I’ve been enjoying the BBC Two series Howard Goodall’s Story Of Music – in six parts, covering the origins of music from the Stone Age until the Digital Age. It’s being shown on Saturday nights until 23 Feb (with episodes available on the BBC iPlayer for around a month after broadcast). It’s a good way to put the theory into context with different types of music you hear & play.
So far, it has covered the early origins of music & how instruments & musical notation came about. Over the years, the familiar components we take for granted in Western music were developed: the octave, scales,chords & ‘equal temperament’ – the way in which the notes were standardised into twelve regular intervals so that instruments could be tuned to play together in major & minor keys – & the invention of the instruments that form the basis of the modern orchestra. Much of what our modern ears expect to hear in terms of harmonies & chord progressions was in place by the mid-1700s.
The remaining four episodes feature the Classical & Romantic periods; the influence of music of many genres from around the world; much more complex harmonies & instrumentation, plus the spread of popular music with the ability to make sound recordings, radio & web reaching far wider audiences than ever before.
To accompany the series, there are full playlists of the pieces played each week on Spotify. There is also a sister series on Radio Three, where Howard & Suzy Klein discuss fifty pieces of music that changed the course of music history – the short podcasts are available indefinitely. And if you wish to test what you’ve learned, check out the BBC Bitesize Music topics.
Other posts that cover music theory include: Very, Very, Very Basic Understanding of Music for Absolute Beginners & most of our PLUC Weekend Workout entries.