Theory for Producers

The Black Keys

Music theory doesn't have to be a bad word. We're starting with the one scale to rule them all.

45-60 Minutes
6 Sections

A course created in partnership with

Theory. It’s a word that has forced so many people to stop studying music — or retreat to our bedrooms where we could make digital sounds that were never wrong. But theory is awesome if you give it a chance. It gives you a set of tools that can widen your palate and increase your appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the music you make and listen to.

The goal of this course is to give you some basic theory knowledge by learning some amazing songs that illustrate each concept. For each idea, we’ll feature a song that brings that idea to life — and challenge you to use the concept in your own work. 

This course was created in partnership with NYU's MusEDLab. Visit their site to learn more about their terrific work!

Ethan Hein

Music Technologist & Theory Nerd

Ethan Hein is an adjunct professor of music technology at NYU and Montclair State University, and a founding member of the NYU Music Experience Design Lab, under the leadership of Alex Ruthmann. You can follow all his explorations of music theory, music education, and pop music at

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theory for producers: the black keys
ethan hein
song analysis

Course Outline

  1. Section 1


  2. Section 2


  3. Section 3


  4. Section 4

    “Electric Feel”

  5. Section 5


  6. Section 6



Who is this course for?

This course was created specifically with producers in mind, but it could be helpful for any musician looking for a better grasp on music theory. Students don't need to know how to read sheet music. Students should be familiar with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and should understand notes presented on a piano roll (frequently used in Ableton Live and Logic).

Are there requirements?

There are no other courses required before taking this course. It will help if you have a basic knowledge of music production and a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to follow along on.

How long does it take?

This section of the Theory for Producers series takes about an hour to get through. As with any music learning, the more time you can give to practicing the concepts you've learned, the more you'll get out of it.

What can I expect to get out of this course?

By the end of this mini-course, you'll have a solid grasp and understanding of one of the most common scales in use today: the pentatonic. You should be able to use the scale to make your own grooves and melodies, and potentially even identify it in songs you hear.

What's next in this series?

Next up is our course focusing on the White Keys and Major Modes, focusing on the lydian, mixolydian, and ionian modes, followed by the White Keys and Minor Modes, which looks at the aolean, dorian, phrygian, and locrian modes. There's no need to go through the course in order, so click through to start learning about anything that interests you!