The words beginner music theory can strike fear into the hearts of many an amateur musician!
But really, learning music theory is just like learning anything else.
Nothing to be afraid of! Slow and steady, practice and repetition...
... and then knowledge starts to fit together in your head.
You start having "aha!" moments.
Suddenly you begin to see your piano music in a new light... and you start to recognize some of those chords you hear in your favorite song on the radio.
You begin to understand why you instinctively know the end of a song is coming.
By starting to learn about the theory of music, you'll start to be able to 'decode' what you hear, much like when you learn a foreign language.
I can't tell you how exciting it is to hear a song and know how to recreate a sound that you love.
Beginner Music Theory
Where to start? Online, of course.
Many music teachers and composers have put up beginner music theory lessons online. The fundamentals of music theory aren't difficult to learn -- and there's some good beginner lessons out there!
The best interactive online course for beginners is Ricci Adams' MusicTheory.net.
With nearly 40 lessons covering notes, staff, chords, inversions, and musical analysis, this is a great little theory course. The lessons go step-by-step and wait for you to click a button to proceed.
But the best part of this site, for me, is the Trainers section. In it, you'll find simple, interactive music trainers (music theory games) to help you learn your theory. You can choose to learn notes, intervals, keys, and triads.
The trainer keeps score, and you can alter settings as you wish (for instance, you may want to work on only treble clef notes or only bass clef notes).
There's even a keyboard trainer, where you can learn which key corresponds to which note! :-)
On the more advanced end, there's trainers for intervals, scales, and chords. Good stuff!
Want more online theory possibilities? Head over to the music theory online page.
Music Theory for Beginners
Good books to try...
Prefer paper to a computer screen? I understand. Want something free? I understand that, too!
The Free Music Theory Workbook from G Major Music Theory, by Dilbert DeBenedetti is extensive, free, and in easily downloadable (and printable) PDF format.
The great thing is that this isn't just a beginner music theory book -- it's a workbook. Each chapter has well-explained content along with exercises to help you really absorb and learn.
The workbook has 19 chapters that take you from the very beginning through chords and chord progressions. I highly recommend it!
How about some "real book" recommendations? Here you go!
A couple quick reviews...
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory by Michael Miller is a solid, basic theory book.
(No, it's not really you they're calling an idiot! :-)
This is a great, well-laid-out beginning theory book. Accessible and easy to understand, each chapter includes quizzes to test your knowledge.
I was surprised to find this book even has chapters on ear training and transcription!
It comes with a CD of listening examples and exercises -- this is terrific.
Combining visual learning with aural learning (listening) is very effective, and also makes the learning process more interesting and fun!
Witty, engaging, and covering all the beginner music theory basics, I highly recommend Music Theory for Practical People by Ed Roseman.
If you want a lighthearted, humorous approach to learning theory, this book is for you.
But don't let the cute illustrations and funky font mislead you -- this is a real theory book!
Geared slightly toward jazz & blues musicians (there's a chapter on the 12 Bar Blues), it's a great little book, accessible for ages from teens to adults.
Ready to Move On?
If you've worked through the basics of music theory, either with a teacher or through one of the books listed above, you might be ready for a bit more.
Check out the advanced music theory page.