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Getting Started With Music Theory (Coursera)

This course is a brief introduction to the elements of music theory for those with little or no music theory experience. We will explore pitch, rhythm, meter, notation, scales, keys, key signatures, meter signatures, triads, seventh chords, and basic harmony. If you listen to music or play music by ear, and you want to know more about how music is organized and notated, this course is for you.

By the end of the course, you should know all major and minor keys, how to read and write in treble and bass clef using standard meters and rhythmic values, and how to notate and harmonize a simple melody. This course can serve as a stand-alone basic music theory course, or it can be a springboard to more advanced theory and composition courses.

Your instructor is Bruce Taggart, Associate Professor of Music Theory at Michigan State University, in the College of Music, where he has taught undergraduate and graduate music theory since 1996.



Basic Materials: Overview, Tonality, Notation

Learning Outcomes: By the end of this module, you should be able to: (1) discuss the elements of music, (2) explain the difference between tonal and atonal music, (3) sing the tonic in tonal music, (4) identify the fundamental and partials of a note, (5) explain the difference between chord and harmony, (6) explain the five-line staff, (7) read and write notes using treble and bass clefs, and (8) identify rhythmic values in notation. You should be able to (9) distinguish between pitch and pitch class, (10) describe octaves and how to label pitches based on octave placement, (11) identify and write accidentals and find them on the piano keyboard, (12) and define equal temperament (the artificial scale used on the modern piano) and tell how it differs from other tuning systems.

Graded: Tonality, Harmony, Acoustics

Graded: Pitch and Rhythm Notation


Scales, Keys, and Intervals

Learning Outcomes: By the end of this module, you should be able to (1) describe the diatonic set and understand how it is used to create major and minor scales, (2) sing major and minor using solfeggio (solfege) syllables, (3) explain the difference between natural, harmonic, and melodic minor, (4) spell major and minor scales starting on any note using accidentals in treble and bass clef, and (5) spell parallel and relative major and minor scales. You should also be able to (6) identify and spell by size and quality diatonic intervals (within a key) and chromatic intervals (outside a key).

Graded: Diatonic Set, Major, Minor

Graded: Intervals Quiz


Rhythm and Meter

Learning Outcomes: By the end of this module, you should be able to (1) read and write all possible rhythmic values, including dotted notes and ties, (2) understand how many notes fit within a measure in various meters, (3) determine meter signatures based on note grouping, and note grouping based on meter signatures, (4) define the types of musical accent and how they create a sense of meter, (5) distinguish between duple and triple meters in notation and by sound, and (6) describe and identify metrical syncopation. You should be able to (7) write melodies on the treble, bass, and grand staves using correct meter signatures, note values, rhythmic grouping, stem direction and beaming, and key signatures and accidentals,

Graded: Rhythm and Meter

Graded: Meter, Tuplets, Syncopation


Chords, Triads, and Harmony

Learning Outcomes: By the end of this module, you should be able to (1) identify and spell major, minor, diminished, and augmented triads in root position and inversions, and (2) identify and spell major, minor, dominant, half-diminished, and fully diminished seventh chords in root position and inversions. You should also be able to (3) use Roman numeral labels to identify diatonic triads within a key, (4) write triads within a key when given Roman numerals, and (5) spell chords when given pop/jazz chord symbols.

Graded: Seventh Chords

Graded: Labeling Chords