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!

Creative Commons BY-NC-ND iconThese 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!

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Music Theory Fundamentals

Notation: Pitch
Notation: Pitch
How pitch — the "highness" or "lowness" of a sound — is notated on the musical staff.
Notation: Rhythm
Notation: Rhythm
Our bizarre (yet universally accepted) method of notating rhythm.
Notation: Meter
Notation: Meter
The concept of "the beat" and how it is notated in music.
Beaming
Beaming
Nobody knows beaming like Sparky knows beaming.
The Major Scale
The Major Scale
Introducing the major scale, one of the most common "palettes" of music composition.
Key Signatures
Key Signatures
Not the kind you sign your credit card receipt with, though I suppose you could try it.
The Circle of Fifths
The Circle of Fifths
How the various keys are related to one another.
Diatonic Intervals
Diatonic Intervals
The basics of how we measure from note to note.
Perfect Intervals
Perfect Intervals
Why do we have to call them "perfect?" We're just encouraging them.
Imperfect Intervals
Imperfect Intervals
Let he who is without invertable inflection cast the first stone.
Intervals
Analyzing & Writing Intervals
Still confused? Sparky's got your back.
Minor Scales
Minor Scales
Gentlemen, raise your leading tones!

The Common Practice Period: Diatonic Harmony

Triads
Triads
Little bite-sized three-note packages of harmonic deliciousness.
Triads in Inversion
Triads in Inversion
You can't expect a cat like Haydn to stay in root position.
Figured Bass
Figured Bass
Designed for two purposes: accompanying baroque pieces and torturing theory students.
Triads Within Tonality
Triads Within Tonality
It don't mean a thing if it ain't got those roman numerals.
Introduction to Part-Writing
Introduction to Part-Writing
Ladies and Gentlemen, Johann... Sebastian... BACH!
Part-Writing: The Vertical Rules
Part-Writing: The Vertical Rules
Range and spacing and doubling. Oh my!
Part-Writing: The Horizontal Rules
Part-Writing: The Horizontal Rules
Let's play it safe out there, kids.
Part-Writing: Inversions
Part-Writing: Using Inversions
You don't have to use inversions, but all the cool kids are doing it, so...
Part-Writing: Melodic Minor
Part-Writing: Melodic Minor
Consult your doctor to find out if melodic minor is right for you.
THe Harmonic Cadences
The Harmonic Cadences
All good things must end.
Harmonic Progression
Harmonic Progression
When it comes down to it, we're all just struggling to make our way back to tonic.
Diatonic Common Chord Modulation
Diatonic Common Chord Modulation
Take it up a step, Barry!
Non-Harmonic Tones
Non-Harmonic Tones
ANALYZE ALL THE NOTES
Suspensions
Suspensions
Incidentally, dogs can only hear dissonances in black and white.
Diatonic Seventh Chords
Diatonic Seventh Chords
There's always room for one more note.
The Dominant Seventh
The Dominant Seventh
Creating a yearning for resolution since the 17th century.
Extended Harmonies
Extended Harmonies
More tertial harmony than you can shake a stick at.

The Common Practice Period: Development & Form

Motivic Development
Motivic Development
The deadline-dreading composer's most valuable secret.
Binary Form
Binary Form
Two's company.
Ternary Form
Ternary Form
The best things come in threes.
Sonata Allegro Form
Sonata Allegro Form
Hundreds of European symphonists can't be wrong.

The Common Practice Period: Chromatic Harmony

Altered Chords
Altered Chords
No MSG added, though.
Borrowed Chords
Borrowed Chords
"Hey, neighbor, do you have a half-dimished seventh chord I could use?"
The Neapolitan Six
The Neapolitan Six
As opposed to the Neapolitan Three (chocolate, strawberry and vanilla).
Secondary Dominants
Secondary Dominants
The force is strong with these.
Augmented Sixth Chords
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
Altered and Enharmonic Modulation
The best evidence yet that theorists are gluttons for punishment.
Secondary Subdominants
Secondary Subdominants
Okay, now we're just making stuff up.
Romantic Era Techniques
Romantic Era Techniques
Not listed: wearing frilly shirts and contracting syphilis.

Sixteenth Century Counterpoint

Introduction to Species Counterpoint
Introduction to Species Counterpoint
A man, a plan, Palestrina.
Species Counterpoint: Melody
Species Counterpoint: Melody
Let's start at the beginning, shall we?
Species Counterpoint: Species I
Species Counterpoint: Species I
Note against note, mano à mano.
Species Counterpoint: Species II
Species Counterpoint: Species II
Let's get some dissonance all up in here.
Species Counterpoint: Species III
Species Counterpoint: Species III
Holy quarter notes, Batman!
Species Counterpoint: Species IV
Species Counterpoint: Species IV
It's a tie! It's lots of ties.
Species Counterpoint: Species V
Species Counterpoint: Species V
All together now.
Species Counterpoint: Three Voices
Species Counterpoint: Three Voices
Good things always come in threes and usually involve contrary motion.

The Twentieth Century

Notation: Pitch
The Modern Modes
Because you didn't have enough scales to worry about already.
More coming soon...


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Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People by Toby W. Rush is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.