One of the greatest aspects of music is that it doesn’t take a formal education to sing or play an instrument. If you can figure out how to make sound, all it takes is a little practice and you’ll run through “When the Saints Go Marching In,” all from the intuition of your own ears. Even some of the most famous musicians, like The Beatles, never studied music formally and rose to prominence by immersing themselves in the craft.
That being said, it is always of benefit to learn from the masters, which is what makes a musical mentor so invaluable. Anyone who wishes to delve more deeply into music than their own imaginings will inevitably have to study a bit of music theory, which is the study of the language of music. That’s right, written music is so complex that it is widely regarded as its own language, one based in math.
To someone who has never learned the basics of music theory, a page of sheet music may look like an alien bar code. This should no longer be daunting, however, as a new, free series of music theory courses has been made available by edX.org, an online learning center founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012.
The course, Introduction to Music Theory, covers the key concepts and approaches needed to understand, create, and perform contemporary music. Backed by Berklee College of Music, the 6-lesson series is run by their own Professor of Harmony and Piano, George Russell, who seems like a knowledgeable teacher and an all around cool dude who enjoys spreading his own love of music to eager students.
Students of this free online course will learn the theory behind the intervals between notes, scale and chord building, identifying keys and key changes, and chord patterns, and they will even write their own blues song.
In the promotional video, President of Berklee College of Music Roger Brown explained that the program began as a way to better prepare incoming freshman classes, but as they received positive feedback from the students, they decided to make it available even to those who could not come to attend their school. Of George Russell, he said:
“He is one of the most deeply musical people you’ll ever meet. He’s gonna be great at helping you see how these concepts apply to real things that you care about. He’s typical, I think, of what Berklee faculty are like; People who are just so deeply in love with music that they want to share it with other people.”
If you’d like a certificate at the end of the course, then there is a small charge, but the lessons are free. All interested parties should visit their website to sign up.