If you want to learn to make great music, you will need to understand music theory. Music theory not only helps sharpen our ears, but also unlocks a world of imagination, creativity, and innovation. We are able to take what we learned and apply it to our own style of music to create quality work and musical performance.
Essentially, understanding music theory allows us to understand why some components sound great together and why others do not. It provides us with a deeper understanding of the nitty gritty process behind composition through scales, intervals, keys, notes, and the importance of each component and the role they play in music, which can make learning all kinds of music styles so much easier.
After all, creating art always starts with understanding your tools. Not to mention that it can speed up the learning process!
10 Fun Podcasts To Help Understand Music Theories
Since 2017, host Christopher Sutton has been producing at least one podcast per week on the topic of music theory. He often times brings on guest speakers that are experts on the subject being covered, to give further insight, answer questions, and have an open discussion on musicality. The goal is to help his listeners develop a “natural” ear and feel for the music to help them enjoy total freedom and confidence in their own creativity. Some of the topics they cover are writing notation, improvising, jamming with other musicians, writing your own music, and much more. If you are learning and instrument, or looking to take you music playing skills to the next level, this podcast is well worth the listen.
This podcast is produced by Musical U (musical-u.com), which is the leading provider of music theory training online. Along with this podcast, they offer a variety of different resources committed to helping people understand and apply music theory. The host, Christopher, has a very calm, soothing voice and is very easy to listen to. It is evident that both him and his guest speakers speak purely out of passion for music. It’s a fun, informative, well-said podcast designed for people looking to gain confidence in creating their own music.
Living up to its name, Music Student 101 is a podcast designed for music theory beginners. This podcast, covering a ton of topics on music theory, is designed to speak the language for the average, non-musically inclined person. Hosts Matthew Scott Phillips and Jeremy Burns host together each week to bring their fan base over an hour of musically enriched content. Ranging from altered chords, solfege, and composition, the podcast covers a lot of information extremely helpful for the new musician.
This podcast is designed to start from the beginning (rather than just jumping in at the current week). Their content starts out with the fundamentals of music theory and gradually becomes more complex, building on the foundation of knowledge they have set up for their listeners. If you are looking for in-depth information, over 80 episodes of rich content, and professional experience, this podcast is full of amazing music theory information.
Both Phillips and Burns both come with a very extensive background in music. Phillips, having graduated with a Doctor of Musical Arts, spent his career dedicated to his music. He has written for films, live theatre productions, and orchestras. His music traveled around the world including countries like Brazil, Germany, and the Czech Republic. Phillips now works to teach and inspire new students to let music lead their lives the way it did for him.
Burns, starting at only age 9, first found his passion in electronic keyboards. What started out as a hobby launched him into a lifetime career of music. After completing his Bachelors in Music Technology, Burns eventually explored many different genres, instruments, and bands. Today, he still records and plays live music, as well as works with Phillips to teach others the beautiful world of music.
Together, with their years of diverse expertise, Burns and Phillips work to bring something new to the table. Their podcasts are full of great discussions, heavy information, and is a great place for rising musicians to start.
Hack Music Theory is an incredibly informative podcast run out of North Vancouver, Canada. Hosted by married couple, Kate and Ray Harmony, Hack Music Theory is dedicated to helping their fan-base understand and create beautiful music. They believe the base of creativity starts with knowledge about the music world. A lot of their content is centered on music writing, transitioning between sections of songs, and more. If you are one that is looking to write and create your own music, Hack Music Theory is an excellent place to start. However, they also believe that the traditional styles for learning music theory can be intimidating.
With years of knowledge and culture packed into it, traditional music theory can sometimes be irrelevant and overcomplicated for the modern musician. In fact, they felt this was the net that most popular singers and songwriters are currently trapped in. The Hack Music Theory was designed with this issue in mind, and the goal was to create content that was relevant and fun hacks that could instantly be applied to making cool music.
Aside from years of expertise, Kate and Ray are very easy to listen to. While they have lengthier episodes, they also feature videos such as “3-Minute Theory: Hacks for Busy People” designed for the everyday musician. Being deeply woven into the music world, Kate and Ray help bring their listeners an easy to learn perspective on how to incorporate new hacks into their music.
The 10 Minute Jazz Lesson Podcast is exactly that – quick 10minute episodes brought to you each week by host, Nick Mainella. Since 2016, Nick has been creating podcast episodes specifically for the jazz genre, to help students learn the history, culture, and feel of jazz while also learning how to get better in their music skills and improvise. There is a deep rich history when it comes to jazz, and everyone who chooses to explore this genre also works to keep it alive and respected. As a professional saxophonist and instructor Nick produces high quality lesson plans designed to be simple, yet challenging for the jazz players looking to take their skills to the next level.
His lessons cover topics like history and culture of jazz, as well as music theory you can apply to your jazz music. He believes talent is over-rated, and the reality is musicians need to put in a lot of work in order to be successful as what they do. With his simple lesson plans, he teaches people who to overcome challenges they are facing in their music and how to over come these roadblocks. He wants each of his listeners to become better musicians and improvisers and guarantees his podcast will do just that.
5) Now & Xen
The Now and Xen podcast is another very popular option that adds a unique twist on music theory. Hosted by electronic musician Sevish and composer-performer Stephen Weigel, Now and Xen creates a podcast about contemporary microtonal and xenharmonic music. Their unique perspectives and backgrounds make for a great listen. Besides being extremely engaging, Now and Xen features a new guest speaker each week ranging in musical talents.
Their speakers typically come from a wide array of backgrounds anywhere from classically renowned composers to microtonality and electronic artists. They not only cover a variety of topics, but their diverse skill sets and unique backgrounds in music make them very informative and engaging. This is definitely a must listen podcast for anyone who wants to explore a niche in the music theory world, pick up some new tips and tricks, and hear from some of the most famous, well trained artists in our modern day.
6) Song Appeal
Written and recorded by Flypaper’s own Hunter Farris, Song Appeal asks the question “why do we like the music that we like?” Farris is an excellent speaker with captivating content. He explores topics like why the intro to I.T. sounds scary, and why sad music is so enjoyable to listen to. Stepping away from the more traditional music theory content, he applies music theory to famously recognized songs to make learning about music fun and exciting. He makes a distinct connection between the music we listen to and human emotions. It is as much about music theory as it is exploring the relationship between soul and sound.
Farris takes his listeners through famous songs each episode every week. From Jaws to the Twilight intro songs, he makes learning music theory relatable, interesting, and fun. Rather than dense, heavy music theory content, Farris is enjoyable, humorous, and light making the content easy to understand and apply to your own music. Even for the non-musically inclined, this podcast is a very interesting listen for anyone wanting to know more about the connection between music theory and the impact it has on human emotions.
The Music and Theory Podcast is a very popular podcast for musicians and anyone interested in music theory. Hosted by Stephen and Mike, the Music and Theory Podcast episodes are usually released once a month, however, their episodes are lengthy, usually averaging about an hour in content. Each episode, they bring on a guest speaker to cover a topic of interest. Typically, this speaker is an expert on the subject, providing deep insight and great conversation. Both Stephen and Mike are very interesting to listen to, but lean more towards informational content rather than entertaining content. In other words, this is one you’ll want to grab a notebook, jot down some tips and tricks you learn, and really focus on the content they deliver.
Stephen comes with an extensive background in music. Being an accomplished musician, and a long, happy career in music, Stephen is passionate about learning, teaching, and breathing all things music. His dedication and passion for the subject makes him an interesting and knowledgeable listen.
Mike, on the other hand, does not come with a background in music, although they joke on the podcast that he’s still “a really good guy” Mike still has the love and passion for all things music, and adds a great perspective on the podcast. For those who are not musically inclined or don’t have a background in music, Mike asks great questions on the show and often times is learning right along with the listeners. This makes the content easy to grasp and understand.
Overall, the Music and Theory Podcast is a great listen for anyone who is looking for rich information, great insight from renowned artists, and great conversation.
Dissect is a newer podcast on the scene, but one that is quickly rising to the top. Hosted by Cole Cuchna and brought to you by Spotify Studios, Dissect works to deliver multiple episodes per week for their fan base. Dissect is a serialized podcasts, diving into the albums you love. The episodes are split up into seasons that spotlight a famous album, from there, each episode dives deep into one song dissecting each line.
What makes this podcast so brilliant is their ability to hit an entirely different group of people, teaching them about music theory through the albums they love. Season 1 examines “To Pimp a Butterfly” by Kendrick Lamar. Season 2 tackles “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” by Kanye West. Season 3 dissects “Blonde” and “Channel Orange” by Frank Ocean, and so on. Focusing only on main stream artists, this podcast dissects each song, the meaning behind the music, and the music theories that were applied to produce each song.
Cole Cuchna, coming with a background in music theory, works to make each episode interesting and fun. Taking you through the minds and process of each of these artists, Cuchna’s helps listeners to develop more of an appreciation for today’s artists. His episodes are short, and easy to listen to, but also easy to understand if you do not have a background or even a basic understanding of music theory. Cuchna is also humorous and entertaining, making his content easy to listen to and learn from. Aside from learning about some of the leading artists in the industry today, a lot of what Dissect takes you through can even be applied to your own style of music. This podcast is a great listen if you too admire these artists or want to understand their albums on a whole new level.
The Labyrinth of Music Theory is a very interesting podcast to learn music theory from. The Labyrinth of Music Theory takes you on a tour through a maze of composition, music made by computers, acoustics, ethnomusicology, and how music theory fits in to all of this. He also covers a wide array of interesting topics from music-lovers including how to overcome obstacles in your composition, and how to constantly be improving as an artist. It includes both a fresh perspective on theoretical ideas from a global perspective. It offers practical advise about music theory and conceptual music, whether produced by computers or not.
What makes this podcast so interesting is the way it’s content is delivered. The speaker has a calm, almost meditative voice. He is easy to listen to, and speaks in each podcast as if he were telling a story. He captures you with cliffhangers and interesting dialect. He also plays very slow, methodical music in the background making it easy to pay attention to. His information dives very deep into the world of music theory, and is aimed for musicians and artists who already have a foundation in music theory, who are looking to dive deeper, learn more, and overcome obstacles in their own music.
The last podcast we will dive into is The Art of Composing Podcast. This podcast is specifically for composing, and is aimed towards musicians who share a passion for writing and creating their own music. The Art of Composing is a very in-depth conversation between host, Jon Brantingham, and a guest speaker. Jon first introduces the speaker, explains a brief background on them, and then leads the discussion with ingenious questions his fan base craves the answers to. Covering mostly composing techniques and tricks, Jon also dives into music theory and how it can be applied to producing your own music.
The Art of Composing, by host Jon Brantingham, had originally started in 2011 after Jon had spent 7 years in the army. Having been musically trained his entire life, the Art of Composing had actually started as a blog for him to write and share his passion for music. From there, it snowballed in a beautiful career.
Since 2014, Jon has been composing music, and teaching others to do the same. Since pursuing a career in composing, Jon has now scored multiple soap opera seasons, commercials, short films, and many other composing opportunities. He even had the opportunity to consult for a novel about Napoleon’s niece as a composer and the accuracy of the history and musical references.
Now, composing and teaching are now Jon’s full time career. He is a testament to the fact that you don’t need to have a background in music theory to be good at composing. You can still switch careers after almost a decade, and still continue to grow, learn, and become better at your art.
Jon’s passion for what he does is evident in his podcast episodes. He is committed to helping his listeners love and enjoy composing, as well as inspiring and motivating others to learn the art. If you are interested in composing, or are looking to explore the subject further, this is a great podcast to start with.
There are many free resources to learn music theory that don’t require you to sit in on a college level class. In fact, there are many passionate teachers and educators committed to spreading their love and excitement for what they do to anyone who is interested. One of the best ways to do this is through a podcast show. Podcasts have changed the way we learn, and offer heaps of useful information for new artist, musicians, and composers. There are also more basic level podcasts dedicated to beginner level listeners, and those interested in knowing more about music theory.
While we have identified what we believe to be a great mix of the top 10 podcasts to learn from, there are a variety of podcasts dedicated to your education that you can explore. After all, music theory is about more than heavy, textbook information. Music theory unlocks a whole world of understanding music, sounds, composition, and how they can have an impact on our human experience.
Now that you have a bit of information, it’s time to apply it!