Music is a language, and music theory is its vocabulary and its grammar. Whether your goal is to compose new music, to transcribe or arrange music by others, to prepare for music school, to become a better reader or improvisor, or just to work on your overall musicianship skills, learning the language of music is the key.
This course covers the fundamentals of music literacy - pitch, meter, rhythm, scales, intervals, chords, and more. These are the core concepts that provide the foundation for any deeper understanding of music. Completion of this course will prepare you for more advanced courses and give you the knowledge and confidence you need for further musical growth.
I have been helping musicians learn music theory for over forty years, working with beginners, university music majors, and amateur and professional musicians of all ages. I have taught countless musicians over the years, and I'm excited to be able to guide you as well!
Enrollment is now open!
Cohort runs March 13 - June 16, 2023
(self-paced content plus live sessions - see below for details)
What's in the course?
Basic Music Theory is divided into sections covering each of these major topics:
- Other notations
- Major scales and keys
- Chromatic scales and intervals
- Minor scales and keys
We'll spend a couple of weeks or so on each section, where you will find:
- Highly-focused self-paced video lessons that break down each topic into easily understandable parts
- Interactive playable handouts summarizing the content of each lesson
- Worksheets in the same interactive format, with answers provided as well
- Customized exercises from musictheory.net for additional practice
- Ear training with a focus on practical skills involving real music - playing by ear, sight-sighting, and transcribing
- Creative projects to work on and apply what you learn
- Live sessions where we will go over the week's coursework and explore related topics of interest
All materials (site, videos, handouts, worksheets, projects, etc.) are designed to be accessible for blind and visually impaired musicians - one of the only courses of its kind to provide this level of accessibility!
The course will run for three months. The pace is intended to be fast enough to keep you excited about learning, but relaxed enough that you will be able to keep up even when life comes calling with other demands on your time.
The power of community
An exciting component of this course is the community that goes along with it. You won't be left alone to fend for yourself - you'll be studying alongside and engaging with other motivated students. You can ask each other questions, receive and give feedback on worksheets and projects, and support each other through collaborative learning.
The course is self-paced in that most of the videos are pre-recorded so that you can watch when it's convenient for you, but it's also cohort-based in that we will all be working on the same material each week.
There will be live sessions as well. I'll be answering questions, giving feedback, and providing additional materail during my regular Music Master Class live stream (Thursdays, 12:30 PM Eastern). These shows are recorded, so you can watch later if you aren't able to attend live. You will also have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with other students in the Study Hall.
Theory vs. practice
Theory is of little use if you can't apply it to your own music, and that's where this course really shines.
The concepts you will learn about are presented in historical context, with reference to Renaissance, classical, jazz, and rock traditions. You will be able to see and hear how this all works in music you know and love. And through the projects you will work on, you will gain practice in applying what you learn to your own music. We'll work on playing by ear, improvisation, composition, and other skills.
Even if you are already familiar with the ideas discussed in this course, the hands-on nature of the course will give you increased mastery over them. As a result, you'll come away not just being able to spell an F# harmonic scale (for example), but understanding more about how to actually use it!
Is this course right for me?
I created Basic Music Theory to prepare musicians for further study - for example, to help college-bound students pass a music theory entrance exam and be ready to succeed as music majors.
If you're relatively new to music, you might be wondering, am I ready for this course? And if you're already more experienced, you may be wondering, will I learn anything new?
The first part of that question is easy to answer: there are no prerequisites for this course. You don't need to already be able to read music or play an instrument or be able to sing well or know how to use MuseScore in order to succeed in this course. You'll learn what you need along the way.
The second part of the question - will this course be too easy for experienced musicians - is trickier. For some people - like anyone who has successfully completed a music degree - this course is indeed probably too basic. On the other hand, even after playing or singing for a long time and gaining a basic familiarity with the fundamentals, people often have significant gaps in their understanding. When the basics don't completely click, that often gets in the way of progressing further.
The great thing about this course is, the community can help people help themselves and each other in getting over these hurdles. Through the community, the course fits itself to your needs!
Your instructor Marc Sabatella is one of the most recognized and respected music educators in the world. Read what others have been saying about Marc's online resources:
- "Wow! What a wonderful course! ... thank you so much, Marc, for your teaching skill, enthusiam for passing on your knowledge of the subjest, organisation of the content into manageable chunks, and giving me a solid foundation for my future musical jouneys. I feel very excited about all that I've learned and I'm keen to start using it in my listening to, playing, and composing music." - Ann W.
- "Thank you! You are a great teacher with a very clear way of explaining music theory, something that I thought I could never understand." - Raimundo E.
- "This has been one of the best tutorials I have ever used. I especially appreciate that each individual lesson is quite complete, in case I have forgotten something from a previous lesson or skipped ahead... And, even though I have been reading music for more than 40 years, I actually learned some things about standards in notation. Kudos and thank you, Marc!" - Kristin D.
- "YAY; Ivy League Professorial Perfection. What an enjoyment and relief. I've digested enough manuals for several lifetimes... What great stuff, Marc. I feel like Alice in Wonderland" - Ken M.
- "It's so great to have this course - it is so logically laid out, that when I have a question, I can find that particular lesson quickly and get my answer!" - Sheridan G.
- "I just finished the course today. It was really good, well structured, very clear, step by step, very understandable. Great, now the next steps are just practising... and enjoy" - Ramon P.
- "Very clear explanations and the pacing of the course is just right. Really enjoying it!" - Graham W.
- "Finding your online book 12 years ago gave me the resources i needed to get started making for myself the music that i had been wanting to hear. it is no exaggeration to say that my entire compositional and improvisational language owes a huge debt to you." - Joel A.
- "Perhaps you can identify with a particular book coming at a particular stage of one's musical development hitting the sweet spot where it is neither boring nor too advanced. Yours hit the sweet spot." - Nigel D.
My name is Marc Sabatella, and I am the founder and director of Mastering MuseScore. I am one of the developers and chief ambassadors for MuseScore, the world's most popular music notation software. I have been teaching music online since the dawn of the World Wide Web, and I have been teaching in person for even longer. From the publication of my groundbreaking Jazz Improvisation Primer back in the 1990’s, to my years on the faculty at major music schools, and culminating in this Mastering MuseScore School and Community, I have dedicated most of my life to helping as many musicians as I can.
You can enroll in this course via a one-time purchase, or by subscribing as a Gold level member.
The one-time purchase option gives you lifetime access to course materials, whereas the membership option gives you access for as long as you maintain your subscription. The membership option also gives you access to all other courses, as well as exclusive benefits like the live Office Hours. The choice is yours!
Basic Music Theory (only)
Access to all course materials and community resources
Enroll today to join the cohort and start learning music theory today!
Courses like this often sell for hundreds of dollars, and that is just for pre-recorded lessons. This course gives you that plus live sessions, an innovative and interactive textbook and workbook, and a thriving community where you can engage with a supportive cohort of fellow students. It's like a full-semester university course, for a fraction of the cost!
This plan includes lifetime access to course materials as well as participation in the current cohort
Gold Level Membership (includes Basic Music Theory and more)
Learn MuseScore, music theory, harmony, counterpoint, jazz, and more!
For a fraction of the cost of a single private lesson, you get unlimited access to the community and all courses, plus live office hours and other exclusive benefits, for as long as you maintain your membership!