Many people have at least somewhat of a grasp on the very basics of music theory. You might have played an instrument in a middle school band, taken piano lessons when you were 5, just have a general idea from some research out of sheer curiosity, or maybe you’re a total pro (in which case you probably don’t have any reason to be reading this article). Regardless of where your musical origins lie, the one thing that is certain is that you’ve probably come here to learn more. There are countless online resources, text books, beginning essential elements books, etc., but one area that I see people often get caught up in, is the amount of information being thrown at them all at once. Just like mathematics, having a good understanding of the basic concepts and “formulas” so to speak, is crucial to advancing to more complex topics. Don’t let all of this intimidate you though; there are many affordable and fun ways of beginning, without having to buy textbooks or private lessons, that teach you the ways of music theory in an orderly and understandable fashion. It all just comes down to time and dedication (depending on how serious you want to be, because remember this is supposed to be enjoyable).
InspirAspir: A Beginner’s Guide to Music Theory
InspAspir is a Youtube Channel that has uploaded a plethora of videos on Music Theory, Composition, and Production. I listed “A Beginner’s Guide to Music Theory” at the top, as it is a great introductory video. The way he teaches is insightful and descriptive, while at the same time also being entertaining to watch.
Musictheory.net is an interactive website with exercises, lessons, and tools. It’s often used by teachers as a guideline for in-person classes, but could easily be just as useful for casual practice and individual instruction. The website’s structure is not very organised in terms of offering one lesson after the next, but this will make it a lot easier to go back and review old concepts to help grasp new ones.
This is a free app that is built to aid in ear training specifically, however it also provides lessons in theory, and is very good at catering to all levels of experience from novice to beginner. The first thing it will ask you when first opened is what instrument you want the lessons to correlate to, and then what level you consider yourself to be at, branching out into different lessons and exercises from there.
Ableton’s Interactive Music Learning Course:
This course was created specifically for beginners, with interactive and in depth instruction. It not only teaches you about theory, but also includes several different elements of composition as well. After completing the courses provided on the website it introduces you to its
“Playground Feature”, where you can experiment with different music-making tools.
Last but not least, we have Lightnote. This is another interactive website, somewhat similar to Ableton’s, but structured quite differently. The lessons in this program come in a more structured order, pacing the information well, and giving you time to really process everything. It also goes over many of the common questions that beginners have, and has a great sense of which topics will come easier than others.