So what exactly is music? We constantly hear music so we almost
take it for granted. For a little demonstration, play some random notes we put together.
Yuck, if you're anything like us, you're probably cringing right
now because of all those awful notes. Close it, quickly! Now,
click here to play the second
movement from Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto
#2. Ah, that sounds much better than those random notes, doesn't
it? You don't need to close THIS file!
(MIDI): Random Notes by us... ugh, random
(MIDI): Piano Concerto #2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff...
real and beautiful music
So how did Rachmaninoff and all other composers decide how their
music was going to sound? You can definitely tell that they did not
just put random notes on paper and hope it sounded good... there
was a general set of rules they followed. This set of rules is what
we today call music theory. It would be wrong, however, to
say that composers had a nice little "music theory handbook" that
they referred to as they were writing their music. Actually, it is
just the other way around... our study of music theory is based on
what composers wrote many years ago.
This section will deal mostly with the music written from about
1700-1900 (also called the common practice period). We will
not really go into the study of modern music here, mostly because
much of the music of the 20th century has been designed to
completely redefine music theory. If you want to learn about some
of the theory behind 20th century music, you can visit the Modern Period section of our site.
If you already feel confident in your knowledge about music
theory, feel free to skip a few of the lessons below... If you
don't have a solid base in music, however, we recommend that you
follow the silver links at the bottom of each page in order to gain
a foundation that will be used in the upcoming sections. Well,
let's get started!