Elements and Objectives of Music

The elements and objectives of music break down into six main subject areas. Each of these subject areas has a different role for both the performer and the composer. Through a careful study of each of these main elements and their objectives, musicians develop the ability to understand music on a deeper level than the average person. Any musician who is serious about his craft should undertake a rigorous study of these elements and objectives.

Ear Training

Ear training develops the ear so musicians can quickly identify intervals, chords, scales and progressions by ear. This is the place where most musicians will start their training. By studying on a daily basis, performers will gradually attain the objective of learning to identify the building blocks by ear. This is the aural part of music.

Music Theory

Music theory develops the mind so that musicians can identify key signatures, intervals, chords, scales and progressions by sight. In combination with ear training, this is a very powerful element of music for a musician. The objective of studying theory should be to increase a musician's knowledge and ability to interpret the written score. Students of theory will learn about several styles of music and how they differ theoretically. This is so the students can quickly analyze and understand new music.


Instrumentation concerns itself with the instruments of the orchestra and their mechanics. Students will learn about the practical limits, ranges, special techniques and timbres of the different instruments. This is an essential element of music study for composers and musicians who need to write and play ensemble music. The objectives of studying instrumentation are to learn about the instruments and to better understand how the choice of instruments affects the music.


Orchestration is the culmination of instrumentation, which should be learned before moving on to orchestration. While instrumentation will teach musicians how to write for particular instruments, orchestration will teach musicians how to arrange the instruments to get the best sound. The objective of the study of orchestration is to learn how to combine instruments in ways that produce acceptable and creative sounds. Composers and musicians must study orchestration if they are to understand the inner workings of the orchestra and how its individual parts relate to the group.


Counterpoint is an element of music taught after basic and advanced music theory courses are completed. According to the Craft of Music Composition website, counterpoint literally means "point against point." This means more than one musical line plays counter to each other in order to create harmony. The study of counterpoint’s objective is to teach composers and musicians how musical lines interact in an orchestra. By paying attention to each independent line, the musician will be better informed and able to perform her part in correct proportion to the rest of the orchestra.


Form is the last subject that a musician typically studies. Form teaches the composer and musician how pieces function on a large scale. Composers will separate differing musical ideas into sections to make it easier for listeners to keep up with the piece, and to provide a logical progression for the composition. A sonata provides a typical example of one kind of form. The composer will write an introduction, followed by a middle development section, and will close with a reintroduction of the original ideas. This structure helps to give form to a composition. The objective of musicians and composers learning form is to better understand how the music functions.


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