By "read", I mean at ANY point in the piece should I be able to identify what that part is like "oh this is a IV chord, this is an x progression, etc."
But there are times when I make use of more simple ways to "get" a section like "oh this part is just a two chords with 5th interval and I just need to move my hand position one step to the right". I mean it works to help me remember how to play that part but there was no theory behind it. But is that a correct approach or should I have known to "read" that part?
Just want to get some inputs to what extent people use music theory to learn a piece or if everyone is just kinda managing with their own tricks. Should I strive for complete comprehension of a piece with music theory?
I do like learning music theory I think it helps my brain give the learning process some structure that it can remember.
If you want to learn theory to a high level by itself (because you enjoy it), that's fine.
But the bottom line is that knowing that a progression of two thick chords (say, in a piece by Debussy) is iiic7 - IV6/4 with two passing notes in contrary motion doesn't help you play the music, which is all about knowing what notes to play, how to play them with finesse and musicality (which of course includes voicing them, and balancing the individual notes in each chord or passage) and understanding what the composer was striving towards.
BTW, I'm talking classical music, not jazz.
It's just difficult sometimes when I'm reading theory and I have no idea how it is relevant to the pieces I'm actually playing at the moment. Doesn't really help that the lesson is always like "don't worry this comes up all the time in music."
If your priority is actually learning to play (classical) piano well, you don't need to know much theory at all - and you most certainly don't need to analyze every piece you learn to play to the n
th degree. With some music (like Für Elise
), you can easily (without consciously thinking about it) discern a specific harmonic progression while you're sight-reading through the piece. Common things are common, as your teacher already hinted. With others, you'll just end up knocking your head against a brick wall if you try to analyze it that way. Don't forget that many composers (including those with mediocre piano skills) compose at the piano and make up/invent sounds they like - including by trial & error - without analyzing what it is they're writing down.
How do you think Stravinsky 'discovered' chords like these? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR8wJUnGnaw