header photo

Music Theory Tutorials

July 17, 2015
By J. Anthony Allen
Last summer, David Birrow and I made a series of music theory tutorial videos. Our hope was the these videos would serve to supplement lessons by teachers, who often find themselves explaining these concepts to students. We wanted to make a clear set of videos that went through the first few principals of music theory in a fun and friendly way. There are accompanying written and aural practice exercises on the MacPhail website
Video 1: Intro to Scales and the Major Scale
I’ve found this video really handy when I’ve got a student learning a passage in which a number of scale patterns are present, but the student isn’t making the connection between the scale patterns they’ve learned and the passage. The student might not be making the connection between the fingering patterns they’ve already learned with the scale and the passage of the piece. Hopefully, this video can help to make that connection. 
Video 2: How Scales are Used
In this video we further draw the connection between pieces of music and familiar scale patterns. We ask the question, “Why do we care about scales?” and answer it by using familiar tunes like Mary Had a Little Lamb, and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. We even walk through a brief analysis of Bach to show familiar scale patterns.
Video 3: Natural Minor Scales
This is a great video for understanding not only what the natural minor scale is, but how it is derived from other scales and notes. I’ve used this video with students to explain to them the relative keys, and why some minor keys have the same key signature as some major keys. 
Video 4: Harmonic and Melodic Minor Scales
The harmonic and melodic minor scales are scales that I often find students getting mixed up. In this video we walk through explanations of why they are named as such, and their role in melodic and harmonic development. We use examples like Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14, and a few of our own melodies. 
Video 5: Key Signatures
We had fun making this one! Using a little animation, we can show how the key signature applies to all the notes on the staff. This is a great video supplement for students struggling with key signatures. Also in this video we walk through the tricks to find the key signature for a given major or minor key. 

Go Back

Hello David and Anthony-I watched the first video and found it very clear and attractive to watch. I teach HS music theory and this could be a fun way to introduce the major scale chapter in the fundamentals course. Anything to give my voice and their ears a rest. Thanks for your fine work on this.

Hi David and Anthony - I watched the first video and found it to be very clear. I would be able to use it as both an introductory or a followup to the skills/concepts etc. I teach a college level/credit theory class to High School students. Thank you so much for sharing!