Introduction to Music Theory


This online course will cover the basics of classical music theory – notation, rhythm, melody, harmony and form – relating theory to practice with examples from over three centuries of repertoire. 

Theory grows from practice. Each generation of composers 'breaks the rules' and so gives rise to modifications of musical theory. Nonetheless, at heart music theory is simply an attempt to explain our perceptions of music and to provide an efficient vocabulary for its discussion.

Each theoretical concept will be discussed with both its technical and expressive implications in mind and we will look at the way in which theories have changed over the centuries.

Whilst not aimed at a specific exam, the course will provide useful preparation for those taking Associated Board theory exams. 

Programme details

Course starts: 18 Sept 2023

Week 0: Course Orientation.

Week 1: Clefs and staff notation. Duration or rhythm – note lengths.

Week 2: Rhythm – dotted notes and rests. Clefs and staff notation - continued.

Week 3: Scales and keys – I. Rhythm – time signatures.

Week 4: Rhythm – grouping of notes. Scales and keys - II.

Week 5: Scales and keys – III. Rhythm - rests and grouping of notes.

Week 6: Rhythm – time signatures. Scales and keys - IV.

Week 7: Scales and keys – V. Rhythm – some more about rests.

Week 8: Rhythm – more on grouping of notes. Scales and keys - VI.

Week 9: Intervals. Rhythm - syncopation.

Week 10: Intervals continued. Rhythm - bars of unequal length and irregular rhythms.


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £257.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Peter Copley

Peter Copley D.Phil, MA, B.mus is a composer, cellist and pianist. He is a visiting lecturer at OUDCE, the University of Sussex and for the Open University, where he has been a Research Associate for the music faculty.

Course aims

To explain basic music theory, relating it to our fundamental musical perceptions, and to show that, properly used, the language of music theory can be a very efficient tool for discussing music.

Course objective:

  • By the end of the course, students will have an understanding of basic music theory.

Teaching methods

This course will consist of a pre-recorded one hour lecture for each week. A step by step working of examples will be covered in the online 'live' session where the students will also have a chance to ask any questions arising from the pre-recorded lecture.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • read basic musical notation;
  • describe basic features of a piece of music using technical language; and
  • relate these features to the expressive purposes of the composer.

Assessment methods

Students will complete eight worksheets in the course of the term: i.e. one worksheet per week except for the first and last weeks of term. These will be submitted via email.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


We will close for enrolments 7 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (7 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)