5 Best Sites to Learn the Basics of Music Theory

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Music makes the world go around, but do you actually know what it is? It’s one thing to say you enjoy music because you like listening to a lot of songs. It’s a whole different thing to really understand that music.

If you love music and don’t know music theory, you’re doing yourself a great disservice. The more you understand the basics, the more you will appreciate your favorite songs and artists. It’s like understanding the meaning of songs


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. Do yourself a favor and use one of these great sites to learn a little bit more about what makes music what it is.

If you know nothing about music theory, this is the place to start. Ableton, a maker of musical instruments and a community for artists, created this course specifically for beginners.

learn music theory ableton

The course takes you step by step through the different stages of making music. It’ll teach you the differences between drums, bass, chords, and melodies, and teach you the basics of beats, notes, and scales. The whole exercise is interactive


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, which is great since you are learning by doing. Once you finish with the course, you can go on to advanced topics like major and minor scales, triads, and so on.

Ableton’s course is special for how easy to understand it is, and how quickly you will pick up the nuances of music theory. And all you need is a web browser, nothing more.

Learning music is not just about what you read, it’s also about what you see. LightNote is the most beautiful site to teach you the basics.

learn music theory lightnote

It’s a step-by-step tutorial to understand sound waves, harmony, scales, chords, and keys. The entire course is presented like an FAQ, answering the common questions that a beginner will have. For example, while teaching harmony, it plays two pieces of music and asks why one sounds good while the other bad. And then it explains the answer, followed by a short test to see if you got it.

LightNote is not as in-depth as Ableton’s course is, but it is much easier for a newbie. There are eight free courses right now, with a few more that you need to pay for.

YouTube has plenty of channels to learn instruments like drums


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. But musician Michael New is my favorite for his innovative style. New uses the combination of a MIDI keyboard and a whiteboard to great effect.

He plays notes on the keyboard, and writes what he is explaining on the whiteboard. As the lesson continues, the whiteboard has the information you’ll always need in that lesson, perfectly complementing the keyboard it sits above. As far as visually learning music goes, there’s nothing better I have seen.

You should probably start with the Music Theory Fundamentals playlist, but check out the rest of the channel too. There’s plenty of great stuff, especially the “How Rhythm Works” playlist.

Even some accomplished musicians can’t read sheet music


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. What are those weird looking things anyway? Kevin Meixner is here to teach you all about it in a single web page.

That’s right, Meixner’s tutorial is so effective and thorough that he doesn’t need to drone on for pages upon pages. Every lesson comes with an audio file to better understand what he is talking about. You’ll learn everything from note durations to time signatures, and how to read or write it.

Take your time with Meixner’s lessons, even though it’s only one page. And once you’re done, try out his friend Jason Silver’s add-on tutorial on the basics of counting rhythm with sheet music. After that, test your new music sheet reading skills at Notation Training.

One of the oldest websites in this genre, Music Theory has taught millions of people, from beginners to pros. Divided into three sections, it caters to everything you’ll need.

learn music theory

Lessons is all about learning music theory. It covers basics, rhythm and meter, scales and key signatures, intervals, chords, diatonic chords, chord progressions, and neapolitan chords. It’s almost a textbook for music theory.

Exercises makes you identify notes, chords, intervals, and signatures. It also has an excellent “ear training” section to listen to a sound and figure out the note, interval, scale, or chord. Tools has calculators for all types of musical needs, like a matrix calculator or a tempo tapper.

And if that’s not enough, then there are free courses to learn music theory


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as well.

Is Music Theory Necessary to Love Music?

I would consider myself someone who loves music, and is particular about which songs he listens to. But I had little to no idea of music theory, and found that learning the basics greatly improved how much I appreciated what I was listening to.

Do you think it’s necessary to learn music theory to call yourself a music lover?

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