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Soundfly’s Guide to Learning Things Online: 3. Our Favorite Music Learning Resources

*This is Section 3 of our Guide to Learning Things Online. To go back to the Introduction, click here. Or you can read the entire thing in one loooong Google Doc here

Our Favorite Online Music Learning Resources

Now we come to the fun part of this document! Below is a list of great resources for learning and playing stuff online. We will try to keep this updated regularly. It’s not comprehensive, but rather curated to include the stuff we at Soundfly use and particularly enjoy. If you see something we’re missing, let us know!

On to our list, starting with the most important of course…

Soundfly. In case you don’t know us by now, we make online courses and provide in-depth mentorship programs. We have free courses on a lot of topics, a subscription to our more in-depth courses, and a program for working 1:1 with an expert if you want structure, feedback, and support. Our topics skew toward production and composition, but we also have some theory, piano, business, and miscellaneous courses. Additionally, we offer custom sessions in which one of our mentors can create a custom program specifically for you.

OK, but enough about us, let’s move right along.

Free Interactive Learning Tools

Ableton’s Learning Music. A fantastic resource for learning how to make music that doesn’t require any previous experience. It includes all sorts of theory, all in a production-centric framework. They also have a Learning Synths site.

Groove Pizza. So often, rhythm and beats aren’t given the attention they deserve in (formal) music education. This interactive tool lets you experiment with different rhythms, time signatures, drum patterns, loops, and more. Check out this and other offerings from the NYU MusEDLab here.

Aqwertyon. Another awesome invention from the NYU MusEDLab, this is a more logically laid out MIDI keyboard, with different toggles for understanding scales, chords, and modes. You can play with it in the browser, or use it in our free course Theory for Producers to learn more about scales.

MusicTheory.net. A collection of music theory explanations with demonstrations and some useful ear training exercises.

Rhythm Trainer. This app allows you to practice different rhythms, at different time signatures. The difficulty increases as you progress through the exercises, making this a great daily practice tool for rhythmic recognition. It’s free for ten minutes a day, or you can pay to upgrade and get more access.

Chrome Music Lab. A fun, kid-friendly way to experiment with sound. I mean, come on! Who doesn’t like exploring drum machines and patterns played by monsters? Topics range from rhythms and chords, to arpeggios, harmony, and oscillators.

io808.com. This is an awesome 808 drum machine simulator in the browser. It’s a great way to learn how to use old school drum machine!

Free Learning Resources

Open Music Theory. This has to be one of the best resources out there for learning things from the basics of notation, to voice leading, advanced harmonic concepts, counterpoint, and more. Plus, it’s not all classical! There are several sections devoted to modern pop forms and harmony as well. The contents are laid out like a textbook, and the information is both eloquent and concise.

Ethan Hein’s Blog. The instructor of our course, Unlocking the Emotional Power of Chords, has a super deep blog full of amazing content on a variety of topics. Dive into some of his top articles like: “The happiest chord progression ever,” or “Learning music theory with Auto-Tune.”

Ethan has also created some other fantastic lists of free resources for the courses he teaches at The New School. You’ll see some overlap with this list, but also a lot more and some highly specific options as well, organized by topic:

Top YouTubers

Adam Neely. One of our favorite music nerds on the internet, he’s always good for an in-depth take on a variety of theory and writing topics. 

Andrew Huang. One of the most creative musicians out there, he makes highly entertaining music videos and also often teaches breaks them down for you. Oh yeah, and we made a free course with him about how to make a song using only sounds made with a pot. 

Rick Beato. Every time I google something related to arranging, this guy’s videos pop up and usually have the answer I’m looking for.

Training Programs

SoundGym. We’re big fans. It’s an ear training site for sound design and production. You can take on daily training challenges to develop your ear. Soundfly subscribers get a 30% discount on the monthly subscription, which normally costs $14.95/month. (email me to learn about our subscription.)

Syntorial. A  synthesizer training app that’s been recommended by multiple members of our community. They offer lifetime access for $129.

Tenuto. At $3.99, this mobile version of musictheory.net is a one-stop shop for music theory workouts. The exercises include things like note, scale, and key identification, as well as chord and interval construction. This app comes highly recommended by Amy Stewart, the instructor of our TheoryWorks courses.

Steve Reich’s Clapping Music. This beautiful and addicting app helps you improve your understanding of rhythm and sense of time through Steve Reich’s legendary piece, “Clapping Music.”

Meludia. Play short and engaging games to improve your ear training skills and your understanding of fundamental musical concepts. This app is free, but you’ll likely want to make some of those in-app purchases if you find you enjoy it.

Music Podcasts

Song Exploder. In this highly-engaging podcast, composers, producers, and artists discuss the creative processes behind some of their best-loved creations.

Switched on Pop. This podcast from Vox looks at the influence today’s popular music has over the global musical and cultural environment by observing the lyrical, musical, and conceptual approaches and choices of contemporary songwriters, topliners, producers, and pop stars.

Meet the Composer. Meet the Composer intersects interview, sound design, and the music of focus itself to weave together a complex and nuanced storyline behind the composers of some of today’s most innovative new work in the classical, neoclassical, and post-classical worlds.

Music Business

Hype Machine. Hype Machine is a great place for finding new music and discovering music blogs. It’s an excellent resource for those looking to start submitting their music to publications.

Ari’s Take. This is Ari Herstand’s in-depth blog, featuring information for those looking to better navigate the music industry.

Water & Music by Cherie Hu. A great music technology and industry newsletter that analyzes, tracks, and critiques innovation in the global music business.

Notation and Sheet Music

IMSLP. Also known as the International Music Score Library Project or the Petrucci Music Library, this site catalogs tons and tons of public domain scores and parts as PDFs, MIDI files, and more.

Free Composition Tools

Soundtrap. A browser-based Digital Audio Workstation and creative community, Soundtrap is a great option if you’re interested in trying out the process of creating music with your computer. Free and premium accounts are available.

BandLab. BandLab is a social music platform which allows people to create music, collaborate and share their music on any device (Android, iOS and web/ChromeOS). While not strictly a learning platform, BandLab provides a wide array of creation tools, the means to meet other musicians and collaborate with them, and the means to create no matter where you are.

Noteflight. If you’re looking for an online notation editor, look no further. Noteflight is easy to use and allows you to quickly start from scratch. You can also sell and purchase sheet music in the Noteflight Marketplace.

Musescore. Another great, free online notation editor. A bunch of our students have had great experiences using it.

Learning an Instrument

JoyTunes. An interactive piano learning app that listens to you play and tells you whether you get it right or not. I know it’s great for beginners. I haven’t tried it for more advanced stuff. The app is free, but there’s a subscription that costs $59.99/three months.

Yousician. Similar thing, but for guitar, ukulele, and piano. I’ve used this for guitar a bit and really enjoyed it! The tricky part is sticking with it. There’s a free version and a premium version for $19.99/month.

Other Online Music Schools

There are a LOT of music schools or platforms with music courses online right now — in fact, way too many to list them all. That said, if you can’t find what you’re looking for at Soundfly, some of the other places to look might include: 

  • YouTube 
  • Skillshare (bite-sized courses on tons of artsy topics)
  • Masterclass (expert video courses)
  • Lynda.com (massive video learning library)
  • CreativeLive (live and archived video courses)
  • Coursera (university-level courses)
  • EdX (university-level courses)
  • Kadenze (STEM learning with some music tech courses)
  • Cinematic Composing (film & video game music)
  • Hyperbits (electronic music)

Fun Distractions

Patatap. Turn your computer keyboard into a super fun soundboard, accompanied by beautiful, minimalistic graphics.

Super Looper. A fun resource for making quick loops directly in the browser.

Got Rhythm. Test your natural sense of beat by taking this rhythm test and see how you do compared to your friends. 

Oh yeah, plus this funny remix program you should definitely try out and I swear it’s not a trick… 

This is the end of Soundfly’s Guide to Learning Things Online. Click here to go back to the full guide.

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Ian Temple

Ian is a pianist, entrepreneur and professional musician. He started Soundfly to help people really find what gets them most excited musically and pursue it. He's toured all over the world with his experimental trio Sontag Shogun. Check out his most recent course Building Blocks of Piano or follow him on Twitter at @ianrtemple.