Learn Music Theory

If you came to this website then you probably want to learn something about music theory. You may be an absolute beginner or you may already know a lot of music theory already and want to learn some more advanced topics. In either case understand that learning music theory is one of the more beneficial things a musician can do and I hope you will continue the process.

Why study music theory?

Contrary to what some people may say learning music theory does not reduce your ability to enjoy music. In fact you may enjoy music even more after you learn some theory because the more you know about how music works the more you will be able to do as a musician.
There are many reasons to study music theory but the top reasons are:
  1. You will be a better performer. - If you don't know much music theory and you are playing some music and you encounter a passage that has the notes C, E, and G, you would have to mentally process those three notes separately, and this will slow down your ability to perform. If a musician who knows music theory plays the same passage they would instantly recognize that the notes C, E, and G make up a C Major chord and they would play those notes more easily because it took less mental effort to understand the music. Music theory makes learning, practicing and performing much easier.

  2. You will have more options as a musician. - All musical activities will be much easier. Performing, composing, improvising, arranging, teaching music, or getting a music degree will be much easier if you know music theory.

How to study music theory

Added Tone Chords

Added tone chords are triads with an added note a second, fourth, sixth, ninth, eleventh, or thirteenth above the chord root. For example, if we have a C-Major chord, with the notes C, E, and G, and then add a D on top of the chord, we get a Cadd9 chord. 

Cadd9 chord

The following shows some more examples of added tone chords.

Added tone chords
Added tone chords

Block Chords and Broken Chords

Block chords occur when all of the notes of a chord are played simultaneously in one solid “block”. The following shows examples of block chords.

Block chords
Block Chords
Broken chords occur when the notes of a chord are not played simultaneously. There are many types of patterns possible for broken chords. The following example shows a set of block chords, and then the same set of chords as broken chords. Both examples have the exact same chords with exactly the same notes, but with the first example as block chords, and the second example as broken chords.

Block chords - example 2
Block Chords
Broken chords
Broken Chords

Chord Tones and Non-chord Tones

Chord tones are notes of a specific chord. For example, the notes of a C-Major chord are C, E, and G. The following example shows a section of music using only chord tones.

Chord tones
Chord tones
Any notes in a section of music that do not fit into the chord tones of the prevailing harmony are non-chord tones. The following example shows a melody over a chord progression with the non-chord tones circled.
An example with non-chord tones
An example with non-chord tones

Chord Voicings

A chord voicing is the vertical spacing of the notes of any given chord. For example, in a C-Major chord, the notes are C, E, and G. These notes can be arranged in many different ways. The following example shows a C-Major chord in different chord voicings.
Various chord voicings
Various chord voicings
If the notes are close together, with no spaces between chord tones, then the chord is in a close voicing. If the notes have spaces between the chord tones, then the chord is in an open voicing.

Close and open chord voicings