Learning music theory for the first time, or even starting a new journey into note-reading and Western Art Music / Euro-centric music theory, can be daunting. At Kalamazoo College, where I teach MUSC 105 Intro to Music and MUSC 275 Music Theory II in addition to composition lessons and Arts Entrepreneurship, I find that the K music student widely varies in their musical experience and current expectations.
To make MUSC 105 Intro to music more accessible, we have removed the required textbook in favor of a PDF text by music theorist Ben Guyer. By alleviating the cost of a textbook, we encourage the music student to get tools that will help them with their musical journey, which I have listed, as Amazon links, below.
Slide-a-note for the beginning note readers.
(click image for amazon link)
For later theory sequences or even MUSC 105, it’s great to get a small MIDI keyboard for class, composition assignments, and any other notation assignments. Here are some of my suggestions, which are all plug and play with a usb connection and some sort of audio software:
The Novation Launchkey is a solid option, compact, and great for Ableton Live. This will also work with all notation software.
The iRig Keys line from IK Multimedia has a plethora of options, and the cool thing is, they all work on iOS, so you can use your iPhone or iPad as the audio driver for these slightly-more-high end devices.
If you want to get two-hands on a mini controller, but sacrifice backpack portability, the Alesis V49 is a great option.
Other great little MIDI keyboards are linked below: