Original Proposal

Mastering the Music Theory

Studied by Alden May

Advised by Mr. Meyer


I have always had a love for music. I was first in a choir in 2nd grade. I sang in the Middle School Chorus all through Middle School. I have been in XIV Hours since freshman year. Last year, I was in the musical. However, all throughout my musical career, I have felt an underlying desire to know how music works beneath the surface.

Driving Questions

  • How can increased knowledge of music theory help me as a musician?
  • What makes music sound good or bad?
    • How can chords fit together to form great progressions?
  • How can music theory offer a foundation for musical composition?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of western musical notation?
  • How can you improve at sight-reading music?
  • What skills do I need to practice and develop as I’m learning?


  • Fundamentals of Music Theory – Coursera
    • This is a great introductory course from the University of Edinburgh on music theory. I will use this as the foundation for my work for the beginning of my learning, and will move to the other Coursera course afterwards.
  • Developing Your Musicianship Specialization – Coursera
    • This course from the Berklee College of Music will go more deeply into music theory concepts. I like this because it is extensive and guides you through a music composition final project, which will most likely be the final project for this study. I will begin this after the Fundamentals course.
  • musictheory.net – Lessons 
    • This is a good supplemental resource. It will allow me to drill and practice certain concepts unlimitedly so it will be very helpful in mastering some of the concepts I am learning in my coursework.
  • The Musician’s Guide to Theory and Analysis Textbook (already have at home)
    • This also is a good supplemental resource. It goes more deeply into the concepts I will learn in the Coursera courses. I only have the textbook and do not have the workbook that goes with it, but this might be a good thing to acquire. Additionally, there is a newer version of this book, so I might find it helpful to get that.

Month by Month Plan

  • September
    • Complete the Fundamentals of Music Theory Course. Coursera estimates it will take about 12 hours, so I should be finished in about two weeks. 
    • I will then begin the first section of Developing Your Musicianship (Coursera estimates it takes 17 hours total)
  • October
    • Finish the first section.
    • Complete the second section of Developing Your Musicianship (13 hours)
  • November
    • Complete the third section of Developing Your Musicianship (11 hours).
    • Complete 4th section (10 hours), which guides you through composing a short piece of music
  • Second half of November/December
    • Finish 4th section if any is remaing.
    • Revise, polish, and expand composition and prepare for presenting it

Expected Final Project

As my final project, I will create an original piece of music making sure to include music theory concepts  that I would not have known at the beginning of this process. I would like to share this with the school with a short presentation about my independent study and a brief overview of the things I have learned and at the end I will play my original work. A bonus of this final project is that it will give me something to start working with at the beginning of next semester in Explorations in Songwriting and Composition.