Best Music Theory Book Review – Top Rated Models with Buying Guide
Reading this article you will be able to find the best music theory book to help you dive deeper into the world of music. If you have little to no time and you’re tired of browsing through all the music theory books reviews without finding what you need, this quick guide will help you. We did our best to find the pros and cons of all the most popular and critically acclaimed books, and after intense consideration, our team identified the Piano Book for Adult Beginners by Damon Ferrante as a great starting point for anyone. Coming with new challenges along the way, this book will never feel boring. Another great thing about it is that it comes with popular tunes that will be interesting to learn. The large library of songs here is presented in an interactive manner. If you can’t find it, look for the Hal Leonard Guitar Method Music Theory book.
Our Top Choice
Offering a constant sense of progression, this book will feel engaging. It doesn’t matter what your predominant hand is when playing an instrument, as the book will teach you everything anyway. Coming with great popular piano tunes, this book will be fun to follow, given it’s presented in a beginner-friendly way.
More experienced players will find little to no information of use in this book.
You can find this book in multiple formats and each of them offers diverse lessons. Coming with video courses, and thorough explanations, the book is great for any type of musician or instrumentalist.
In this book, you get everything you would ever need for learning how to play the guitar, from scales to chords, and advanced music concepts. It is explained in simple terms and that makes it ideal for beginners. 94 different tracks will give you access to a multitude of playing styles and will help you improve.
This is not the book for those that want to learn something else besides the guitar.
This is a book that won’t let you get bored. It’s ideal for guitarists or bass players and it will always keep things interesting for you. Through diagrams and practical approaches, you will learn a lot.
Also To Consider
To make it easier for impatient people to read the book, the author writes it in a clear and concise manner. It’s divided into two parts, each of them tackling a separate idea - the first of them teaching you the basics of chords forming, while the second dives deeper into applying that knowledge and testing what you have learned.
The book jumps into theory too abruptly for inexperienced people.
Guitarists often just store piles of music theory books and articles without actually going through them, but given how fun this book is to read, you will be able to “consume” it in a few days.
10 Best Music Theory Books (Updated Reviews) in 2020
Because a music theory book review wouldn’t be complete without a top of what we consider to be some of the most suitable books out there, we are presenting the following options for you. Each of them comes with pros and cons so that you can find out at a glance what to expect from them.
- 1. Piano Book for Adult Beginners by Damon Ferrante
- 2. Hal Leonard Guitar Method Music Theory
- 3. The Practical Guide to Modern Music Theory for Guitarists
- 4. Music Theory For Dummies, 4th Edition
- 5. Music Theory for the Bass Player
- 6. Music Theory: From Beginner to Expert
- 7. Alfred’s Essentials of Music Theory
- 8. How to Read Music in 30 Days
- 9. Guitar Wheel Music Theory Educational Tool
- 10. The Hal Leonard Pocket Music Theory Paperback
- Our Comprehensive Buying Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Piano Book for Adult Beginners by Damon Ferrante
Coming in paperback format, as well as Kindle, this book should prove to be engaging, even for those that lack patience. It is accompanied by 20 video lessons, each coming with some practice exercises to try on your own, and with follow-through explanations so that you don’t feel like you are left behind.
Being such an interactive book, it’s capable of maintaining the attention of busy adults that feel they don’t have all the time in the world. The good thing about this book is that it doesn’t dwell too much on the theory part, but rather focuses on chord progression and basic techniques, finger patterns, and everything you need to quickly start playing.
Being one of the well-written piano music theory books, this one will help you master the essentials of playing the piano in a few months. It’s a book consisting of 122 pages, and it also offers dedicated songs for each hand.
Books like this are sometimes boring because they don’t feel engaging enough, but this one has a sense of progression, as each new lesson comes with new challenges that will make you read it more.
With this book, it doesn’t matter what your predominant hand is, because it will teach you how to use your left and your right hand separately, and then it will present you with songs where you need to use both hands.
Furthermore, the highly popular piano tunes will be entertaining and will make you want to learn more.
There is a large library of songs explained in this book and they are all presented in a beginner-friendly manner.
Available in both paperback and Kindle format, this book has the versatility needed to reach every kind of buyer.
Although great for absolute beginners, players that know a bit of music won’t feel challenged enough by this book.Buy from Amazon.com for ($19.76)
2. Hal Leonard Guitar Method Music Theory
Thanks to the interesting manner this book is written in, it’s one of the guitar music theory books that can help any guitarist or bass player improve his or her style. This book offers a simple way of explaining things, through diagrams and practical approaches. So if you’re not the kind of person that enjoys overcomplicated explanations or lots of text, this is the ideal book for you.
You also get 94 different tracks included in the offer, and those should help you progress through each of the lessons, while still gaining the experience you need to actually play the guitar for real. Unfortunately, the audio files you need will only be available online and don’t come on a CD with the book. But you can download them so you don’t have to rely on a constant internet connection to be able to follow them. There is a good mix of everything in this book.
You get some scales, chords, ear training exercises, along with different learning modes, and you even have some more advanced music theory concepts.
With no real expert lessons in the book, you can put it in the beginner to intermediate category, and it does really well there, being a great place to start if you want to build a strong base.
Having access to 94 different tracks, you can learn different music styles and practice almost every kind of music.
The book offers practical learning sessions and a method that is easy to follow with the help of diagrams.
Those that are looking to learn more about guitar or bass playing will have a lot to learn from this book.
Free of filler information, this book gets straight to the subject in an efficient manner.
If you want to learn how to play other instruments besides the guitar, the book won’t help you much.Buy from Amazon.com for ($16.35)
3. The Practical Guide to Modern Music Theory for Guitarists
This book can prove to be the cure for guitarists that just collect music theory articles without actually learning to apply that theory. In this book, you will find brand new, up to date musical theory with more than 200 exercises and examples that you can follow that will let you get a practical feel of all that information.
With all of these exercises, you should be able to master the most important techniques and concepts found in modern guitar playing. You can also find professionally played backing tracks along with those audio examples. Aimed to help you learn what is important and what’s not, this book has been created to take you through the steps of learning essential principles first, then more complex and exciting ideas.
Beginning with teaching you the formation of the major scales, the book steadily builds upon the information you learn and teaches you how to apply each concept.
The author is capable of writing in a clear and concise style that is often easy to follow and this should help those with little patience to go through the book easier.
Divided into 2 parts, the book offers at first the information needed to learn how the musical scales are constructed and how the chords are formed, and then goes deeper into teaching you how to apply the knowledge you have learned.
Given the fact that the information found in this book sometimes refers to more advanced concepts, it’s a great book for experienced musicians that want to learn more.
For those that are real beginners, this book is not the best to start with. The first part jumps to scale notations and other pieces of theory a bit too fast.
There are some parts in the book where certain words are used with no previous definition of what those words mean.Buy from Amazon.com for ($18.99)
4. Music Theory For Dummies, 4th Edition
Being one of the most popular books when it comes to learning music, this is an excellent choice for those that find themselves at the start of the journey. With this book, you should have an overview of all the most important things in music theory. Fortunately for beginners, introductory lessons that cover the importance of notes, major and minor scales, notations, intervals, and time signatures are carefully explained without becoming exhausting.
This isn’t one of those books that try to explain things in overcomplicated words. Instead, it uses a simple vocabulary that can be understood by absolute beginners, and it’s adult-friendly explaining things in a manner that doesn’t get you bored fast, as well as kid-friendly because it’s easy to understand.
The book is part of a series and that adds to its value because, once you read the beginner book, you can get on to the next, more advanced one.
No matter what your end goal is – to learn a bit of music, or to become one of the best musicians in the world, this book can be a good start for you.
Available in multiple editions, the book allows you to gradually progress from a beginner level to more advanced over time.
In each book, you will find a good mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced instructions, and if you’re not already an expert you will always have something to learn from it.
The language is simple enough for a child to follow and it will also help adults to enjoy the task of reading it more.
It’s the kind of book that becomes applicable for any kind of instrument.
If you really want to learn more you will need to purchase all the editions, which requires a bigger investment and more effort.Buy from Amazon.com for ($17.99)
5. Music Theory for the Bass Player
There are few books that focus on the learning needs of a bass player, but this book knows that there are bass musicians just as interested in well-versed music as other instrumentalists. Although a 4-stringed instrument, the bass isn’t as simple an instrument as it can appear to be. Some will argue that it’s the kind of instrument that benefits a lot from intense music knowledge.
With the help of this book, you will be able to have an in-depth look into the world of bass playing, and you will learn the theory you need to be able to become an accomplished player. The book should give you the ability to improvise in any genre, and with over 180 pages of information, you get plenty of knowledge.
You will be able to read about scales, harmony, intervals, scales, and do plenty of exercises, all providing an interactive learning approach.
If you feel that the book isn’t enough you can always refer to over 80 other videos posted on the author’s blog, and in the videos, you can find more about how to compose music, for example.
No matter if you’re just looking to learn how to play the bass, or you also want to start creating your own creative music as a bass player, this book is here to help you.
This is one of the easiest to follow and comprehensive music books made for bass and perhaps other stringed instruments.
The book puts an emphasis on bass-specific techniques and this will help you improve considerably, fast.
There are multiple photos and diagrams included in the book, so you can have a better idea of how the theory gets applied.
It’s not an ideal book for the absolute beginner, as it requires some first-hand knowledge about music notation.Buy from Amazon.com for ($31.46)
6. Music Theory: From Beginner to Expert
While the title of this book might suggest that you will be able to move from a beginner level to expert, its main purpose is to offer otherwise hard to digest information in a simple format that is easy to follow by anyone. There are some music theory concepts that might feel useless for some people, and that’s why this book tries to explain everything as simple as possible so that you don’t get bored reading it.
However, the book will still offer you the possibility to start from scratch, as it teaches you everything you need to know, from notes to scales, chords, harmony, or signatures. Once you have the base knowledge there, you will be able to get to the next phase, which implies you putting all the pieces of knowledge together and learn how to make use of creative concepts.
Poychords, modal playing, atonality, and others are discussed in the more advanced chapters.
If you are looking to become a good jazz player, this book will offer you the building blocks for this.
Using language that is not complicated and offering exercises that can be used in a practical manner will help the student have a better understanding and learn the techniques easier.
Music theory concepts often come with boredom associated with them when learned, but with the practical approach of this book, you will forget about that.
Available in the most popular 3 formats – paperback, kindle, and audiobook, the information found in this book can be acquired by anyone.
The text is easy to follow and you could argue that a child will be able to learn just as fast as an adult from this book.
The paperback book makes references to several audio examples, but if you buy it in this format you won’t be receiving a CD or anything like that.Buy from Amazon.com for ($5.99)
7. Alfred’s Essentials of Music Theory
Written to help the aspiring musician reach his or her potential, this book is only available in paperback. It is one of the most comprehensive books that you can find, and no matter if you’re a vocalist, instrumentalist, or composer, the book will still aid you in building up a strong musical foundation.
With a total of 75 lessons, the book contains a lot of information, but the great part is that it all flows in a nice way, so when you read it you don’t get bored. While there are many concepts presented here, the book doesn’t dwell too much on each of them, focusing on a faster learning process.
You will also be able to find a decent number of exercises and a very well-written testing component. Given that the learning material has been broken down in 18 sections, there are also 18 tests meant to let you assess your knowledge.
Along with the book, you also get an audio CD that will help you with the exercises.
This book has a practical and school-like approach to teaching you the elemental pieces of music theory, and you will have to become your own teacher when reading it.
The great part about the tests present in this book is that you can do it if you want to, but they are not essential for your development (and you also get the answers for them at the end of the book).
Once you get into the book you will notice how well-structured the information is along with the comprehensive 75 lessons.
The CD lessons even include ear training exercises, something that is not really done in other learning materials.
This is not the most beginner-friendly book because it requires you to have a certain degree of determination and to know some music essentials.Buy from Amazon.com for ($32.23)
8. How to Read Music in 30 Days
Made to help the beginner musician learn how to read music, from the most basic sections to more advanced chapters, this book is beginner friendly and will let you have a fun time learning music theory. With this book, you get every aspect neatly separated, and you can learn rhythm, pitch, and expression separately.
Although taking you to increasingly more advanced terminology and theory, the book is beginner-friendly. Reading, writing, and listening to different music aspects will be what this book focuses on.
You will be pleased to find out that the structure of this book, as well as the different chapters, are well-laid out. Unlike other books, this one offers unique audio examples for each lesson. If you get the book in paperback format, you also get a download link for these examples. With these audio examples, you will be able to truly understand the concepts.
The book offers written exercises and answers for them, and that can serve as tests to see if you are progressing or not.
Most of the audio examples that come with the book are segments of well-known music pieces, and that can encourage the student to learn them better.
The whole process of going through this book is an interactive one, and in some days you can get additional listening challenges that help you improve (and they are all optional).
The book encourages you to follow along the played tracks with sheet music or to listen to certain music to get a better theory knowledge.
Given the varied combination of written, audio, and interactive exercises, the book can be extremely helpful for those that don’t have much patience learning.
Despite giving you so much to do, the book doesn’t focus enough on the basics and requires some prior knowledge.Buy from Amazon.com for ($13.42)
9. Guitar Wheel Music Theory Educational Tool
Serving as an all-in-one tool that helps musicians of all genres learn more about music theory, this wheel can serve as a reference guide for anyone. This is a music theory tool that covers every musical key, being a visual two-sided guide. It has a curved guitar neck style design to allow for a simpler visualization of the theory part that refers to the guitar.
When flipping the wheel over, it offers the piano view, which gives you an in-depth image of the music theory for piano, or any other remotely similar instrument, and even for vocalists. It even serves as a great tool for teaching you how to compose or write songs, even at the university level. The instructions come in English, Spanish, and German.
This is a quick product to use because it will offer a quick reference source, even for the more experienced musicians that still need to test their basic knowledge.
It is one of the most convenient learning tools out there, as the wheel doesn’t require your patience to read hundreds of pages to use it.
The product comes with a protective layer, so even if you spill coffee or other liquids on it, you will be able to clean them off swiftly.
With two separate sides, each of them displaying music theory in a different way, the wheel covers the essential information for most musicians.
The guitar side will help string instrumentalists, especially guitarists that are used to look at music through the image of their guitar.
On the piano side, any sort of musician will be able to learn music theory and have a reference point further on, when the musician gains more knowledge.
For those that don’t know the essential notations and some basic theory, this wheel will be hard to use.Buy from Amazon.com for ($18.62)
10. The Hal Leonard Pocket Music Theory Paperback
Putting an emphasis on teaching you everything you will eventually need to know to master a varied set of instruments, this book contains lessons about every part of the music theory you will need on the way. Starting off slow, it presents details about key signatures, scales, chords, intervals, and then goes into more advanced knowledge like transposition, harmony, modulation, and many others.
Available in paperback format and on Kindle, the book is written by two authors that harmonize well together. The flow of information is neither one that gets boring, or too intense, and it allows for easy following.
The language used is a simple one and accessible even by kids, even if there is no previous instrument knowledge there. Having been around for over a decade and still going strong, it’s clear why this book can still help one learn the essentials of music theory.
Being 176 pages long, the book is a comprehensive guide that will help a person get from a beginner to an advanced level rather fast.
Because it’s available both in paperback format as well as Kindle, the book offers versatility and allows you to read it anywhere.
It is written in a style that is easy to follow and that helps every person reading it, from the child beginner struggling to understand the information to the adult that doesn’t have all the time in the world to read it.
It’s the kind of book that can be applicable to any kind of instrument, and even for vocalists or music composers.
This is one of the books that have stood the test of time and will be usable even for further generations of musicians.
Lacking visual aids and having a language that is in some cases archaic, the book could do with an update.Buy from Amazon.com for ($7.99)
Our Comprehensive Buying Guide
When it comes to music, it doesn’t really matter if it’s a cheap music theory book you’re reading, the important thing is that it offers you the information you are looking for. In the following guide, we want to give you some tips on how to make the task of finding the best books on music theory a bit more efficient and pleasant.
Finding the appropriate book for you
It’s really hard to make a top of the best music theory books, and while there are many out there, it can be said that none of them offers everything you need. Of course, there will be some excellent music theory books for beginners, and others great for more advanced musicians, but to find one that covers everything is a really hard task.
This will mean that while you are learning, you need to be looking for multiple books, each of them with a varying degree of difficulty so that you can start off slow with basic concepts and get better and better over time. The best music theory books for beginners will give you a kickstart, but you will need to find more than that.
You could always ask a music teacher for some recommendations. There is no shortage of books on music theory tailored for every kind of instrument, and even if you don’t manage to find the ideal book for you, there are always DVD or video courses that you can follow, and in today’s world, the online communities can help you greatly.
Alternative learning sources
Blogs and articles can always be a source of inspiration, even if you’re just googling to find some basic information. Before buying a book you can also purchase a shortened music dictionary, as it will be useful to have on hand for any occasion when you don’t know what a certain term refers to.
Getting a short book that shows you how to draw all the music symbols can also help. You can also use software programs like Finale or Sibelius that will help you with notations, and that can also help you with other things. Prominent music schools will often offer information about suggested materials on their website, so you can start your learning process with that.
Magazines and articles can also have a positive impact on what you choose, and short, clear articles will give you quick theory tips.
Applying your knowledge
The best music theory books for guitar will teach you how to play the instrument, but you also need to be able to apply that knowledge. Once you know the most important scales and chords, you can start applying the theory in two separate ways. The first method is to test yourself if you are able to write all the scales, chords, and other pieces of information.
This is a theoretical test and it’s possible that it still doesn’t offer as an in-depth analysis as you want over your knowledge. The second method of testing yourself is to simply play and sing the chords and scales, and test your applied knowledge.
To be able to apply what you have learned you can practice by analyzing already established works to try to observe how they are made and even learn from them. Even by reading one affordable music theory book, you can still build a solid foundation for writing music, but it can also serve as a good point from which to enhance your listening capabilities.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Can I learn music theory on my own?
The great thing about the internet is that it can offer so much for those that aspire to do things on their own. You can always find your inspiration online, and learn the basics of music theory from beginner music theory books. However, you will often need a lot of time to filter the useless information that comes online and find what you really need.
It’s worse if you are at the start of your musical career and you don’t actually know what you need in order to get better. While learning by yourself is achievable, especially if you can find affordable music theory books, it is usually easier to have a teacher that guides you, as long as he or she knows what you need to do.
When learning by yourself it’s often hard to see what are your weak spots, and depending on your level of confidence you can fool yourself.
Q: Do musicians know music theory?
There will always be a talk about what is more important in music. Some will argue that fame, or success, and you don’t always need extensive music knowledge for that, as many nowadays musicians prove it. In today’s music world, the musician can be the central figure of a big project, where he or she just uses a voice to showcase what a team of composers and lyricists have come to produce.
Becoming a better player, or maybe the best player ever is not always the goal for everybody. That being said, it’s known that The Beatles weren’t the most proficient at reading music, and some would argue that music theory can harm creativity.
While being too strict can result in hampered creativity, it is usually the opposite – good music knowledge can help you create more expansive pieces. Having good music knowledge can always put you one step before other musicians.
Q: Do you need to learn music theory?
Giving us a better understanding of the practical aspects we already know, musical theory knowledge is always a good thing to have. You don’t need it to know how to play music, and as proof of that, there are plenty of musicians that don’t have much theory knowledge. However, good music theory books will always be able to help you.
If you are looking to understand more about what you are musically doing, you will always need to know the theory. It is, indeed, one of the more boring parts of learning music, but it can sometimes revolutionize your style or the way you look at things. But if you don’t know why you are learning it, or how it is going to help you, it’s better if you don’t learn it.
If you’re not sure you want to learn theory, just buy some cheap music theory books and see what they offer.