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.
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8 Interactive Lessons
8 hours +
Module I - Introduction
Weekly Assignments + Fun Quizzes
If you miss a lesson, you can always view the recordings later.
What is music theory and why is it important? What is tonality? This 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.
Notation and Beginning Scales
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.
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 learn 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.
Chords and Chord Changes
Every major scale can be 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.
The Structure of Music
Here 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.
All the theoretical and practical skills gained throughout the course will be combined during this lesson. This will 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. 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.
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 7 also explores minor chords and minor scales in more depth. 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.
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. We will also look at different forms and structures used through the global practice of music beyond the confines of the western world.
Module II -
This lesson explains the differences and similarities between harmony and melody; how they interact and how they are used to create musical unity as well as musical contrast. Harmony can be used to accompany a melody through the arrangements of chords but harmony can also be used to add texture and variety to the melody itself. Understanding this interaction between harmony and melody is an important part of understanding the fundamentals of music.
Music is composed by using large scale forms (such as verse-chorus form) and these forms are constructed with smaller arrangements, such as phrases, periods and motives. This lesson will teach you how to recognise these aspects of music and how you can apply these concepts to gain a deeper understanding of musical form. The use of phrases, periods and motives are also effective tools for composing music and writing songs.
Rhythm is an integral aspect of music; this lesson explores the notation of different rhythms and how they are used in different kinds of music. Rhythm is used to describe many things - our movement as we dance, run or walk - the rhythms of our bodies, heart beats and movement synchronised - the rhythms of the seasons, the tides and the cycles of celestial bodies. This lesson will also introduce you to concepts for understanding rhythm at a fundamental level.
The second lesson on rhythm explores more complex rhythmic structures such as syncopation, dotted notes and polyrhythms. The use of polyrhythms is explored in different forms of music - from African Mbira music to Prog Rock and modern popular music. Understanding rhythm means understanding the fundamental structure of music and this lesson teaches you how to understand and appreciate these structures in different kinds of music.
Module III -
This lesson explores a deeper analysis of keys and key signatures and teaches the circle of fifths; what it means and how to use it. The circle of fifths is a system that describes the relationship between chords. This lesson explores what the circle of fifths means and how it can be utilised as a part of your theoretical practice but also as a practical compositional aid. This lesson will also introduce the chromatic scale and a more in depth guide to key signatures, how to understand them and how to write them.
Modulation is the change from one key to another within the same piece of music; it provides a means for creating interest and variety or even radical change in a piece of music without sacrificing the pieces overall unity. The theoretical aspects of modulation are explored along with the ways that it is achieved through the use of direct modulation, parallel modulation and pivot chords. This lesson also explores the use of modulation in different styles and genres of music.
Lesson seven explores the relative minor and the minor scale. Just as there are triads associated with the notes of the major scale there are similar triads associated with minor scales. This lesson explains how the interval organisation of scales creates the conditions necessary for the relative minor to exist alongside every major scale. Lesson seven also explores advanced intervals - major and minor sixths and sevenths.
While the major and minor diatonic scales are the most prevalent and the basis for much of Western music there are also many more. This lesson explores the most popular scales used in different styles of music - the blues scale, major and minor pentatonic scales and the chromatic scale. This lesson also introduces and explains the concept of modes; how they are notated and used in composition and the different kinds of music that modes are used in.
Module IV -
In lesson nine we explore different compositional approaches; how music composition has changed through time and in different places and through the interaction of different people as well as different musical cultures. Composition can be understood as a technical process with the utilisation of theoretical concepts and practices but it is also a part of wider social processes.
The beginner and advanced music theory courses are focused on "Western" music theory and at the core of this theory is the concept of 'tension and release.' This fundamental aspect of music is explored in depth during the last lesson and compared with other musical approaches from around the world.
I am now half way through introduction to music theory and am really enjoying it. Its not easy for me but i am learning lots and its fun.
Loved the Music theory course. Finally understand the theory of music.
Taking music course challenging but great really enjoying it thanks
I am learning music.My tutor is Donal Fullam.