Twenty Twenty Theory

So this is the year (2023) that I am trying to actually commit to learning music theory. I picked up the books from Hook Theory because they were the first that seem to fit how I like to learn. The course uses pop music primarily for examples and there are a bunch of practice opportunities. You can pick it up with a discount code from some YouTubers like Venus Theory and David Bennet if you are interested.

I would love to hear what programs, books, or other resources you folks use to learn theory.

I feel like the easiest way to learn theory is to dedicate yourself to an instrument on which you can consistently apply what you learn. Music theory can be hard to understand in isolation, and you need to be able to see how everything locks together. Guitar, keys, pad controller, it’s all good as long as you can utilize a chromatic layout. I’d say try and understand scales first, get a handle on how they are just specific interval patterns, then get into how chords are built from scales. Then how sequences of chords drive the cadence of the song. Once you know some basics, I’ve found that learning as many songs as possible really takes it to the next level. There are so many resources out there I wouldn’t even know where to start - I tend to just YouTube anything and everything these days.


Most of the music theory I learned was from the music fundamentals course for 1st year music majors at my university. Non-music majors like me were allowed to enroll.

Some basics to learn - this is not a comprehensive list btw:

What a quarter note is in a typical 4/4 beat and what the smaller beats are (eighth notes, dotted eighth notes, etc.)
Intervals from minor 2nd to octave
The major scale and its degrees
How to build chords from the major scale
Which chord of the major scale is the dominant and which is the tonic chord
How to get minor scales from the major scale
Some chords built on a minor scale (usually harmonic minor, sometimes melodic)

These basics lead to the ability to break down your favorite songs, which leads to further study of the underlying theory, and starting to understand why choosing scale 08 sounds like shit on some chord progression in your groovebox vs. scale 23 or whatever.

After university, most of the theory I picked up was off of jazz guitar and jazz keyboard courses. Once in a while i get something cool off of a Youtube channel like 8-bit Theory.


Whatever you do to learn music theory, make sure you relate it to actual music and your musical instrument. Theory is just a way to explain musical practice. It doesn’t dictate music. If you learn about intervals, make sure to try it on, say, a guitar. M3 covers a distance of 4 semitones. So you go from open D string up to the 4th fret. When you start asking yourself, “Hey, should this note be called F# or Gb?” and “If D-F# is M3, does D-Gb a M3 too?”, that’s when you’ll learn theory. Always from practical point of view. Good luck! :vulcan_salute:

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I picked up what I know about music theory by playing guitar for about 5 years or so, deep listening of music, and going to uni to study music. As @Art says, relating theory to an actual instrument is key. What also helps is being surrounded by people who understand theory and can patiently explain things. That, and reading the AB Guide to Music Theory, by Eric Taylor.

However there is another super fun little pocket-sized book I highly recommend which kinda re-mystifies theory in an enjoyable way, but I can’t remember the name of it! The book is part of a series that covers all sorts of topics from music to paganism, but I can’t for the life of me remember the name. :confused:

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You may want to pay a teacher for a couple of lessons too. Sometimes it’s more effective than books .
Edit : by the way my teacher recommended the book in the previous post too, and yes it’s a good one.

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Over the last couple of years I’ve learned some véry basics (probably less than where you are at, OP). But at least nowadays I know the intervals of semitones that make up a minor (or major) key.

What hasn’t really clicked yet to me, is not how notes relate to eachother within a scale, but how then you go to chord(/scale?) progressions. Like, how do you go from a loop that has notes that adhere to the right scale, to how you choose chord progressions that create an interesting direction or tension.

What would be the correct concepts/search words to try and gain more understanding in that direction?

This one?



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How about this for an intro lesson?


Haha, you ask a tough question :grinning: There’s no one good answer for this. I teach theory/harmony in music schools and here’s where most freshmen fail. Doesn’t matter if they’re good in class and can finish all exercises. Once you gave them some melodies and asked them to harmonize the melody nicely, most did quite badly.

If you can list a few songs that you like—oldies are better here as they concentrated on harmony back then—I might be able to show you some reasons behind the selected chord progressions. You can PM me too. :+1:


Thanks! And bye the way I don’t want to overtake OP’s original question, so I’ll tie off my tangent now :slight_smile:

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eee, when I were a lad …


No worries. I wanted this post to be a place to discuss where y’all were at with this stuff. Learning theory is hard enough for me when it is from people who come from a one instrument background vs. producer/electronic music background. I definitely want to explore this with folks asking questions like you are.

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Definitely give this one a look, it’s very well done. I’ve played along with a couple of the first examples yesterday :joy:

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