Which music theory books best for you to buy? In I review what I feel are four of the best books to learn music theory that I’ve used to teach all levels from kids, children, beginners, advanced and degree level students throughout my own teaching career.
Everyone studies music theory for different reasons so I’ve decided to look at four books which I feel will serve students of all different levels.
1. The AB Guide To Music Theory Parts 1 and 2
These two books are perfect if you’re new to theory and you need to learn the basics. The explanations are clear and the material is really well presented. If you’ve read these books then you won’t draw a blank the next time someone asks you “hey, what key is this song in?”. It’s crucial reading for any student.
2. Mark Levine’s Jazz Theory Book
This second option is more advanced and I would say better suited to students in degree programs or serious high school students. Jazz theory helps to explain so many areas of contemporary music like pop, soul, R&B to name a few. So understanding how to improvise over changes, how certain scales relate to certain chords and how to reharmonize (all of which you learn in this book) is something you really have to know.
3. Harmony by Walter Piston
If classical music is much more your thing then Harmony by Walter Piston is the book for you. Whilst this does cover some very fundamental things like intervals, key signatures and triads, Harmony also progresses into very advanced territory by the end. For this reason, it’s one of the most complete books I’ve ever read. It also comes with a sister workbook which has exercises for each chapter.
4. David Berkman’s Jazz Harmony Book
This is one of my favourite books. It’s got endorsements from some of the biggest names in jazz but it presents the process of understanding and applying harmony perhaps more clearly than any other book I’ve ever read. My favourite section is the appendix at the back which teaches non-piano players how to voice all the chords and theory you learn as a jazz piano player would. Basic keyboard skills are taught at any serious music school to every student without exception so if you’re a student or even a professional then this is a book you must own!