Music Theory 101
Laitz (Steve)
Source: The Juilliard School, New York City
Paper - Abstract

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  1. Greetings from The Juilliard School in New York City and welcome to Music Theory 101. My name is Steve Laitz and I’ll be your instructor throughout this course. I am the chair of Juilliard’s Music Theory and Analysis department, where I teach theory to undergraduate and graduate students. Before coming to Juilliard, I taught at the Eastman School of Music for 27 years. As the author of two leading music theory textbooks, The Complete Musician: An Integrated Approach to Tonal Theory, Analysis and Listening and Graduate Review of Tonal Theory: A Recasting of Common-Practice Harmony, Form, and Counterpoint (Oxford University Press), I take great pride in having helped many students strengthen their music theory knowledge. I am thrilled to be able to share my teaching through JuilliardX so that I can reach students around the country and the world.
  2. If it were up to me, I’d substitute the term "Music Theory" for "Music Practice." As you will see throughout this course, theory acquires meaning only when applied directly to performance and the listening experience. Memorizing abstract theoretical terms and labels will not bring you closer to understanding the mysteries of music, but applying the concepts behind these same terms and labels will enable you to tap into the power and complexity of music. For this reason, in Music Theory 101 we will focus on listening, practicing, and composing rather than memorizing terms that we don’t fully understand.
  3. In Music Theory 101, you’ll embark on an exploration of the fundamentals of theory through six learning modules. Each module will begin with in-depth instructional videos, animations, musical performances, and illustrated written material. After exposure to several new concepts, you will then practice what you have learned by critically listening to short excerpts, plotting pitches and rhythms on staff paper, and completing worksheets. At the end of each module, you’ll apply all that you have a learned to a simple composition.
  4. I encourage you to make your way through the modules at the pace that makes sense for you. If you have studied music theory in the past, you might be able to move through the early modules with ease. If this course is your introduction to pitch notation, however, we suggest taking your time to fully explore each new concept as it is introduced.
  5. By the end of six modules of study, you will have:
    • Explored and applied fundamental music theory concepts like pitch, tonality, mode, key, dissonance, rhythm, and meter
    • Written an 8- or 16-measure melody that demonstrates your understanding of course concepts
    • Developed critical listening skills that enhance your appreciation of music
  6. After completing this course, you’ll be prepared to study more advanced theory concepts like counterpoint, harmony, and formal analysis.


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