Music Theory Online: Complete Overview

music theory

Music theory involves knowing the various elements involved in the making of music, be it rhythm, melody, harmony, dynamics etc.

Introduction

If you’re on this page, I’m sure you must be looking for some resources which will help you learn music theory online.

There are plenty of music books available to teach you that, but before you start buying books, you can take a look at the basic (yet important) concepts that are the building blocks for more advanced things. And the good thing is that its available online, right here. You will find a lot of information on music theory, which will take you from the beginning to the more advanced concepts.

What is Music Theory?

Unlike physics, where we would stress more on frequencies and waveforms of sound, here the aim is to study the way music is read and written. The way music is interpreted forms a major part of this study.

  • It involves knowing the various elements that goes in the creation of music, be it rhythm, melody, harmony, dynamics, musical forms, etc.
  • It means knowing what notes work together and sounds pleasing together, as well as knowing the notes that create tension and dissonance when played together.
  • You also learn how to go about giving a structure or form to a song.

Learning more about these elements of music will contribute greatly in your growth as a musician!

Here’s what Wikipedia says: Music theory seeks to identify patterns and structures in composers’ techniques across or within genres, styles, or historical periods. In a grand sense, it analyzes the fundamental parameters or elements of music—rhythm, harmony (harmonic function), melody, structure, form, texture, etc. Broadly, music theory may include any statement, belief, or conception of or about music.

Though the focus is on learning piano music theory, most of the things discussed here will apply to any other musical instrument.

Advantages Of Learning Music Theory Online

You know that music theory involves learning the elements involved in the making of music, and that includes knowing about rhythm, melody, harmony, dynamics and other aspects.

The most important benefit is that you can easily get a very good idea of the subject without having to spend a single penny.

You can easily understand most of the concepts by going through the sites that have been listed below. Once you have an idea of what needs to be learnt, you can ask the right questions before approaching a teacher or you can buy books that concentrates on topics you would like to explore further.

In either case, you would be able take the next steps with confidence!

  1. Become a better performer.
  2. Good understanding of harmony.
  3. Become a better arranger
  4. Have more options as a musician.


Watch: Top reasons to learn Music Theory.

Music Theory – Things To Learn

Here is a brief overview of the various elements of music theory; some key topics that you will need to learn.

Notes & Pitches
Notes on Piano
Sound is nothing but vibrations produced in air. The frequency of the vibration is known as a Pitch. The greater the frequency, the higher sounding the pitch!

The various pitches are then named as musical notes. It is these musical notes that we need to know and recognize to be able to play any musical instrument.

The seven musical notes are: A B C D E F G.
Besides these seven notes, there are accidentals which sharpen or flatten these seven basic notes.

Melody
Melody is the tune of any song or piece… the part that we usually hum of our favorite songs. It is a series of notes that is played in succession.

To create a piece, a composer would normally start using some melody notes and then build upon it or take some chord progression and then build upon it.

To create a musical piece/melody, the composer would use elements like: the musical notes, their durations, dynamics, and selection of various musical instruments.

Scales, Modes
Piano Scales
The various notes can be arranged into different scales and modes. A scale is nothing but the relationship of the various pitches in some particular order.

The different scales can be played in various keys, 12 different keys to be precise.

Composers use various keys to see how it affects the overall song. If played on any musical instrument, a song in scale C may sound similar to what it may sound on scale G… but when you here the complete arrangement of the song, it may sound better in certain scales.

Rhythm
Rhythm means arranging the musical notes in time. This is where you will need to learn about time signatures.

The time signature or meter basically maintains a regular pulse throughout the song; it tells you what beat you need to maintain for your song.

I am sure you would recognize a song which has a waltz rhythm – the typical 1 2 3, 1 2 3 beat. Besides the waltz, the other common rhythm is the 4/4 time. You will find most of the songs based on these rhythms.

Harmony (chord progressions)
Here you will need to learn how to move from one chord to the other. The different chords in a scale are identified using Roman Numerals such as I, II, III, IV, V, VI and VII.

Chord progression means moving from one chord to the other to give the desired effect.

Some of the common chord progressions that are used in musical pieces/songs:
V – I
II – V – I
IV – V – I


Piano Chords

Beginner Music Theory – Good Books

Beginner Music Theory involves learning the notes, a bit of chords, and knowing about time signatures. This is what you should know to be able to start playing simple songs. There is nothing to feel overwhelmed about! Once you have covered these topics, you are ready to move ahead.

Go in for small wins initially. Practice the beginner lessons and play simple songs; it will give you lots of confidence.

Do you prefer to learn from books? Here is a list of recommended books!

  • Teaching Little Fingers to Play: A Book for the Earliest Beginner by John Thompson – Wonderful first piano book for kids!
  • Piano & Keyboard All-in-one for Dummies by Blake Neely – Gives you a good overview on Piano/Keyboards. It is suited more for adults than for kids
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory Book by Michael Miller. Basic theory book! comes with a CD which has listening examples and exercises
  • Music Theory for Practical People by Ed Roseman. It is Witty and covers all the beginner music theory basics. Can be used by all – from teens to adults
  • Music Theory – Go Beyond The Basics

    Though these are the important topics, you can choose to learn much more in piano music theory.

    There are so many chords to learn, to be played in various scales. Besides, harmonizing, chord progressions and improvisations can take some time to learn as there are numerous ways in which you can move from one chord to another.

    At the same time, you don’t have to jump into everything at one go; you can build gradually. Knowing these topics will help you to lay the foundation, based on which you can go on to learn more complex things.


    You need to know how to read music so that you can appreciate music theory better.
    Here’s a FREE Music Theory Tutorial.

    Recommended Books

    There are several good books on music theory out there. Here are the best music theory books.

    Additional Music Theory Resources
    Advanced Music Theory!
    Learning with Music Theory Games!

    Getting Started

    The topics discussed here would give you a good understanding about music theory in general.

    The various elements involved in the making of music like… rhythm, melody, harmony, dynamics etc. are the key ingredients that make a complete piece of music.

    I think you have plenty of resources to make a start on your own. Just start learning without any hesitation!

    Here are some more music theory resources and lessons.

    Ready to Take Off?

    Learning music theory involves knowing about rhythm, melody, harmony, dynamics and other aspects involved in creating music.

    You can begin with learning the musical notes, some chords, and time signatures as part of beginner music theory.

    Six months down the line, if you have been practicing regularly with the help of a teacher, or even on your own, you might be ready to take on some of the more challenging topics/lessons.

    Again, the net would be a better place to start with! Have a look at the Advanced music theory page.

    Have a question? Let me know! I will try to help you out!

    Good Sites For Reference
    To take the first steps in Beginner Music Theory, spend some time online, its the best place to look initially. You will find lot of online resources for beginner music theory lessons. Some of the better ones are listed here.

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