Get Into the Rhythm: 50 Open Courseware Collections for Musicians

By Megan Jones

Finding a place to take free classes can be a bonus for musicians struggling to pay the rent. The following open courseware collections include classes, entire courses, and lessons that are sure to please the musician in you. Select from college courses from some of the top-ranked universities, educational open courseware collections, music schools, and even podcasts and webcasts.

University Collections

Whether you take music classes from MIT or learn about early cultures from Utah State University, these university collections offer plenty of quality classes.

  1. MIT OpenCourseware Music and Theater Arts. MIT offers a great collection of free music classes ranging from musical structures to specific music styles from around the world.
  2. Columbia Interactive Arts. These art classes offered through Columbia often include music classes such as the history of the pops or music from the renaissance and baroque.
  3. The Open University Arts and History. Search this section of The Open University’s courses to find plenty of music classes that include examples such as Creating musical sounds and Using film music in the classroom.
  4. Harvard University Extension School. These classes change every semester with only two semesters offered at a time, so stay updated with the course offering here. Some classes have included topics such as History of Blues in America.
  5. Gresham College. The lectures assembled here include several courses on music including such varied topics as Chamber Music Fights Back and The Composer in Action.
  6. Sofia Project. This project of the Foothill College offers only one music class at this time, but stay tuned for any potential additions in the future.
  7. Fathom. Search this site to discover all music courses offered from any of Fathom’s member institutions.
  8. Utah State University. The anthropology department offers a class on cultural anthropology that includes information about music, dance, and more in early civilizations.
  9. Brigham Young University Division of Continuing Education. The free classes offered here include organ workshops, English horn, and adult modern dance.

Open Educational Resources

From an open courseware consortium to a huge collection of free online books and texts on music, these resources will provide you with plenty of information to help your music appreciation.

  1. OER Commons. Search for "music" at this collection of shared lessons among teachers and professors and you will find a variety of classes that range from classes constructed by Pete Seeger to an introduction to musical instruments.
  2. Qedoc. This educational resource sharing site provides many helpful resources for musicians and music teachers with such fun items as the Country Music Nicknames Quiz and Famous Composers I.
  3. Connexions. With topics such as Noisy Learning, Michael’s Sound Reasoning, and A Parent’s Guide to Band, you know the courses here will be varied and interesting. Just click on "Arts" or search for "music" in the search box.
  4. Federal Resources for Educational Excellence. Learn about music on this government site that provides information ranging from Broadway to blues to gospel.
  5. Open Vault. This media library and archives provides 140 different music lectures, videos, and more that go back from 1973.
  6. Open Courseware Consortium. Search for any musical topic with this resource and find open courseware classes offered by any of the consortium participants.
  7. MERLOT. Find almost 300 educational music classes and resources all specifically designed for faculty and students of higher education, but available to anyone.
  8. World Lecture Hall. Search for "music" at this site and find courses from around the world with topics on music such as Rhetoric of Popular Music and Physics of Sound.
  9. Project Gutenberg. While not technically an open courseware collection, this amazing resource of free downloadable books offers enough information to fill a number of courses with topics on any music subject you could want to learn about.

Music-Only Resources

These resources focus only on music instruction through either specific instrument lessons or with classes on music theory, songwriting, and more.

  1. Berklee Shares. This premier free music lesson site offers a wide variety of classes any musician can enjoy. Study specific instruments or more technical aspects of making music.
  2. Ricci Adams’ Search by lessons, trainers, or utilities to find a vast amount of free lessons and classes from this site.
  3. May Music Studio. Learn to play an instrument with the free lessons on this site or find out about music theory, songwriting, and more with the more academic classes offered.
  4. Gary Ewer’s Easy Music Theory. Get 26 free lessons complete with an instruction sheet, quizzes, and answer sheets to learn the basics about music theory.
  5. These ten lessons culminate with an examination to see how far you’ve come. Using a combination of video, text, and photos, these lessons will have you playing the piano in no time.
  6. PracticeSpot. Get resources, classes, and much more from this site that specializes in helping musicians improve their talent.
  7. Folk of the Wood Acoustic Classes. Learn to play the mandolin, violin, mountain dulcimer, banjo and more at this site that specializes in wooden instruments.
  8. Drum Bum Drum Database. This huge database offers many lessons about drumming in general and for specific drum types.

Free Lessons and Classes

These free lessons and classes don’t necessarily come from a university or music school, but offer a great selection that will provide you with the information and lessons you want.

  1. About U. Take a wide variety of music and music related classes here that range from guitar lessons to learning about pop music.
  2. Wikiversity. Get free classes on music theory, music appreciation, understanding music, and more at this resource that offers open source classes.
  3. Learn about classical music, jazz or opera; learn to play the guitar; learn how to get signed to a record label; and much more on this site that makes it easy to learn how to do what you want.
  4. Free Online Education. Look through the free online music classes available through this resource with everything from drum lessons to a history of music class.
  5. Instructables. Find short, simple and fun lessons that range from making a drum to building a stereo tube amp.
  6. Essentials of Music. This site has a wealth of information about classical music which includes articles, a glossary, and more.
  7. BBC Training & Development Radio Courses. Learn important radio skills such as editing and interviewing with these free online courses from the BBC.
  8. Free or Affordable Distance Education. This site offers a good selection of free online dance classes that anyone interested in combining their love of music with dance should check out.

Videos, Podcasts, and Webcasts

From full university courses to lectures from experts in the field to interviews with musicians, these podcasts, videos, and webcasts bring you many hours of free instruction.

  1. UC Berkeley Webcast Courses. Study such interesting classes as Earthquakes and Music from the offerings found here. Be sure to browse through the older course offerings as well.
  2. KQED Radio Perspectives. Get podcasts from this California radio station and learn what radio listeners find worth discussing.
  3. Stanford on iTunes. Download courses from Stanford that you can listen to on your iPod. Open the application and search for "music" to find plenty of classes for you to enjoy.
  4. How to Play the Cello. Watch these videos to learn the basics about playing the cello. From storage and cleaning to finger position to tuning, you will begin to feel more comfortable with your cello after this primer.
  5. Violin Masterclass. With these Quicktime videos, you can learn all you need to know to get started playing the violin. There is also a section just for children learning to play.
  6. Guitar Noise Podcast. Get 30 minute guitar lessons for free with this podcast that brings you everything from basic strumming to advanced techniques.
  7. Front Row. From Boston College, these podcasts offer a wide variety of lectures. Search for "music" and come up with subjects as varied as the roots of Gaelic music or Russian rock music.
  8. UChannel. Get educational lectures on these podcasts from member organizations. Some of the music-related subjects include programs as The New Mediterranean Symposium, We-think: the power of mass creativity, and Future Radio.
  9. University of British Columbia Podcasts. Scroll through these podcasts to find lectures on subjects such as opera and music from the play "Beautiful Thing."
  10. University of Oregon Campus Radio. Stream two different campus radio stations from UO, one of which offers university talk radio in addition to eclectic music.
  11. University of Virginia Podcasts & Webcasts. Do a search for music among these podcasts to pull up some interesting podcasts and webcasts that explore such topics as bridging cultures through music and music as medicine.
  12. University of Washington Television. Get videos that educate and explore music in video classes that include contemporary composers and piano power.
  13. NPR Podcast Directory Music. Browse through this collection of podcasts offered by NPR affiliate stations that touch on various topics of music including A Musician’s Life, musician interviews, and more.
  14. Open Source. The podcasts here courtesy of Brown University include a variety of topics that sometimes touch on the musical. Listen to learn about the Tanglewood Music Center or the connection between Bob Marley and Barack Obama at a literary festival in Jamaica.
  15. Library of Congress Webcasts. Browse through the titles here within the "Culture, Performing Arts" section to find a decent listing on music-related webcasts.
  16. WGBH Forum Network. The lectures here are provided by some of the best cultural and educational institutions in Boston. Click on the "music" section for several interesting webcasts.

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