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#1091448 - 12/19/07 09:47 PM Theory-How Best to Learn It?
pianoluvr Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/13/07
Posts: 172
Hey everyone! Merry Early Chrimstas! Well, as I've been thinking of the New Year and all that good stuff, I've been thinking a LOT about piano. I really want to work harder this next year and be able to progress to some more Chopin, some harder Bach, Fur Elise...(Right now I'm about to begin Clementi Sonatinas).

But I've realized that I know very little about theory, which I think is a pretty big "hole" in my piano playing prowess. So I was wondering what the best way to learn is? I have the book that accompanies the Alfred series, but it isn't all that helpful. My teacher can look at a piece and explain things about the chord progressions and the keys and so forth. Where you you learn that stuff?! Are there any books, computer programs, online sites...anything you'd reccommend? I'd really appreciate it!
Do or do not, there is no try.

Beethoven Sonata Op.49 No.2
Fur Elise
Chopin Waltz Op.69 No.2
Chopin Nocturne Op.9 No.2
Schumann Op.15 No.1 (About Strange Lands and People)
Schumann Op.15 No.7 (Traumerei)

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#1091449 - 12/19/07 09:53 PM Re: Theory-How Best to Learn It?
jotur Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 6359
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
I took a music theory course at the local community college and learned a lot, and it wasn't expensive. We analyzed some Bach - which is a pretty standard thing to do \:\) But it was fun and it sort of tied together things I'd learned elsewhere, and added some new stuff, too.


Practice like you are the worst; play like you are the best - anonymous

#1091450 - 12/20/07 12:05 AM Re: Theory-How Best to Learn It?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 14106
Loc: Canada
I went all out his year and studied theory using the Barbara Wharram book and have written two of the RCM (Canada) rudimentary exams. It does seem to make a difference for playing because music makes so much more sense.

This is also very helpful in understanding basic theory, and there is even a section for practicing what you have learned: http://www.musictheory.net/

#1091451 - 12/20/07 12:08 AM Re: Theory-How Best to Learn It?
cscl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/13/07
Posts: 257
Loc: Suburban Boston
I've listened to a lot of Robert Greenberg's courses from The Teaching Company. He talks about theory and structure even in his general courses, but he has a short course on theory for those who don't even read music that I liked for the aural component but I did some serious theory reading before and after. The trick with the Teaching Company is to wait until the courses go on sale and never buy anything not on sale (they all go on sale often enough, faster than you can listen to the ones you already bought on sale). When on sale and purchased via download, each 45 minute lecture is only about $2 each.

However, the books I used were ones I borrowed from a friend who had used them in her own music lessons growing up. However, although these are simple paperbacks, they are considered college textbooks and are outlandishly expensive. The versions I used are old (1985-1986):

Paul O. Harder. 1986. Basic Materials in Music Theory. A Programed Course. Sixth Edition.
Paul O. Harder. 1985. Harmonic Materials in Tonal Music. A Programed Course. Fifth Edition. Part 1.

You can find the descendants of these books on Amazon for $83.34 and $103.87 by new author Greg A. Steinke , but I can't imagine actually purchasing these books, even though I would still say they are the most thorough introductions to music structure and theory I've come across. I wasn't impressed with any of the inexpensive and readily available theory books (e.g., Music Theory for Dummies, etc.) or the Alfred, etc. theory books. These books by Harder are just what you want if you want to learn theory and are quite thorough. Still, I wouldn't pay $80-$100 for these!
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#1091452 - 12/20/07 05:23 PM Re: Theory-How Best to Learn It?
Blues Babe Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/25/07
Posts: 104
Loc: Everett, WA
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory is a great basic book and comes with a CD to "test" you on various concepts such as ear training and interval training. It's about $20 and available at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc.
Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.

#1091453 - 12/20/07 05:54 PM Re: Theory-How Best to Learn It?
Jared88 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/07
Posts: 56
Loc: Cincinnati
Hey early merry christmas to you as well Pianoluvr!

Learning Music theory/Piano theory is the best thing I've ever done (in terms of music lol). I'm not completely finished with Theory either. I still have a couple more semesters of Music Theory as well and I can't wait.

I would definitely try to get an instructor of some sort. You need someone you can actively communicate with though. I think that self teaching music theory (even with all the internet resources) isn't really practical.

I'm sure I'll face some scrutiny for this comment lol. But I think its the quickest and most accurate way to go.

Are you in college or anything???? If you are you should take Music Theory 101.

88 keys + 10 fingers + 2 hands + the score > 1 set of eyes

#1091454 - 12/20/07 06:19 PM Re: Theory-How Best to Learn It?
LaValse Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/21/07
Posts: 1225
Loc: Mumbles, Wales

#1091455 - 12/20/07 09:00 PM Re: Theory-How Best to Learn It?
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington

Signature says: "Proud to be a Music Major..."

Hey, Jared, I am very proud of you for being a music major and a member of PWF. I think it's great that you love theory. Your recommendations are serious and wise and not everyone sees or hears the science and math coming to life in our music. Good for you!


#1091456 - 12/21/07 09:14 AM Re: Theory-How Best to Learn It?
pianoluvr Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/13/07
Posts: 172
Thanks everyone for your suggestions! I really like musictheory.net and am definitely going to see if I can save up to getting a nice book.

I'd LOVE to take an actual class in music theory. That suggestion is awesome Jared. Unfortunately, I'm in high school and it's a high school who's music program has died a sad, slow death over the past four year. So that's not really an option because I can't see anyone in my school really eager to take the class other than me. It's sad...the level of music education in high schools these days.
Do or do not, there is no try.

Beethoven Sonata Op.49 No.2
Fur Elise
Chopin Waltz Op.69 No.2
Chopin Nocturne Op.9 No.2
Schumann Op.15 No.1 (About Strange Lands and People)
Schumann Op.15 No.7 (Traumerei)

#1091457 - 12/21/07 09:36 AM Re: Theory-How Best to Learn It?
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Re the Harder/Steinke books - I just ordered all three of them (Harmonic Materials in Tonal Music is in two volumes) for less than $20 including shipping. Try Bookfinder.

Slow down and do it right.

#1091458 - 12/22/07 02:12 AM Re: Theory-How Best to Learn It?
dfpolitowski Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/09/06
Posts: 166
Loc: New Jersey
I find it interesting some mention
College theory, The Teaching company, and The Idiots Guide.

These three were the very courses of study I have taken over the past few years.

I recommend you first study the Idiot's Guide in music theory. Secondly, when you get to college take music theory I and II.

In order for you to learn music theory well you must work through the exercizes in the hardcover book as well as from the work book text. Its these repeated exercises in analysis from which a good technical understanding comes and there no other substitute.

I feel the best education comes from a slow dedicated study in music theory where nothing else is studied at the same time, except maybe piano. Theory needs all the dedication you can give to it. Incidentally, it can burn you out too. So, you need to learn it over a few years.

I found it a great help to do a preliminary study in music theory before prior to taking College music theory I.

But more importantly, you should study scales, intervals and rhythmic structure to lay a good foundation for the understanding of music theory.

Hope this helps.

David P.


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