Hack Your Learning: 5 Places to Expand Your Music Education for Free

Those of us who try hard at this Highland bagpipe thing for a decent length of time will realize that it is not enough to simply consider oneself a “piper.” If you are to keep making significant progress, you must consider yourself a “musician.” Learning how to play the Highland bagpipes can make you a piper, but limiting yourself to learning that which is only within the realm of “bagpipes” will only get you so far. It is learning and understanding the intricacies of the music we play that will make you a musician. Trouble is, much bagpipe tuition is short on music education while being great at getting you that handful of tunes you need for the pipe band or solo boards.

At some point, we must take control of our own music education. Most of us never studied music in university or even had any formal music training beyond learning guitar or piano as a kid. Even if you have the best bagpipe instructor in the world, you are still master of the quality and quantity of your bagpipe learning. If your bagpiping is to be a personal expression, you’ll need a full understanding of all aspects of the music we play, just like players of any instrument. The internet of 2012 is rife with free resources to supplement whatever music learning you’re getting and expand your horizons beyond the nine notes of the bagpipe scale. Here are five places to acquire solid music education for free.

MusicTheory.net has been around for quite a while. It was one of the first exhaustive, lesson-based websites for learning music theory that ever appeared on the internet. Ricci Adams has constantly updated it and incorporated new tools and technologies for ear training and music recognition along with great lessons on theory up to an advanced level. Every bagpiper at every level could learn a few things here.

MIT Open Courseware
There are great courses to explore at MIT’s Open Courseware. MIT has been one of the pioneers of internet-based learning, offering a large and comprehensive selection of their main courses catalog online and for free. These aren’t your average online courses but high-end learning from one of the more renowned institutions on the planet. Their Music and Theater Arts selection offers courses on composition, harmony and counterpoint, as well as the history of different musical forms. Oh, and if you want to brush up on your nuclear physics, you can do that too.

Open University
This UK-based learning site lists exhaustive coursework in a broad range of subjects. The Arts category has an introductory music theory course and others that delve into analysis of different music forms. There are also some Gaelic language courses!

The content at Connexions departs from the typical online coursework and offers some heavy reading for the intrepid learner. Lessons are organized as modules, more like chapters of a textbook, but cover a large and varied range from a variety of authors. Many of the music lessons delve into finer detail than you might get elsewhere. There is a course on “Providing Constructive Criticism in Music” for example. Other readings such as the “Harmonic Series” and “Harmony” offer some great insight into musical matters relevant to the bagpiper.

Berklee Shares from the Berklee College of Music
The Berklee College of Music is a well-known name in the area of music publishing and tutorial books. Their online learning site BerkleeShares.com provides pdfs and video lessons on music improvisation and general education. Studies of melodic form, harmony, rhythm, and more await the studious bagpiper.

  • scahill1973

    Hey Vin, there are some music theory apps in the app store and I don’t use droid but I’m sure their market place has some as well. If you have time can you look at some of those and make some recommendations for expanding our musical education on the go?

  • pipervin

    Good tip. I might check those out. I know that Musictheory.net has mobile apps that allow you to work through the exercises there. But definitely worth sorting “wheat from chaff” in the mobile apps generally.

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