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What Are the Rudiments of Music?

Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden

The rudiments of music are the most basic elements that one must know and understand in order to appreciate and perform music in a technically perceptive and proficient manner. It is certainly possible to enjoy music without knowledge of the basics of music, but to understand the technical aspects of the music or to compose and perform music, it is generally necessary to have at least a basic understanding of them. They include some knowledge of music theory, the ability to read music, and several other important components. Learning these rudiments can provide one with the tools to appreciate music at a deeper level and a foundation on which to develop greater knowledge of music.

Basic music theory encompasses many of the most important rudiments of music. Music theory is a body of knowledge that explains how music of different forms is made from the same basic sounds and how that music can be understood through common language and notation. Advanced music theory even delves into the physics and acoustics that leads to the production of music, but such understanding is not necessary for one just learning the basics of music. Basic points of music theory, such as rhythm, pitch, melody, and notation are, however, important for developing a basic appreciation for music.

One must know the rudiments of music in order to fully appreciate it.
One must know the rudiments of music in order to fully appreciate it.

Depending on one's personal goals in learning music, the rudiments of music may also involve some knowledge of history. To fully appreciate many styles of music, it is necessary to have some understanding of the music movements from which they developed. If one is primarily interested in the technical aspects of music, though, history may not be an essential aspect of learning the music basics. History primarily helps by giving one an understanding of the context in which certain styles of music developed and the musical trends that influenced different artists at points throughout history.

A guitarist needs to know the rudiments of music to perform well.
A guitarist needs to know the rudiments of music to perform well.

In many cases, learning the basics of musical composition can provide the best overall introduction to the rudiments of music. Learning composition involves learning music notation. One must also learn the scales from which music is composed in order to know how sounds are combined to make music. One must, furthermore, learn the rhythm and tempo considerations that serve to drive the different sounds forward. Understanding all of this allows one to critically interpret music and to understand the many diverse factors that musicians must consider when writing and performing music.

Discussion Comments


@allenJo - Whenever I go to the movies, I never ceased to be amazed at the custom scores and musical tunes that are made just for that film.

It almost seems counter intuitive, because some of those melodies are quite catchy, and I think would have a life of their own outside of the film. In some cases, they do.

One classic example was the film “High School Musical” whose movie melodies went on to become hits on the radio. I always wondered, how can someone just create these fantastic melodies, almost as if on cue, just for the films?

It’s something that I don’t think would be possible without understanding how music works in theory. Once you know that, you no longer have to wait for the muse to inspire you in order to create catchy melodies. There is almost a science to music, which these composers have mastered.


When I was young I bought myself a classical guitar and taught myself to play classical music, at a basic level.

I understand only the basics of guitar music theory because all of my instruction was self taught; I never took a class.

I’ve often asked myself whether I missed out on anything by not pursuing a dedicated course of study. For one thing, I never developed the ability to play by ear, and while I learned how to read musical notes on a page, I was never able to compose my own music.

These are just some of the things that you miss out on by taking the do it yourself approach. However, for my purposes all I wanted to do was play some common classical pieces, and I think I was able to pull that off quite well.


I'm a music theory major, and I have to say, people really have mistaken ideas about the rudiments of music. I guess people just think it's really easy to sing, and forget about all the hard work and memorization that goes into learning how to understand and perform music well.

Bravo, wisegeek for shedding some light on a complicated subject!


I think that anyone performing music has to have expert knowledge of the musical scales because if not the errors in the musical sound becomes obvious. I remember in my children’s school there was a girl that sang a solo and her performance was a little off key.

I felt bad for the girl but because her voice was flat most of the time and she did not accurately project the correct music notes. I figured that maybe she was just nervous.

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    • One must know the rudiments of music in order to fully appreciate it.
      By: db238
      One must know the rudiments of music in order to fully appreciate it.
    • A guitarist needs to know the rudiments of music to perform well.
      By: vitmark
      A guitarist needs to know the rudiments of music to perform well.