Music Theory and Analysis

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Music theory is the study of elements and structures in music and how they affect us as listeners and performers. It is becoming more and more combined with studies of music cognition, as cognition is able to succinctly express musical perception and experience and what causes them.

Below are recommended resources for studying music theory at any level.

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5 of Chopin’s Easier Pieces for Piano

Get started playing Chopin today with tutorials for 5 of his easier pieces

Play by Ear: How to Learn Songs by Ear

Only a few people are actually born with the skill to just hear a song and play it. The rest of us need tools to help us! This mini-course gives you the tools you need to play by ear in as few as 10 days.
how to read sheet music

How to Read Sheet Music

Learn how to read sheet music and the logic behind it in this free course, so you can approach any music or any kind of notation with confidence.
Interactive Websites | 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 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.

Musical Examples

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

EarMaster’s List of Musical Interval Examples | Free

This list gives you popular musical examples to helpyou learn and remember specific musical intervals by sound. Some of my favorites are the Piank 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!

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.

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.

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