An Introduction to Music Theory For Beginners

Music has accompanied and evolved with human beings characterized by the culture, history and geographic locations. This post is an introduction to music theory covering basic concepts in western music. Read more to learn about western music theory for complete beginners.

What is music?

Music is the Melodies Unison of Sounds In Composition

Each of these words – melody, unison, sound and composition has its own definitions. The combined amalgamation of these musical concepts make is referred to as an art of expressing emotions through pleasing sounds.

Music Theory

Music theory is referred to as the set of principles, guidelines or mathematics that can be used to document or compose music related with various emotions like happiness, sadness, anxiety etc.

Why mathematics?

I used to hate mathematics so much during my academics. The derivations and integration never helped me in making my life decisions. However, the formula and math concepts when applied to music definitely helped me in learning one of the most beautiful instruments – Guitar.

Math Is Not Music, But Music Is Math

Musical mathematics is all about counting the beats, measuring the bars, knowing the patterns in your scales or systematic combination of notes in your chords. All these concepts are tightly coupled in your composition.

Similar to mathematics, music theory too, deals with use of symbols and alphabets to write a piece of music. This written transcript can be used by other musicians to interpret and reproduce the music later for practice, recital or recording purpose.

The fundamental reason for documenting music is to pass on the art of music to next generation. Culture and tradition plays huge role in documenting the music theory as per the historic traditions and geographic boundaries. Although the basic principles remain the same, the use of symbols and some concepts may differ based on origin of music.

The texture and feel of music may change based on amount of control mathematics has in each of these concepts.

Western musical compositions could be more confined to stricter rhythms and patterns. However, in Hindustani classical music it is all about improvising the notes in same raga. In Hindustani classical music, we refer to melodies as “ragas” while in western music we call it “scales” or “modes”. Even, the symbols and notation theory differ based on origin of music.

The Fundamentals of Music Theory

Music is a beautiful amalgamation of various fundamental concepts like expression, melody and rhythm. In Indian classical music, we call it Bhava (Expression), Raga (Melody) and Tala (Rhythm)

Here’s the first musical mathematics formula, I would like to define in music theory.

Music = Expression + Melody + Rhythm

There are other essential ingredients like tone, accidentals, harmonics, intervals, pitch, scales, chords, harmony etc.


Ever heard of a song that didn’t had any human emotions? Nobody would play or hear music without any reason. Listening to happy music is your choice to celebrate joy and happiness around you. Writing a sad composition is your choice to convey a sad story.


Everything that exist along with our existence exist in a rhythm. Earth’s rotation, our heart beats, the way we walk, our daily routine etc. These periodic cycles based on time intervals is referred to as rhythm in music theory.


Melody is defined as the set of musical notes played in a specific pattern one after the other to create euphonic sounds. 

Read about how to learn music and fundamentals of music theory in one of my first lessons.

What are musical notes?

Note is the basic element of music used to compose music. Technically, a note can be defined as a sound of a specific frequency which can be identified on account of it’s unique characteristic.

In western music the primary notes are represented using English alphabets as A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Accidentals are the symbols that can be used to describe types of notes briefly characterized as natural, sharp and flat notes. Furthermore, accidentals describes the relative highs and lows for any note based on the intervals present on the musical instruments.

What is tone or pitch of a note?

Tone is the specific sound or note that is the root note or primary note around which the mathematics of music revolve. Everything that we write or play is all relative around this root note.

  • Tone = Note
  • Tone = Root Note
  • Tone = Key

Now you know why these musicians always check on a key before any musical performance!

It is essential to know the rules of the games and everyone abide by those rule to create harmonious effects.

If you are a musician and you are unaware about the key, your audience might better know where the exit door is. Make them forget where the exit door is!

Pitch defines the quality of a sound based on vibrations to convey the degree of highness or lowness of a tone

What is scale, chord and harmony?

Scale is systematic arrangement of notes played one after the another that should necessarily have a root note. All other notes in this sequence is based on specific musical formula.

Chord is the unified sound generated from any musical instruments when several notes are played at a time. Again the combination of notes depend on specific formula that may characterize specific human emotions.

Harmony is defined as the tunefulness related to combination of several musical notes. Euphony, polyphony and consonance are all the same.

As an introduction to music theory, explaining above terminologies would be too difficult in a single post. I would be writing about each of these terminologies in detailed individual post in upcoming posts. Please share the post and / or subscribe to the blog.


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Published by Bharat

Hi, I'm Bharat. An artist, blogger, musician and digital marketing professional dedicated to sharing musing and stories about music, art and mindful resonance! Follow me @bharatpc