How to Learn Music Theory

Learn Music TheoryWhat is the best way to learn music theory? YouTube videos? Books? From a tutor?

First you need to consider that different people have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning in general. Obviously someone with severe dyslexia might have a far better result with one-on-one instruction than they would with just books, and depending on a person’s knowledge of related things like math or something like a photographic memory, certain aspects of learning theory might be a breeze or a massively difficult effort to “get”.

But aside from all that, assuming that you have even average visual/spatial skills, when it comes to the melodic/harmonic stuff of scales, chords, modes etc. my best advice is to do your studying with the help of a piano. If you don’t have a place or money for real piano you can always find good alternative – electronic keyboard or digital piano (such as Korg SV1). It’s the easiest instrument for making that connection between the actual sounds and their mathematical relationships to each other because it’s all laid out in even steps that run uninterrupted in a linear fashion, unlike other instruments where fingerings change as you move up a scale and might not visually make sense if you use them for reference.

College of music

Good way to learning music theory is to register for courses from a reputable college of music and graduate with a degree if you’re interested enough. One excellent college of music is the University of Chicago’s Department of Music. Although the best method, it obviously has the long learning curve and isn’t realistic option for most of the people, especially if music is just a hobby.

Alternative to this is taking piano classes. Actual classes and tutoring is the standard way and works pretty well. Maybe it’s not the most cost/time effective, but it’s definitely the first option to consider.

Learn music theory online

You can find a lot of music resources online and the best thing is – most of them are free. Just go to YouTube and similar video sites and type “music theory” or something similar. It may be easier and fumier then reading books.

However, you often don’t know where to start and what to look for. This is where online lessons can be helpful. Some basic staff can be found here. Also,  Ricci Adams has some more advanced free lessons that will help you getting start.

Self study with books

If you are more interested in self study but want to learn in some order – reading music theory books may be a better option. There are many interesting books, some are created for beginners while the others are for more advanced users (e.g. “Barron’s AP Music Theory” by Nancy Scoggin).

“Music Theory Made Easy” by David Harp will get you a good start. From that book you can summarize a whole lot of music theory in a single typewritten page. Then a page for every major scale, one for every minor scale, etc. It makes transposing a lot easier.

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