Introduction to Music Theory

This introductory music theory text is created as an initial gateway into the more in-depth, web based cyber text Tonal Resources for the Creative Musician . The concise discussions of each topic are designed to create within the learner a broad based understanding of our music theory; it's basic organic structure from natural sound, it's fundamental properties, essential musical components, vocabulary and solid ideas for individual expression and creativity through composing and performance. Working individually or in groups, as learners advance through the broader survey material of each chapter topic, additional challenges taking the learner deeper into each content area can be created by linking to the content of the web based Tonal Resources text, ideally allowing us to individualize instruction to each learner's special artistic talents. Here are the ten linked chapter headings within this text.

1 / the silent architecture of our music
2 / loops of pitches ... the perfect closure of equal temper
3 / groups of pitches ... the initial process of selecting pitches
4 / major / minor tonality ... the two core colors of equal temper
5 / evolution of scales ... a gradually increasing complexity
6 / evolving scales into arpeggios
7 / evolution of chords ... diatonic triads and chord type
8 / rhythm ... cool ideas about time / subdivision and notation
9 / history of music
10 / composing
11 / how to practice something you don't know how to play ... yet
glossary of musical terms
vocabulary and quizzes in booklet format
bibliography of music theory texts

Chapter formats. Each of the ten knowledge chapters simply examine the theoretical elements of the topic. During these discussions, the history of the topic often emerges as well as suggestions for practice ideas to get the "theory under the fingers" so to speak. Also during the discussions are prompts to encourage the learner to examine if they "got" a particular idea. These prompts are oftentimes also an email link to the author to pose questions to sure up one's understanding of the material. The musical examples used to illuminate the theory are linked to a midi "play back" file which sound out the examples. At the close of each chapter is a review of the discussion, followed by ten vocabulary terms defined, and then a "pop quiz" of ten matching questions to measure a learner's grasp of that topic. By combining the scores of the ten knowledge measures, a grading scheme could be created and used with learners. I would recommend that learners complete each chapter and quiz to the 100% level before moving to the next chapter. Educators using these texts are encouraged to review the quizzes orally with their learners, encouraging dialogue to get a better sense of a learners grasp of the material and then sure up the weak spots if any. When administering this course to my own learners in a formal classroom setting, I would print and collate the 10 quizzes in order to create a final exam for the end of the course, with successful learners receiving the printable "diploma" as recognition for their completion of this course. These ten quizzes could also be used as a pre-test to measure existing knowledge within the learner, before the course is administered. With the text / vocabulary / quiz format and a little help from one's friends, it is my sincerest hope that all learners may succeed. All readers are free to email me any of their questions, concerns, problems or suggestions that arise so that I may be of help in their success and also improve this teaching method. Email me at My school is usually in session Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the questions received will mostly be answered by the next day.

Level of knowledge. To not mince words, this course will be a challenge to many learners. Especially in regards to it's readability, which would easily score somewhere in the 10th to 11th grade levels and above. In all of our life's learning, vocabulary is often the essential currency of communication and our studies in music theory are no different. Learning the vocabulary of music theory helps us to discuss the "art" of music in clear, concise and measurable terms that all music theorists, the Western world over, use in their studies. So in a sense, our vocabulary becomes our passport into the global community of musicians, something so many of us are so very proud members of, continuing and enriching the many traditions started at the dawns of our civilizations. If students struggle, so be it, as this has been and is the way of the world. As educators, we help to empower learners to overcome and conquer obstacles. Lest we forget that ..."obstacles are those frightful things when we take our eyes off our goal." Henry Ford (1863-1947)

About this text. "Unique" might be a good way to describe the sequencing of topics in this text. For no other music theory text I know of presents the topics of our music theory from the perspectives used in this text. And while all share the same component musical parts, the presentation of the musical ideas and components in the order used within this writing comes to me after 30 years of teaching, research, coursework, discussions, writing about music theory and a comment made one day by my Alaska college music professor Dr. George Belden, who said, "you know Joe, that the development of our music and it's theories runs parallel to the historical evolution of how we have tuned our instruments." This is the first of the two main perspectives, a more historical view of the evolution of music theory from it's organic start with the natural phenomena of musical tones. The second is to correlate theoretical complexity with musical style. To help learners understand the evolution of theoretical complexity that follows the musical styles we love to write, perform and listen to.

To briefly describing the events leading up to this writing, what I missed through the years in my studies of music theory was a more complete "bird's eye view" of the principles that create equal temper tuning, which has been the most common way we tune in our modern day pianos. Solving this mystery by researching the history and principles of tuning keyboard instruments, through discussions with friendly piano tuners and reading the books they recommended, I eventually created a more complete concept of how the pitches of our piano are "tempered." For it is our beloved piano, it's keyboard relatives and the various fretted string families of instruments, that must comply to the mathematical secrets of equal temper to aurally fully function properly as designed. And while not acutely necessary to the understanding of our music theory, gaining this knowledge of our tuning system creates the frame to sketch in a complete picture of not only all of our musical elements, but the who, what, when, where and why of how it knits itself together. This understanding of the "perfect closure" of our theory system becomes essential when projecting new ideas for the further development of our musical system beyond it's existing boundaries. New places that up and coming theorists will discover to continue our intellectual evolution from within our existing knowledge. So this music theory course starts by creating this complete "view" within the learner. For once in place, every music theory problem is potentially solvable to the impassioned learner through their own energies, as all theoretical solutions are somewhere within the Pythagorean loop of pitches that equal temper tuning perfectly closes.

As this book is a cybertext, as author, I just couldn't resist not linking to somewhere on the web. All exterior reference links from this text go by permission to the Wikiapedia encyclopedia only. A recent discovery for me, I was instantly captivated by it's format and concept and look forward to exploring it's range of topics, ideas and collaborating with it's contributors. For not only is it a perfect "first stop" for curious internet learners but the folks there openly encourage this type of linking up. If the learner using this text is not online at this juncture, be assured that all necessary information needed for successful learning of the content of this text is contained within the writing, the links to the Wikiopedia resource being reference only and for further exploration for the curious learner. The second online linking feature is using email to ask questions directly to the author. A third potential linking is to my main web based cyber text, Tonal Resources For The Creative Musician , a much larger and detailed study of our music theory. These links can be created as needed from email questions from learners to individualize instruction and expand their studies in specific areas of interest.

And lest we forget for those learners so fortunate, that one's best resource for ideas and answers could very well be their music teacher at school. I write these texts to assist these educators by providing content material and challenging lessons for their students. For those learners working independently of such a formal educational environment, to our traditional texts and musical inspirations, we nowadays can add the web and email, potentially connecting us with all of the musicians, their music, knowledge and cultures, in our entire world !

So good luck in all of your musical endeavors. I hope you enjoy this coursework and the intellectual challenges it creates. It is my sincerest hope that it helps to impassion you in your learning, in music theory and in all things important to you. So there is no doubt in using this "individualized instructional cybertext", you are now and will always be from this point forward, the person most responsible for your own education. You must be hungry to learn, ask questions to better understand, admit that you "do not know" so that you may begin to know, step up and become the active part of your own learning. Explore new areas when existing resources are inadequate. Try to remember that others around you are for the most part not "mind readers" but probably do want to help if possible. So clearly articulate your needs, follow through to get the knowledge you need and share your wisdom with others as freely as those who share theirs with you. A world of information and knowledge is at our fingertips, but we must move our minds and aggressively embrace it.

Please feel free to send me, via email, any suggestions, thoughts about this work or questions that arise. I look forward to our future correspondence.

Joe Craig

Moving onward to our first topic ... but first a quote.

Each of us must work for our own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity. Marie Curie

"the silent architecture of our music"