Towards the end of your investigation, start creating a plan to reach your music-understanding goals. You can create this in any form you like, for example, as an outline, a short essay, a diagram or flow chart. The plan should include:
- A description of the music theory that would help you to better understand and do your chosen music activity. This might include, for example, a list of terms that you would like to understand, or a capability that you would like to develop, for example being able to recognize major and minor chords by ear or in notated music.
- A set of resources (such as method books or informational articles) that you can consult as needed, that are written in a way that you can understand.
- A realistic plan for musical activities that you can do to develop and practice the understanding or capability. These must be activities you are capable of doing that would be very likely to develop the understanding that you want or need. A few examples: If you play a transposing instrument and want to understand what "transposing" means, plan to learn and practice transposing on your instrument. If you want to understand the tuning system of a foreign music tradition, plan to listen regularly both to music in that tradition and to audio examples that demonstrate the tuning; if possible, plan to practice singing or playing along with music that uses that tuning. (A tip: "Disciplined" practice can be very useful, but simply "playing around" with an idea is often a very good way to explore it and strengthen your understanding of it.)
- If at all possible, locate people with whom it would be useful to discuss your understanding and demonstrate your practice. For example, would your teacher or band director be willing to listen to you transposing and tell you whether you are doing it correctly? Do you have a friend who knows more about that foreign music tradition than you do?
Practical Suggestions for Theory-Exploration Activity
- If your theory questions are related to a musical activity that you already do, such as playing an instrument, dancing, singing, or composing, then your plan should focus on how to explore and practice the concept using that activity.
- If your questions are related to a musical activity that you plan on taking up or that you wouldn't mind doing for a while (for example, taking a 6-week ballroom dance course) your theory-learning plan should be tied to your plans to learn that activity.
- If you don't want to take up a musical activity, but only wish to explore the theory so that you can listen more knowledgeably, one possibility is using an inexpensive instrument such as the "virtual keyboards" that are available on the Internet (some for free) or simple rhythm instruments that you can make yourself.
- Programs, apps, and websites that allow you to make music or alter some aspect of a musical sound can also be used to explore notation and music theory. Look for programs that make it easy to "play around with" the aspect of music (such as notation, tuning, rhythm tracks, or instrument sounds) that you want to explore.
- You may be able to collect a personal "listening library" of audio tracks or links to Internet-based audio files that you can play to hear examples of the concept that you want to understand (for example, files and tracks with labels that say things like "F major scale" or "an example of a plagal cadence" or "12-bar blues in B flat").
If, while trying to create your plans, you find there are gaps, do a little more investigation to fill them in. For example, if you feel you need to play an instrument to understand a concept but you do not play one, see if you can find a solution that would work for you, such as using a "virtual keyboard."