How to use this book
This book was written and designed with a number of different types of study in mind. The topics included, for example, correspond with the content covered in a typical undergraduate music theory sequence, but this book is also suitable for independent study. The chapters are sequenced to provide a sense of logical flow from rudimentary ideas to more conceptually complex subjects. Newcomers, then, will likely benefit from reading through the chapters in order. At the same time, every attempt has been made to keep individual chapters coherent on their own while directing the reader to elaborations on certain topics elsewhere in the book whenever necessary. This will allow instructors to group the chapters in a number of different ways to match the pacing of their own courses while also accommodating advanced students looking to review only certain topics.
As with most analytical disciplines in the humanities, there are innumerable approaches to studying music theory. Similarly, there are often multiple ways to hear and analyze a particular passage. For the most part, this book conforms with mainstream ideas and vocabularies, but alternative terminologies and interpretations are included in offset informational asides where appropriate.
One of the underlying goals of this book is to demonstrate the extraordinary connectedness of analysis and actual musical experience. To accomplish this, we have included hundreds examples from actual compositions to demonstrate—and in some cases problematize—the ideas discussed herein. An individual’s facility with analyzing different types of music will affect both their experience as a listener and their sensitivity as a performer. Likewise, one’s development as a performer will be a tremendous aid in their ability to analyze music quickly and in a manner that is consistent with actual experience. It is far too easy to lose track of the audible when studying music theory, focusing only on memorizing lists of conventions and the accompanying terminology. To forge an active connection between analysis, performance, and listening, then, the reader is encouraged to pay close attention to every musical example included in the text. Readers should listen carefully to the musical sounds and the way they relate to one another by either playing/singing the examples themselves or by listening to the audio recordings included in the online version of the book.
Also included in each chapter are a number of activities and exercises designed to deepen the reader’s understanding of the various ideas and concepts described in the text. It is highly recommended that the student not only complete each exercise as it comes up but to refrain from moving on before completely understanding the reasons for the correct answers. Hints and solutions to questions are therefore provided. In the online version of this text the exercises, hints, and answers are embedded in the body of each chapter; in the print version they are collected in Appendices B, C, and D.
Although the compositional and analytical exercises included here will provide a great deal of valuable practice experience, instructors and self-guided students are recommended to supplement these chapters with additional assignments. The accompanying student workbook consists of hundreds of exercises specifically tailored to the concepts and ideas covered in this text. Also included are many additional excerpts from historical compositions with playable audio files in the online version of the book. (An answer key is available upon request for qualified instructors.)
Beyond this, readers are encouraged to explore the many resources available for free online. See, for example, Kyle Gullings’s “Open Education Resources for Undergraduate Music Theory” (https://jmtp.appstate.edu/open-educational-resources-undergraduate-music-theory) published by the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy.