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Music Theory

Music theory is the study of how and why music works the way it does, and how musical structures have changed throughout history.

All musicians, regardless of their specific discipline, must understand how music is organized and how it works. I think of this like the difference between knowing how to drive a car and knowing how to fix a car. The driver is only functional as long as everything is working properly; the mechanic can both fix and drive the car. The everyday human being does not need to look "under the hood" to appreciate the music they encounter, but musicians are specialists and need that deeper understanding (whether intellectual or intuitive; preferably both) to be truly effective in their work and bring their music to life.

This portion of the site features materials I have used in my music theory teaching - handouts, listening examples, and expanations of concepts. I've made them available to the public to help those looking to deepen their understanding of music. You may use anything you find here, but please credit me as the author, and do not modify anthing without my consent. Also, please feel free to contact me with any questions - I am happy to help. Thank you, and enjoy!

Click a button from the list below to go to the page for that class:

Class List

This introductory class covers the basic elements of music: notation of pitch and rhythm, intervals, scales, keys, and triads.

Theory I covers diatonic harmonic analysis, four-part writing and figured bass.

Theory II introduces basic chromaticism (secondary harmony and altered predominants), modal mixture and modulation by pivot chord.

Theory III deals with the advanced chromatic techniques that enriched the music of the 19th century, including more-chromatic forms of modulation.

Theory IV tackles the challenging landscape of 20th-century harmony, including composing short pieces in several modern styles.

When students finish an exam early, I ask them to draw me a music theory picture. Here are some of my favorites:

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