Understanding Basic Music Theory
first Edition

Understanding Basic Music Theory

by Catherine Schmidt-Jones

This book introduces the basic concepts and terms needed to discuss melody and harmony. It is intended for teens or adults with no background in music theory but some familiarity with reading common notation and playing an instrument (or singing). Concepts covered include interval, major and minor keys and scales, triads and chords in addition to a review of common notation and an introduction to the physics behind music theory, as well as the basic concepts of music theory and a few slightly advanced but very useful topics, such as transposition.

Understanding Basic Music Theory
Course Introduction
1. Notation
1.1. Pitch
1.2. Time
1.3. Style
2. Definitions
2.1. Rhythm
2.2. Timbre
2.3. Melody
2.4. Texture
2.5. Harmony
2.6. Counterpoint
2.7. Range
2.8. Classifying Music
3. The Physical Basis
3.1. Acoustics for Music Theory
3.2. Standing Waves and Musical Instruments
3.3. Harmonic Series I: Timbre and Octaves
4. Notes and Scales
4.1. Octaves and the Major-Minor Tonal System
4.2. Half Steps and Whole Steps
4.3. Major Keys and Scales
4.4. Minor Keys and Scales
4.5. Interval
4.6. Harmonic Series II: Harmonics, Intervals, and Instruments
4.7. The Circle of Fifths
4.8. Scales that aren't Major or Minor
5. Harmony and Form
5.1. Triads
5.2. Naming Triads
5.3. Consonance and Dissonance
5.4. Beyond Triads: Naming Other Chords
5.5. Beginning Harmonic Analysis
5.6. Cadence
5.7. Form
6. Challenges
6.1. Ear Training
6.2. Tuning Systems
6.3. Modes and Ragas
6.4. Transposition: Changing Keys
7. Appendix A. Attributions

Catherine Schmidt-Jones graduated from Rice University in 1985, completing a BA in chemistry, a BA in music and a Master of Music in French horn performance.

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

textbook content produced by Catherine Schmidt-Jones is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0 license.

Under this license, any user of this textbook or the textbook contents herein must provide proper attribution as follows:

The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the creative commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University. For questions regarding this license, please contact support@openstax.org.

  • If you use this textbook as a bibliographic reference, then you should cite it as follows:

    Catherine Schmidt-Jones, Understanding Basic Music Theory. OpenStax CNX.  November 13, 2013. http://cnx.org/contents/2ad74b7b-a72f-42a9-a31b-7e75542e54bd@3.74.

  • If you redistribute this textbook in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution: 
    Download for free at http://cnx.org/contents/2ad74b7b-a72f-42a9-a31b-7e75542e54bd@3.74.
  • If you redistribute part of this textbook, then you must retain in every digital format page view (including but not limited to EPUB, PDF, and HTML) and on every physical printed page the following attribution:
    Download for free at http://cnx.org/contents/2ad74b7b-a72f-42a9-a31b-7e75542e54bd@3.74

Printed version

Paperback is available on  Lulu.com.

The author(s) of this volume are not affiliated in any manner with LiveCarta.com.