Music Theory Fundamentals: From Notes to the Circle of 5ths
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Music Theory Fundamentals: From Notes to the Circle of 5ths

Learn Pitch, Keyboard, Notation, Scales, Major Key Signatures, and the Circle of 5ths
4.8 (31 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
1,894 students enrolled
Last updated 1/2016
Current price: $10 Original price: $25 Discount: 60% off
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  • 1 hour on-demand video
  • 10 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • Hear the difference between high and low pitches
  • Identify the notes on the piano keyboard
  • Write and read notes on the treble, bass, (plus tenor and alto) clef staves
  • Play, read, write, and hear the seven modes on any pitch
  • Play, write, and read the 15 major scales
  • Read and write the 15 major key signatures
  • Create and navigate the Circle of 5ths
View Curriculum
  • This is the first course in a series of 3
  • True internalization of this material requires practice
  • Ideally, students should have an MP3 player, a printer, and a piano keyboard

This Fundamentals Course is the first of a series of courses that take the student from the very beginnings of musical understanding to getting an "A" in a college music theory class. You do not have to be a college student to take this course, but by the time you finish the series, it will be as if you had taken several semesters of classes. If you are going to take college music classes, this series will save you a considerable amount of stress and maybe even some tuition money.

The Fundamentals Course covers Pitch, Staff Notation, the Piano Keyboard, Modes, Major Scales and Key Signatures.

The Intermediate Course covers Intervals, Minor Keys and Scales, Triads, Seventh Chords, Figured Bass, Roman Numeral Analysis, Time Signatures, Meter, Rhythm, Melodic Dictation

The Advanced Course covers 4-part (SATB) Voice Leading, Analytical Techniques, Chromatic Harmony.

The Lectures can be viewed in an afternoon. However, as with many subjects, it is the consistent practice that internalizes the knowledge so that it becomes second nature. To this end I have included dozens of worksheets and audio files for practice with each lesson. Working with a friend, parent, or partner can be very effective in keeping this practice motivated.

You will need a printer and an MP3 player of some kind to do the practice work. Having a piano keyboard nearby to practice on will also greatly accelerate learning. Mastery of the the complete series may take as little as six months or as long as two years. The Fundamentals Course is normally taught in 9-18 weeks.

Who is the target audience?
  • Any student preparing to be a music major
  • Any student struggling to understand music theory
  • Any busy teacher who needs a complete music theory course; ready to go, complete with lessons, homework, and assessments.
  • Anyone who thinks learning music theory is too difficult or too complicated... it's not.
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Curriculum For This Course
Pitch = High or Low
1 Lecture 02:25

Download the Lesson Guide. This will help you with how to use this lesson.

This lesson explains the concepts of pitch, pitch space, pitch height, pitch matching, frequency, loudness, vibration/oscillation.

While most students have developed the ability through natural exposure, some students have difficulty recognizing the relative highness or lowness when comparing two pitches.

Included in this lesson are a number of audio files that play two pitches. These files can be downloaded and randomized in an MP3 player for practice. Students can use simple answer sheets to answer whether the second tone is higher, lower, or the same as the first.

The material can be used for both practice and building assessments.

Also included for this lesson is a downloadable vocabulary list and online quiz.

Preview 02:25

Vocabulary Quiz

Lecture 1 Pitch: Vocabulary Quiz
6 questions
Notes on the Piano Keyboard
3 Lectures 07:43

This lesson explains why the piano keys are patterned like they are. Students will learn the names of the white keys and other vocabulary. Supplemental material, including the Lesson Guide, is included with Lecture 4.

Preview 03:05

Students will learn the names of the black keys. concepts such as sharp and flat, and other vocabulary. Supplemental material, including the Lesson Guide, is included with Lecture 4.

Preview 02:40

Students will learn to number the octaves and other fundamental vocabulary. Supplemental material for this Section is included with this Lecture.

Octave Number

Vocabulary Quiz

The Piano Keyboard
10 questions
The Notes on the Staff
1 Lecture 09:20

In this lesson the students will learn the notes on the staff in treble clef, bass clef, plus tenor clef, and alto clef. Ledger lines and ottava symbols are explained. This lesson includes practice worksheets and a vocabulary quiz.

Staff Notation

Vocabulary and Applied Knowledge

Staff Notation
15 questions
1 Lecture 07:42

This lesson explains the seven modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian), the patterns of whole-steps and half-steps, the major or minor quality of the mode, scale degree, and tonal center.

Notation and piano keyboard worksheets are included for practice.

Audio files are included for aural recognition practice. Download these files into a directory on your MP3 player, randomize the playback, and use the answer worksheet to practice recognizing modes by ear.

One effective method for understanding modes is in terms of starting on a particular scale degree in a major key, e.g. Ionian starts on do, Dorian starts on re, Phrygian start on mi, etc. For this reason, it is suggested that modes be revisited after learning the major keys.

Another suggested assignment is to write out all seven modes for each tonal center.

The exercises in this lesson can be used for practice or assessment.


Mode Quiz

Mode Quiz
10 questions
Major Keys and Scales
5 Lectures 27:29

This lesson in five (5) parts explains the derivation of the 15 major keys and scales, key signatures, the order of sharps and flats, the circle of fifths, tonal function, and solfeggio.

Understanding key is the key to understanding tonal music. A deep understanding of how the notes relate to each other, and the names by which they are referred is essential to understanding key and tonal music.

Students should understand the proper notation of key signatures, major scales expressed in notation and on the keyboard, and the key relationships.

Students should take the time to discover all of the major keys on their own, as suggested in the video lessons.

You do not need to know your key signatures to practice the audio lessons. Each file puts the key in your ear, and then plays a note in that key. You determine which note of the scale that is.

Suggested assessments include:

  • “pop quiz” to draw a “Circle of Fifths” from scratch
  • play major scales on the piano
  • Naming notes in response to key with scale degree, solfege, or function name
  • Writing random key signatures
  • Sing (solfege) a major scale
Major Keys Part 1: Form and Function

Discover the major keys on your own.

Preview 02:39

How did you do?

Major Keys Part 3: Scales II

The order of flats and sharps. Spelling counts!

Major Keys Part 4: The Order of Sharps and Flats

The map of the relationships between the universe of musical keys.

The worksheets and quiz help you to navigate the notes as they function in each key.

Major Keys Part 5: The Circle of 5ths

Identifying the notes in a key.

Major Key Quiz
15 questions
Road Map: Symbols and Vocabulary
2 Lectures 05:20

Learn about the symbols and vocabulary of printed music.

Coda: How to read the road signs of music.

Vocabulary and Symbols

Musical Road Map Quiz
10 questions

Bonus Lecture: What's Next? Learn about Music Theory Level II
About the Instructor
David Spondike, Ph.D.
4.8 Average rating
41 Reviews
1,953 Students
3 Courses
Music Theory Instructor

“When you get an educator that can teach high school students how to successfully learn college material before they graduate, that is actually in some ways even superior to what a professor does. It's just a testimony to his skill and what he's doing in the classroom. If I'm going to recommend a student to a person, I'm going to recommend them to a person that gets results. Without hesitation I would recommend Dave." ~Michael S.

With over 17 years of college and high school classroom experience as a music theory teacher, a Masters degree in Music Education and a Doctorate degree in Music Theory and Composition, Dr. Spondike can make music theory understandable without memorizing hundreds of rules. Private online instruction is available. Message me for pricing or to arrange a private Skype lesson. Professional Development packages available.