Understanding Basic Music Theory

(16 reviews)


Catherine Schmidt-Jones

Pub Date: 2013

ISBN 13:

Publisher: OpenStax CNX

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Reviewed by Jacob Lee, Adjunct Professor, Southern Utah University, on 6/20/2018.

For a book on basic music theory, this textbook is quite (if not excessively) comprehensive, covering much of what should or could be covered in a … read more



Reviewed by Keith Bradshaw, Associate Dean, College of Performing and Visual Arts, Southern Utah University, on 6/20/2018.

The text is fairly comprehensive, a bit too comprehensive for a music fundamentals class. Sections of the book go a little too much in depth for a … read more



Reviewed by Jason Heald, Associate Professor, Umpqua Community College, on 6/20/2018.

This textbook is very comprehensive in the range of subjects it covers. In an effort to "cover all the bases", some of the most crucial skills … read more



Reviewed by Scott Ethier, Adjunct Lecturer, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY, on 2/2/2018.

In some ways, this book is very comprehensive – maybe too comprehensive (do we really need 4000 words on tuning systems in an introductory text?). … read more



Reviewed by Sean Doyle, Professorial Lecturer, American University, on 2/2/2018.

Overall, the text is a comprehensive approach to the fundamentals of music theory, with particular focus on the standards and conventions of music … read more



Reviewed by Joshua Harris, Assistant Professor of Music, Sweet Briar College, on 8/16/2017.

The title and introduction's stated objective ("to explore basic music theory so thoroughly that the interested student will then be able to easily … read more



Reviewed by Claire Boge, Associate Professor and Coordinator of Undergraduate Music Theory, MIami University (Oxford Ohio), on 6/21/2017.

The book covers material corresponding to what most call Basic Musicianship and Fundamentals of Music and Music Notation, as well as more general … read more



Reviewed by Stephen Martorella, Adjunct Instructor, Rhode Island College, on 4/12/2017.

The text covers the basics of music theory as laid out in the table of contents in four of six sections with some additional peripheral material in … read more



Reviewed by Maristella Feustle, Music Special Collections Librarian, University of North Texas, on 4/12/2017.

The text is imbalanced in proportion. I don't believe it necessary to have 63 pages on notation (Section 1), the longest section in the book. Perhaps … read more



Reviewed by Miriam Webber, Assistant Professor, Bemidji State University, on 2/9/2017.

This book covers a variety of topics needed for a basic understanding of music theory. Topic include notation fundamentals, acoustics, scales, forms, … read more



Reviewed by Matthew Andrews, Graduate Student, Portland State University School of Music, on 2/9/2017.

Quite comprehensive for its stated purpose of covering "only the bare essentials of music theory." I would not use this textbook in a course intended … read more



Reviewed by Jeffery Kyle Hutchins, Artist/Teacher, Virginia Tech, on 2/9/2017.

I found this text to be very comprehensive in scope of teaching basic music theory. I found a great deal of emphasis was put on naming notes, scales, … read more



Reviewed by John Irrera, Instructor of Music, Virginia Tech, on 2/9/2017.

This book is meant to be an introduction to music theory, presenting to the learner the basics of how music is composed, performed, and interpreted. … read more



Reviewed by Shane Anderson, Associate Professor of Music, Nicholls State University, on 12/6/2016.

The text covers all basic introductory material of Music Theory. From the Introduction, it is clear that the author intends this text to be an … read more



Reviewed by Christopher Van Hof, Assistant Professor of Music, Colorado State Univeristy, on 12/6/2016.

While the fundamentals of how music is read, written, and functions are indeed covered clearly, there is no mention whatsoever of the common Practice … read more



Reviewed by Lewton Jones, Graduate Student/PSU/Music Teacher/Community Ed, PCC, on 8/22/2016.

The book by Catherine Jones is condensed and takes on many aspects of music theory even the physics of sound.Her comment regarding its peripheral … read more


Table of Contents

1 Notation

1.1 Pitch
1.2 Time
1.3 Style
2 Definitions
2.1 Rhythm
2.2 Timbre
2.3 Melody
2.4 Texture
2.5 Harmony
2.6 Counterpoint
2.7 Range
2.8 Classifying Music
3 The Physical Basis
3.1 Acoustics for Music Theory
3.2 Standing Waves and Musical Instruments
3.3 Harmonic Series I: Timbre and Octaves Solutions
4 Notes and Scales
4.1 Octaves and the Major-Minor Tonal System
4.2 Half Steps and Whole Steps
4.3 Major Keys and Scales
4.4 Minor Keys and Scales
4.5 Interval
4.6 Harmonic Series II: Harmonics, Intervals, and Instruments
4.7 The Circle of Fifths
4.8 Scales that aren't Major or Minor
5 Harmony and Form
5.1 Triads
5.2 Naming Triads
5.3 Consonance and Dissonance
5.4 Beyond Triads: Naming Other Chords
5.5 Beginning Harmonic Analysis
5.6 Cadence
5.7 Form
6 Challenges
6.1 Ear Training
6.2 Tuning Systems
6.3 Modes and Ragas
6.4 Transposition: Changing Keys

About the Book

Although it is significantly expanded from "Introduction to Music Theory", this book still covers only the bare essentials of music theory. Music is a very large subject, and the advanced theory that students will want to pursue after mastering the basics will vary greatly. A trumpet player interested in jazz, a vocalist interested in early music, a pianist interested in classical composition, and a guitarist interested in world music, will all want to delve into very different facets of music theory; although, interestingly, if they all become very well-versed in their chosen fields, they will still end up very capable of understanding each other and cooperating in musical endeavors. The final section does include a few challenges that are generally not considered "beginner level" musicianship, but are very useful in just about every field and genre of music.

About the Contributors


Catherine Schmidt-Jones graduated from Rice University in 1985, completing a BA in chemistry, a BA in music and a Master of Music in French horn performance.