Music is an art form that has been around for centuries, and it has evolved considerably over time. But have you ever wondered when music theory was created?

Music theory is the study of how music works, and it has played a vital role in shaping the way we create and perform music today. In this article, we will explore the history of music theory and when it was first created.

The Origins of Music Theory

Music theory has been around for thousands of years, with its roots tracing back to ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Greece, and China. These early civilizations recognized the importance of music in their societies and began to develop systems for understanding how it worked.

One of the earliest known examples of music theory comes from Ancient Greece. Pythagoras, a Greek philosopher and mathematician who lived in the 6th century BCE, is credited with developing the concept of the octave and creating a system for tuning musical instruments.

The Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages (5th – 15th century CE), music theory continued to evolve as European musicians began to write down their compositions using musical notation. This allowed them to not only preserve their work but also share it with others.

One of the most influential figures in medieval music theory was Guido d’Arezzo, an Italian monk who lived in the 11th century CE. Guido developed a system for teaching singers how to sight-read music by using syllables (do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti) to represent different notes.

The Renaissance

The Renaissance (14th – 17th century CE) marked a period of significant change in Western music. Composers during this time began experimenting with new styles and techniques, which led to a greater emphasis on harmony and counterpoint.

One of the most important figures in Renaissance music theory was Gioseffo Zarlino, an Italian composer and music theorist who lived in the 16th century CE. Zarlino wrote several influential treatises on music theory, including “Le Istitutioni Harmoniche,” which explored the relationship between harmony and melody.

The Baroque Era

The Baroque era (17th – 18th century CE) was a time of great musical innovation, with composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel pushing the boundaries of what was possible with music.

Music theory during the Baroque era focused heavily on the principles of harmony and tonality. This led to the development of new musical forms such as the fugue and sonata.

The Modern Era

Music theory continued to evolve during the modern era (19th – 20th century CE), with composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Igor Stravinsky introducing new techniques and styles.

One of the most important developments in modern music theory was the creation of atonal music, which rejected traditional tonal structures. Composers such as Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern experimented with new forms of expression that challenged conventional ideas about music.


Music theory has been an essential part of musical development throughout history. From its origins in ancient civilizations to its modern-day applications, it has helped musicians better understand how music works and how to create it. By studying music theory, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the art form and continue to push its boundaries in new directions.