Using Basics of Music (Including Recommended Notation Software)

Basics of Music lessons are designed to be interactive. As you read through the material, buttons will be distributed throughout the text. The general idea is "click as you read." This means that if a sentence contains a button, as you read those words, click the button to see images or hear sounds that exemplify the concept being discussed. The video below should give you some sense of what learning with Basics of Music is like.

Basics of Music Exercises are game-like drills in which you will be asked to do things like name notes, build scales, and identify musical elements like rhythms, key signatures, intervals, and chords. Each exercise is slightly different, but all Basics of Music Exercises share some features:

  • Required number of problems

    Before a grade is submitted, you will need to complete the required number of problems. Most are set to 20, but more difficult assignments are sometimes set to a lower number of repetitions.

  • Scoring

    You must score at least 60% correct to have your grade recorded. Only your highest score is graded, this means if you scored 80% and then later scored 60% on another attempt, the higher score (80%) will remain. Recorded scores will never go down.

    Scores at 90% or above are automatically graded at full points (100%).

    Assignments marked as late will be docked 20% before submitting to Canvas. This means if you score 100%, but the assignment is late, your grade will be recorded at 80%.

  • Time Limit

    Most assignments have a time limit of 5 minutes. More difficult assignments occassionally have the time limit removed and will be marked with an infinity symbol.

  • Recommended Browsers

    We recommend using the Chrome or Firefox browser.

Using Music Software to Create Music

If you are taking a fundamentals or theory course you may need to notate music. It is fairly standard practice for composers and performers to make regular use of musical notation software. It allows musicians to make arrangements and transcriptions of their music, as well as specialized versions of published scores when necessary. Composers use music notation software to write down their compositions, but an additional benefit of most software notation programs is that they can also playback music. This kind of software is indispensable to professionals, but because it is so easy to create and listen to music in this way, it is also a wonderful, and usually fun, way for amateurs to create and explore music.

It is important for music students at any level to notate music, as notating music is one of the most creative ways to approach learning music. However, while it is unlikely that you will have much use for the Basics of Music App after this course, a music notation program will likely be a useful tool (or toy!) for years to come. Therefore, Basics of Music has decided not to create yet another music notation program, instead we hope you will choose from one of the many free notation programs available, and use this course as a way of familiarizing yourself with your chosen program.

You are likely to see assignments designated as 'Notation Program' throughout this course. These can be done with any basic music notation software you find, and will require you to upload a PDF, JPG, or PNG, export of your music (we have never seen a notation program without a PDF export feature) to your Canvas assignment. We suggest a web search for something like "free music notation software" or just have a look at the Music Program Suggestions tab above. We have designed templates for 'Notation Program' assignments using MuseScore, which is our favorite of the free notation programs, but again, any notation program should do.

A Few Suggestions for Music Notation Software

Free Notation Software

  • MuseScore | The free notation program we recommend, Notation Program Assignments will have a MuseScore Template included to help you get started.
  • | Limits number of scores. It is web-based, no download required.

Professional / Industry Standard Notation Programs

  • Sibelius | Our choice for professional scores. There is a free version, but it does not allow you to save.
  • Finale | They have a 30 day free trial, after that, you cannot print or save.