Learning music theory can help you appreciate your favorite music more than ever before. While earning a music degree can be costly, the Internet is full of many high-quality free online music theory courses. Free online music theory courses offer you an opportunity to learn how to read music, write music, and many other aspects of the music making process. If you’ve ever had a passing interest in learning more about the craft of music then we highly recommend that you sign up for one of the ten free online music theory courses that we have listed below.
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Free online music theory courses come in many different formats and focuses. Some courses focus on how to read sheet music, others focus on how to start playing different instruments. Music theory courses can be primarily video-based or they can be a compilation of quizzes and exercises. Finding which course fits your learning style is the first step to ensuring that you’ll be able to learn the material and retain it for later usage.
Learning music theory online can not only be done for free, it can also be a lot of fun.
1. Berklee Online
Made available by Berklee Online, students can choose from a dozen sample lessons related to music theory. These sample lessons are offered to students entirely for free and are designed to potentially entice students to sign up for their courses online. While the actual full courses command a fairly high tuition price, these twelve courses are available entirely for free and cover a range of music theory related topics. These courses are incredibly high-quality and feature a variety of learning materials. This is a great way to get a sample of what Berklee Online has to offer in its music theory courses without spending any money.
Courses offered for free Berklee Online include Music Production Fundamentals for Songwriters, Guitar Ensemble Techniques, Film Scoring 101, Music Theory 101, Orchestration 101, and others. These courses are offered in their entirety and allow students to really gain full access to some really high-quality learning materials. These courses also offer more advanced lessons but those will require students to pay a tuition price to access.
We really like Berklee Online’s free online music courses as they match the quality of online college courses in music theory. These Berklee Online courses are incredibly robust and are a fantastic jumping off point for students wanting to learn music theory.
- Music Theory 101 and many other courses are offered
- The entire course is offered for free
- High-quality learning materials
- Advanced courses offered as well.
2. Fundamentals of Music Theory
Offered by the University of Edinburgh on Coursera, this Fundamentals of Music Theory is an incredibly high-quality free online music theory course that is pulled directly from a college curriculum. Through this free online music theory course students will learn the fundamentals of Western music notation as well as music theory. The curriculum covers topics including pitches and scales, rhythm, basic harmony, and much more. This course is also taught by a number of professors from the University of Edinburgh as well as those from the Edinburgh College of Art and other nearby universities.
Using the Coursera platform, this program is available to start at different times throughout the year. To engage in this program, students must find a start date that allows them to work through the course with a corresponding cohort. Once finished with this course, a certificate is offered to students that can be shared. This free online music course is designed to be completed in about twelve hours. It is designed for beginner level students.
We really like this free online music course as it is lifted from an existing university curriculum. By enrolling in this program you are given access to high-quality university-level learning materials.
- Beginner friendly
- Offers a shareable certificate
- Uses an existing university curriculum
- Designed for beginners
Formerly eMusicTheory, ToneSavvy is a music theory website filled with dozens of free music theory exercises. ToneSavvy is a vast collection of music theory lessons unlike others on the list. While many of the other options on this list are organized in a course format, Tone Savvy is a bit more open-ended. Students are given access to a library of various exercises and practices designed to teach a concept in music theory. What this site lacks in guided experiences, it makes up for in its breadth of content and lessons provided. ToneSavvy is a great option for learners that like to move at their own pace.
Courses offered on ToneSavvy include Interval Ear Training, Scale Building, Chord Progression Ear Training, and more. The ToneSavvy platform leverages the use of quizzes and brief exercises to help teach and reinforce key music theory concepts. ToneSavvy breaks down its offerings between Music Theory and Ear Training exercises. Both of these lesson types are very helpful in learning music theory concepts. ToneSavvy is also very helpful if you are a music theory instructor as the site provides instructions on how to easily integrate its exercises and lessons into your own curriculum.
What we like so much about ToneSavvy is the breadth of different exercises and mini-lessons offered on the platform. While not as guided of an experience as some of the other sites on the list, ToneSavvy is great for the self-paced learner.
- Wide selection of different mini-lessons
- Offers music theory and ear training materials
- Open-ended experience
4. Basic Music Theory
Offered by the author of The Audio Expert, Ethan Winer’s Basic Music Theory videos on YouTube are highly-regarded as some of the best free online music courses available online. A series of five videos, Ethan Winer’s Basic Music Theory course is a very straightforward crash course on the key concepts of music theory. These beginner-level courses are offered in video format with corresponding lessons that are offered on his website for free as PDFs. This course is made available on YouTube, a platform that most people are very familiar with. We really like how accessible and easy this content is for students.
The five courses in this program cover the following topics. Melody, Harmony and Chords, Musical Timing and Time Signatures, and Musicians and their Instruments. This free online music theory course is a great starting point for students who want to learn music theory without investing too much time and money into the process. Ethan Winer is a very skilled teacher and is very good at walking students through the learning materials he has created. Upon completion of this course, you’ll be in a great place to continue your education.
We highly recommend you take a look at Ethan Winer’s Basic Music Theory courses. They are very easy to access and are accompanied by easy to use learning materials made available for free on Ethan’s site.
- Very accessible and easy to use via YouTube
- Made up of five lessons
- Accompanying learning materials offered for free online
- Taught by accomplished music author
5. Music Theory for Songwriters
Part of MugglinWorks, a collection of free music lessons offered online by Stephen Muggin, Music Theory for Songwriters is a great free online music course for students interested in songwriting. The advantage of this free online music course is that it marries the music theory of some other lessons with the practical application of songwriting. Through the study of this course you will learn how to use music theory to write your own songs.
This online music theory course is made up of twelve different lessons. These lessons are housed on fairly simple HTML sites that do look a bit dated. However, the lessons are written very clearly and are really accessible for new learners. Don’t let the look of the site fool you, this is a very helpful set of music theory lessons. Lessons included in this free online music theory course includes scales, notes, chord variations, major scales, keyboard basics, and much more. Upon completion of this course you’ll have a foundational understanding of key music theory concepts.
We really like this course as it is offered in a very clear and easily digestible format. While the site can be a little dated in its aesthetic, the quality of the learning materials on this site are of the utmost and we highly recommend you give it a look.
- Made up of 12 courses
- Covers the basics of music theory
- Entirely free
Ready to start your journey?
MusicTheory.Net hosts a variety of free online music theory courses for students to choose from. The makers of iPad and iPhone apps Tenuto and Theory Lessons, MusicTheory.Net has also curated a wide selection of music theory courses that they offer to students entirely for free. These music theory courses are broken up into Lessons, Exercises, and Tools. The Lessons section of the site covers many of the core concepts and lessons you’d find in a typical music theory course. The exercises and tools section act as supplemental materials designed to help students continue their mastery over the subject matter.
Lessons at MusicTheory.Net cover topics including The Basics, Rhythm and Meter, Intervals, Chords, Diatonic Chords, Chord Progressions, and Neapolitan Chords. These lessons are identical to the ones offered in the Theory Lessons iPhone/iPad application. The course includes exercises that are designed to reinforce all of these lessons. MusicTheory.Net also hosts a number of interactive tools designed to work directly with pieces of music to help students apply their music theory knowledge.
We like MusicTheory.Net for its wide catalog of free online music theory lessons. These lessons are bolstered by exercises and tools designed to insure a command of the material. This free online music course is definitely worth checking out.
- Extensive courses of study made up of a variety of lessons
- Includes exercises for every lesson
- Online tools designed to help with understanding of music theory
8Notes is a highly-regarded site for musicians that provides sheet music for all types of songs. The site is also home to a pretty extensive free online music theory course. Made up of a series of slideshows, 8Notes free online music theory course is a great place for students to start their studies. The course is very easy to understand and can be accessed from any web browser. The music theory course offered by 8Notes covers all the essential lessons and techniques you’d find in a typical music theory course. The best part is that all the content is free and ad-supported.
Courses in this program cover topics such as Reading Sheet Music, Note Duration, Measures and Time Signatures, Rest Duration, Odd Meter, The Major Scale, The Minor Scales, Chords, and much more. In all, the course is made up of 47 different lessons. These lessons are supported by a handful of exercises and music training devised by 8Notes. These set of lessons is far more extensive than some of the other lessons offered by this lesson. This course is primarily made up of written lessons.
We really like 8Notes music theory course as it is made up of almost fifty different lessons, each one designed to teach a specific aspect of music theory.
- Nearly 50 free lessons
- Supported by free music training
- Accessible via any browser
- Entirely free
8. The Tonal Centre
One of the oldest offerings on the list, The Tonal Centre is a free online music theory course hosted on a very simple HTML site. On offer for over ten years, The Tonal Centre has widely been regarded as one of the top free online music theory courses available to students. While the site is very basic in its appearance, the quality of lessons on offer is not. You can work through an all-encompassing lesson plan on The Tonal Centre that covers all the main music theory 101 lessons that you’d find on more modern sites.
The Tonal Centre’s lesson plan is made up of six main categories. These six main categories are Tonality, Chords, Scales, Cadences, Modulation, and Deeper Theory. Working your way through these lesson plans will help you to develop a basic understanding of crucial music theory topics. Lessons at The Tonal Centre are mainly offered as text-based lessons. Think of the Tonal Centre as one of the best free online music theory textbooks you can find. The basic HTML site that hosts the content is a welcome change from many of the other sites on the list that are ad-supported and tend to slow down your web browser.
We like The Tonal Centre for the simplicity of the content on offer. The Tonal Centre’s website is easy to use and understand and the lessons are of the highest quality.
- Covers the major topics in music theory
- Essentially a free music theory textbook
- Entirely free and no ads
9. Dolmetsch Music Theory
Another older offering, the Dolmetsch Music Theory lesson set has been available to students online for over fifteen years. Despite sporting a decidedly Web 1.0 appearance, the lessons on offer from Dolmetsch are widely regarded as some of the top free online music theory lessons available to students. Dolmetsch organizes their music theory course into three major sections: Music Theory, Music History, and Composition and Orchestration. These sections are broken down into lessons that students can move through at their own pace.
When you visit the Dolmetsch Music Theory Lessons web page you’ll be greeted with a large HTML table filled with music theory lessons. The Music Theory section of the course is made up of 34 lessons. Within each of these lessons you’ll work through a specific aspect of music theory as you work to build your mastery and understanding of the topic. Beyond the music theory courses, are courses on music history and other topics as well. Dolmetsch’s free online music theory courses are very extensive and are incredibly helpful to new music theory students. Topics covered by these courses include Chords, Chromatic Scales, Score Formats, Notes and Rests, and many others. Offered as a basic HTML site, this website can be accessed from all browsers and is completely devoid of ads.
The Dolmetsch online free music theory courses are a great option for students that want to have access to an extensive library of introductory music theory courses. These lessons are incredibly detailed and cover a lot of the most important information that you’d need to get started as a musician. We highly recommend that you check these lessons out.
- Incredibly extensive selection of music theory lessons
- Includes additional lessons on music history and composition
- Around for over a decade
- Entirely free and not supported by ads
10. Yale Music Theory Course
Uploaded to YouTube back in 2014, the Yale Music Theory Courses video playlist has over 600,000 views at the time of writing. These courses are incredibly well done and offered to students entirely for free. Very rarely do you have access to an entire semester’s worth of Yale University lectures available online for absolutely free. These courses are taught by Yale University Professor Wright and were recorded in 2008. While they are a bit dated looking, fortunately music theory is a course that doesn’t need much updating. This course is made up of all the lectures in the Listening to Music course offered at Yale University.
Made up of 23 lessons, the Yale Music Theory Course is made up of a series of YouTube lectures that are each about fifty minutes. Course materials for each lesson are available online with links to the material in the description of each video. While the delivery of the material is fairly simplistic, the quality of the material is some of the highest on the list. Having access to actual Yale University courses for free is one of the best ways to start your journey into learning music theory. Courses in this course include Rhythm Fundamentals, Harmony, Bass Patterns, and much more. This course uses different genres of music as the basis for explaining different aspects of music theory.
This free online music theory course is one of our favorites due to the quality of lessons on display. Following a Yale University curriculum, these lessons are expertly written and taught. If you want to learn music theory from an absolute master, we highly recommend this lesson.
- Based off a Yale University music theory course
- Made up of 23 lectures
- Includes all the relevant course materials
Are free online music theory courses good?
Free online music theory courses are very high-quality and offer a lot of, if not all of, the same material that you would encounter in a paid course. Besides the obvious advantage of not having to pay for information that you can get for free, choosing to enroll in a free online music theory course allows you to not have to commit to any given course.
While the fundamentals of music theory have remained unchanged for a long time, the information in these courses can be taught in a number of ways. By not having to be locked into a course that you committed a lot of money to, you can sample different courses to find one that compliments your learning style.
We really love the free online music theory courses on display in this list. They cover a variety of different learning styles and delivery methods, but all provide students with access to all the essential knowledge you’d need for a basic understanding of music theory. We recommend that you take the time to check out all the different free online music lessons we’ve highlighted above to find the right one for you.
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Explore our featured online programs to find the right match for you today.