Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Understanding the Fundamentals of Music


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 could “speak” the language of Western music? It’s a language that Professor Robert Greenberg calls rich, varied, and magnificent, and he has little doubt about the rewards of even a beginning level of fluency.

The Details

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.

This 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 much as anything else, the course is designed to help deepen and intensify the experience of Professor Greenberg’s other courses.

The extent of those benefits becomes clear the moment you start to apply the basic knowledge taught in this course. You’ll listen to music with new levels of understanding and appreciation, not only when you find yourself at the concert hall, but also at home with your stereo, and when you’re listening to your favorite music on the go.

Understanding the Fundamentals of Music is as rich in musical lore as it is in technical knowledge. It will reward you many times over, not only as you listen and re-listen to the lectures, gaining a new understanding each time, but also as you listen to different varieties of music and find yourself enjoying a much deeper understanding of their compositional structures.

Understanding the Fundamentals of Music Lectures

  1. The Language of Music
  2. Timbre, Continued
  3. Timbre, Part 3
  4. Beat and Tempo
  5. Meter, Part 1
  6. Meter, Part 2
  7. Pitch and Mode, Part 1
  8. Pitch and Mode, Part2
  9. Intervals and Tunings
  10. Tonality, Key Signature, and the Circle of Fifths
  11. Intervals Revisited and Expanded
  12. Melody
  13. Melody, Continued
  14. Texture and Harmony, Part 1
  15. Harmony, Part 2—Function, Tendency, and Dominance
  16. Harmony, Part 3—Progression, Cadence, and Modulation