7 useful resources to help you study music theory

7 useful resources to help you study music theory

Anyone learning music theory will appreciate how complex and wide-ranging it is. There are so many different aspects of music theory to learn, from sight reading to learning scales, understanding rhythm, melody, harmony, tonal systems, acoustics, orchestration… the list goes on.

Whether you’re choosing to learn independently or taking advantage of our online course, utilising the many resources available will help you speed up the process. And for people who already have a good grounding in music theory, or have the qualifications they need, using apps to keep your music knowledge fresh is always a good idea.

Apps and books that can help you learn music theory

For teachers and students of music theory, access to a bit of extra help can go a long way. We’ve gathered some of our favourite music theory apps below, indicating which platform they’re available on and how much they cost.

Take a look and see if you think they could help your music theory practice.

1. EarMaster – Music Theory & Ear Training

EarMaster is developed to help you build your aural skills in terms of identifying pitch and rhythm. The app guides you all the way through from basic pitch and rhythmic understanding using simple questions to much more advanced and complex progressions.

When you reach the more complex levels, you’ll understand chord progressions, sight reading, sight-singing and interval identification. There are also customised exercises available and jazz workshops.

Each separate lesson gives you an explanation of the topic. There is then a listening and response exercise, followed by the next until you’ve finished the chapter. While it’s an iOS app, it can be downloaded onto both a Mac or PC so anyone can access it.

There are various options and add-ons depending on your level of study and even an EarMaster Cloud functionality. This means that it can be used for group study with each student having their own login. It’s a comprehensive app with the basic levels free of charge, and extremely useful for any music theory student.

2. Music Tutor – sight reading app

Music Tutor helps you to improve sight reading skills and learn to read music. By identifying notes that are presented in quick succession, you can improve speed and accuracy.

You can swap between treble, bass or alto clefs for each session. Music Tutor helps to practice aural skills too, and after you’ve taken each test you can look at where you went wrong and see your progress.

Because you can set the range of practice depending on your skill level, the app is ideal for beginners and more advanced learners It also supports German note names.

Available for Android and iOS, there are in-app products and upgrades available.

3. Perfect Ear – Music Theory, Ear and Rhythm Training

Available on Android and iOS, Perfect Ear is touted as a ‘music school in your pocket’. And we have to agree. It’s a great package of training exercises for rhythm and aural skills.

You can learn scales, chords, intervals, sight reading and how to identify melodies by ear alone. Learn how to sign intervals and notes and is great for both beginners, students and advanced learners.

It’s free with in-app purchases and worth downloading to help you learn.

4. Theory Lessons

This is an iPhone app that comes loaded with 39 animated lessons on music theory. They start from the basics and take you through to much more complex learning.

Developed by musictheory.com, Theory Lessons covers everything from understanding clefs, ledger lines and the staff, time signatures and measures, simply and compound meter, the major and minor scales, note duration, intervals, keys, chords and so much more.

It’s not free, but only costs around £2.99, making it an absolute bargain for the information you get. We particularly like the simplicity of the lesson presentation, and the way it takes you through logical and achievable learning steps.

5. Music Theory PRO

This is an essential app for music theory if you are aiming to pass the Grade 5 exam run by any of the major music schools, including Trinity or ABRSM (the exam board of the Royal School of Music).

For people learning an instrument, passing this is key. But even if you’re just learning music theory for fun, Music Theory PRO is a good bet. It offers a quiz for every level that includes all the new terms you just learned. Whatever your level of ability, it’s worth starting with Level 1 anyway so you can build your way up.

The PRO version is ad-free and ensures the quizzes offer everything you need to know for every theory grade.

Other music theory resources to work alongside your course

While apps are great, we know that some students would rather learn in different ways. So, if you’d prefer a book covering music theory, here are a couple you could try.

1. Music Theory for Dummies – 4th edition June 2019

As with all in this series of books, the information is laid out in an accessible way. It’s a friendly guide to music theory designed to make learning as easy as possible. Aimed at students and performers, it’s a great tool at any level.

The book concentrates on breaking down complex topics into manageable chunks. It also takes into account all aspects of production and includes the very latest teaching techniques. This version is priced at around £11.50 through Amazon.

2. Music Theory Essentials: A step by step introduction for all musicians

This book is written specifically for absolute beginners and those with no prior knowledge of music theory. It includes basic musical concepts, how to read music, how to understand key, time and rhythm signatures and how to create music yourself.

If you’re just starting out on your musical journey, this is a good companion to an online course. Published by Barton Press in November 2020, this version is currently £8.34 on Amazon.