Download a pdf of this information: SMG Music Theory information

Download in word: SMG Music Theory information

Our recent Music Theory Questionnaire showed that there is a very broad range of knowledge level among students, and a wide variety of learning needs. Given the limitations of online learning, we feel that there is no obvious level at which to offer a course at the moment which would bring enough students to make it financially viable. We will be revisiting this when we can offer face-to-face teaching again.

In the meantime, here are some links and information which you might find useful. All these have been recommended by students and others – note that SMG is not specifically endorsing any of these resources as we haven’t had time to look carefully at them all.

BEAR IN MIND that most of the music theory courses and links below are based on the Western classical music structure. They are useful for finding out about aspects like reading music notation, but traditional music doesn’t always fit neatly into that structure.

IF IN DOUBT, ASK YOUR TUTOR! A number of issues mentioned by students in the questionnaire could be answered easily, so do ask if you’re not sure about something specific.


The Open University offers a free online introduction:
An introduction to music theory – OpenLearn – Open University – A224_1

The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and Trinity College London offer graded courses, for which you can buy text books, workbooks and answer books (available from many online retailers).

SMG tutor Sarah Northcott has written a brief guide for beginners, Beginning to Read Music for Traditional Musicians, which is available as a hard copy from her website or Nigel Gatherer’s web shop (where you can also buy a digital copy) Nigel Gatherer’s Scottish Traditional Music Site


The following YouTube channels offer a range of content from beginners to advanced:
Music Matters; Music Theory Guy; Michael New; Dave Conservatoire;

For the more advanced:
Adam Neely’s YouTube channel has a wide variety of content from standard music theory to the social and political context of music.

Scales, modes and chords:
Folk Friend channel. Start here:

Leonard Bernstein’s 1973 Harvard lecture The Unanswered Question’

February 2021