How Music Works: The Tools of Music Theory

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For registration assistance: 608-262-2451


This comprehensive study of music theory provides a complete set of tools handy for either a lifelong interest in music or preparing to take college entrance exams. Explore theoretical concepts in short, fun, real-world assignments and study pieces by famous composers. Learn notation, rhythm, melody, harmony and analysis. Students can choose to use what they've learned to compose their own music.


How this course works

Working entirely online, learn the basics of music theory in the context of real-world settings and projects. Practice the same composition exercises used by such musical giants as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms and Charles Ives. View an extensive video with the instructor and interact with other students via online discussions.

What this course covers

Notation: pitch, duration, volume and timbre

Rhythm: rhythmic values and rhythmic elements

Scales: key signatures, scale degrees, major and minor scales, relative and parallel keys

Intervals: including simple and compound, melodic and harmonic, and consonant vs. dissonant

Triads: and their inversions

Basic harmony: including qualities of major/minor chords and of seventh chords in major/minor keys

Melody: motives and themes, phrases and periods

Ear training

Putting it all together: relationships between harmony and melody, nonharmonic tones and types, cadences, musical analysis

Building your own music

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Earn Continuing Education Hours

By participating in this class you will earn:

Instructional Hours 40
University of Wisconsin Continuing Education Units 4

Explanation of Continuing Education Hours

Upcoming dates (1)

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Program Questions?

Contact Jamie Henke at jamie.henke@wisc.edu or 608-263-6822

Registration Questions?

Email registrations@pyle.wisc.edu or call 608-262-2451.

Continuing Studies FAQs

Meet your instructor

Jamie Henke

Jamie Henke (PhD, UW–Madison) is a Distinguished Faculty Associate and has received the UW–Madison Chancellor's Hilldale Teaching Award, the Alliant Energy Underkofler Award, and the Bartell Award in the Arts. She teaches online theory and composition courses for Continuing Studies, is the coordinator of the independent learning program in music, and directs and teaches the Literally Arts program for Odyssey Junior. She also teaches music theory for non-majors at the School of Music.