About Open Music Theory

Inverted (or flipped) music theory

This textbook is meant to support active student engagement with music in the theory classroom. That means that this text is meant to take a back seat to student music making (and breaking). It is not the center of the course.

The three original authors use this textbook in the context of “inverted” or “flipped” courses, often following an inquiry-based model.

As a result, most of the pages in this textbook do not read like a typical twentieth-century textbook. They are somewhere in between prosy lecture notes and reference material, with minimal graphical or audio examples. Also, unlike many resources for “flipped” classes, there are few resources in this textbook where the core information is presented in video. We made these decisions consciously, so that this would not simply be a multimedia, web-based version of an industrial-era textbook. Rather, we wanted to create a textbook that could serve as a quick reference in the context of active musical engagement.

In our classes, student activity takes pride of place, and it often precedes engagement with the textbook. The information contained in this text is secondary to that activity, and thus this text is meant to play only a supporting role in our classes.

For more information about the inverted music class, see Engaging Students: Essays in Music Pedagogy, Volume 1 (2013) and Volume 2 (2014).

Open source

This “textbook” is an open-source textbook. That means that you are free to use, modify, distribute, even sell its contents provided that you 1) attribute the original to us, and 2) pass on the same rights to others (which includes us!) by licensing your derivative work the same way we license this one. (See the Creative Commons license deed linked on each page of this textbook.) In fact, we highly encourage others to “hack” this book: supplement it, reword it, add examples, drop chapters, mash it up with another one. Not only will that mean a greater diversity of material available, but if you improve your version of this work with your hacks, we can use those improvements to make this resource better, too.

If you want to “fork” this textbook, either to deploy it for your own course or to use it as the basis for your own derived work, please visit the GitHub project page, log in (or sign up), and click “fork.” From there, you can edit, add, or remove the text, graphics, and videos (all text is in the very user-friendly Markdown format), or the theme (HTML and CSS). You can also send us a “pull request,” if you’ve made a change you think would be beneficial to add to this textbook. You can even download an individual file to convert into a handout to distribute in class. For more details on the open-source ideology behind this textbook or the process of using it for your own purposes, please read Kris Shaffer’s articles in Hybrid Pedagogy: “Open-Source Scholarship” and “Push, Pull, Fork: GitHub for Academics.”

A critical textbook

Rather than create “a fixed tome of knowledge, shared across institutional boundaries, with the authority to dictate pedagogical decisions and arbitrate student success,” OMT strives to be a critical textbook: “multi-authored, physically hackable, and legally alterable.” We hope this textbook can “facilitate student access to existing knowledge, and empower them to critique it, dismantle it, and create new knowledge.”

This means that at times (and increasingly as more contribute to the text), multiple perspectives will be provided on a single issue. Also, the license (and to the greatest extent possible, the technology) permits an instructor—and even a student—to tweak and rewrite the text. And rather than arbitrate standards across institutional boundaries, we hope that the online nature of the text, and the accompanying hashtag #OpenMusicTheory, will help build community across institutional boundaries, rather than uniformity.

While there are three authors and an editor listed on this text as of first “publication,” we hope that the technology and the license encourage otherss to contribute new material to this volume. Though Kris, Bryn, Brian, and Robin are the original authors and editors, we have chosen a license and platform that essentially give the community of music scholars and students ownership over the textbook.

Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing

This textbook is published by Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing, under editors Robin Wharton and Kris Shaffer.

HPP seeks to do more than simply reproduce print publishing in digital form. Rather, we ask, what can a digital “book” do that a print book cannot? As we state on our website,

Writing and reading are social acts. Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing seeks to encourage active public discourse by publishing works that are born out of, or facilitate, community (inter)action — works that are crowdsourced or collaboratively authored, openly accessible, encourage remixing and republishing, and/or blur the lines between author and reader.

Textbooks are nearly unparalleled in the degree to which they are attached to a community. And so we hope that this textbook and the communities that use it will be a vibrant starting point for us as we re-examine what it means to read, write, and engage texts critically in a digitally connected age.

For more information about HPP, follow @HybridPub on Twitter.


As this book grew out of a crowdfunding effort, we are proud to acknowledge those who contributed financially to the writing, editing, and designing of this book. We are extremely grateful for their support.

We are also beyond grateful to have the financial and technological support from the team at Trinket, who provided a matching donation in the amount of $2500, and who built the technology behind the interactive musical notation modules that appear in this text.

Financial supporters of the open, interactive music theory textbook (non-anonymous donors of $15 or more):
Adam Heidebrink, Andrew Charlton, Alex Dunn, Andre Mount, Ben Lloyd Pearson, Benjamin Zwickl, Brian Bennett, Brian Moseley, Chris Ogden, Christopher Edwards, Daniel Shanahan, Daniel Stevens, Dave Easley, David Huron, David Kulma, David MacDonald, The Marca Development Team, Jesse Stommel, Jill T. Brasky, John Moore, Jon Scott Smith, Joseph Casamento, Julia Silge, Kyle Gullings, Lindsey Sudbury, Maeve Sterbenz, Marianne Kielian-Gilbert, Mark Easley, Sr., Mark McGuire, martinlugton (screen name), Max August, Moeruze.Burning (screen name), Molly Sweet, Pandel Collaros, Paul Bond, Paul David Johnson, Peter Kaminsky, Peter Newbury, Philip Duker, pkay3 (screen name), Robert Kelley, Robert Talbert, Rolin Moe, Trevor Pittman, Trevor Rowe, University of Delaware Dept. of Academic Technology Services, University of Delaware Dept. of Music, University of Colorado Dept. of Music Theory, Wanda Terral, William O’Hara, and several anonymous donors.