4.73 out of 5
304 reviews on Udemy

Music Theory Comprehensive: Part 1 – How To Read Music

A Complete College-Level Music Theory Curriculum. This is Part 1: Reading Music & The Symbols of Music Notation
Jason Allen
2,287 students enrolled
English More
Read Music Using Proven Techniques
Understand All the Symbols (Not Only the Notes) of a Music Score
Read, Play, and Count Rhythms Accurately
Chords on the guitar
Augmented triads
Diminished triads
Finding fifths by finding thirds
The thirds inside of a chord
Finding chords by formula
Roman numeral analysis
Diatonic chord progressions
Building triads (chords)
Popular song analysis
How to identify key signatures
What it means to be "in key"
Analyzing melodies
Writing melodies with major scales
Scale Degrees
The pattern of a Major Scale
Ordered Pitch Class Collections
Chromatic and Diatonic scales
Time Signatures
Dotted Rhythms
Downbeats and Upbeats
Beat and Beat Divisions
Identifying Notes on the Keyboard
Identifying Notes on the Staff
Naming Octaves
Half-Steps and Whole-Steps
The Black Keys (not the band!)
The White Keys
Pitch Classes
Pitch Names
The elements of the Score


Welcome to the COMPLETE Music Theory Fundamentals Guide!

This is a class designed for the average person who is ready to dive in to music!  Whether you are a beginning musician, an active musician, or an aspiring musician – this class is perfect for you.

For years I’ve been teaching Music Theory in the college classroom. These classes I’m making for Udemy use the same syllabus I’ve used in my college classes for years, at a fraction of the cost. I believe anyone can learn Music Theory – and cost shouldn’t be a barrier.

My approach to music theory is to minimize the memorization. Most of these concepts you can learn by just understanding why chords behave in certain ways. Once you understand those concepts, you can find any scale, key, or chord that exists. Even invent your own. If you’ve tried to learn music theory before, or if you are just starting out – this series of courses is the perfect fit.

Dr. Allen is a professional musician, top-rated Udemy instructor, and university professor. In 2017 the Star Tribune featured him as a “Mover and a Shaker,” and he is recognized by the Grammy Foundation for his music education classes. 

Throughout this class, If you get stuck, you can review the videos or post a question, and I’ll back to it as fast as possible. 

This class is Part 1: How To Read Music. In it we will work through all the elements of notated music, and how it all works.

In this class, we will cover:

  • My approach to Music Theory

  • Tools you will need to learn Music Theory quickly and efficiently

  • Music software: Notation programs

  • The elements of the Score

  • Pitch Names

  • Pitch Classes

  • Octaves

  • The White Keys

  • The Black Keys (not the band!)

  • Half-Steps and Whole-Steps

  • Clefs

  • Intervals

  • Naming Octaves

  • Identifying Notes on the Staff

  • Identifying Notes on the Keyboard

  • Beat and Beat Divisions

  • Tempo

  • Downbeats and Upbeats

  • Dotted Rhythms

  • Time Signatures

  • Ties

  • Accidentals

  • Form in Music Notation

  • …and much, much more!

And of course, once you sign up for Part 1 – Reading Music & The Symbols of Music Notation, you automatically get huge discounts to all the upcoming parts of this class.

You will not have another opportunity to learn Music Theory in a more comprehensive way than this. 

All the tools you need to successfully learn Music Theory are included in this course and the entire course is based on real-life experiences – not just academic theory.

Please click the “Take This Course” button so you can launch your music career today.

Test Prep: 

This course is perfect for prep for the Praxis II Test (ETS Praxis Music), The ABRSM Music Theory Exam (up to Grade 8), AP Music Theory Exam, College Placement Exams (Music Theory), and other common secondary and post-secondary placement exams.

** I guarantee that this course is the most thorough music theory course available ANYWHERE on the market – or your money back (30 day money back guarantee) **

Closed captions have been added to all lessons in this course.


Praise for Courses by Jason Allen:

⇢  “It seems like every little detail is being covered in an extremely simple fashion. The learning process becomes relaxed and allows the complex concepts to get obsorbed easily. My only regret is not taking this course earlier.” – M. Shah

⇢  “Great for everyone without any knowledge so far. I bought all three parts… It’s the best investment in leveling up my skills so far..” – Z. Palce

⇢  “Excellent explanations! No more or less than what is needed.” – A. Tóth

⇢  “VERY COOL. I’ve waiting for years to see a good video course, now I don’t have to wait anymore. Thank You!” – Jeffrey Koury

  “I am learning LOTS! And I really like having the worksheets!” – A. Deichsel

⇢  “The basics explained very clearly – loads of really useful tips!” – J. Pook

⇢  “Jason is really quick and great with questions, always a great resource for an online class!” M. Smith


Students who register for this course will receive ongoing exclusive content and discounts to all future classes in the series. 

Getting Started


Welcome to the class! In this lecture we will do a quick overview of the course.

My Approach To Music Theory

I approach music theory from a composer and songwriters perspective. In this lecture I'll walk you through how I think about Music Theory and how I approach teaching (and learning) it.

Tools You Will Need For This Course

I'm going to teach this class using a really cool (and FREE) software program. You don't need to get it, but I think it will help you learn more, and learn faster.

Update! MuseScore 3.0
Download: Staff Paper

Here is the download I talked about in the previous lecture. Some nice clean staff paper. Print out a few sheets for taking notes!

Asking Questions
About Notation Software Programs

There are a lot of music notation software programs (well, only 3, actually). And they can be quite expensive. I'm recommending a free one, but the others are worth talking about quickly before we dive in to the real guts of the class.

All The Little Dots

The Elements of the Score

To get started, I want to just walk through a score and point out the different elements that we are seeing. We will learn what all of these mean soon.

Pitch Names

Here we go: The names of the pitches.

Pitch Classes

We have pitch names, which we just learned. We also have pitch classes - slightly different (but important) than pitch names.


A lot of music theory comes down to intervals - the distance between notes. Our first interval that we will learn is the Octave.

Worksheet No. 1 (DOWNLOAD)

Here is a downloadable PDF worksheet for you to practice on. Page 2 of this worksheet has the answers on it so you can check your work. Practice, practice, practice!

The Keyboard Layout

Why We Use a Keyboard

We won't be learning how to play the piano in this class. But the piano is useful to us because it gives us a really nice visual of the notes.

The White Keys

We've learned the names of the notes, so next lets learn how to find them on the keyboard.

The Black Keys (Not the band...)

The black keys present a little bit of a problem. They have 2 different names, and this can be confusing. But hold tight - it will all make sense after this video.

Half-Steps and Whole-Steps

We've learned about Octaves - our first interval. Now we need to learn 2 more intervals, and these are much smaller than an octave.

A Little Review of What We've Learned So Far

Up next: A little recap. We need to connect a few dots to make sense of how this all works together.

Worksheet No. 2 (DOWNLOAD)

Here is a downloadable PDF worksheet for you to practice on. Page 2 of this worksheet has the answers on it so you can check your work. Practice, practice, practice!

Pitch Notation on the Staff

Staff Overview

Lets go a little deeper on how the staff works, and how we read notes from it.


A new wrinkle! The Clef can show us what range of notes we are talking about. There are many clefs, and everything changes if we are on a different clef.

Treble Clef Refresher

Lets focus just on the treble clef for now, and get back to what we already know.

Naming Notes and Intervals

Now that we can see notes on the staff, we should try to get comfortable naming the notes and the intervals.

Octave Names

Sometimes we use numbers to indicate the octave, like C3, C4, C5, etc. You might see these numbers so I want you to know what they mean.

UPDATE: Naturals

Before you dive into the first worksheet, let's go over the Natural symbol.

Worksheet No. 3 (DOWNLOAD)
Here is a downloadable PDF worksheet for you to practice on. Page 2 of this worksheet has the answers on it so you can check your work. Practice, practice, practice!

Notating time on a Musical Staff

Rhythmic Subdivisions

In order to notate rhythms, we need to be able to quantify them by their relationship to each other.


We can add a dot to any rhythm (or rest) to elongate it.


What about a rhythm that indicates a certain amount of silence? That is called a rest, and there is one for every rhythmic symbol.

Time Signatures

So far we have looked mostly only at the time signature of 4/4. But there are many others, and things work a little differently in each one.


So far we have a whole note (4 beats long) as the longest possible rhythmic symbol. But we can make longer symbols by connecting a few together using ties.


A brief side note: I've been giving you a lot of terms in this class that are specific to the way we talk about music in the United States. In this lecture I'll talk a bit about some things you should know if you are outside of the U.S.

Worksheet No. 5 (DOWNLOAD)
Here is a downloadable PDF worksheet for you to practice on. Page 2 of this worksheet has the answers on it so you can check your work. Practice, practice, practice!

Score Symbols and Conventions

Dynamics and Repeats

So far we have talked about notes on the score, and rhythms on the score. What about volume? We call volume "Dynamics" and this is how we notate them.

Accidental Behavior and Naturals

There is a little more to accidentals that we haven't learned yet. Lets tie up some loose ends about accidentals in this video.


Form is the order of events in music. It is also notated on the score using repeats, DS sections, and other tricks.

Worksheet No. 6 (DOWNLOAD)
Here is a downloadable PDF worksheet for you to practice on. Page 2 of this worksheet has the answers on it so you can check your work. Practice, practice, practice!

Putting it All Together

Places to Find Scores Online

There is a secret website that publishes thousands and thousands of scores that we can download and practice with.

Update: Key Signatures
Tips for Practicing Notes and Rhythms

Here are my tips for practicing!

A Bunch of Practice Music! (DOWNLOAD)

Here are a bunch of files for you to practice with. This is actually a complete book of (fairly) simple music compositions to practice with.

Wrap Up

Thanks & Bye! (For now!)

Thats it for part 1! We've only scratched the surface!

Bonus Lecture: What are Scales (And Why Do We Care?)

In the next class, we are going to be talking about Scales and chords. I thought here would be a good chance to give you a preview, and let you know why we care about these things.

Bonus Lecture: Discount Offers & Mailing List

There is plenty more to learn!

You can view and review the lecture materials indefinitely, like an on-demand channel.
Definitely! If you have an internet connection, courses on Udemy are available on any device at any time. If you don't have an internet connection, some instructors also let their students download course lectures. That's up to the instructor though, so make sure you get on their good side!
4.7 out of 5
304 Ratings

Detailed Rating

Stars 5
Stars 4
Stars 3
Stars 2
Stars 1
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee


3 hours on-demand video
2 articles
Full lifetime access
Access on mobile and TV
Certificate of Completion