Frequently Asked Questions

Workbook Series Questions

No, it is not necessary for every student to work through every workbook in the series. There are suggestions for placement and leveling on the Theory Time website within the description of the Elementary workbooks, or the Placement Tests are available to assist a teacher in deciding where to begin a student in the Workbook Series. Beginning concepts are reviewed through the Grade Four workbook.

Working through the entire series builds a very strong foundation. Progress may be accelerated by skipping Reviews found within the workbooks or by doing four to five pages of work each day in a particular grade level. A student may set a goal of working through one workbook in the spring, another in the summer and another in the fall to accelerate progress.

Theory Time is strictly a music theory course that complements any music method. It offers 13 levels, one for every potential year of study, K – 12. Method theory books, in general, do not offer enough levels to allow one level for every potential year of study. General music theory applies to all instrumentalists and vocalists so a solid understanding of music theory will complement any music study. Since there are 13 levels, each workbook offers age-appropriate concepts with large staffs, in the early levels, to accommodate the fine motor skills of the student. Since the workbooks are well paced, a Theory Time workbook will complement any music method.

An understanding of music theory also benefits someone who simply desires to learn how music ‘works’. Theory Time curriculums provide materials for home school students, private students and public or private school classroom music courses. All Ear Training drills from every Theory Time workbook are available online, free of charge, via the Theory Time Youtube channel. Simply click on “Free Ear Training Videos” on the home page, and then click on the grade level followed by the appropriate Ear Training exercise. Heather will appear on the screen and administer the ear training, so drills may be completed at home. Answers may be checked in the corresponding Teacher’s Edition.

Learning Music theory teaches all the different aspects of music: note-reading, rhythm, notation, intervals, altering notes with chromatic signs, chords, etc., without having to actually learn to play an instrument. Of course, it beautifully complements learning to play an instrument. No one can learn to play any music on any instrument without a basic knowledge of music theory.

Learning music theory applies to any type of music, whether it is singing, playing the piano, playing the guitar, or playing a band or orchestral instrument. At some point in just about everyone’s life, one will encounter music and one will be that much ahead with a knowledge of music theory and the musical language that it teaches.

The Theory Time Workbook Series is a favorite because of its comprehensive nature and its sequential format. Repetition is the key to understanding and success!

The Workbook Series offers step-by-step explanations, which, if followed, should make it easy to do the drills. Three Teacher’s Editions offer the answers to every page of every workbook as well as answers to the Ear Training drills.

It is not necessary for students to complete one lesson a week. The ideal situation is to have the student “on grade level”, using the workbook that corresponds with their grade level in school. If a student is on grade level, probably one, two or three pages a week is sufficient so that the workbook lasts 9 to 10 months.

A faster pace is necessary if a student is trying to ‘catch up’ to their school grade level. If students understand the concepts, after being presented initially, then students may opt to skip the Reviews to accelerate progress. Set a goal to complete one workbook in the fall, one in the spring and another in the summer, as needed to attain grade level status.

The length of time it will take depends, of course, on a student’s motivation. The most common ‘problem’ is that students often do more work than assigned because they want to get to the next Fun Sheet! What a problem to have! We suggest perusing the pages and the upcoming concepts. You may want to assign only one or two pages or even just half a page! The secret to success is consistency. Students should do some theory each week to build knowledge, strengthen understanding and to ensure retention.

Late beginners should consider starting at the Grade Four workbook –or- consider working through the comprehensive workbooks in the Medallion Series (to be released in June of 2012).

Lessons are taught in treble and bass clef in the Workbook Series, although clefs are left out on most drills, when possible, so that a student may use the clef of their choice.

The MS/HS Reproducible Series for classroom teaches lessons in all four clefs: treble, bass, alto and tenor. Students are asked to “draw the clef they use most often” when doing the drills so the same worksheet may be used for the entire band, choir or orchestra.

All workbooks contain Fun Sheets or Challenge Sheets that are different from those found in the Reproducible Series packets. It is not necessary to purchase the Fun Sheet packets, unless you are a teacher and want to use them in a group setting for supplementary material.

If you are a private teacher interviewing a transfer student, use the Placement Tests to evaluate the transfer students’ knowledge of theory at the first interview. This evaluation will assist you in discerning where to start the student in the Theory Time Workbook Series.

The Placement Tests also include Ear Training evaluations. You may present a written evaluation of cognitive and aural skills to the parent at the first interview. Impressive!

The Placement Tests will also help a teacher, that is new to the Theory Time Workbook Series, determine where to place a current student in the Series. It is not necessary for all students to start at a ‘Theory Fundamental’ Level. The Placement Tests will assist the teacher in making this decision. The Placement Tests are reproducible.

Reproducible Series Questions

The MS/HS Reproducible Series for classroom teaches lessons in all four clefs: treble, bass, alto and tenor. Students are asked to “draw the clef they use most often” when doing the drills so the same worksheet may be used for the entire band, choir or orchestra.

You should purchase the MS/HS 1A and 1B. The Sixth Grade packet is the FINAL packet in the Elementary Reproducible Series, therefore it is too difficult for beginning band, choir or orchestral students. The MS/HS 1A and 1B packets start at the very beginning with “this is a staff.”

The Elementary Reproducible Series for K through Sixth Grade moves slower than the Theory Fundamental Workbooks, Primer through Grade Three – bass clef is not introduced until the Fourth Grade reproducible packet whereas it is introduced in the Primer workbook.

The Fifth Grade and Sixth Grade Elementary reproducible packets contain similar concepts to the Grade Five and Grade Six workbooks. The Elementary Reproducible Series is based on what a public school music curriculum might teach at various grade levels, although the packets are not limited to just those concepts. Concepts and sample pages are listed on the Theory Time website for each reproducible packet as well as each workbook.

REMINDER: The Workbook Series is NOT reproducible. Individual workbooks must be purchased for every student.

The Middle School/High School (MS/HS) Reproducible Series somewhat correlates with the Workbook Series as follows:

  • Theory Time MS/HS 1A & 1B packets teach similar concepts to those taught in Theory Time workbooks, Grades 1 through 3.
  • MS/HS 2A & 2B packets teach concepts taught in Theory Time workbooks, Grades 4 through 6.
  • MS/HS 3A & 3B packets teach concepts taught in workbooks, Grades 7 and 8.
  • HS 4A & 4B packets teach concepts taught in workbooks, Grades 9 and 10.
  • HS 5A & 5B packets teach concepts taught in workbooks, Grades 11 and 12.

If a private teacher desires reproducible worksheets that complement the Workbook Series, consider the MS/HS Reproducible Series. If a classroom music teacher wants more detailed explanation as a reference, consider purchasing a Grade Level workbook from the Workbook Series. As a reminder, the Workbook Series is NOT reproducible.

The Fun Sheet and Challenge Sheet packets complement the Reproducible Series. Fun Sheets for K – 3 and Fun Sheets for 4 – 6 complement the corresponding grade level packets in the Elementary Reproducible Series.

The curriculum grade level packets in the Elementary Reproducible Series, Kindergarten through Sixth Grade, each contain a few Fun Sheets that are different from the Fun Sheets in the Fun Sheet reproducible packets.

Fun Sheets for Middle School complement the MS/HS 1A through 3B reproducible packets. Challenge Sheets for High School complement the HS 4A through 5B packets in the MS/HS Reproducible Series. There are no other Fun or Challenge Sheets in the MS/HS curriculum packets.

All workbooks contain Fun Sheets or Challenge Sheets that are different from those found in the Reproducible Series packets.

Theory Concept Questions

The standard explanation is that perfect intervals invert to perfect intervals, so that is why the intervals are perfect. Here is a simpler explanation:

When a perfect interval inverts to another perfect interval, both notes of the interval are common to the key of the other note. For example, a Perfect 5th in the key of D Major is D to A. When inverted, it becomes a Perfect 4th, A to D. The key of D Major has the note A and the key of A Major has the note D. Both notes are common to the key of the other note, so the interval is perfect.

Now let’s take a Major 3rd in the key of D Major, D to F#. When inverted, it becomes a minor 6th, f# to d. The key of D Major has an F#, but the key of F# Major does not have a D, it has a D#. Both notes are not common to the key of the other note, so the interval is not perfect.

Intervals of a 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th in a Major or minor key are not Perfect intervals, using this ‘simple’ explanation. Intervals of unison, 4th, 5th and 8ve in a Major or minor key ARE perfect! Isn’t that a ‘perfect’ explanation?

If students are still having trouble remembering which intervals are Major or Perfect, ask them the last four digits of their phone number or their home address. It’s possible they may have a MAJOR phone bill or live in the PERFECT home. Giving students something tangible they can remember may help them keep the Major and Perfect intervals straight. Also, the Perfect intervals use the same “numbers” as the primary chords in music, I, IV and V.

Thank you for your question. Yes, you should be able to teach your son without being a music teacher, if that is your only option. In fact, you will learn along with him as you work through the Workbook Series.

There are some things in your favor regarding this question. Since your son is probably in the 3rd grade, you will need to back him up a little bit to ensure the initial workbook doesn’t move too fast and because he is not under the guidance of a private music teacher, applying it directly to something he is playing. Encourage him to tap the rhythms as he learns to count since this is similar to what percussionists do on the drums and other percussive instruments. If you have a piano in the home, he can also play the notes as he learns them. Using a physical application will help him better understand the benefits of what he is learning. It might peak his interest down the road into pursuing an instrument or singing on his own. One never knows the hidden gifts a child has been given until they are explored.

All of the Ear Training drills in every workbook are free online at our website, www.theorytime.com. When he gets to these final pages in each workbook, just go online, click on FREE EAR TRAINING VIDEOS, and select the grade level and the exercise he is doing. This will make it easy for him to do these exercises at home as well.

Yes, it is very important to teach students to read music. A teacher once said to me, “I can teach you a song or I can teach you to sing and play all songs.” By learning to read music, one is empowered with the skills needed to read any piece of music.

We owe it to students to teach them to read the grand staff – not only by the names of line and spaces, but also by how the location of the note relates to the location on the piano keyboard. A note written in the middle of the grand staff is found in the middle register of the piano, which is why “Middle C” is given that distinct name.

The grand staff is very symmetrical. If you fold a grand staff in half, with Middle C serving as the fold line, it’s amazing what lines and spaces hit together! “Space 3 treble C – (3 spaces up)” hits “Bass C – (3 spaces down)”. “High C” and “Low C” also line up. “Treble G” that names the “G” clef lines up with “Bass F” that names the “F” clef. There is so much detail in music! What better way to train a young mind than through music lessons!

Teach your students to name the order of sharps or the order of flats using “high” or “low” inflection in their voice to mirror the “high-low” pattern in the key signature. It should make it easier to recall the pattern when doing a drill or taking a test. As taught in the Theory Time Workbook Series, sharps make notes higher, so the first sharp in a key signature in treble and bass clef is “high”. Flats make notes lower, so the first flat in a key signature in treble and bass clef is “low”. The pattern of sharps in a key signature, in treble and bass, produce a column pattern of 2-3-2. Sharps in a key signature always move down a 4th and up a 5th; flats in a key signature, always more up a 4th and down a 5th.

Thank you for your email with your question. First of all, you’re doing great to be in the Level Nine workbook! I actually consider the Level Nine workbook to be one of the most difficult in the Series due to the exact pages you referenced! That is to say, this particular question is teaching something you’ve done before, using a different approach – so don’t feel bad that it confused you.

I’m assuming you worked through the Level 8 workbook, specifically pages 26 & 27 (& subsequent pages) where triad inversions were taught. If you did work through these pages, you understand that a triad is a three-note chord, but what you did in Level 8 was all on ONE STAFF, either treble or bass. Therefore it was represented as a typical triad (chord) in root position, initially, and then when the lower note moved to the top of the chord, it was in first inversion. When that lower note moved to the top of the chord, it was in second inversion. If you play cadence chords on the piano, you are playing chords in all 3 positions (root, first inversion and second inversion).

NOW, we move to the Level Nine workbook on page 16. The difference in Question 14 on page 16 and Question 15 on page 16 is that Question 14 is on just the TREBLE STAFF (as the drills were in Level 8). In Question 15, we are now on the GRAND STAFF. Anytime you are on the GRAND STAFF, the BASS NOTE dictates what ‘position’ the chord is in. We cannot use the word TRIAD anymore since we’re on a grand staff and we have four notes, one of which is doubled.

So, let’s start in the first measure of Question 15. If you just look at the treble staff (C – F – A spelling from bottom to top), you would probably be inclined to say, “That’s an “F” chord because “F” is the note above the gap.” That is true and it’s OK to say that because “F” IS the root of this chord. THEN, you might be inclined to say, “This chord is in 2nd inversion because there are 2 notes above the ‘gap’.” This is where the trouble begins.

Naming “F” as the root is the first step needed to answer this correctly. NEXT, decide what “number” “F” is in the key of F Major. The answer is “1”, right? The F Major scale has the letter names F-G-A-B flat-C-D-E-F so since F is the FIRST note in the F Major scale, we say it’s a “1” chord. We write that “1” using the Roman Numeral “I” in the blank.


Please understand this much that I’ve told you thus far before we go on. All we’ve tried to do so far is determine what Roman numeral to put in the blank. This is actually called “Four Part Harmonization” because you have 4 parts on this grand staff: soprano, alto, tenor & bass (from top to bottom).


Now that you understand this much, look at the BASS NOTE. The bass note is A. Spell out the chord in root position, as I did underneath the blank, F-A-C. Since “A” is the bass note, circle “A”. (as illustrated)

After you spell out the chord in ROOT POSITION under the blank, circle the note that is in the bass. Since “A” is in the bass, circle “A”, which is the third of the chord. (as illustrated)

Now memorize this: If you circle the FIRST letter, the chord is in root position and no “numbers or figures” are needed – just the Roman numeral. If you circled the middle letter, which we did, the chord is in FIRST INVERSION because the 3rd of the chord is in the bass. Therefore you put the ‘figure’ “6” next to the Roman numeral. (The 6 stands for the interval above the bass note.) Count up ABCDEF – “F” is a 6th above the bass note. The 3rd above the bass note is implied. . . . .to get really technical, you COULD write 6/3 next to the Roman numeral, but it’s not usually done.

Now IF the bass note had been “C”, you would have circled the 3rd letter which is the 5th of the chord. If you circle this letter, the chord is in SECOND INVERSION because the 5th of the chord is in the bass. When that happens, write 6/4 next to the Roman numeral (one on top of the other, as illustrated in the black print right above the grand staff.) The figure “6” is always the top number. The 6/4 means that there is a 6th (A) above the bass (which is C in this imaginary problem we’re solving) and a 4th (F) above the bass.

You see, back in the Baroque period (1600’s), there was no way to print music. Everything had to be handwritten. To save time, composers and musicians would write out the BASS LINE in a piece of music and play the INTERVALS above the bass line, because it took too long to write out all the notes. This was mostly done for church music, playing hymns, etc. . . .which they composed. So, when you use these “figures”, it is called “figured bass”. Bach did this a lot. (I credit Bach for inventing most parts of music theory!) Bach would see the bass note and just play the intervals, indicated by the figures, above the bass line. It saved him LOTS of time!

Let’s do the second measure. Determine the root of the chord. It should be easy to see that it is an “F” chord, but when you look at the key signature, you see 3 flats, so it’s an f minor chord. The key signature is for c minor (easily told by the c: that you see before the blank). Count what “number’ “F” is in the key of “c”. C-D-E-F. The answer is “4”. So, in the blank, you write the number ‘4’ using a lower case Roman numeral iv since the ‘f’ chord (f – a flat – c) is a minor chord.

Now, if you only look at the treble clef, you would say this chord is in root position. But since we’re on a GRAND STAFF, we can’t do that. We have to look at the BASS NOTE to determine what ‘position’ the chord is in. SO, now write F – A – C under the blank. (You don’t really NEED to put the flat sign because you already know A is flat). You will write F-A-C and circle the letter “C” since C is in the bass.

Since you circled “C”, the 5th of the chord, the chord is in 2nd inversion. So the answer is iv 6/4.

An easy tip to remember is that when a chord is in FIRST INVERSION, you only use ONE NUMBER, which is ‘6’. When a chord is in SECOND INVERSION, you use 2 numbers, which are 6/4.

The answers for all of the Theory Time Advanced and College Prep level workbooks can be found in the Theory Time Teacher’s Edition Vol. 3. The biggest confusion on this question stems from the fact that this is on a grand staff.

Now, not to confuse you more, but in the next workbook, you will learn about the V7 chord. The V7 chord is a four-note chord instead of a three-note chord. (1-3-5-7). Since there are four notes, the ‘figures’ used in the inversions will not be 6 and 6/4. Just a ‘heads up’ on that! Don’t worry about that now.

Summer Camp Curriculum Questions

The summer camp packets provide all the ideas you need to administer a summer camp yourself. Each packet includes sample flyers, a sample parent letter, lesson plans, a description of projects, a list of materials as well as some games and reproducible pages to put in a student workbook. There is enough material in any of the camps to host a five-day camp, three hours a day. Materials may be adapted to your own use. The information contained in any of the camp packets reflects hundreds of hours of research and planning. What is your time worth?

Yes, the summer camp packets may be used as cross-curriculum material in schools or the information may be used to teach music history and musical styles to private students. Some teachers purchase the “Great Composers” packet and only use the material on the Baroque Era one year, the information on the Classical Era the next year, and so on.

Since the camp packets also include art projects and some suggest the presentation of a musical, a classroom teacher might suggest that the art department do the art projects, the music class work on the musical, the history teacher could teach the historical timeline and the English class might study the composers along with other literary greats during the designated Era. Use your imagination and make the camp packets fit your program!

If you are the only teacher and want to offer a camp, you could divide your students into age groups. You could offer the same camp for three weeks, but have a week for Elementary, another week for Middle School and a third week for High School. You could still meet three hours a day. If you want to perform the suggested musical, try teaching the Elementary their parts the first week, the Middle School their parts the second week, and the High School their parts the third week. Try to schedule some time each day of the fourth week to rehearse all age groups together and perform the musical at the end of the fourth week.

All camps are versatile and can be tweaked to work best for your schedule!

Theory Time Product Questions

Sorry, but we do not produce printed catalogs anymore. The Theory Time catalog is available to view online or to download in a PDF format.