Professional music theory: an outline of basic music theory.

Preface and Chapter 1 of the Outline of basic music theory – by Oscar van Dillen ©2011-2020

The beginner’s learning book can be found at Basic elements of music theory.

Overview of chapters:

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Sound and hearing
Chapter 3: Musical notation
Chapter 4: Basic building blocks of melody and harmony
Chapter 5: Consonance and dissonance
Chapter 6: Circle of fifths and transposition
Chapter 7: Concerning rhythm, melody, harmony and form
Chapter 8: Further study


This outline offers a concise and complete overview of basic music theory.

In order to speed up consulting this online book, its chapters can as of now be found on separate pages; unfortunately the original one-page version exceeded acceptable download times, because of the length of the total materials presented. The performance speed thus gained I hope will weigh against the drawback of going from chapter to chapter step by step; most chapters are still quite long pages even now.
For convenient reading and studying, I have added navigation to each of the 8 pages concerned.

This book, and its companion page music theory, which is a complementary alphabetical reference guide, are being used in music theory education at Codarts University of the Arts Rotterdam since 2011. I also decided to make them available as free online learning resources.

Finally, the preparatory professional learning book Basic elements of music theory has also become available online since early 2014. The Basic elements, with many exercises included, is intended for those for whom the Outline is still too difficult or does not offer enough material to start or practice.

Addendum 2016

Although minor corrections have been continuously made since this book was first published, in the past two years especially more exercise materials have been added, to be found in chapter 8. Recently some sections have been more thoroughly revised and new images added, further completing the study materials presented, often offering new and original views at basic music theoretical elements. In connection to this book, the beginner´s course Basic elements of music theory, now fully including online sound playback for the musical examples offered, has also been worked over and is now almost completed. The totality of the courses here presented have for years already been an integral part of the music theory programme at Codarts University of the Arts Rotterdam (used both by my colleagues and me), where I have been teaching for over 20 years since 1997, and where I have the honor to be the programme coordinator for music theoretical subjects for the music educations since 2015.

Addendum 2020

In the past years the number of practical exercises has grown considerably, and includes also solfèges and instructional videos. A request often heard has been about my own music. For that I refer to OIJ Records for audio, and to the pages on my own music and projects on this website for further descriptions. Finally, the page called tools for students may be handy for some.

© Oscar van Dillen 2011-2020

goto chapter 1  ► Introduction