We know the term ‘music theory’ sounds terrifying because it is usually associated with Italian phrases, math and looking complicated and confusing notation. For some, music theory is synonymous with constraint. That might be even the reason you chose RAV Vast steel tongue drum – no need for any musical knowledge or background, a perfect instrument for beginners. However, some players think that the absence of music theory understanding limits them because they can not go further in their experience: choosing the next scale, composing a melody, or joining a band.
So, why handpan and tongue drum players should learn music theory?
Music theory will enhance your creativity.
It is widely believed that music theory is a set of strict rules and therefore does not leave freedom for creativity and full self-expression. But it is actually wrong! Knowing the rules, a musician can apply them when seeing the need and thus have complete control of the process and the instrument. Freedom of choice is what you get – pick the rules of music theory for particular parts of the melody that suit it at a specific time. Having at least basic knowledge will help level up from what has been done before. Music theory will inspire and encourage you for fresh ideas, new melodies, a mixture of different cords, progressions and pitches.
Music theory will help you understand what you are playing.
Yes, most of the newbies in the world of handpans start playing instinctively. But it is always good to know what you are playing. Because having music theory knowledge, you can improve or alter the music you play. Of course, music theory is not a substitution for a good ear, but it complements it. Knowing the basics can help you translate your vision and feelings into the language of music and understand how to play it.
Music theory will help you communicate with other musicians.
Music theory is a language musicians use to share and exchange their thoughts on melodies. How can you understand what they are suggesting if you don’t understand the words they are using to speak and the signs they are writing? Music theory is the key to developing a richer vocabulary in music language. It will be easier to integrate into a band, understand what everyone else is playing, and join them. You will be able to participate in conversations about the key, the chord sequence, the major or minor mood of the melody. You will learn what is or is not possible when adapting to a band playing.
Music theory will help you choose a new handpan.
Yes, you might have acquired your first RAV Vast because it did not need the music theory knowledge from you. It is harmonically tuned at the production stage, and all the notes can beautifully match each other in numerous combinations. All you need to do is just to play how you feel. However, if you feel ready to switch to an advanced-level steel tongue drum, purchase a RAV Pan or find a pair for your existing instrument, knowledge of the basics can help you make a better choice.
Let us take RAV Vast C Golden Gate as an example. The RAV Vast Golden Gate notes are tuned in the 3rd and 4th octave. This scale is relative to the Lydian scale, which is very popular in guitar music, containing similar notes (C-D-E-F#-G-A-B). It starts with the C Major and then goes into Lydian mode. The two B notes in the C Golden Gate scale add to the major sound. Thanks to the good positioning of the notes, The C Golden Gate has a lot of unique dyads and triads available on it that other scales can not offer. Thus, this scale has a lot of potential for songwriting. In order to understand what you have just read and imagine the technical abilities of the tongue drum, you need basic music theory knowledge. You will need it, especially if you plan to combine C Golden Gate with a guitar or another RAV drum.
To sum up, knowing a bit of music theory will help you move forward in understanding and appreciating music. In addition, it will equip you for playing advanced-level tongue drums and handpans, composing music and collaborating with other musicians.