Life Style

Music Theory: Basic Theory to Learn First in Music

Learn the fundamental concepts of the basic music theory to first learn as a beginner.”

Music theory has become a phrase that usually interprets fear and uncertainty in the hearts of many music students. But, understanding the theory of music is very important in order for sound music students to play the music they love.

So, what are the music theory basics that one should first learn as a beginner?

In this article, we will be looking into why learning music theory is essential, and we will also be looking into fundamental concepts of music like keys, rhythm, scales, and chords.

Before we read on, let’s have an understanding of what music theory is all about and why it is crucial to learn it.

What is Music Theory?

Music Theory refers to a language or tool that can help us to understand, appreciate, and analyze music. Just like understanding essential beginners piano lessons, music theory enables you to understand and analyze the tone and rules of music.

Meanwhile, the moment you have a clear understanding of the rules of music theory, it will help you to achieve the following.

  • To be able to improvise and sound good doing it.
  • To be able to read sheet music quickly
  • To be able to compose original songs
  • To be able to have good communication with other musicians
  • To be able to appreciate what has been input into the music you love.

However, music theory is seen as something overwhelming for most music students. And that is because music theory has a long history of being an enormous discipline. However, music students need to learn music theory that aligns with their goals.

With this in mind, let’s look at some basic music theory all musicians and music students should get acquainted with.

Basic Music Theory to Prioritize

Below are the fundamental music theories to prioritize


The music theory behind pop music is purely basic. Pop music usually tends to make use of similar elements and concepts that have been used before, like the I-V-vi-IV progression. Pop musicians use theoretical knowledge to make intelligent tweaks.


Classical music deals with complex theory. But if you want to play instead of composing, having a general understanding of what happens in sheet music is good enough to be able to learn and understand the music. However, learning about how to read sheet music should be anyone’s priority because classical music is more sheet music-based.


As it is with jazz, jazz is notorious for being entirely theoretical simply because the main essence of jazz is to be able to improvise over the change of chord in real-time. Meanwhile, jazz musicians usually rely on deep understanding and techniques for melodies to be reharmonized immediately.


A lot of people think rhythm is for drummers, but it is not just for drummers. The moment a musician or music student is able to have a proper understanding of rhythm in music, it will make a significant difference.

For instance, if you pick up a melody and play it with the same note values, you will realize that it does not sound good.

Another instance is if you improvise with the blue scale, you will realize that when the scale is being played up and down, it will lead to getting old fast. But the moment some varying rhythms are added, the sound will come out to be more sophisticated.

However, in order for you to ideally master rhythm, there are some concepts to start with, and they are as follows:

Concept of Rhythm

  • Note values: it is essential to know the values of the whole note, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, and the like. Also, ensure that you learn how note values can be counted in a measure. The moment you are acquainted with notes, then learn to recognize the rest quickly.
  • Time signature: There are numbers on top that represent the number of beats that are in measure. At the same time, the number on the bottom side represents the type of notes that counts as one beat.

The moment you are able to understand the fundamentals, you will be able to explore more complex concepts, such as syncopation and odd time signatures.

Musical Alphabet

It is crucial to understand the names of the notes, which are referred to as the Music Alphabet. When you look at a piano keyboard, you will discover eight white keys that make up an octave. Each of the white keys represents letters in the alphabet. At the same time, the black keys happen to be the ones that are sharp between the letters of the musical alphabet.

Scales and Keys

The reason why some notes sound good together, and some do not is that scales make us understand how notes sound good together. A scale is referred to as a series of notes that are ordered according to some rule.

Melodies can easily be made when notes are picked from a scale and shuffling them around. It is essential to view scale as a bank of notes that sound good together, that the best music can be made out of.

Meanwhile, scales and keys are vital concepts that beginners can find a little complex. But it is beneficial to spend quality time learning it.


Intervals happen to be the distance that exists between two notes. Meanwhile, melodies are simply a series of intervals. Each interval has its exceptional sound and mood, so if you are able to allow your ears to be trained for intervals to be recognized. Then, you will be able to identify melodies by just hearing them.

However, the theory behind intervals requires some basic understanding of scales and keys.

For instance, C-E represents the major third because E stands as the third note of the C major scale. Meanwhile, C-Eb represents a minor third because Eb stands as the third note of the C minor scale.


Chords happen to be one of the most critical concepts anyone needs to learn in music. Most of the things that can be found in Western music are basically based on chords. Meanwhile, a chord is a bunch of notes that are grouped, and that also sound good together in a harmonious manner.

However, the types of chords suggest certain sounds; for instance, major triads connote happy, while minor triads connote sad.

Furthermore, chords happen to be built on notes, and these notes are called roots. It is the same note the chord is named C Major Triad. Also, from the roots, chords are built by stacking intervals. The formula used for the major triad is 1-3-5, which stands for root, major third, and perfect fifth. The formula for the minor triad is 1-b3-5, which stands for root, minor third, and perfect fifth.

In the same manner that the best DJI drone for beginner gives the best value for a newbie, practicing with these basic music theories will do a lot for beginners.


It is crucial to note that music theory is very vast. A lot of musicians with an enormous number of fans may not have gone through music school to study music theory formally. However, many music students have obtained doctorate degrees in this subject.

But don’t feel exhausted about it. Just approach music theory with a curious mindset in order to enjoy it to the fullest.

Irrespective of who you are, it is essential to have at least a basic knowledge of music theory.

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

Related Articles

Back to top button