Diploma in Music

Learn the essential skills for understanding how music works in 4 weeks

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Many people learn to play music by ear and others learn to play through an engagement with its theoretical underpinnings. On this course you will learn the essential skills required for understanding notated music and the theoretical basis of all western music - whether classical, pop, blues, metal or a myriad of other styles. You will learn how to read and write music and also be provided with the groundwork for further exploration into more complicated notation and theoretical analysis. The course is focused on learning by doing so register today to get started. Read More

On demand lessons.

This course consists of eight core lessons that introduces music theory and explores how theoretical knowledge can be used to further your enjoyment of listening to music but also utilised to practically improve playing and compositional skills.

All lessons can be accessed 24/7 so that you can truly learn at your own convenience.


  1. Learn theoretical tools and practical skills to heighten your enjoyment of music and enable you to compose short pieces.
  2. Eight lessons
  3. Learn at your convenience and pace via 24/7 subsequent on demand access.
  4. Created, delivered and supported by our Master of Musicology graduate who is also a regular performer.
  5. Full support provided throughout and upon completion.
  6. Certificate and Accredited Diploma provided upon completion - excellent for CV’s.
  7. No prior knowledge necessary. Suitable for all experience levels.
  8. A community of like-minded students learning and creating together. .

Lesson 1: First Steps

What is music theory and why is it important? What is tonality? The first lesson explores the reasons why we use music theory and notation. Reading notation is the most effective way to understand what is happening in a piece of music but it can also be used to share musical ideas with others and to gain a deeper appreciation of more complex composition. Understanding the theoretical basis of music will also enhance your practical playing skills on any instrument and will enable you to begin notating your own music. The history and evolution of music notation is explored along with a brief look at other forms of musical representation from around the world.

This lesson also introduces notational conventions and how they are used in practice - staff, clef, key signature and pitch will be explained through practical examples that you can follow in a notation book.

Lesson 2: Notation and Beginning Scales

There are many ways to write music - notation software provides a fast method to begin notation and also offers a simple way to share experiments and compositions online. For this course we will use Musescore, a powerful and free notation tool that includes many of the features of more expensive software and everything needed to complete the course.

Lesson two introduces the concept of scale degrees and how they can be used to understand the scalar relationship of pitch. This concept will then be used to start exploring scales, beginning with the diatonic major scale - the basis of all western music from classical to jazz, hip hop to heavy metal. We will look how triad chords are derived from the scale - you will be taught to notate the triad in different positions on the staff and how these positions can be understood instrumentally.

Lesson 3: Intervals and Ear Training

All musical scales are created with intervals - the construction of minor and major scales depends on the sequence of intervals used and the relationship between them. You will be taught the difference between major and minor scales, how to recognise the intervallic organisation of pitch and how this organisation is used in different pieces of music. This lesson will also take a more practical approach to introduce you to scale intervals and how to recognise them - using musical examples you will be taught how to count and name intervals and recognise whether a particular chord or scale is major or minor.

Lesson 4: Chords and Chord Changes

Every major scale can used to create different chords - this lesson will teach you how to find the relative chords associated with every major scale and what the relationship between them means. Music occurs in time and this lesson will introduce you to the movement of chords horizontally along the staff. As music moves, it’s harmonic foundation changes - we will look at these harmonic changes and how they occur in different musical examples, from classical music to modern pop and rock. The most common chord changes in almost all kinds of western music are from the tonic to the fourth and to the fifth - this lesson will explain these concepts along with a new kind of chord - the major seventh.

Lesson 5: The Structure of Music

In this lesson we will look at broader structures of music - the development from verse to chorus, the chord changes that are used to create these structures and other kinds of developments in different styles of music will be explored. These structures will be examined and you will learn how to analyse different songs in order to determine the kind of chord changes that are occurring. We will look at how these chord changes are notated and how they can be used to compose new music. This class will also introduce you to the inversion of chords - the construction of triads in different positions.

Lesson 6: Composition

All the theoretical and practical skills gained throughout the course will be combined during this lesson to enable you to write a basic melody and chord progression that changes from major to minor or develops according to structural changes explored earlier in the course. Compositions can be uploaded to Musescore where we can listen to and evaluate each other’s work.

Concepts used for the analysis and composition of more complex music will also be discussed along with practical examples of this analysis and how it can be used in your own work.

Lesson 7: Keys and the Minor Scale

Up to this point almost all of the musical notation examples have been in ‘C’ - what does it mean to change key or to write music in another key?

This lesson will explain keys and key signatures, how to understand them and how to read them. Lesson seven also explores minor chords and minor scales in more depth. Major and minor scales form the basis for creating musical contrast in Western music. Major scales and chords tend to sound bright and happy whereas minor scales and chords tend to be considered serious or melancholic. This lesson explores these differences.

Lesson 8: New Complexity

In the last lesson we will explore more complex musical examples and how theoretical analysis is used to understand their harmonic structures and overall forms. The development of forms used in the composition of western classical music will be explored along with a more in depth look at sonata and symphony forms - the most popular large scale musical structures in use since the 18th century. Aspects of these complex forms and structures are also used in more basic formats in many other kinds of modern western music and we will explore how these have been utilised.

In the last lesson we will also look at different forms and structures used through the global practice of music beyond the confines of the western world.

All courses at Shaw Academy are independently accredited by an internationally recognised body for CPD purposes. This course is also accredited by the CPD Certification Service, which is an independent body that ensures qualifications are in line with the most current professional standards
  • Music Theory and its Historical Development
  • How to Notate Music
  • Practical Application of Theory
  • Keyboard and Guitar Skills
  • The Staff
  • Key Signatures
  • Intervals
  • Consonance and Dissonance
  • Octaves
  • Major and Minor Scales
  • Half Steps and Whole Steps
  • Triads
  • Chords and Chord Changes
  • Chord Inversions
  • Relative Chords, Fourths and Fifths
  • The Major Seventh
  • The Structure of Music
  • Strophic Form
  • Ternary and Binary Forms
  • Compositional Techniques
  • The Circle of Fifths
  • Harmonic Analysis
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