Top 10 Music Theory Books

Top 10 Music Theory BooksHi One Minute Music Lesson Fans,

Here is a list of 10 of the best books on music theory. Each is suited for a specific type of musician.

My #1 recommendation is a textbook used in most university music schools in the United States. It’s my personal favorite, but take a look at the list and see if the others suit your particular interests or skill level more closely.

Most of these books contain information about general music theory and worksheets or exercises for learning concepts of music theory, however I have included some books that are instrument and genre specific as well.

Also if you are looking for more online music theory tools and lessons check out my post on the Top 10 free music theory websites.

Top 10 Music Theory Books

#1 – The Musician’s Guide to Theory and Analysis (3 Book set)

BookThe Musician’s Guide to Theory and Analysis (Second Edition)WorkbookThe Musician’s Guide Workbook (Second Edition), Music Score AnthologyThe Musician’s Guide Anthology (Second Edition)

This textbook and it’s accompanying workbook and music anthology are the gold standard of music theory books. It starts at the very beginning by teaching the basic elements of music and quickly progresses to teaching diatonic and chromatic harmony as well as music form. The focus of this book is western classical music and uses musical examples from the classical, romantic and 20th century periods of musical history.

This is also the set of text books I use in my private lessons for music theory. This set covers all the possible needs of my students. However if you are looking for a jazz or popular music-oriented approach I would recommend a different textbook and approach.

#2 – The Jazz Theory Book

Book: The Jazz Theory Book

Mark Levine’s jazz book series is top notch for learning the scales, chords and voicings for jazz harmony and is endorsed by jazz education giants Jamey Abersold, James Moody,  and Dave Liebman.

This book is solely focuses on jazz harmony, but would be use for any popular music style including rock or pop because the harmony can come from the same scales.

Also don’t miss Mark’s The Jazz Piano Book if you are a pianist who wants to learn how jazz piano chords and scales work in a simple, straight forward way.

#3  - The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory, 2nd Edition

#4 –  Music Theory For Dummies, with Audio CD

#5  - The Everything Music Theory Book with CD: Take your understanding of music to the next level

These three are essentially the same style of book and offer a general overview of music theory with chords scales and beginning harmonic function. If you have no experience at all with theory these 3 are more user friendly than the first two books I suggest. Of the three I like the Complete Idiots guide better.

#6 – Adult All-In-One Course: Lesson-Theory-Technic: Level 1

This book is an all-in-one piano specific method. So it teaches about the piano, how to play it, how to read music, and music theory in one book. It is very basic but is great if you have NO piano or music theory knowledge.

# 7 – Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask (Guitar Method)

This book is a  guitar specific method. Tom Kolb’s book uses an accompanying CD to teach guitarists of all levels practical music theory knowledge. The book is great becuase it uses simple terms and diagrams to help explain the included 94 tracks of guitar specific music examples, scales, modes, chords, ear training.

#8 – Fretboard Theory

This book is Kindle only but for the guitarist that is looking for a music theory method that focuses on the fretboard it’s a great book. Desi Serna’s book teaches music theory for guitar including scales, chords, progressions, AND modes. These are the tools you will need to understand hundreds of popular music songs including rock and jazz.

#9 – Hal Leonard Pocket Music Theory: A Comprehensive and Convenient Source for All Musicians

This book is a small but information packed general music theory book. It’s got some great reviews on Amazon. One of the reviews of this book said “I found this little book in a music store one day, and decided to buy it. I’ve bought lots of other general music theory books before, but I’ve NEVER seen so much packed into such a small volume. On top of that, the book is written so precisely with the performer in mind, and with practicality as its main focus. …. It also swiftly addresses the bogus argument that so many rock musicians use an excuse: the myth that learning music theory will limit your creativity. On the contrary, music theory facilitates communication and lets you better express the creative ideas you have in mind.

#10 – Theory Made Easy for Kids, Level 1

The last book I recommend if specific to people wanting to teach music theory to thier kids that are taking music lessons. Alfred’s Theory Made easy for Kids has a fun and visually stimulating method of introducing music theory concepts gradually. I would not recommend this for an adult beginner but for kids there is no better book.

I’d love to hear from you

Well that’s it for this post in my top 10 series. If you have any other favorite music theory books you like that you don’t see in this list, let me know about them in the comments below.

Finally, if you have struggled to learn music theory concepts in the past simply email me any questions you have and I will happy to help you find the answers you have been searching for.

Until next time,

Practice Smart, not hard.

Leon Harrell

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  • judyfholmes

    Great books. All the books enlisted above are best for beginners and are definite buy from some music store.