Music Theory and Music Appreciation: Free Learning Materials and Resources

Music Theory and Music Appreciation: Learning Materials and Resources

Here are a wide variety of free learning and teaching materials for Music Theory and Music Appreciation for middle school, high school, and college students.

Quick Links to Music Learning Resources in this Article:

While music theory and music appreciation are both concerned with understanding music, we can approach them from different angles. Here’s a breakdown of the similarities and differences between music theory and music appreciation:

  • Focus on understanding music: Both disciplines aim to deepen one’s knowledge and enjoyment of music. They both strive to answer questions like:
    • How is music constructed?
    • What techniques do musicians use?
    • How does music evoke emotions and meaning?
  • Analytical skills: Both involve critical listening and analysis, breaking down music into its component parts (melody, harmony, rhythm, etc.) and examining how they interact.
  • Broadening musical horizons: Both can lead to a deeper appreciation for a wider range of music, regardless of genre or period. By understanding the language of music, you can see connections and patterns across different styles.

But in terms of purpose, approach, and prior knowledge, there are distinctions between music theory and music appreciation:

  • Music Theory: Focuses on the mechanics and rules of music, providing a framework for composing, performing, and analyzing music.
  • Music Appreciation: Emphasizes the emotional and aesthetic experience of music, exploring the cultural context, history, and impact of music.
  • Music Theory: More technical and academic, involving terminology, notation, and exercises.
  • Music Appreciation: More subjective and open-ended, encouraging individual interpretation and personal discovery.
  • Music Theory: Often requires some musical background or training.
  • Music Appreciation: Open to anyone with a love for music, regardless of musical experience.

In a nutshell, music theory is like learning the grammar and syntax of language, while music appreciation is like delving into the beauty and meaning of literature. Both are valuable tools for enriching your musical experience, but they offer different perspectives.

Ultimately, the ideal approach is to combine both aspects. By understanding the structure of music (music theory) and appreciating its emotional power (music appreciation), you can unlock a deeper and more meaningful connection to the music you love. Whether you’re a casual listener or an aspiring musician, both music theory and music appreciation offer distinct benefits that can enrich your life in surprising ways. Here’s why they’re both important:

Learning music theory opens the door to the language of music and, when mastered, offers a deeper understanding of its construction. It empowers musicians to communicate effectively, read sheet music confidently, and improvise with greater freedom. It also unlocks the door to composing original music and fuels creativity, allowing for experimentation with different styles and the invention of a unique musical language. This new knowledge adds a whole new layer of enjoyment to listening.

Learning to appreciate music will show you that it isn’t just entertainment; it’s a portal to deeper engagement, cultural understanding, and personal enrichment. By actively listening, you’ll uncover hidden details, appreciate artistry, and gain insight into different worlds. Music is more than just a catchy tune; it can help you express yourself, hone your critical thinking skills, and find comfort in its embrace.

For more free music learning materials, please see our main Musc page. Note: All downloadable files below are in pdf format.

Music Theory and Music Appreciation Learning Materials

  1. Introduction to Music Appreciation (MUSI200)
  2. Music Appreciation (high school-college)
  3. Music Appreciation for the Non-Music Major Textbook
  4. Music Appreciation Textbook 1
  5. Music Appreciation Textbook 2
  6. Music Appreciation Textbook 3
  7. 6-4 Second Inversion Chords
  8. A Practical Approach To Understanding Music Theory
  9. Augmented Sixth Chords
  10. Beginning Guitar textbook
  11. Blank Staff Paper Sheet Music
  12. Cadences
  13. Fundamentals, Function, and Form in Tonal Western Art Music
  14. Intervals
  15. Introduction to Music Theory Textbook
  16. Key Signatures
  17. Major and Minor Scales
  18. Modes and Other Scales
  19. Modulation
  20. Music in Terms of Science Textbook
  21. Music in World Cultures
  22. Music Terminology
  23. Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People – Fundamentals
  24. Music Theory for the 21st–Century Classroom: Students learn about motive, fragment, phrase, and subphrase, as well as types of melodic alteration. PDF downloads: Textbook, Practice Exercises, and Homework.
  25. Music Theory Practice Paper Grade 1 with Answers
  26. Music Theory Practice Paper Grade 2 with Answers
  27. Music Theory Practice Paper Grade 3 with Answers
  28. Music Theory Practice Paper Grade 4 with Answers
  29. Music Theory Practice Paper Grade 5 with Answers
  30. Music Theory Textbook 1
  31. Music Theory Textbook (unzip and select index.html file)
  32. Neapolitan Chord
  33. Neo-Riemannian Theory of Chords
  34. Non-Functional Harmony
  35. Non-Serial Atonality Music
  36. Notation
  37. Open Music Theory Course: a complete traditional music theory sequence covering fundamentals, diatonic harmony, chromatic harmony, form, 20th-century techniques. PDF textbook is here.
  38. Part Writing Problems
  39. Part Writing Rules
  40. Primary Grade Music Theory Book
  41. Resonances – Engaging Music in its Cultural Context (high school-college)
  42. Rhythm
  43. Secondary Dominants
  44. Seventh Chords
  45. Steps to Music Theory: Fundamentals
  46. The Basic Elements of Music
  47. Tone Technique
  48. Triads
  49. Types of Musical Analysis
  50. Understanding Basic Music Theory Textbook
  51. Understanding Music: Past and Present (high school-college)

Online Music Theory and Appreciation Learning Resources

  1. Music Appreciation Online Course: a one-semester course that will introduce students to the creating, enjoying, and listening to music as they learn about creating melody, harmony, and rhythm. 
  2. MUSC 1300 Music: Its Language, History, and Culture: an online course in Music Appreciation at Brooklyn College, CUNY.
  3. Music 105 Course: Music Appreciation, from Spokane Community College: Students further enhance their appreciation for music as a creative tool of the imagination, as entertainment, and as a window into who we are as social beings.
  4. Historical Music Appreciation, from CollegeSidekick
  5. Music Appreciation with Theory, from CollegeSidekick
  6. Fundamentals of Music Theory Videos, by the Reid School of Music, University of. Edinburgh.
  7. Music Theory Fundamentals Videos, by Michael New
  8. Music Theory Minute Videos
  9. Tonal Centre: an interactive site for music composers and theorists which explains and demonstrates some of the key concepts of tonality, including chordsscalescadences, and modulation.
  10. EDU 109 – Music for the Young Child – Textbook: work through music and the processes that underlie music learning, outlining methods to understand the role of music in children’s lives through play, games, creativity, and music. (PDF chapters here)
  11. Music Theory Exercises to Practice, from
  12. Online Music Theory Textbook (also available as zip file)
  13. Fundamentals of Music Theory Course at Coursera: to enroll for free, select “Full Course, No Certificate” after registering and selecting the blue button labeled “Enroll for free”.
  14. Music 101 Course, from Lumenlearning
  15. World Music from the Musician’s Point of View: a library of video demonstrations and explanations by musicians from various global traditions.
  16. Music in Global America, from Brooklyn College: Learn about the transnational interaction between contemporary U.S. music styles and urban musics around the world.
  17. Music Theory Manual: online lessons and exercises in various topics of music theory, incorporating both classical music theory and jazz theory.
  18. Free Music Theory Tutorials, from
  19. Free Music Theory and Ear Training Exercises, from
  20. Music Theory Reference, from
  21. Introduction To Musical Composition, MIT OpenCourse: a progressive series of composition projects, students investigate the sonic organization of musical works and performances, focusing on fundamental questions of unity and variety.
  22. Harmony And Counterpoint I, MIT OpenCourse: study the classical music of Europe during the eighteenth century. Topics include diatonic harmony, simple counterpoint in two parts, and tones of figuration.
  23. Harmony And Counterpoint II, MIT OpenCourse: explore the harmonic, melodic, and formal practices of western music, principally the “classical” idiom of central Europe, ca. 1750–1825.
  24. Musical Analysis, MIT OpenCourse: students study rhythm and form, harmony, line, and motivic relationships at local and large-scale levels of musical structure.
  25. Free, printable, customizable staff paper
  26. Tools and games for experimenting with music, sound, and virtual instruments
  27. Free music notation software
  28. Roland TR-808 synthesizer simulator
  29. Free Sheet Music for Everyone: 2,124 pieces of music—free to download, modify, print, copy, distribute, perform, and record.
  30. The Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection: over 30,000 pieces of American popular music, PDFs of sheet music can be downloaded.
  31. Free Music Archive: offers free downloads under Creative Commons and other licenses.” All songs are available for free downloads.
  32. Musopen: provides recordings, sheet music, and textbooks to the public for free, without copyright restrictions.

Out-of-Print Music Theory and Music Textbooks

  1. A Short Course in Music, Book 1, Frederic Herbert Ripley (1898)
  2. A Popular History of the Art of Music by WSB Mathews
  3. Bartletts Music Reader, a Complete Music Course for Schools (1903)
  4. Caruso and Tetrazzini on the Art of Singing by Enrico Caruso and Luisa Tetrazzini
  5. Fifth Music Reader, James Matthew McLaughlin (1906)
  6. Fourth Music Reader, Julius Eichberg (1880)
  7. Gantvoorts School Music Reader (1907)
  8. Great Singers on the Art of Singing by James Francis Cooke
  9. How to Listen to Music, 7th ed. by Henry Edward Krehbiel
  10. Lessons in Music Form by Percy Goetschius
  11. Music – An Art and a Language by Walter Raymond Spalding
  12. Music as a Language: Lectures to Music Students by Ethel Home
  13. Music Notation and Terminology by Karl Wilson Gehrkens
  14. Music Reader, Number 1, Frederic Herbert Ripley (1895)
  15. Music Talks with Children (1898)
  16. Natural Course in Music, The Music Primer, Frederic Herbert Ripley (1895)
  17. New High School Music Reader, Julius Eichberg (1888)
  18. Second Music Reader, a Course of Exercises in Vocal Music and Sight-Singing (1882)
  19. Song Reader, a Graded Course in School Music (1910)
  20. The Coming of the Prince of Peace, a nativity play of ancient Christmas carols (1920)
  21. The Educational Music Course, Teachers Edition for Elementary Grades (1904)
  22. The Manual of Music (1898)
  23. The New First Music Reader, Preparatory to Sight Singing, Luther Mason (1886)
  24. The New Public School Music Course, Third Reader (1909)
  25. The New Third Music Reader, Showing Harmonic Relationships, Luther Mason (1894)
  26. The Normal Music Course, a Series of Exercises, Studies (1895)
  27. The Normal Music Course, First Reader (1895)
  28. The Normal Music Course, Third Reader, John Tufts (1887)
  29. The Standard Music Reader For Schools, a Progressive Series of Lessons (1889)
  30. The Story of Music and Musicians for Young Readers (1886)

– love learning -your best ed lessons guide, Scott

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