Online learning is a great way to learn new skills and there are hundreds of online courses that will let you develop your skills whether you are a complete novice or a musician looking to hone your skills. In this blog, we’ll look at music theory courses and what they can offer for a musician, at any level.

Music theory – What is it?

The easiest way of thinking about music theory is to think of it as a language. Everyone can hear music, but unless you know the words you won’t be able to describe it accurately. This is where music theory comes in. Music theory helps us to understand the tones and rhythms of music so that we can describe what it’s doing. If you can read a musical score, you will be able to translate it from markings on a piece of paper to music.


Why should I learn music theory?

There are thousands of excellent musicians who have never studied theory, and for them, it doesn’t make a difference. Remember music theory is a formalised way of understanding what is happening in music using standardised terminology. It makes discussions with other musicians easier because you have a standardised way of thinking about how music works.


What would I learn?

There are several elements that make up music theory. These are:

  • Pitch – How high or low a tone is
  • Scales and Modes – Using key signatures and learning relationships between notes
  • Consonance and dissonance – This is a subjective perceptual part of music based on tension and how music blends or clashes
  • Rhythm – How music works sequentially and where notes sit in time
  • Melody – Melody is a series of tones in succession that creates what is commonly known as the tune
  • Chords – How to put various tones together in groups
  • Harmony – How chords are put together to create chord progressions and the rules that govern them
  • Timbre – What makes tones have their distinct tonal character
  • Dynamics – How loud or quietly you play a tone
  • Articulation – How to lengthen or shorten notes for effect within the structure of written music
  • Texture – How melody, rhythm and harmony combine to create an overall effect
  • Form – How music is structured in terms of arrangement and composition
  • Expression – How a combination of music effects can transcend the music written on the page to become emotionally involving for the listener
  • Notation – How to write a representation of a musical idea onto a page for other musicians to translate it


All of these aspects are part of what we call music theory. With so much to learn an online course can be extremely useful. You can watch lectures, listen to examples and go at your own pace, meaning you can repeat parts your not sure of or breeze through parts you feel comfortable with. There’s no class to keep up with, there’s no having to listen to other people’s questions, there’s just you, the resources and how much you’re willing to learn. If you’re a musician considering taking an online course on music theory, there are few ways to learn that are more effective.

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