If you've been a piano player for a while, and are playing intermediate-level music, you probably know all about music notation, scales, and key signatures.
You know your intervals and understand basic chords.
You can sit down with a piece of unfamiliar music and learn to play it on your own.
Maybe you're even an advanced musician -- you've done some analysis of the music you play, even some composing.
It's time to dig deeper into advanced music theory concepts.
Understanding more about the music you play will make you a better musician and piano player.
If you've got your sights set on writing music, then advanced music theory will help you take those songs in your head and put them on paper.
Ready? Let's go!
Advanced Music TheoryFree, Online Music Theory Course
Advanced music theory usually goes hand-in-hand with advanced music study - with a teacher.
And it's what I recommend. There's no substitute for the interaction and correction you get with a teacher.
That said, here are some resources that you can dig into.
Music Theory and History Online
Start here: Music Theory and History Online by Dr. Brian Blood.
This is the best, most comprehensive music theory course available online for free. Hands down.
44 lessons take you from beginning music theory through to music history, composition and orchestration. There's also a music dictionary and composer biographies. Here's the content list:
Music Theory (Lessons 1-34)
- Staff, Clefs, & Pitch Notation
- Notes & Rests
- Measures & Bars
- Time Signatures & Meter
- The Keyboard
- Small Intervals
- Major Scales
- Key Signatures & Accidentals
- Minor Scales
- Chromatic Scales
- Inversion of Intervals
- Other Clefs
- Note Groupings
- Triads & Chords
- Chords in Detail
- Figured Bass
- Rhythmic Variety
- Phrasing & Articulation
- Chords & Cadences
- Notes, Harmonies & Scales
- Score Formats
- Pitch, Temperament & Timbre
- Musical Instrument Fingering Charts
- Musical Instrument Ranges & Names
- Guitar Tablature & Notation
- Key Centres
- Words & Music
- Drums & Drumming
Music History (Lessons 35-40)
- Music before the 16th Century
- Music of the 16th Century
- Music of the 17th Century
- Music of the 18th Century
- Music of the 19th Century
- Music of the 20th Century
Composition, Orchestration, etc. (Lessons 41-44)
- Practical Guide to Composition
- Artistic Orchestration
- Ear Tests and Drills
- Jazz Improvisation Almanac by Marc Sabatella
Each lesson consists of several sections, complete with musical examples for you to listen to. Each lesson's sections load on one page, so you could easily print the lessons to make notes and keep for reference.
Norton Anthology of Western Music
If you'd like a more "textbook" approach to advanced music theory, I can highly recommend the Norton Anthology of Western Music. These texts and recordings are what I studied from in college, and they will give you a complete knowledge of music history and how music has developed through the ages.
It's fascinating and you'll understand much more about how music theory and our current system of music notation developed.
An anthology is a collection, and this 2-volume series is a college-level text (make sure to get both the books and the recordings). They are definitely pricey, but a very worthwhile addition to any musician's bookshelf.
Here are the books, volumes 1 and 2: The full recordings for all the music in the anthologies:
No, this isn't technically a theory text -- so why do I recommend it?
In advanced theory classes at the college level, you would spend a lot of time in musical analysis. That means you'd be looking at music scores, breaking down the chord progressions, the use of harmony and melody, musical form... really understanding how the music fits together piece by piece.
Musical analysis is one of the best tools to get your head around advanced theory: musical forms, composition, melody and harmony, atonal music, alternate scales.
In addition, learning how music developed and how different composers put the pieces together to form the sounds we recognize today is fascinating -- and challenging.
And you may discover composers or styles of music that you love, and can use even if you're a contemporary musician.
Advanced Music Theory. Learn With a Teacher
I mentioned earlier that a teacher's help is invaluable as you get into advanced music study. It's true -- if you're starting composition, or musical analysis, you'll need someone to check your work and provide feedback, as well as correcting errors. The right teacher can also help motivate you!
There are a couple of options for you as far as further study.
A private teacher can work with you to learn music theory, just as if you were taking a private piano lesson, for example. Even small towns usually have a wide array of music teachers... many of them have advanced theory training.
See if any local teachers specifically advertise theory training; if not, call and ask!
A college music theory class
A college music theory class will really get you into advanced theory. For instance, Berklee College of Music in Boston offers a full slate of music theory courses online, from beginning to advanced, including ear training and harmony.
Many local community colleges have a music program, and may even have an adult-education music theory class. However, most universities will allow adults to audit classes (also called "non-credit." You can get the benefit of a classroom situation without the pressure.
I wish you the best in your advanced studies!