Musictheory.net is a great online resource for music learners. It provides a series of short lessons that go over both basic and advanced principles of music theory. You’ll also find customizable practice activities, and even some fun tools like a staff paper generator and a virtual keyboard you can play with your mouse clicker. It’s available for free online and works with most internet browsers. There’s also an iPad app you can purchase and download for more features and offline use.
The free music theory lessons at Musictheory.net are short, simple, and straightforward, and are nicely illustrated with an animated staff and keyboard. A student can click through the lessons, watching and reading along, and get a good overview of music theory from the basics, like staff reading, rhythms, and accidentals, through advanced topics like chord progressions, voicing, and calculating key signatures.
Because the density of the information is so high, these lessons might not be the best way to introduce a young child to music theory, but they would be great for reviewing what’s already been learned. A very young child might need a parent to help read the text and explain to them what’s going on.
These lessons are concise and easy to understand, and make an excellent reference if you need a review or if you have a music theory question. They cover many of the music theory topics that I teach in the Hoffman Academy video lessons, and then go well beyond to some very advanced music theory concepts.
There’s a wide array of music theory exercises available at Musictheory.net, and the best part is that they’re totally customizable. Say you want your child to practice reading the notes E, F, and G on the treble staff by letter name. You can click on the Note Identification exercise, then click the settings button in the upper right corner, and set the treble range to just E, F, and G. You can also choose to practice the note names as letters or Solfege syllables. Other exercises use the piano keyboard, either highlighting a note and asking for the letter name, or showing a note on the staff and asking for the correct key on the keyboard to be clicked.
Several ear training exercises are included, and can be customized for beginning pianists. For example, if you use the interval ear training exercise, you can choose which intervals to practice. It’s best to start with only a few common intervals, such as a repeated note (unison), a step (major 2nd), and a skip (major 3rd). Here’s a customized interval exercise from musictheory.net that does just that! Any time you need a keyboard to help you with the exercises, you can click on the piano icon in the top right corner, and a keyboard window will pop up that allows you to click and hear any keyboard note.
Another great thing about these exercises is that parents or music teachers can create a customized exercise, and then kids can complete the exercise and print a progress report. See the musictheory.net FAQ if you’d like instructions on how to do this.
While many of the tools included at Musictheory.net are for advanced composers and won’t be useful to a beginning student, there’s a staff paper generator that you can use to create and print either blank staff paper or piano staff paper. This is very handy if you have any young composers in the house. I’ve also already mentioned the virtual keyboard window which can be helpful when doing the exercises, or just plain fun to play around with.
Review and Practice
The resources at Musictheory.net are a great way to review and practice music theory concepts. I hope you’ll take some time to explore the website with your child and try out the lessons and exercises.