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About Music Theory

All successful musicians have a basic knowledge of music theory. For those interested in composition or improvisation this study is a necessity, but it will also enhance the musicality of band or orchestral players.

Please click on each category in the menu on the left for reference materials and explanatory text.

Under the general heading of 'music theory' several subjects can be included: music notation, sight-singing, counterpoint, orchestration and analysis. The most important aspect, however, is the study of
harmony, including the understanding of the formation of scales and chords, and how a composition is structured using these elements.

These components are common to all styles of Western music, from the earliest choral music through the Classical period, to the most recent pop or jazz compositions.

Regardless of one's musical tastes, it's beneficial to have a basic understanding of:

  • the key signature and tonal center of the piece
  • the time signature and tempo
  • the parts of the piece which modulate (change key)

If one is a composer or improviser, the study of modes and altered scales can also enrich one's work.



Key Signatures

Scales and Modes

Chord Types and Symbols

How to Transpose