Music Theory and Analysis Resource Library

Music Theory and Analysis Resource Library

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Music Theory and Analysis is the study of elements and structures in music and how they affect us as listeners and performers. Music Cognition is slowly becoming integrated with Music Theory and Analysis, as cognition is able to succinctly express musical perception and experience and what causes them.

Below are recommended resources for studying Music Theory and Analysis at any level.

Chord Progression Library
Core Music Theory and Analysis Websites

Core Music Theory and Analysis refers to the around 2 years of courses that undergraduates in music programs take. These courses cover topics from beginning to read sheet music, building chords, through functional harmony, chromatic borrowings and modal mixture, all the way through posttonal and atonal theories. These websites present around the first year’s worth of material and are great resources to supplement your Music Theory and Analysis studies.

musictheory.net | Free

This site is free and completely interactive. It has lessons and exercises for learning to read sheet music; identify scales, intervals, and chords; harmonic analysis; and ear training. They also have an iOS app called Tenuto. I send all my new piano students here with custom exercises on note reading that I’ve set up for them. It’s a perfect, free way to start learning theory.

Open Music Theory | Free

This site is also free and interactive. It goes a little deeper than musictheory.net and covers just about everything you could expect to learn in an undergraduate core theory course and more. What I really love about this site is that they cover more than just 18th century traditional theory. They have discussions on form in pop and rock music as well as poetry in music!

Music Theory for the 21st-Century Classroom | Free

Another free site designed that is probably the closest you can get to taking an actual college-level theory course. The units are arranged in the same way you’d see in a textbook. Robert Hutchinson, who wrote the site, didn’t limit the examples to common practice period music. There are also analyses of favorite pop tunes, so if you’re learning theory to write pop music, this is a great resource.

Image of logo for the Music Theory subreddit: an alien on a musical staff and a C clef

r/musictheory | Free

Reddit has so many helpful communities, so if you’re looking for help understanding a tricky music theory concept, check out the music theory subreddit! There are people of all levels (beginners–tenured music theory professors) who are happy to help. You can also pick up a lot of information just by browsing the discussions. It’s a rich community.

Emotion

This emotion wheel is a way of categorizing emotions into their action tendencies and valences (pleasant/unpleasant). Music tends to express specific emotions by imitating our actions and behaviors when we’re experiencing those specific emotions.

For example, we often “jump for joy”: we are physically active when we express joy. On the opposite quadrant, we can be “down in the dumps”: we are down and tend not to move when we are sad.

Get a full explanation in the full Music & Emotion Course or in the 1st lesson alone:

Musical Examples

One of the best ways to understand music theory concepts is by seeing it in real pieces of music. These websites categorize musical examples by theory topic, so you can see these concepts in action.

Musical Interval Examples

This list gives you popular musical examples to helpyou learn and remember specific musical intervals by sound. Some of my favorites are the Pink Panther theme, What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?, and The Star Wars Theme.

Music Theory Examples by Women | Free

One of the best ways to understand music theory concepts is by seeing it in real pieces of music. This website celebrates the work of women composers throughout history and has specific examples organized by topic (rhythm and meter, form, harmony, etc.) and sub-topic (compound meter, sonata form, 6/4 chords) and by time period. It’s a great, free resource for studying theory and bringing diversity into the field. If you want to support them, they also have a store with some really cool posters and stickers!

  • Organized by music theory concept and composer
  • Includes examples outside of traditional 18th century theory
  • Provides sheet music and recordings

Expanding the Music Theory Canon | Free

One of the best ways to understand music theory concepts is by seeing it in real pieces of music. This website’s goal is to place women and non-white composers alongside the current canon of white, men composers. This free resource is organized by topic and time period.

Music Theory Examples | Free

Again, one of the best ways to understand music theory concepts is by seeing it in real pieces of music. This website is run by Dr. Timothy Cutler from the Cleveland Institute of Music and contains a list of examples in common practice period music (pieces you’ll probably know), organized by topic. It’s a great, free resource to start developing your analytical skills in real music.

  • Good place to start
  • Limited composers and concepts
Modes
Functional Harmony Scale Step Color Code Tool for Musescore

A member (@andrew-brown) of the Introduction to Functional Harmony wrote a Musescore plugin that color codes each note based on its scale step in the key:

I made a MuseScore plugin that colors notes according to their location within the key (so the fourth will always be purple, for example, regardless of what key you’re in).

You can find the plugin here.

Installing plugins can be a bit tricky so I made a video for how to do it on a mac. If you’re on a Windows computer or if you get stuck, take a look at MuseScore’s Plugin instructions.

Enjoy!

Interactive Tonnetz — Neo-Riemannian Transformation Theory

Neo-Riemannian Transformation Theory is a way of looking at the harmonic progressions with more attention placed on the relationships between chord members (each, individual note in the chord) instead of between roots and the overall key. For that reason, it’s a helpful theory to use when analyzing music that uses triadic harmony (chords built from 3rds) and is sort of in a key and also sort of not in a key.

The Tonnetz is a geometrical representation of these relationships. Each triangle represents a triad, and the goal when creating chord progressions from the Tonnetz is to move from chord to chord with the least amount of movement. Change only one chord member when possible!

More on the theory coming soon!

The Tonnetz – One Key, Many Representations courtesy of the SMIR [Structural Music Information Research] project at the University of Strasbourg

Interactive Circle of Fifths

The Circle of Fifths is a graphic representation of 2 different harmonic ideas.

The first is that key centers that are a perfect 5th apart also are only different by one sharp or flat. G major has 1 sharp, D major has 2 sharps. Each key center and the key on either side of it on the Circle of Fifths are called Closely Related Keys (CRKs). You’ll also see that each key signature has 2 keys—a major one and a minor one—that share the same key signature. These are called relative major and minor keys.

The second idea that the Circle of Fifths shows is a relationship of chords that can occur a fifth apart. If you ignore the key signatures and think of each letter as a chord, you can create an endless cycle for a chord progression, called a Circle of Fifths progression. Or, if you want to stay in a single key, the key center and the chords on either side of it when you click on it will all sound good together.

Circle of Fifths Widget courtesy of Muted.io
Youtube and TikTok

Girl in Blue Music

Of course, I’m a little biased, but I do teach theory and aural skills in short chunks on my TikTok, so if you want to learn, it’s a great resource that I’m making just for you!

12Tone’s Building Blocks Playlist

This channel covers basics of music theory along with analysis videos of specific popular songs in a hand-drawn style, which I find fun to watch. The Building Blocks series introduces music theory by answering the question “What is a note?” and moves into how to read sheet music and turn it into audible music all the way through functional harmony and chord substitutions. It’s great for those who don’t want to slough through a textbook and enjoy just watching videos.

Music Theory and Analysis Articles

Reading full analyses of pieces of music is one of the best ways to learn about the field of Music Theory.

A good Music Theory and Analysis paper begins by presenting the theory that the author is using, followed by why they chose that theory over other theories, and then the analysis itself. Usually these types of papers show how a different way of thinking about the same piece of music leads to different meanings in the music.

Music Theory Online

A free, online Music Theory and Analysis Journal provided by the Society for Music Theory.

Explore free, peer-reviewed Music Theory and Analysis articles by renowned Music Theory scholars. Including styles you may not have thought would fit into a scholarly journal!

Jazz Piano

Free Jazz Lessons from Walk That Bass

Walk That Bass runs a helpful Youtube channel for jazz lovers. This free companion website has so many free resources for learning the fundamentals of jazz; to comping in specific styles (using voicings by Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, and others; to improv and chord progressions.

Recent Posts on Music Theory and Analysis

Common-Tone Modulation in “Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams

Common-Tone Modulation in “Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams

Common-tone modulation is the name of a specific way of changing keys in music, and if you want to change
Secondary Dominant Chords: Don’t Know Why by Jesse Harris

Secondary Dominant Chords: Don’t Know Why by Jesse Harris

How secondary dominant chords are used in “Don’t Know Why” by Jesse Harris to add color and forward momentum
Be Your Own Chord Progression Generator

Be Your Own Chord Progression Generator

Chord progressions describe the way the order of harmonies can influence the overall sound of a piece of music, and
How to Make Your Chord Progressions More Interesting

How to Make Your Chord Progressions More Interesting

Here’s how to make your chord progressions more interesting. One of the most freeing things you can learn as

Hi, I’m Amy!

I’m a PhD studying Music Theory & Cognition at Northwestern University in Chicago.

I love teaching, which is why you’ll find me teaching music theory on social media (@girlinbluemusic).

Music is something I believe everyone should have the chance to learn, so I’m doing everything I can to support affordable music education around the world.

In addition to all of this, I also love exploring Chicago, boxing, rock climbing, and just enjoying life. That’s an important part of being a musician too!

Even if you don’t purchase anything from me, I hope you got at least one big takeaway from this platform: the music you want to make is already in you.

You just need some help getting it out of you!

No matter what you choose to do, I’m here to help you become the best musician you can be!

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5 Popular Chord Progressions and How to Use Them

Start making your own music today with chord progressions from your favorite songs

E G♯ m C♯ m A

1 Progression, 3 Ways

Free

Musescore, Music xml, Midi, and Pdf file types included.

C♯ m G♯ m B E

1 Progression, 8 Ways3

Free

Musescore, Music xml, Midi, and Pdf file types included.

A♯dim C♯m F♯ B

1 Progression, 3 Ways

Free

Musescore, Music xml, Midi, and Pdf file types included.

A♭ E♭m G♭ D♭

1 Progression, 4 Ways

Free

Musescore, Music xml, Midi, and Pdf file types included.

C♯ m Bm E A

1 Progression, 3 Ways

Free

Musescore, Music xml, Midi, and Pdf file types included.

Am Em F C

1 Progression, 8 Ways

Free

Musescore, Music xml, Midi, and Pdf file types included.

Am Em F C

1 Progression, 8 Ways

Free

Musescore, Music xml, Midi, and Pdf file types included.