Why learn Music Theory?

Music Theory is a common language used by musicians to communicate ideas.

As with all languages, you can learn progressively and you don't have to know everything.

Focus on what you find helpful to formulate your musical thoughts and communicate to fellow musicians.

  • Pitch
  • Pitch is a property that allows sounds to be ordered from lowest to highest.

  • Musical Distance
  • The most common distances between two pitches, are:

    • H - Half Step (Semitone)
    • W - Whole Step (Whole tone)
    • Octave - The distance between two notes that are either half or double the pitch of one another (C1-C2 etc.)
  • Accidentals
  • In music, an accidental is an operator applied to notes in a scale, to obtain other notes, that are not in that scale.

    The two most common accidental signs are:

    • ♯ (Sharp) - raises the pitch of a note one semitone
    • ♭ (Flat) - lowers the pitch of a note one semitone
  • Scales
  • The arrangement of notes by pitch, from lowest to highest (ascending) or highest to lowest (descending) is called a scale.

    Western music divides the octave into a series of 12 notes, called the Chromatic Scale.

    By selecting certain notes from the Chromatic Scale, other types of scales can be obtained. Imagine climbing a stair and selectively skipping certain steps.

    The simplest example of a Major Scale is C Major. This scale doesn't contain any sharps or flats.

  • Rhythm
  • Rhythm is the arrangement of notes over time. Imagine playing a note every tick of a clock.

    Not only sound, but also silence or pause is an important aspect of rhythm. Imagine playing a note every two ticks of the clock.

  • Melody
  • Melody is the arrangement of a selection of notes in a certain manner, to produce or reflect certain emotions. It can provide a feeling of tension, then resolve to a calming sound.

  • Chord
  • A chord is a set of three or more notes situated at certain distances from each other, that they sound good together.

    Notes of a chord may be played simultaneously (imagine hitting three piano keys, or picking/strumming three guitar strings at the same time) or after each other (arpeggios).

  • Harmony
  • Similar to how melody is the arrangement of notes in a way that can seem to make sense, or create certain feelings, harmony refers to a selection of chords that can be arranged in a senseful way.