Are you an aspiring musician looking to learn music theory? Do you wonder where to begin?

Learning music theory is essential for anyone who wants to become a skilled musician. In this guide, we will discuss the important things you should learn first in music theory.

1. The Basics of Music Notation

Before diving into any other aspect of music theory, it’s essential to understand the basics of music notation. All musicians must be able to read music notation to effectively communicate with other musicians and play written pieces.

The first thing you should learn is how to read and write musical notes. This includes understanding the different types of notes, such as whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, and so on. You should also learn about rests and their corresponding values.


Practice writing out simple melodies on staff paper until you feel comfortable with reading and writing musical notation.

2. Scales and Keys

Scales are the building blocks of Western music. They provide a framework for melody and harmony. Learning scales will help you understand how different notes relate to each other and create different moods in music.

Start by learning major and minor scales as they are the most commonly used scales in Western music. Once you have mastered these scales, move on to more complex ones like harmonic minor or melodic minor scales.

Understanding keys is also vital as it helps you determine which notes belong together in a particular piece of music. A key signature tells you which sharps or flats are present in a piece of music.


Practice playing scales on your instrument until they become familiar to your ears and fingers.

3. Chords

A chord is a group of three or more notes played simultaneously that creates harmony in music. Learning about chords will enhance your ability to write songs, improvise, and analyze music.

Start by learning basic triads, which are three-note chords built on top of a scale. For example, in the key of C major, the C major triad consists of the notes C, E, and G.

Once you’ve learned basic triads, move on to more complex chords like seventh chords and extended chords.


Practice playing chord progressions on your instrument to get used to hearing and playing different chord types.

4. Rhythm

Rhythm is another essential element of music that you need to understand. It’s the pattern of sound and silence in music that creates a sense of movement and groove.

Start by learning about time signatures, which tell you how many beats are in each measure. You should also learn about different rhythms like quarter notes, eighth notes, and sixteenth notes.


Practice clapping or tapping out rhythms until you feel comfortable with different time signatures and note values.


Learning music theory takes time and effort, but it’s worth it if you want to become a skilled musician. Start with the basics of music notation, scales and keys, chords, and rhythm.

Once you have these fundamentals down pat, you can move on to more advanced topics like harmony, counterpoint, and form. Happy learning!