Why music producers should learn music theory, and why we insist on it

One of our entry requirements for students wishing to take the Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering is a basic grasp of music theory. There’s a reason for that; it will make you a better producer. Not convinced? Read on…

Scales. Chords. Modes.

Learning it is so dull. Mastering it is intimidating. Rules kill creativity.

If you disagree wholeheartedly with the above, then congratulations! You’ve come to the right place.

Music theory is no different than mastering a DAW, plug-in, or instrument. It is simply another (extremely useful) tool used by the best music producers.

The language of music

To demonstrate, let’s use one of Programme Director Carlos Lellis’ favourite analogies: food.

Imagine your friend is cooking a meal and asks you to taste it.

Friend: How is it?
You: It’s good but it’s missing something
Friend: Oh?
You: Yes. It needs…I don’t know. It’s not very exciting. It needs more excitement.
Friend: (grabs some coriander and adds it to the food) Okay, how about now?
You: Oh no…now it tastes…that’s just not right. Try something else

Now let’s have the same conversation, but you are a real cook and well-versed in “spice theory”.

Friend: How is it?
You: Good but it needs a bit of pepper.


That’s the reason why we insist you have a grasp of the basics before joining us at Abbey Road Institute. At the core of every project you’ll work on is music. And the theory? That’s how you describe the music in a way that everyone understands.

More benefits of music theory

There are many reasons to wrap your head around basic theory: it can help you work out chord progressions more quickly, it will actually open up more creative possibilities when coming up with melodies and harmonies, and you will work much more efficiently either on your own compositions or producing others.

With a bit of theory under your belt, you have access to an amazing road map with every possible route to take between where the music is, and where you want it to go.

Carlos says it best himself:

“The importance of music theory is made evident when communication is hindered by a lack of common ground. As an analogy, one simply has to imagine the difficulty encountered by two individuals attempting to have a conversation when they speak different languages. The use of improvised signs may convey some meaning, although it may also lead to great frustration if messages are misinterpreted.

In the case of music, a foundational knowledge of theory allows for the production team to communicate fast and effectively, when any other alternative could lead to subjective, inaccurate interpretation.”

Another great analogy!

how much theory should you know?

Remember: we don’t require any formal music theory qualification. We suggest using the ABRSM Music Theory Grade 1 syllabus as a guide to what concepts you should be familiar with before you start your journey at Abbey Road Institute.

You’ll improve your own music making, improvise more easily, and become a better music producer for it.

Ready to talk the talk of music production? Check out our Advanced Diploma in Music production and Sound Engineering, or contact us for more information.