A new music theory course: online, flexible, and free

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A new music theory course: online, flexible, and free

Music theory matters

Music theory is an incredibly powerful way to understand how music works. It’s neither inaccessible nor irrelevant. Studying the inner workings of music only increases the awe and wonder that music evokes. Your appreciation for the mystery of music won’t be diminished by going deeper – it will only intensify, like putting on corrective lenses for the first time, or gazing into a microscope.

But in reality, it can be difficult to jump into theory. Teachers are hesitant to take time in private lessons for it, and musicians who are self-taught may find theory textbooks pedantic or intimidating.

That’s why I’m happy to announce a new online course designed to make the study of music theory more accessible. It’s a great way to learn at your own pace. You can start at the beginning, or you can jump to specific sections. The teaching format works well as a supplement to private music instruction— teachers can assign a section for the student to watch on his own, he can complete the worksheet, and together they can review the concept with minimal impact on lesson time.

Course description

There are 5 foundational chapters:

  1. Pitch
  2. Rhythm and meter
  3. Scales and keys
  4. Intervals
  5. Chords

You can think of these chapters as the basic building blocks of music. Then we’ll move on to “Chord paradigms and song structure” (the most important chapter in the course), where we use those foundational concepts to begin to truly analyze music.

Next, there will (hopefully, eventually) be a chapter that explores some of the rich possibilities beyond diatonic harmony, like secondary dominants, borrowed chords, and augmented 6th chords. And the final chapter will be a brief introduction to the wonderful world of counterpoint.

Each section has three parts:

  1. The Lesson video teaches the concept as a short lecture, with musical examples and annotations. The videos average 4 minutes in length, so it’s easy to watch a lesson again if you didn’t understand it the first time.
  2. It’s not enough to just understand the concepts presented— you need to be able to skillfully apply them yourself. So in the Guided practice video, we work through examples together. It’s a sort of intermediate step between concept and skill.
  3. Last is the Worksheet. This is where you apply the concepts to musical analysis on your own. There are answer keys to the worksheets available on request. This way, self-study folks can check their work, but teachers can ensure that students do the work themselves.


Under construction

The course is still in progress; the first five chapters are completed and posted, worksheets are posted for the first four, and chapter six is in process. Chapters seven and eight are still conceptual at this point.

The reason I’m announcing the course before it’s complete is so the existing chapters can be immediately useful to teachers and students. I think the course will work with younger students, but the pace will probably be slow. For that reason, I thought it best to make the course available now, in its current form.


…is always welcome. The modular format of this course makes it (relatively) easy to add or change as needed. I’m especially interested to receive feedback from teachers who are working with upper elementary or junior high students, to see whether the format and pace of this course are realistic for younger students. Of course, if you find any errors or think there are concepts that could be more clearly explained, please let me know.


You can access the course via the “Education” menu above, or by clicking on the graphic in this post. Enjoy!