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Understanding the Fundamentals of Music

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We all know that beneath the surface of music, beyond the joy or excitement or even heartache that this beautiful language of sound can stir within us, lies the often mysterious realm of music theory—a complex syntax of structural and instrumental resources that composers may draw on. No matter what kind of music we listen to—symphony or string quartet, saxophone solo or vo We all know that beneath the surface of music, beyond the joy or excitement or even heartache that this beautiful language of sound can stir within us, lies the often mysterious realm of music theory—a complex syntax of structural and instrumental resources that composers may draw on. No matter what kind of music we listen to—symphony or string quartet, saxophone solo or vocal ballad, hip hop or Gregorian chant—we feel the impact of that music and have done so all our lives, even though we may not know how such impact is achieved, or understand the fundamental processes of musical composition. But what if we did understand how certain musical effects were achieved? What if we could learn to follow the often-intimidating language of key signatures, pitch, mode, melody, meter, and other parts of musical structure used by composers? What if we could recognize these various components at work as we listened to our favorite music? What if we could "speak" the language of Western music? In this course, Professor Greenberg offers a spirited introduction to this magnificent language—nimbly avoiding what for many of us has long been the principal roadblock, the need to read music. For anyone wanting to master music's language, being able to read musical notation is a necessity. But this course, as Professor Greenberg notes, is a basic course, designed to introduce you to music's language in a way that is similar to the way you learned your own native language, by "discovering and exploring musical syntax through our ears—by learning what the parts of musical speech sound like—rather than what they look like on paper." By sidestepping the necessity to read music, these lectures represent an extremely rare opportunity in musical education—an opportunity to experience a solid introduction to music theory's basics in a way that is not technically intimidating, yet provides a substantial grounding in the fundamentals. As such, Professor Greenberg has devised a highly individualized approach to music theory. There is simply little or no literature in this field that can teach as much without recourse to music notation. Thus, it can appeal to those who are not learning, or even planning to learn, to play a musical instrument or to compose. It can even be beneficial to musicians who do not play a keyboard instrument and may have had difficulty grasping some of the more abstract concepts of music. As much as anything else, the course is designed to help deepen and intensify the experience of Professor Greenberg's other Teaching Company Courses, currently 21 in number.


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We all know that beneath the surface of music, beyond the joy or excitement or even heartache that this beautiful language of sound can stir within us, lies the often mysterious realm of music theory—a complex syntax of structural and instrumental resources that composers may draw on. No matter what kind of music we listen to—symphony or string quartet, saxophone solo or vo We all know that beneath the surface of music, beyond the joy or excitement or even heartache that this beautiful language of sound can stir within us, lies the often mysterious realm of music theory—a complex syntax of structural and instrumental resources that composers may draw on. No matter what kind of music we listen to—symphony or string quartet, saxophone solo or vocal ballad, hip hop or Gregorian chant—we feel the impact of that music and have done so all our lives, even though we may not know how such impact is achieved, or understand the fundamental processes of musical composition. But what if we did understand how certain musical effects were achieved? What if we could learn to follow the often-intimidating language of key signatures, pitch, mode, melody, meter, and other parts of musical structure used by composers? What if we could recognize these various components at work as we listened to our favorite music? What if we could "speak" the language of Western music? In this course, Professor Greenberg offers a spirited introduction to this magnificent language—nimbly avoiding what for many of us has long been the principal roadblock, the need to read music. For anyone wanting to master music's language, being able to read musical notation is a necessity. But this course, as Professor Greenberg notes, is a basic course, designed to introduce you to music's language in a way that is similar to the way you learned your own native language, by "discovering and exploring musical syntax through our ears—by learning what the parts of musical speech sound like—rather than what they look like on paper." By sidestepping the necessity to read music, these lectures represent an extremely rare opportunity in musical education—an opportunity to experience a solid introduction to music theory's basics in a way that is not technically intimidating, yet provides a substantial grounding in the fundamentals. As such, Professor Greenberg has devised a highly individualized approach to music theory. There is simply little or no literature in this field that can teach as much without recourse to music notation. Thus, it can appeal to those who are not learning, or even planning to learn, to play a musical instrument or to compose. It can even be beneficial to musicians who do not play a keyboard instrument and may have had difficulty grasping some of the more abstract concepts of music. As much as anything else, the course is designed to help deepen and intensify the experience of Professor Greenberg's other Teaching Company Courses, currently 21 in number.

30 review for Understanding the Fundamentals of Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Magen

    While I highly recommend all of Robert Greenberg's Teaching Company Great Courses, this one I'd suggest to those who really want to understand the specific funamentals of music. This course dives into the nitty gritty of timbre, beat, tone, etc. While I found it incredibly informative, it's not quite as interesting or engaging as his other courses. I do however highly recommend if for those who are committed to fully understanding how to listen to and understand great music. I'd recommend listen While I highly recommend all of Robert Greenberg's Teaching Company Great Courses, this one I'd suggest to those who really want to understand the specific funamentals of music. This course dives into the nitty gritty of timbre, beat, tone, etc. While I found it incredibly informative, it's not quite as interesting or engaging as his other courses. I do however highly recommend if for those who are committed to fully understanding how to listen to and understand great music. I'd recommend listening to this audiobook before his amazing How to Listen to and Understand Great Music. I'd also recommend listening to this more than once, as Robert Greenberg himself recommends.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jared Gillins

    In general, the lectures got harder to follow and really process as they progressed. I simply don't have much depth of background in music theory. But Greenberg assures the listener that you're not supposed to just get it all on your first listen, that the course was designed for repeat listening, and I can appreciate that. It's one of the Great Courses I'd actually like to own (as opposed to just borrowing them from the library). As always, very well constructed and lectured extremely well. In general, the lectures got harder to follow and really process as they progressed. I simply don't have much depth of background in music theory. But Greenberg assures the listener that you're not supposed to just get it all on your first listen, that the course was designed for repeat listening, and I can appreciate that. It's one of the Great Courses I'd actually like to own (as opposed to just borrowing them from the library). As always, very well constructed and lectured extremely well.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Very good intro. to music theory. This series would be excellent to listen to several times as it takes repetition to learn this material. Impressive attempt to explain music theory without musical notation.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Although a lot of this was over my head (and beyond my ear), I still enjoyed hearing about the ways that great (and even not-so-great) musical pieces are built. Professor Greenberg's sense of humor and wit add a great deal to the entertainment value. Be forewarned, if you are a musical novice (or even higher), a lot of what is in this course will be very challenging, and you will need to plan on listening to it more than once (as is recommended by the Professor) to get a decent grasp of many of t Although a lot of this was over my head (and beyond my ear), I still enjoyed hearing about the ways that great (and even not-so-great) musical pieces are built. Professor Greenberg's sense of humor and wit add a great deal to the entertainment value. Be forewarned, if you are a musical novice (or even higher), a lot of what is in this course will be very challenging, and you will need to plan on listening to it more than once (as is recommended by the Professor) to get a decent grasp of many of the concepts and relationships.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emmy Gregory

    Robert Greenberg is one of the best TGC teachers I've found and he is a joy to learn from. Having enjoyed a few of his other courses via Audible I finally got round to shelling out for this one on TGC itself, since it's not on Audible (yet, anyway). For someone like me who already knows quite a bit of music theory, but has picked it up in dribs and drabs from playing instruments and singing rather than studying it directly, it was really interesting to go through the subject from the very simple Robert Greenberg is one of the best TGC teachers I've found and he is a joy to learn from. Having enjoyed a few of his other courses via Audible I finally got round to shelling out for this one on TGC itself, since it's not on Audible (yet, anyway). For someone like me who already knows quite a bit of music theory, but has picked it up in dribs and drabs from playing instruments and singing rather than studying it directly, it was really interesting to go through the subject from the very simplest first principles and work up from there. It was exactly what I wanted. I have to say though - as much as this is presented as an introductory course, if you don't have any knowledge of music theory whatsoever when you pick it up, you're probably going to find yourself out of your depth very quickly. It may start off along the lines of "here's a violin and this is what it sounds like" but it leaves that stuff behind fast. If you really do want to get this course with no prior knowledge, I'd suggest getting the version with visuals because they become increasingly important as it goes on, and be prepared to go through the lectures more than once to get your brain around things. Good luck! You're brave.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dhs Sparrell

    A *listening* course in music / orchestra. Not a music notation course. I'm listening as I go to and from work. It's stirring up my urge to listen to more classical music: I'm listening for things I've heard about from prof. Greenberg. Greenberg! Whoa, pedigree: Rogers Sessions->Andrew Imbrie-->Robert Greenberg. Impressive. Fun course. Nice sample passages to illustrate this and that. Get you fired up about the music. And not just sloppy simple picks, like say only things from Vivaldi's four seas A *listening* course in music / orchestra. Not a music notation course. I'm listening as I go to and from work. It's stirring up my urge to listen to more classical music: I'm listening for things I've heard about from prof. Greenberg. Greenberg! Whoa, pedigree: Rogers Sessions->Andrew Imbrie-->Robert Greenberg. Impressive. Fun course. Nice sample passages to illustrate this and that. Get you fired up about the music. And not just sloppy simple picks, like say only things from Vivaldi's four seasons, but Nielsen, a Beethoven quartet, Mahler's first symphony, and the like.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kristi Richardson

    I will have to listen to these lectures again and again because it is like a foreign language, trying to figure out what Professor Greenberg is talking about. I have to admit that I am tone deaf so listening for the beats or the rhythms are very difficult for me. However, I did find this the most comprehensive series about music fundamentals in which I have ever listened. I highly recommend this course and any course by Robert Greenberg. He is the best Professor the Great Courses has.

  8. 4 out of 5

    David “Skip” Everling

    Music Theory taught with dramatic flair by Robert Greenberg. Covers Timbre, Beat & Tempo, Meter, Pitch & Mode, Intervals, Tonality, Key Signature, Melody, Harmony, and Texture. Applies particularly to western Classical music, which Greenberg plays great works of throughout the course to illustrate each subject.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nicolás Díaz

    Very complete and a great introduction to the fundamentals of western music. Despite the complexity of the subject, it is never arid given Robert Greenberg enthusiasm and the focus on telling by example.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chuck

    Started out good, but went over my head about half-way through. Will need to listen to it more than once to grasp it all. Robert Greenberg does an excellent job, though. His enthusiasm is inspiring all on its own.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tamminh

    Truly "fundamental" concepts, explained clearly and entertainingly. Wish I had listened to this book prior to the other ones by Prof. Greenberg, since the terminology here would have helped a lot with my understanding of the other ones. Truly "fundamental" concepts, explained clearly and entertainingly. Wish I had listened to this book prior to the other ones by Prof. Greenberg, since the terminology here would have helped a lot with my understanding of the other ones.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    This is a fantastic video course! The author/speaker requires no understanding of written music. He starts from the beginning , so you need know nothing about music theory, but he advances to advanced concepts in it! Great for all students of music!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Hlöðver Sigurðsson

    As a musician, this sharpened my sens of musical understanding. I am amazed how Greenberg manages to make these lectures on the hearing aspect of music without making it unaccessible to the average Joe.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sergey Georgievich

    Very useful, listened to it three times.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Evgeniy Vasilev

    Have to listen to it for several more times.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nina Braden

    Excellent but very technical and at times rather difficult. Adding more lessons and slowing the pace might help.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Excellent!

  18. 5 out of 5

    منال

    I like the Key Signature & The Circle of Fifth the most!. It takes me long time to understand it while practicing and I just got it now! Merci Monsiuer Robert :)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    A little hard to follow with no visual aids, but still great.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This course ratchets up in difficulty around Lecture 7, and by Lecture 10, you're going to need more than a passing interest in music theory to keep up. I also had the audio CDs rather than the DVDs, and while Greenberg makes sure he describes everything he's doing for the listening audience, I think there's a good chance you'll get lost in thickets of keys and pitch letters that don't really mean anything unless you *see* what he's playing. Once he brought out the (sub)dominant chords and the d This course ratchets up in difficulty around Lecture 7, and by Lecture 10, you're going to need more than a passing interest in music theory to keep up. I also had the audio CDs rather than the DVDs, and while Greenberg makes sure he describes everything he's doing for the listening audience, I think there's a good chance you'll get lost in thickets of keys and pitch letters that don't really mean anything unless you *see* what he's playing. Once he brought out the (sub)dominant chords and the diminished 7ths, I just took his word for it. For that reason, this is my least favorite of Greenberg's courses that I've listened to thus far, but his lecturing style remains as engaging and cheerfully hokey as ever. Onto the next one!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joseph VanBuren

    This is an enlightening course about the different dimensions of music mostly from a listener's point of view rather than a musician's or composer's. The professor's enthusiasm for the subject is infectious, and his jokes are actually pretty funny. Sometimes his voice reminded me of Lewis Black just without the f-bombs. As a long-time but never-classically-trained music artist, some of what he said went over my head. On the flip side, his approach to music as a language to be learned offered rev This is an enlightening course about the different dimensions of music mostly from a listener's point of view rather than a musician's or composer's. The professor's enthusiasm for the subject is infectious, and his jokes are actually pretty funny. Sometimes his voice reminded me of Lewis Black just without the f-bombs. As a long-time but never-classically-trained music artist, some of what he said went over my head. On the flip side, his approach to music as a language to be learned offered revelations for me in topics like pitch, rhythm, melody, harmony, etc. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this course and believe it has improved my understanding of how certain musical elements work together, especially in classical music.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Saravanan Mani

    This was a perfect course for someone who did learn some basic music theory in the distant past as a kid. Things were taught to me as formulae (major scale is by these intervals and minor is by these flats and melodic minor and circle of fifths) Prof Greenberg makes this so much more meaningful in making us appreciate what it means for these scales and features to be what they are. He breaks it down perfectly with a blend of history, good sense of judgement and examples. This was the second cour This was a perfect course for someone who did learn some basic music theory in the distant past as a kid. Things were taught to me as formulae (major scale is by these intervals and minor is by these flats and melodic minor and circle of fifths) Prof Greenberg makes this so much more meaningful in making us appreciate what it means for these scales and features to be what they are. He breaks it down perfectly with a blend of history, good sense of judgement and examples. This was the second course I've followed by Prof Greenberg and I hope to listen to many more.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    This is an excellent course you could listen to over and over again and still find new nuggets. All the less than 4* reviews are from people who didn't listen when he said that you'll probably need to listen to it a few times to really get the material. Music theory is complicated. And though I know a lot about it and have taken classes in it, this was still fresh, interesting, and well worth listening to. Gave me tons of ideas, taught me several things I didn't know, and was also a great refres This is an excellent course you could listen to over and over again and still find new nuggets. All the less than 4* reviews are from people who didn't listen when he said that you'll probably need to listen to it a few times to really get the material. Music theory is complicated. And though I know a lot about it and have taken classes in it, this was still fresh, interesting, and well worth listening to. Gave me tons of ideas, taught me several things I didn't know, and was also a great refresher for theory training so long ago.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    This is a great introduction to music theory for a beginner. It dense, coving a lot in a short period of time. However, if you don’t mind going back to cover some stuff you missed a few times and you enjoy audio courses this is a fantastic choice. Professor Robert Greenberg is humorous and explained all he can in sixteen lectures, I highly recommend it to anyone that likes music. Note: This course focuses on western music, particularly orchestral music.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jb

    12 hours 15 minutes running time. As usual Greenberg is mesmerizing and energetic. The topic is however much dryer that his other lectures. As he says himself: the goal is to help get an outline of a huge topic. He is doing this well in my opinion.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Becky Bjork

    Once I accepted the lecturer’s style, I actually enjoyed it along with the content of his lectures and the examples he used. I have played several instruments and understand basic theory. This enhanced my knowledge, especially when listening to music.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jim A

    Lots of information in this. When I critiqued a piece of modern music to my music degree holding fiancé, she told me not to be a music snob lol

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joelle.P.S

    Audio book - because "a musical excerpt's worth a thousand pictures." Audio book - because "a musical excerpt's worth a thousand pictures."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  30. 4 out of 5

    Павел Курганов

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