5 Free Online Resources for Learning Music Theory (Plus a Bonus)

learning online

man learning music on laptop

+ Welcome to Soundfly! We help curious musicians meet their goals with creative online courses. Whatever you want to learn, whenever you need to learn it. Subscribe now to start learning on the ’Fly.

Music theory is a taboo word in many circles, and it is not uncommon to hear musicians say that theory will inhibit your creativity by making the process too heady or rules-oriented.

I guess there’s a little bit of truth to that sentiment if you believe that the point of music theory is that its rules can never be broken… which is not true at all. Think of theory as being similar to linguistic grammar, which functions as a tool to articulate oneself effectively, but it doesn’t force itself on your speech or tell you what to say. Hip-hop artists reading this right now are rejoicing somewhere ecstatically.

When most people begin playing music, they don’t necessarily worry about what is happening technically, why certain notes and chords sound way better (or darker, lighter, complicated, simple, brooding, open-ended, sad, dissonant, etc.) than others. They just want to enjoy themselves — that is, until they hit a plateau where they see someone they admire performing with more freedom and more versatility than they could ever imagine.

It’s at this point that picking up a bit of theory can help you figure out what your musical tendencies are as well as help you to break new musical concepts down into manageable pieces, so you can become more musically fluent. Whether you are a bedroom producer, a singer-songwriter, or a session instrumentalist, music theory can help you reach your musical goals and build confidence by gaining an understanding of what you are playing, how to make it better, and why you like the music you like.

In other words, there’s no reason not to learn at least a little bit of theory. So here’s a list of our five favorite places on the internet to learn music theory for free, plus a bonus one that may or may not feel totally obvious if you’ve ever been to Soundfly. Enjoy!

Learningmusic.ableton.com

Ableton’s learning music website explains music theory from a music producer’s perspective and jumps right into making music by learning the basics of combining different elements like drum programming, song structure, chords, tempo, and genre variations. This website is a great way to learn about music theory in a way that is practical, intuitive, and referential to popular and classic artists such as Beyoncé, Bob Marley, and Donna Summer, among others.

Musictheory.net

Musictheory.net is a great website that offers visualized resources for musicians ranging in skill level from beginner to advanced. Some of the lesson topics covered include rhythm, scales, intervals, chords, and chord progressions. Several exercises on the site will help you identify notes and intervals both on the guitar fretboard and keyboard, so it’s a pretty versatile site depending on your instrument of choice. It’s been up for what seems like forever so you can bet that as your knowledge grows, you’ll be able to return to Musictheory.net any time you need a refresher!

Teoria.com

Teoría offers tutorials on reading music, musical forms, and identifying scales, chords, and intervals. Each topic is broken down into easily-digestible sections, so you can jump around and learn about specific elements that you may want to learn about as opposed to having to read pages and pages to find an answer. Teoría also has an extensive range of exercises for ear training and identifying keys, intervals, scales, and rhythms, which can help solidify your fundamentals.

8notes.com

8notes is a music site that offers free sheet music and music lessons for piano, voice, drums, and guitar. The majority of the sheet music on the page is paired with play-throughs, and play along with band accompaniment. The sheet music ranges in difficulty from beginner to advanced. This site is a fantastic way to get used to playing along with accompaniment and understanding how you can learn music with a combination of audio content and written material.

Soundfly.com

Hey that’s us! Here at Soundfly, we offer a range of both free and paid courses for a variety of contemporary musical topics that are important for today’s music maker. Although you can subscribe to get access to all of our paid courses for only $39, our free courses are designed to get you learning immediately, putting your new skills to work in a meaningful way, and making sure you’re up to date with how music is being made nowadays. Courses such as Theory for Producers, Music Theory for Beginner Pianists, and How to Read Music feature entertaining and informative videos, downloadable resources, actionable challenges and tons more value, all for the price of nada.

RJD2: From Samples to Songs

Join our Mailing List

We offer creative courses, articles, podcast episodes, and one-on-one mentorship for curious musicians. Stay up to date!

Write

How Kimbra Created “Madhouse” (Video)

In this video borrowed from Kimbra's exclusive course on Soundfly, she breaks down how her track featuring Thundercat, "Madhouse," was made.

film scoring in your DAW

Write

How to Set up a Film Scoring Session in Your DAW

Nervous about getting started on a film or media sync project in your DAW? Here's everything you need to know to professionalize your session

scary movie posters

Write

How Scary Film Music Actually Comes Across as “Scary”

From sound design to music theory to auditory phenomena, here are the reasons why horror film score music can actually spook us to death!