Music theory

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Music theory is both a branch of musicology and an independent artistic-scientific discipline, which deals with harmony , counterpoint , form theory and musical analysis , among other things .


The music theory in ancient Greece was highly developed. Efforts have already been made to formulate a tone system , use differentiated notation of the pitches and extensive discussions about possible ethical and character content of music and making music. The theorists of the West , in the early Middle Ages as well as again in the Renaissance , took ancient Greek music theory as their starting point. With the legendary reports about Pythagoras in the forge , Pythagoras of Samos was ascribed the invention of theoretical music at least since late antiquity .

Up until the Middle Ages, practical and theoretical musicians had little or nothing in common. While the practical exercise of music (which also included composition ) had the character of a teaching profession and was correspondingly low in reputation, theoretical music ( Latin Musica ) within the " Seven Liberal Arts " became the higher-ranking mathematical branch, the " Quadrivium ", expected. The music theorists dealt mainly with mathematical, cosmological and religious considerations, which they related in a theoretical way to scales and rhythms, without ever sounding music having emerged from these considerations.

It was only with the emergence of polyphony in the Middle Ages that theoretical reflection and practical music practice began to converge; for the first time there were also personalities who were theoreticians and composers in personal union (for example Léonin , Pérotin ). In the following centuries, theoretically well-founded composition teachings emerged that interacted with the respective musical practice in many ways.

In the age of the Enlightenment , the writing of music history began, and the fields of activity of music theory were subjects at the conservatories in the 19th century. When academic musicology was founded at the end of the 19th century, music theory ("speculative music theory") was named as a discipline listed under systematic musicology. But in the course of the historicization of the subject, systematic aspects in musicology increasingly lost their importance.

Modern music theory

Today, music theory is understood to mean subject areas of systematic musicology or the training subject of the same name at music colleges. Common topics are:


In practice, the intermeshing of the subject areas in many places leads to the abolition of the individual disciplines (e.g. of counterpoint and harmony).

Knowledge of music theory is conducive to a deeper understanding of the nature and effect of music. For this reason, music theory is a compulsory subject (minor subject) in the artistic degree programs at conservatoires. Musical analysis and the writing of exercises in style ( composition ) are usually related to each other in these lessons. H. Criteria are obtained through analysis, which are then practically tested and checked in style exercises. At music colleges, music universities and some universities there are also major courses in music theory and / or ear training, some of which are offered with different profiles and focuses (scientific, artistic, pedagogical).


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Web links

Wikibooks: Music teaching  - learning and teaching materials
Wiktionary: Music theory  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations