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What Are the Different Types of Music Theory Courses?

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  • Written By: Helen Akers
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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The different types of music theory courses relate to the way that music is written. Most of the music theory courses available are taught at the college level, with a few advanced placement high school courses that explore basic concepts. Music theory courses focus on specific elements of musical language, including harmony, pitch, composition structure, melody, and rhythm.

One of the main types of music theory courses is composition. Sometimes referred to as structure, composition deals with how notes are arranged to create a particular sound. Lyrics and songwriting also fall under composition, which are often structured according to a basic formula that involves the use of an introduction, refrain and chorus. Under composition theory, the instrumental piece of a song is also constructed to support and identify refrain and chorus sections.

College level courses leading to a degree in music composition or theory are the most prevalent types. Many art or creative professional programs specialize in music theory instruction, in addition to traditional universities that have a music department. There are some high schools that may offer advanced placement music theory courses or provide lower level instruction through choir or theatre classes.

Music theory courses typically cover pitch. This refers to the frequency of the notes and may be interpreted as being "high" or "low." Pitch is displayed through instruments or the singing voice. It often varies throughout a musical composition in order to convey emotional significance.

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Other types of music theory courses deal exclusively with the idea of harmony. In a harmony, different "high" and "low" sounds are combined to create a blended sound. These sounds occur at the same time and may move up and down on the pitch scale. Harmonies usually occur in intervals, creating a relationship between several instruments or voices to create a pleasant melody.

A melody builds upon the idea of pitch by using several sounds in a certain order. Sounds are created to supplement a song's language or emotional intent. Melodies usually occur during different parts of a song's structure and may incorporate rhythm or pulsing techniques.

In music theory, rhythm refers to the way sounds are arranged. It also includes periods of silence or where certain instruments are not used. For example, when a song begins there are typically only one or two instrumental sounds that can be heard. As the song progresses, other sounds are added and taken away. The use of rhythm can indicate transitions in the song's language or structure.

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