Fundamentals of Music Theory by University of Edinburgh is not at all uptp the mark | Coursera Community

Fundamentals of Music Theory by University of Edinburgh is not at all uptp the mark

  • 21 April 2020
  • 18 replies

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Hello everyone,

Taking up the course of Fundamentals of Music Theory by the University of Edinburgh has been a big mistake. From the beginning itself, the instructors are in the assumption that all of us know things about Western Music. They speak at such a fast pace and bombard us with all terminologies without giving sufficient time to grasp the knowledge. Then, they direct us to Wikipedia articles which seems very unprofessional. Also, the quizes are at some different difficulty level and do not have much connection to what is taught in the videos. I could never pass a quiz in the 2nd attempt. It usually takes 5 attempts to pass a quiz. Then, Week 3 was completely over my head. And I reached out to the learner's forum of that week. And that's when I realised that it's not just me who is facing this difficulty. It's literally everyone on the forum bad mouthing the course and the misconnections throughout the course.

I am completely unknown to Western Music and I was really looking forward to learn through this course so I applied for financial aid too. Now I am least interested to continue the course but if I unenroll I cannot continue the other courses which I am doing simultaneously related to Education field.

Can someone suggest what can be done? And how to reach out to Coursera and make them aware of this issue? 

18 replies


This is one of the best taught Music Theory courses that I have come across and am frankly surprised you are having a hard time with it. No doubt it helps to know a little bit of what a Piano keyboard is and the A to G keys that run along the 88 keys but the rest has been covered in a lot of depth. I’m merely auditing the course and so there’s no incentive for me to pass the quiz’s etc. I’m in it for the knowledge. If you paid to do the course to get a certificate than YMMV but my advise is stick to it and replay the lessons and it will click if you love music and have a desire to learn.


I agree. 

As a complete Beginner, I'm over my head! The Lessons lack a lot of information that you have to figure out yourself, the pacing is way too fast for beginner's! ..and I complete disagree that "if you love music bla bla".. I do Love music, and I bet everyone else who struggles, does Love music as well. So please come up with a solod argument mate.. 

I can't finish the course cause as I said, I'm way over my head with the plethora of information in such sort amount of time and with the quiz Deadline above my head like a Double edged Axe.

@Lyran , you can report this to the Help Center where they will tell the learning team who might be able to fix this. I see this problem as one where the  instructors haven’t been realistic about the prerequisites needed to find success in this course. It should be stated that people need a basic music knowledge and tell exactly what knowledge that is, for example, a knowledge of how a piano works, or of the names of notes.

To reach the Help Center, try this link:

Now log in,

Scroll down till you see where it says email us here, “here” highlighted in blue. Press that and you’ll be able to report this. If that doesn’t work, then scroll to the end, after the yellow thumbs up signs, where you will see a small box with a little envelope icon in it that says, contact us. Press the box. That’s another way you can contact someone who should be able to help this situation or at least get it reported.

Meanwhile, maybe we can help you with whatever problems you may have. As a retired  music teacher, I have explained many music basics to people. There are many others in this forum that are qualified as well. So, please share what your problems are here, and we will help you best as we can. I am so sorry that you’re feeling such frustration. This should be a fun subject to learn about it.

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I took that course. It is difficult but I thought it was a great course. I learned a lot from it. But I do agree it is not for a total beginner.  You may want to start with the Developing Your Musicianship courses.

@playfulcat ! Thank you for your suggestion. Learning music is fascinating but very challenging! It can be so confusing and complicated.

I remember having a music theory course in high school and disliked it so much because it all revolves around the piano and I could barely play that. It all seemed overwhelming.

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HI! I only agree that linking to Wikipedia is not strictly professional. 

The next time you will enroll for Audit, then evaluate the course and pay.
See the course → "Developing Your Common Sense" haha

I think that 80% of my courses are beyond my skills — that's why I'm here I suppose.
I keep on subscribing to any course seems to me “something I ever wanted to learn”

I enrolled in Developing Your Musicianship and I'm stuck at chapter 1 it's three years.
Now I'm creating some music for a video, and I really "want" to learn notes as I write them.

You know, there are teachers who are Monsters in their field, but their videos are terrible
They are skilled in Technology of Communications, but have 0 communication skills haha

Are they too fast at speaking? You can speed up and slow down the speed-rate of videos.
I normally play videos 1.75 faster to better my listening, and to watch the video more than once.
Wow — Education. I'd like to teach children that the real model they have in life, it's them. 

@ATP , of there is anything we can do to unstuck you, please let us know.
I agree that sometimes, a successful professional in the field isn’t a good teacher. He or she is unable to break information down to make it understandable. 
A math teacher I once knew became very successful. When I asked him if he was always so good at math, he laughed and said it was always his worst subject, which is why he wanted to become a math teacher. He could relate to and understand where students struggled. And so it is with music. A professional may take for granted knowledge a student doesn’t have yet. I am a better teacher than musician, not that I’m not a good musician….I knew I could be a better teacher.

So, please...everyone, if there is something you don’t understand, no matter how trivial or silly the question, please ask here! 

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@Judith Hi. Thanks for helping. It’s now playing “Major C Scale” and the alike, and I find it terribly complicated things. I repeat the sequence 5, 6 times because I can’t see is he playing the black note or the white note! Why twice “whole-step” as he plays the same note?? 

Said so, not going drop the course. Just want to dig in. Want to know how to call what my mind thinks. I’m a musician—I just don’t know music. This makes Music theory as much fascinating as Physics. I think it’s a way to develop beyond the knowledge itself, it’s deep wiring, and I’m narcissistic to the bone in this. 

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PS — As a side note, I can’t really get why is it such a hidden feature, that of opening the Course Preview Mode without even subscribing. How many of you know this feature?


@ATP , I am not sure I understand your question. But maybe some of this will help? If not, please let me know and I’ll try again.

The piano or keyboard is made up of white keys and black keys. Where the black keys are is a pattern. You see 2 black keys, white keys, then 3 black keys. This pattern repeats all through the keyboard. Find those 2 black keys. Now play the white key to its left and you have the note “C”. You can find C all up and down the keys now….every time you see 2 black keys, play the white key sitting on its left.

Here is where the C scale will begin. Play that C and every white key until you get to the next C. This is your C scale.

As far as the steps of notes, these mean the intervals, Notes are arranged in half and whole steps. A half step would sound like that C, now play a half step up and play that black key. It will be called C # (C sharp). Play the next note D. If you played C to D you played a whole step. If you played C to C# you played a half step.The very next key is a half step. Sometimes it will be a black key, but in those few places where there are no black keys, the half step is a white key.

A major scale is arranged in a very specific pattern. It is : whole step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step.

The C major scale has no black keys in it. The notes are: C, D, E, F ( this is a half step because there was no black key between E and F), G, A, B   ( this will also be a half step because going to C there will also be no black key), ending back on C.

See if you can figure out another major scale based on this pattern. Try a G scale. 

I hope I didn’t confuse you more! Please let me know if this helped and how I can further clarify. As a musician, it would be very helpful to learn the notes and structure of music.

Here is an interesting thought to ponder.…there are 7 different notes we have named ( C,D,E,F,G,A,B)

There are 7 colors of the rainbow. I have heard that people with perfect pitch can sometimes identify a note by the color it presents to them. 😀





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@Judith It's all right

1. The notes are ABCDEFG
2. The basic scale goes CDEFGAB
3. and the sequence’s played GABCDEF

Do you know Vi Hart ?

The keyboard is such a wonderful discovery
You made me actually practice my very first scale
You see I just need some time to get it in my fingers
I'm playing a sheer virtual keyboard, but I know tens of free synths :P

Me was born on day 7 th

@ATP congratulations on your first scale! May there be many more. Your depiction of rainbow music is wonderful!

I don’t know Vi Hart, but looked her/he up and am very interested in learning more. For others who are unfamiliar, Hart explores music and math, fascinating. Thank you for telling us.

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@Judith Sure! I spent some time at getting automated at scales, beginning from any key, tonight I’ll also try going backwards (at my concert). Having a mind-mapped keyboard is a great philosophy! Thanks for the hint — I didn’t really ask it directly, but this was it, basically. 

There are tens of music scales from any country, which I guess is the issue, people like @ADutta might face in approaching a Western culture (we don’t usually study Chinese art either, but Greek — nor Russian, but English); but this doesn’t mean BOKO HARAM and you are always free to learn Chinese Russian and Phrygian music scales without making an ideological issue of human limitation. 

Moreover, will you find two teachers teaching the same thing the same way? @Judith you explained me it in a different way than my in course :D

If you anyway also referred to this question, sorry because it’s actually unclear:

PS — As a side note, I can’t really get why is it such a hidden feature, that of opening the Course Preview Mode without even subscribing. How many of you know this feature?


However I’ll now turn it into a Technical Suggestion thread, as it deals for people to actually be able to watch courses “Preview Videos”, making them decide whether it’s a course they might enjoy —or get informed on prerequisites, I mean something like this:

@ATP  thanks for sharing you have figured out scales. They are amazing. Western music uses half steps for each different note, but in some cultures, they use quarter tones. There are so many different scales to learn and play. They define music. Having played a Native American flute, I marvel how it revolves around the pentatonic scale...a five note scale...simply, C, D, E, G, A.  Try playing music using only these notes and it sounds amazing...or try improvising using only the notes in a blues scale. 

As a clarinetist, scales are what gave me the ability to play almost anything. Every finger combination gets used if you learn your scales so whatever key you play in is comfortable.

It’s important to ask the same question to different people. Everyone’s perception is different .The variety of responses can help you understand or help you see something you might not have before. My son is a musician and he was describing tonality to me the other day, as throwing a rock into a lake….you have the initial splash ex: the C...and then the ripples that come from it….the notes that harmonize it such as the E and G.

Amazing that you can watch these preview videos! You get a good sense of what the course is like, whether you can understand the Instructors and information they are teaching.

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@Judith Do you mean that european half-stepped keys piano’s hold the potential to play any world music scale (except from quarters based?)

Is the C note the first note because this is what Physics experiments say? Thanks

@ATP yes! You also need to read about and understand modes , which are specific patterns too..fascinating stuff:

I don’t believe there is any first note...but people usually teach theory beginning with C because, aa you saw, the C scale has no black keys or sharps and flats...makes it easier to understand concepts without introducing lots of those sharps and flats. As a musician, it sure makes it easier to play without all those other complex keys to worry about.

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@Judith My ear intuitively gets there’s something important. As if talking about driving, it deals of such a skill that we need to assimilate one way or the other, especially in... a playful way :P 

In my thread about Pressure and creativity, I simply didn’t make it clear that somehow the best pressure comes from inside, this urge to create, which accomplished a fundamental function of life: synthesis.

Thank you so much 

@ATP , yes! You are so right about internal pressure. It governs me often!😀