Music learners are usually intimidated by the concept of music theory and analysis because they assume that it is too complex, that there are too many rules, that it is boring, and that has no relationship to playing actual music. What they do not realize is that the knowledge and skills necessary for analysis are the same knowledge and skills that they use as performers when learning a piece on their instrument. To analyze is to notice. For example, when you notice a repeated pattern and then a note or phrase that breaks said pattern, that is analysis.
Analysis of an excerpt from
the first movement of Hindemith's
Sonata for Solo Viola, Op. 25, No. 1
Analysis makes us better performers. Because I am a performer, when I teach music theory I emphasize the relationship between analytical concepts and their application to performance. For example, when discussing tonal harmony, I convey to students that the so called "rules" of music theory, voice leading, and tonal syntax are rather a description of historical practice that has its origins in performance. Conversely, I often incorporate discussions of theoretical and analytical concepts in instrumental lessons to illuminate and inform performance decisions. Because of my facility and enthusiasm for music theory, in all of the institutions where I have studied I have always been the person that my studio mates go to—often times prompted by our studio teacher—for help with their music theory homework or with analyzing their Bach suites. In my opinion, music theory and análysis are tools that help us decipher the emotional messages of music by giving us clues as to why certain music makes us feel this or that emotion. When we combine that intelectual information with our perceptive and expresive instincts, we can create a narrative and emotional arch that is more coherent, convincing, and satisfying.