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An introduction to music theory
Gain an understanding of the basic building blocks of musical theory and notation. This...
Gain an understanding of the basic building blocks of musical theory and notation. This free course, An introduction to music theory, will introduce you to music staves, clefs, rhythmic and pitch values, rhythmic metre and time signatures. This OpenLearn course provides an introduction to music theory pitched at a level equivalent to Grades 1–3 of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music theory exams. You can test your understanding as you proceed by completing simple multiple-choice questions.
After studying this course you should have:
- a satisfactory understanding of the basic building blocks of musical theory and notation;
- an understanding of music theory comparable to that demanded by Grade 3 of the Associated Board of the Royals Schools of Music theory syllabus;
- an understanding of music theory that enables you to move on to Open University Level 2 and Level 3 Music courses, e.g. A224 Inside Music.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 The content
- 2 The basics
- 2.1 The staff
- 2.3 The great staff
- 2.4 Middle C and ledger lines
- 2.5Writing notes
- 2.6Reading notes
- 2.7 Review 1
- Group 1: writing notes
- Group 2: identifying note names on the treble staff
- Group 3: identifying note names on the bass staff
- Group 4: identifying clefs for notes on both the treble and bass staves
- Group 5: identifying note names of notes with ledger lines
- Group 6: identifying more note names of notes with ledger lines
- 3 Rhythm and metre
- 3.1 Time values
- 3.2 Triplets
- 3.3 Time signatures
- 3.4 Review 2
- 3.5 Dots and ties
- 3.6 Grouping and beaming notes
- 3.7 Review 3
- 3.8 More time signatures: compound time
- 3.9 Grouping and beaming notes in compound time
- 3.10 Review 4
- 4 Rests
- 4.1 Values and dots
- 4.2 Grouping rests
- 4.3 Grouping rests in compound time
- 4.4 More on grouping rests
- 4.5 Review 5
- 5 Pitch
- 5.1 Notes of the bass and treble staves: a reminder
- 5.2 Semitones and tones, and the scale of C major
- 5.3 Semitones and tones, and the scale of G major
- 5.4 Major scales having key signatures with sharps
- 5.5 Semitones and tones and the scale of F major
- 5.6 Major scales having key signatures with flats
- 5.7 Review 6
- 5.8 Minor scales: the natural form
- 5.9 Minor scales: the melodic and harmonic forms
- 5.10 Relative minor and relative major
- 5.11 Review 7
- 6 Accidentals, degrees of the scale and intervals
- 7 Harmony: the triad
- 8 Scores: performance directions
- 9 Review 8
- 10 Trainers for eye and ear
- 11 What next?
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
An introduction to music theory
This free course, An introduction to music theory, introduces you to the basic concepts of western music notation and music theory that you need to know before you embark on the Open University course. It covers ground similar to that found in the syllabus of the Associated Board Theory Grades 1–3 (ABRSM, 2011).
Enrol to get a record of achievement
By enrolling on this course and setting up a free Open University account you can track your progress in My OpenLearn. When you’ve finished you can print off the free activity record to demonstrate your learning.
All of the music notation examples included within An Introduction to Music Theory are provided within Sibelius’s Scorch Player. This allows you to listen to the examples whilst following the notation.
You will need to have the Scorch plugin installed to play the music notation examples. If you do not already have the Scorch plugin installed on your computer, you will be prompted to download it at the first example you use.
Common compatibility/technical issues which students have encountered when using An Introduction to Music Theory
Some students have reported experiencing compatibility and technical difficulties when trying to view and use parts of An Introduction to Music Theory with Internet Explorer 9 or Google Chrome. The material works best when viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or Firefox 3.6. Scorch is not currently compatible Firefox 4.
Please note that browsers and operating systems are frequently being updated and it is quite likely that Sibelius Scorch can work with more recent versions of IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome browsers, but you are best advised to check the latest compatibility information within the Sibelius support pages that are listed below under Useful Sibelius Scorch links.
The materials are designed to work with desktop computers only so will not be compatible with the AVID Scorch plug-in for iPad which will only support Scorch examples and text documents that are in pdf format.
Useful Sibelius Scorch related links
This page gives the latest instructions on How to install Scorch for desktop and at the bottom is an indication of the minimum hardware and software requirements for using Scorch either on PC or Mac. You can also download and install the Scorch plugin from this page if the browser has not detected and installed it when the introductory music theory pages first load up.
This page gives advice on Scorch compatibility issues.
This AVID knowledge base article provides information for users of recent operating systems and browsers (e.g. Windows 8.1 with Internet Explorer 11 who experience a “Memory Corruption in Windows Process Heaps” error.
The Sibelius UK technical support phone number is currently: UK: 01753 658585 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
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Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Thursday, 9th June 2011
Last updated on: Wednesday, 29th April 2015
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements section.
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