Music theory is the study of the practices and possibilities of music. It also explains what music does, and what’s going on when we hear it. Much like learning a second language, music theory allows one to study the ideas and practices of music and how it is constructed. In the simplest terms, music theory is a way to explain the music we hear and play.
Of course, you don’t need to study music theory to play or enjoy music. People were making music long before music theory came along. Some musicians and composers find music theory helpful, while others consider it unnecessary. It is a matter of preference. Those who do learn music theory generally find it helps them to:
- Better read music/sight read music
- Better understand how music is composed
- Compose music
- Learn new techniques
- Transcribe music
- Play music exactly as the original composer intended
- Play music that is new and of an unfamiliar style
Are you interested in learning more about music theory? There are lots of great online resources for you to peruse. We have chosen to share free resources with you. There are plenty of helpful websites with paid courses to learn music theory, but the following free sites are an excellent place to begin:
- 8notes.com – You can download or print each lesson, or scroll through the slides on your laptop.
- Musictheory.net – In addition to free lessons, exercises, and tools, this website also offers two premium apps.
- Teoria.com – Teoria has helpful audio recordings that go along with their tutorials and exercises.
- Tone Savvy.com – This site has terrific interactive lessons and quizzes to challenge you.
- Yale Music Theory Course – This course is hosted on Youtube and taught by Professor Craig Wright. Professor Wright stresses the importance of being an active listener in this course.
- Fundamentals of Music Theory on Coursera.com – This beginner level course will feel like an actual college class complete with a syllabus and a final exam. It takes roughly 22 hours to complete the course which covers the fundamentals of Western music theory, from the absolute basics to more advanced concepts.
- Berklee Music – This free Music Theory lesson is an excerpt from Berklee music’s 12-week online course, Music Theory 101