have talked about above can actually all be incorporated in one fun activity! Writing your own music! I have never had a student who hasn’t had fun writing their own music, whether that be on manuscript paper or by deciding elements they want to include and improvising around this. This is such a nice way to learn and definitely helps your students get their creative juices flowing!

Some students really enjoy writing down answers and seeing the results on paper and I am not saying that we shouldn’t also be doing this. But in my experience students enjoy seeing the why and how it applies to real music. Music theory can seem disjointed and just an annoying hurdle they have to cross in order to do grade 6! This is what we want to avoid. 

How do you incorporate music theory in your lessons? I would love to hear!

Have a great week!

Jade x

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Jade is a flute player and music educator with a passion for educating the next generation of musicians. She is a Masters Graduate from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Jade has been helping people learn music theory for more than 10 years from pre school children all the way to degree level studies.

1 thought on “5 ways to incorporate music theory into your lessons”

  1. Jade, I joined an online class yesterday which discussed CPE Bach’s Hamburger Suite. The teacher was pointing out particular phrases where the key changed – just for a few bars. Keeping that in mind influences practice time doesn’t it? Going from GM to CM and Gm and Am. I want to develop that observation. I also want to keep the circle of 5ths in the front of my brain too????

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