Music Theory for Electronic Musicians

A class designed for the electronic musician that want to take their tracks to the next level.
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  • Lectures 38
  • Length 3.5 hours
  • Skill Level Beginner Level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 6/2013 English

Course Description

A class designed for the electronic musician that wants to take their tracks to the next level. In this class we will focus on learning how to organize pitches and rhythms to make dynamic and interesting melodies and harmonies. No experience with music theory is necessary. Playing an instrument and reading music is also not necessary. We will be focusing on how to use your DAW as your instrument to create with.

For years I've been teaching Ableton Live in the college classroom. As a University Professor, my classes are sought after, and, frankly, expensive. I believe Music Theory can be learned by anyone, and cost shouldn't be a barrier.

Topics include:

  • Using the Piano Roll Editor
  • Octaves
  • Finding C and Middle C
  • The Perfect 5th
  • What it means to be "in key"
  • Moveable Patterns
  • Major and Minor Intervals
  • Building Triads
  • Chord Progressions
  • 7th Chords
  • ... And much more!!!

And of course, once you sign up any part, you automatically get huge discounts to all the upcoming parts of this class. You will not have another opportunity to learn Music Theory in a more comprehensive way than this.

J. Anthony Allen is an Ableton Certified Trainer, and a PhD in Music Composition and master of Electronic Sounds. His music has been heard internationally in film, radio, video games, and industrial sound, as well as the concert hall and theater.

He currently as an adjunct professor of composition at the University of St. Thomas, Macphail Academy of Music, and the CEO of Slam Academy in Minneapolis.

Praise for other classes by J. Anthony Allen:

  • "I've had Live Lite for a while but never quite understood how to use it because of the different options in how to arrange audio. This course explains exactly how to do that and get the most out of Live."
  • "Great overview - I would start here for sure if you are just getting your feet wet with live. clear and to the point. session walkthroughs are great. looking forward to more"
  • "I have never had any formal training in music at all. Trying to learn all the notes and how everything translated was a serious challenge. After going thru this class, Dr. J has totally brought down the barriers. The content was very useful and was easy to grasp for me."
  • What are the requirements?

    • Access to a DAW: any program will do. (GarageBand, logic, pro tools, ardour, ableton live, etc.)

    What am I going to get from this course?

    • By the end of this course, you will have improved your tracks by understanding how to build chords and melodies that work together.

    Who is the target audience?

    • Any level of musician
    • No experience reading notes required.

    What you get with this course?

    Not for you? No problem.
    30 day money back guarantee.

    Forever yours.
    Lifetime access.

    Learn on the go.
    Desktop, iOS and Android.

    Get rewarded.
    Certificate of completion.


    An overview of what we will cover in this class. 
    Section 1: Understanding Music Theory from an Electronic Music perspective

    First, we need to understand the Piano Roll Editor - where it comes from, and how it works.


    Our first interval: The Octave.


    Octaves, just by themselves, can be quite interesting. Lets play around with them a little bit here.


    Lets talk a little bit about how the black keys work, and what we call them.


    We use "Middle C" as our home base when working with notes. In this video we will talk about how to find it.


    So far so good! We are on our way to understanding Music Theory. A little review before we move on.

    Section 2: The Perfect 5th, and Being "In Key"

    Our next interval is the Perfect Fifth - slightly harder to use than the octave, but still pretty safe.

    Finding the roots of triads, and building our basic triads.

    In this video we look at what it means to be "in key".


    In order to find a key, all you need to do is remember this pattern!


    A few examples of how fifths can work in context.

    Section 3: More With Keys, The Third, and The Basic Triad

    Music Theory is made up of a bunch of patterns - some of them are "moveable" - which can save you time when learning them!


    The Third could be said to be our most important interval. It has 2 different types: Major and Minor.


    Triads are the most basic (and most used in electronic music) type of chords. This is how to find them, and how to make them.


    Music is made up of chord progressions: Sequences of chords that work together.

    Section 4: Diatonic Chord Progressions

    "Diatonic" is a fancy word that means "in the key." But it is an important concept to know when putting together chord progressions.


    Another pattern to remember - this one tells us the quality (major or minor) of all the chords in a key.


    In traditional music theory, we use roman numerals to label chords. We don't care about traditional analysis, but this technique is useful to us for a few reasons.


    In this video, we will pick apart a track and see if we can find the chords, the key, and the chord quality for a section of it.


    If you only remember one thing from this class, remember this lesson. This is the trick that will make your music sound professional.

    Section 5: 7th Chords

    When we build triads, we use the root, the third, and the fifth. With seventh chords, we go one more step.


    We can build our diatonic chord progression sequence using 7th chords, and see how the three types of seventh chords work together.


    One of my favorite examples of a major 7th chord, from a classic tune.


    Dominant 7th chords (the ones we just call "7th" chords) have a very important function. In this lessons I'll show you how that works.


    The Blues is a genre of music entirely built around the 7th chord. Want your track to sound a little bluesy? Use 7th chords.

    Section 6: The Other Intervals

    The fourth isn't used to build triads normally, but you've seen it before when we looked at inversions.


    The second can be major or minor, and has an "evil twin" in the 7th.


    We've seen the sixth before as well - a lot! Its inversion is a third.


    Now that we know how to find the key and the chords, lets dive in to another song and see if we can make sense of it.

    Section 7: Wrap Up

    Thats it! Thanks for hanging out - I have a few quick parting words to send you off with!


    I recently made some cool (animated!) theory videos for another project that you might enjoy. Here they are!

    Section 8: Updates! Some answers to popular questions.

    Question 1: This might be a dumb question, but I'm confused with how to make the F# and C# chords in the D major scale for the homework. For F#, I have the A for the third, and C# for the fifth, because I still counted the whole (white on the keyboard) notes only.


    Question 2: Can the root note be inverted?


    Question 3: Now that i know what a key is,I've heard that few electronic songs have multiple keys (Daftpunk) in different parts of a song ie.chorus,bridge. What impact does it make ? because some people refer to it as the energy of the song....


    Question 4: I'm interested in taking your course. I was wondering if you knew there were any limitations for the trial version of Ableton? For example, can I export audio tracks or save projects?


    A few people have asked me about what software is around for working with notes. This is the answer.


    There is so much more to learn!

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    Instructor Biography

    Jason Allen, Ph.D / Ableton Certified Trainer

    J. Anthony Allen has worn the hats of composer, producer, songwriter, engineer, sound designer, DJ, remix artist, multi-media artist, performer, inventor, and entrepreneur. Allen is a versatile creator whose diverse project experience ranges from works written for the Minnesota Orchestra to pieces developed for film, TV, and radio. An innovator in the field of electronic performance, Allen performs on a set of “glove” controllers, which he has designed, built, and programmed by himself. When he’s not working as a solo artist, Allen is a serial collaborator. His primary collaborative vehicle is the group Ballet Mech, for which Allen is one of three producers.

    J. Anthony Allen teaches at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN., and is an Ableton Live Certified Trainer. He is a co-founder and owner of Slam Academy, a multimedia educational space in downtown Minneapolis. Recently, Allen founded Hackademica – an innovative net-label for new music.

    J. has a PhD in music composition, 2 Master’s degrees in music composition and electronic music, and a bachelors degree in guitar performance. Through his academic travels, Dr. Allen has received numerous awards along the way.

    If you run into him on the street, he prefers to be addressed as J. (as in, Jay.)

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