Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People
by Toby W. Rush
This page includes links to each of the individual Music Theory pages I've created in PDF form. This is a work in progress; I am writing new ones regularly and fixing errors and omissions on existing ones as I find them. If you find them useful for your theory studies, you are welcome to use them, and if you find errors or have suggestions, I invite you to contact me. Enjoy!
These pages are available for free under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license. In short, you are welcome to copy them, print them, share them and use them; however, you may not alter them, take credit for them, or sell them.
This collection is a work in progress, but if you would prefer, you can download all the current pages as a single PDF.
If this makes you excited enough that you'd like to purchase a theory-related shirt, hat, bag, button or sticker, visit my T-shirts And Other Stuff page. If you'd prefer to just send a donation, click Sparky below to do so. Thanks!
Interested in helping translate these pages to your own language? Awesome! Follow this link for details.
Music Theory Fundamentals
How pitch — the "highness" or "lowness" of a sound — is notated on the musical staff.
Our bizarre (yet universally accepted) method of notating rhythm.
The concept of "the beat" and how it is notated in music.
Nobody knows beaming like Sparky knows beaming.
The Major Scale
Introducing the major scale, one of the most common "palettes" of music composition.
Not the kind you sign your credit card receipt with, though I suppose you could try it.
The Circle of Fifths
How the various keys are related to one another.
The basics of how we measure from note to note.
Why do we have to call them "perfect?" We're just encouraging them.
Let he who is without invertable inflection cast the first stone.
Analyzing & Writing Intervals
Still confused? Sparky's got your back.
Gentlemen, raise your leading tones!
The Common Practice Period: Diatonic Harmony
Little bite-sized three-note packages of harmonic deliciousness.
Triads in Inversion
You can't expect a cat like Haydn to stay in root position.
Designed for two purposes: accompanying baroque pieces and torturing theory students.
Triads Within Tonality
It don't mean a thing if it ain't got those roman numerals.
Introduction to Part-Writing
Ladies and Gentlemen, Johann... Sebastian... BACH!
Part-Writing: The Vertical Rules
Range and spacing and doubling. Oh my!
Part-Writing: The Horizontal Rules
Let's play it safe out there, kids.
Part-Writing: Using Inversions
You don't have to use inversions, but all the cool kids are doing it, so...
Part-Writing: Melodic Minor
Consult your doctor to find out if melodic minor is right for you.
The Harmonic Cadences
All good things must end.
When it comes down to it, we're all just struggling to make our way back to tonic.
Diatonic Common Chord Modulation
Take it up a step, Barry!
ANALYZE ALL THE NOTES
Incidentally, dogs can only hear dissonances in black and white.
Diatonic Seventh Chords
There's always room for one more note.
The Dominant Seventh
Creating a yearning for resolution since the 17th century.
More tertial harmony than you can shake a stick at.
The Common Practice Period: Development & Form
The deadline-dreading composer's most valuable secret.
The best things come in threes.
Sonata Allegro Form
Hundreds of European symphonists can't be wrong.
The Common Practice Period: Chromatic Harmony
No MSG added, though.
"Hey, neighbor, do you have a half-dimished seventh chord I could use?"
The Neapolitan Six
As opposed to the Neapolitan Three (chocolate, strawberry and vanilla).
The force is strong with these.
Augmented Sixth Chords
If you invert one, it becomes an Australian sixth... because the soprano is down under! (cue rim shot)
Altered and Enharmonic Modulation
The best evidence yet that theorists are gluttons for punishment.
Okay, now we're just making stuff up.
Romantic Era Techniques
Not listed: wearing frilly shirts and contracting syphilis.
Sixteenth Century Counterpoint
Introduction to Species Counterpoint
A man, a plan, Palestrina.
Species Counterpoint: Melody
Let's start at the beginning, shall we?
Species Counterpoint: Species I
Note against note, mano à mano.
Species Counterpoint: Species II
Let's get some dissonance all up in here.
Species Counterpoint: Species III
Holy quarter notes, Batman!
Species Counterpoint: Species IV
It's a tie! It's lots of ties.
Species Counterpoint: Species V
All together now.
Species Counterpoint: Three Voices
Good things always come in threes and usually involve contrary motion.
The Twentieth Century
The Modern Modes
Because you didn't have enough scales to worry about already.