Does anyone have any tips on learning music theory(like scales, how to create melodies, and chords like sevenths, sixths, triads, etc.), such as books or websites? I just want to learn music theory without paying.

p.s I self-taught myself to play guitar for like 3 years so I didn't have a teacher to teach me


  • You've had plenty of good suggestions. But 'theory' should really go in parallel with the music you're studying and playing. Otherwise you are in danger of getting 'rule-bound'. – Laurence Payne Oct 17 '17 at 15:10
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    I just want to learn music theory without paying A lot people worked very hard to develop and learn music theory, and many have decided to teach it as well. Why are you averse to paying them for their labors, like thousands and thousands of musicians have done for centuries? – Stinkfoot Oct 18 '17 at 5:15
  • @Stinkfoot yes you're right, I wish I could get a teacher, but I just don't have enough money and most of the time it's on their schedule – jarrybarry Oct 22 '17 at 0:54
  • You'll pay with money or with time, really with a bit of both. Spending more money on a teacher just reduces how much time you'll spend, but you'll pay one way or the other. Regarding books, going to Amazon and searching for "music theory" and reading reviews is more appropriate than asking here. – Todd Wilcox Oct 28 '17 at 21:01

A very good starting point is to look at the grading systems for music theory. All exam boards go from I to VIII, and books and practice papers are available. In U.K. there are ABRSM, Trinity, LCM, all excellent and experienced, although a teacher is going to be a quicker, more effective option.

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Music Theory from the Ground Up, by Ben Levin, is a playlist on Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLJTWoPGfHxQH5zdZN6UlMPwZerVApkqmk

This is published there by the author, and is free. Explanations are clear and practical, and relate directly to the guitar.

Here is how I used it:

  • Start at the beginning, watch each videos and do all the exercices over the course of several weeks.
  • No need to rush through them, nor to skip any. The key to success is to do all the exercises with a pen and paper.

By the end of it, I had a good understanding of music theory, and as a bonus, I was able to apply the knowledge to my guitar as I learned. This has direct impact on playing by ear, coming up with tunes and improvising. Along with the guitar itself, I consider it the most ear-opening topic I have ever studied in music. I encourage you to go through it too.

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I did two things. I took a free (as in beer) MOOC (Massively Open Online Course I think) called Fundamentals of Music Theory produced by Edinburgh University music department a few years ago. I accessed the course through the Coursera platform.

I coupled the FOMT MOOC with reading/studying the ABRSM Music Theory Book 1, which covers up to ABRSM Grade 5.

There is a lot of overlap between the two, which helped me understand some of the tricky bits more easily. I am really glad I did this course. It has helped learning to play the piano hugely.

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