Music Theory for Non-Music Majors

Prentice Hall
Peter Spencer  
Total pages
July 2004
Related Titles


For undergraduate-level courses in Music Theory for the non-music major.

This text/workbook is designed for students who are not necessarily planning to make music a career, but who wish to understand how the music they hear every day in the mass media works. It is written in a simple and straightforward manner, using the piano keyboard as a starting point for developing notational and analytic skills. The book covers the materials essential for the understanding of any kind of music, and applies those materials to the development of creative and analytical skills.




  • Consistent presentation and chapter organization—Beginning with an introduction that outlines its contents, each chapter presents topics through the use of musical examples, diagrams, and concise text, and itemizes salient points about the topics in a Note format.
    • Allows students to quickly understand what the essence of each topic is, and how the various topics relate to one another.

  • Text/Workbook format—Exercises are printed on stand-alone, perforated pages to be submitted for grading.
    • Prevents any loss of information, and allows for rapid feedback and reinforcement.

  • Self-graded, mirrored exercises—Involve matching of one kind or another in which a "mirroring" technique is employed (see Preface for details).
    • Provide even more immediate feedback and practical topic exploration.

  • Abundant exercises— Graduated from the simple to the more complex in each chapter.
    • Enables students to learn the basic tools of music theory in a step-by-step fashion.

New to this Edition

  • On-Line materials at author's Website- Contains simple exercises in ear training and pieces for analysis which correspond to chapters in the workbook.
    • Allow students to practice ear training on their own, and to hear examples of the pieces before they try to answer questions related to them.

  • Additional pieces for analysis.
    • Provides students with a greater base of exercises from which to choose.

Table of Contents

1. The Keyboard and Basic Elements of Notation.

2. Major and Minor Scales.

3. Scale Degrees, Key Signatures, Note Values, and Simple Meter.

4. Melodic Intervals.

5. Melody.

6. Triads, Compound Meter, Principles of Notation.

7. Seventh Chords, Chord Symbols.

8. Harmony and Melody.

Appendix A: Additional Pieces for Analysis.

Appendix B: International Acoustic Society Note Designations.

Appendix C: Tempo, Dynamic and Expression Marks.


Back Cover

Music Theory for Non-Music Majors is designed for the student who wishes to gain a thorough understanding of the basic principles of music theory, but who is not immediately interested in making a career out of music.

Chapters 1-4 cover the basic elements of notation, major and minor scales, scale degrees, simple meter, and melodic intervals.

Chapter 5 applies the materials of the first four chapters to analyzing and composing melodies.

Chapters 6 and 7 address triads, seventh chords, compound meter, and some basic principles of music notation.

Chapter 8 applies the materials of the entire text to analyzing and composing songs that consist of a melody with a simple harmonic accompaniment.

Because learning is best accomplished by doing, each chapter contains numerous carefully graduated exercises that follow concise text with clear musical examples, notes, and diagrams. In Chapters 5 and 8, the two pivotal chapters of the book, the exercises challenge students' imaginations in addition to their grasp of the information.

New to the third edition:
  • Extra pieces for analysis in Chapters 5 and 8
  • Simple exercises in ear training-with introductory text-for the aural identification of scales, intervals, triads, and seventh chords (Chapters 2, 4, 6 and 7)
  • At the author's website
    • Interactive exercises associated with the contents of Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7
    • Interactive exercises in ear training (Chapters 2, 4, 6, and 7)
    • All the pieces in the text, designed for analysis, in both video and audio formats including a variety of different instrumental sounds