10 of the Best Music Theory Books

It’s easy to learn some basic notes on any instrument and to play easy melodies correctly. However, knowledge of music theory opens a wide ranges of musical options in both songwriting and performance.

Using a good music theory book in combination with some tuition (either in-person or online) can really push your music theory knowledge further.

1. Music Theory: From Beginner to Expert

A comprehensive textbook for anyone looking to learn about music theory in general.

It covers everything you need to know at a nice pace. It’s written simply, yet it holds all the necessary information you might need on topics like notations and so forth.

This book is best used by people who already know something about music, but it can be used by complete beginners as well to get to learn about music theory.

An all-round music theory textbook for beginners and intermediate players.

2. Alfred's Essentials of Music Theory: A Complete Self-Study Course for All Musicians

This is one of the most used self-learning textbooks in the music theory field.

This book is meant to be used for self-study, with additional CD’s that help you hear what you’re reading about as well as to practice your hearing ear.

The book is divided into 75 concise lessons, with different reading and writing practices throughout the book. It’s suitable for all beginners as it is very concise, plainly written, and easy to understand, with lots of examples for the stuff that’s written in the lesson.

A concise, self-study, complete music theory book.

3. Berklee Music Theory Book 1

A textbook that brings you knowledge from one of the finest music colleges in the world.

When a book is bearing the name of one of the best music colleges in the world, you know you’re in for a treat. Berklee Music Theory Book 1 is a great textbook on music theory, no matter the instrument you’re playing. It’s written briefly and concisely, but there are still tons of useful information in this book.

Because it covers everything elementary, it’s best used by beginners or intermediate players, as advanced one will have to know all the theory that’s covered in this book. The great thing about it is that there are online audio lessons as well.

4. Music Theory For Dummies

Great textbook for all-round musicians to learn about music theory.

Like so many “dummies” books, this one is also great stuff for all beginners. It’s written plainly and explains everything in chunks. From mastering scales, pitches, intervals, understanding basic notation, tempo, dynamics, through melodies, chords, and progression, you will cover everything you need to know. Even though this is a great book for beginners, even intermediate musicians can learn something new from this.

5. The Practical Guide to Modern Music Theory for Guitarists: The complete guide to music theory...

Musical theory applied specifically for the guitar – great for intermediate players.

Even though there are many different books for general music history, you might want to find some made especially for your instrument. It can be a bit hard to put all those theories to practical use with different instruments.

This book is meant to be used by some bit more advanced musicians and more specifically, guitarists. It will show you how to use different things you’ve learned in practice with your guitar. It does this with 200+ practices and licks you can use to create masterpieces in your guitar playing.

6. How to Read Music in 30 Days: Music Theory for Beginners

Beginners textbook that explains music theory through practical work.

Another book for absolute beginners. This one combines both written knowledge as well as practical work to help you learn the basics of music theory. This book has 150+ music examples, written exercises, listening challenges, tests, and online access to the audio examples library.

All of this is going to help you really learn what you have to know to get deeper into music theory.

7. Music Theory for Computer Musicians

A book for all musicians that are using computers as their main instrument

With the development of technology, more and more people can (and are) becoming musicians just by playing with their computers. You don’t have to own and learn how to play an instrument when you can create music just through your computer or even just a mobile device.

On the other hand, music is still music – and music theory is still needed if you want to get a good sounding finished product or be more efficient when composing. This textbook is meant for use by just that kind of musician. In it, you will find all o the music theory but explained so that people who use computers as their main instrument can easily learn what they need to know to become better musicians.

8. Music Theory for the Bass Player: A Comprehensive and Hands-on Guide to Playing with More...

Great textbook for bass players.

Bass players get all the mocking in bands, but their role is crucial. There is also something soothing and empowering from the fact that even though you’re not at the forefront, the band wouldn’t work without your bass input.

This book is written so that it shows all of the necessary knowledge that a bass player would ever need. It’s great for beginners as it doesn’t insist on the notation reading, but instead uses -easy-to-read diagrams that show you everything you need to know. With it, you will also get access to 89 different video lessons that will show you all the things from the book in person.

9. The Jazz Theory Book

A comprehensive textbook on jazz for intermediate and advanced players.

The Jazz theory book is an older, comprehensive textbook that is being used by universities all around the world to teach jazz. It features everything you might want or need to know about jazz in one place. It’s definitely not for beginners – to use this book you will need to have basics covered. But if you’re serious about learning jazz music and the theory behind it, this is the best book you can find on the topic.

10. Music Theory 101: From keys and scales to rhythm and melody, an essential primer on the...

A comprehensive and easy to read book on music theory.

We finish this list with Music Theory 101. This is a comprehensive, yet easy to read and funny book on music theory. It will help you to learn how to properly read and write spreadsheets as well as the other intricacies of music which can then be applied to any genre from classical to rap music. You should note however that for using this book, you need to know how to read and write notes properly.

Summary

We hope this article serves to help you find the best music theory book for you. It includes everything from beginner music theory books to those positions for intermediate and advanced players.

It also includes options based on specific musical instruments, as well as one for music producers that want to just know basic music theory for creating music on a computer.

Music theory books can serve as a great option because it allows you to switch off from the digital world and focus solely on the book. These are also often well-structured, in comparison to many different resources online that simply skirt the topics.

Investing in your music theory knowledge is something that you will not regret for many years to come. You can use the base the foundation in order to create new songs with better variety, and more advanced musical concepts, you can be able to read sheet music better and improve your performances.

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