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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 unit 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?
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.
Common compatibility/technical issues which students have encountered when using An Introduction to Music Theory
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.
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. You will need to have the Scorch plugin installed to play the music notation examples. Scorch is not currently compatible with Google Chrome or Firefox 4.
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.
The Open University is conducting a survey investigating how people use the free educational content on our OpenLearn website. The aim is to provide a better free learning experience for everyone. So if you’re a regular user of OpenLearn and have 10 minutes to spare, we’d be delighted if you could take part and tell us what you think. Please note this will take you out of OpenLearn, we suggest you open this in a new tab by right clicking on the link and choosing open in a new tab.