Where to start with learning music theory.

Well who doesn't have a question about theory? Come on in and get them answered here. Beginning to advanced theory questions are welcome.
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Where to start with learning music theory.

Post by Harshparker » October 24th, 2018, 12:33 am

This question seems to come up often in this subreddit. There are many people who want to learn music theory but have no idea where to start. After all, there are so many different aspects of music theory.

There also appears to be an infatuation with the modes in this subreddit. The problem is, most people haven't learned the basics of music theory before trying to understand the modes. They are trying to run before they even crawl. Hopefully this post will clear that up for some people.

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Alan Green
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Re: Where to start with learning music theory.

Post by Alan Green » October 24th, 2018, 8:07 am

Try "Theory Without Tears" by David Hodge, in the lessons on this very site
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Re: Where to start with learning music theory.

Post by NoteBoat » October 25th, 2018, 7:10 pm

I'd start with learning to read standard notation. You don't need to "sight read" - in fact, you don't even need to be able to translate what you read into guitar playing - but the fact is, all of music theory is based on standard notation, and tablature is not a substitute. Example: C-F# is a different interval than C-Gb. They sound the same, and in tab they're identical... but in theory there's a difference.

Next I'd learn to spell all the major scales. The major scale is the 'yardstick' we use for pretty much everything in music theory: identifying intervals, naming chords, comparing other scales... if you know them cold, you'll save yourself a lot of confusion.

Then it depends on where your curiosity leads you. The circle of fifths is a good thing to know from a practical point of view, because it will help you remember key signatures and deal with modulations. Understanding chord symbols is another good thing to know - when you see C7+(b9) you'll know exactly what it means.

If you're interested in a deep dive into theory, once you have the basics down I'd learn counterpoint next. Although most conservatories teach harmony before counterpoint, I personally think that's backwards from both a historical point of view (polyphonic counterpoint preceded homophonic chord progressions) and a practical one - you'll have a better understanding of the hows & whys of voice leading before tackling cadential 64 chords and the like. Follow that with a good harmony text. And picking up some basic keyboard skills helps too, because the keyboard is simpler than the fretboard for visualizing theory concepts.
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