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The 5 Best Sites to Learn the Basics of Music Theory

Mihir Patkar Updated 28-05-2020

Music makes the world go around, but do you actually know what it is? To really understand music, here are some of the best ways to learn music theory online for free.

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If you love music but you never learned 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.

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

1. Ableton’s Interactive “Learning Music” Course

Ableton's Learning Music interactive online course is a free way for beginners to learn about music theory

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 to learn music theory for free.

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.

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The whole exercise is interactive, 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 noteworthy for how easy to understand it is, and how quickly you will learn the nuances of music theory. And all you need is a web browser, nothing more.

2. LightNote, the Most Gorgeous Site to Learn Music

Lightnote is a beautiful web app to learn the basics of music theory

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

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.

3. Michael New’s YouTube Lessons

Musician Michael New has an innovative style to give free music theory lessons on YouTube. 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 you will see on the internet.

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.

4. The Basics of Reading Sheet Music

Learn how to read sheet music online with Kevin Meixner's free tutorial

Even some accomplished musicians can’t read sheet music. What are those weird looking things anyway? Kevin Meixner is here to teach you all about it in a single web page at ReadSheetMusic.info.

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.

5. Music Theory’s Lessons and Exercises

MusicTheory.net is one of the oldest and best websites to learn music theory online for free

One of the oldest and easiest music learning websites The BIG List of the Easiest Music Learning Websites Today You have a love for music but you just don’t know where to begin. This big list of sites is the perfect start to learn music. Read More , MusicTheory.net has taught millions of people, from beginners to pros. Divided into three sections, it caters to everything you’ll need.

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 and one of the best ways to learn music theory.

Exercises make 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 have calculators for all types of musical needs, like a matrix calculator or a tempo tapper.

Is Music Theory Necessary to Love Music?

Music is primal, and you don’t need to know music theory to love a song. However, you’ll find that learning music theory greatly improves how much you appreciated what you are listening to. You’ll gain a whole new understanding of why a song you liked is that awesome.

Apart from learning music theory, the internet is also happy to teach you how to play music. From no-instrument things like singing and beatboxing to strumming the guitar, check out these musical skills you can learn online for free, with or without instruments 5 Musical Skills You Can Learn Online for Free, With or Without Instruments The internet has free music lessons for all types of things. And you can start learning them with or even without an instrument. Read More .

Related topics: Cool Web Apps, Music Production, Musical Instrument.

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  1. Kitty Brazelton
    January 25, 2018 at 12:46 am

    Nah.

  2. Steve Suttles
    June 13, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Not exactly. I think if you ARE a music lover, you will eventually be DRIVEN to learn music theory. I learned to play by rote memorization, then noticed patterns, which led to playing by ear. At one time, a chord could have been called echo, apple, or dog; they are the ones in Gloria. A freind listened for ten minutes while I asked a question about a guy who played two saxophones always in harmony with each other. His answer was "Yes, it's called a perfect fifth." Much shorter than ten minutes! He introduced me to music theory, much of which I picked up as "paterns" through osmosis.

    You can learn music without music theory, but it will take you several lifetimes longer. Now, someone can name an arbitrary chord and I can figure it out from its name... as long as they dont make up names like betty or fred....