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Education Resources

Sometimes music enthusiasts aren't ready for lessons right away due to financial, time commitment, or other issues. Sometimes students are just very self-motivated and want to learn all they can on their own and take formal lessons only when they hit a wall. I've compiled here some resources for the musical self-learner.

Self-Teaching Piano

I very, very, very strongly discourage people from trying to teach themselves piano. An instrument like violin requires good technique to make a sound, so if you aren't holding the bow properly, you'll probably know because it will sound awful. Piano, on the other hand, requires simply that you press the keys down at an appropriate velocity. Because of this it is dangerously easy to play the piano for years before realizing that the way you learned to play is holding you back, or even putting you at risk for injury. (Not that I recommend self-learning violin, or any other instrument for that matter.)

Having a good teacher who can provide real-time feedback will help prevent you from having to completely re-learn all of your physical instincts further down the line.

Music Theory and Ear Training - Web

musictheory.net: An excellent free tool for studying music theory with interactive lessons and customizable exercises. I consider it an introduction to "music fundamentals" rather than a complete "music theory" course, as it teaches you things like chords and scales but very little about how they interact.

teoria.com: Similar to musictheory.net. The lessons are not as good, in my opinion, but they cover more material. The exercises offer more customization and content.

Open Music Theory: A much more thorough resource that covers a huge breadth of music theory topics. It is an online textbook, so the lessons are not interactive, but it does provide exercises. The biggest downside, in my opinion, is that a self-learner wouldn't necessarily know which parts are importand for them and which parts they could skip, and may be overwhelmed by the material.

Music Theory - Books

Tonal Harmony by Kostka, Payne, and Almén: This textbook has been criticized for hyperfocusing on traditional four-part voice leading (and I agree with that criticism) but remains the best textbook for self-learners, in my opinion. The lessons are detailed, logically ordered, and clear even when read alone without a class or teacher. It also provides lots of self-tests and exercises to help you practice your skills, and a separate workbook full of exercises can be purchased. Any edition of the book should be fine. (Older editions can usually be purchased very cheaply.)

Harmony and Voice Leading by Aldwell, Schachter, and Cadwallader: A music theory textbook, especially for people who want to focus more on part-writing and arranging. In my opinion, this is a very difficult textbook to read as a self-learner.

Fundamentals of Sight Singing and Ear Training by Fish and Lloyd: Very good book for ear training. It's more of an exercise book than a course book, so instructional information is sparse, but the exercises are mostly straightforward and focus on building skills rather than testing knowledge.

A Practical Approach to the Study of Form in Music by Spencer and Temko: The title is pretty self-explanitory. This one assumes a basic foundation in music theory and provides a framework for analyzing musical structure rather than harmony and tonality, which is the (somewhat myopic) focus of a lot of music theory education.

Other Harmony by Tom Johnson: An excellent resource for those looking to go beyond "traditional" music theory. Johnson compiles and explains very well a variety of techniques that composers and theorists have used to think about music and create new sounds.


These are not video "courses" per say, but YouTubers who make interesting, entertaining, and informative videos pertaining to composing and music theory:

And here are some channels that post music with scores or other visualizations:
  • Incipitsify
  • : Score videos of primarily contemporary music
  • Score Follower
  • : Score videos of primarily contemporary music
  • Cmaj7
  • : Score videos of both contemporary and traditional music
  • Smalin
  • : Fantastic and creative graphical visualizations, primarily traditional music

Other Resources

IMSLP.org: The International Music Score Library / Petrucci Library is a fantastic online resource for sheet music. It publishes pdfs of music that has entered into the public domain. Excellent both for instrumental repertoire and for scores to analyze.

Music by Women: A (still growing) website dedicated to highlighting female composers and theorists, many of whose incredible contributions to the field were overlooked due to their gender.

Want to Schedule a Lesson?

Call, text, or email me!

(916) 960-6882     carrollaugustin@gmail.com