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Best Books on Music Theory: The Ultimate Reading List for Serious Musicians

Music theory should be the starting point for any aspiring artist who wants to beat the odds of this highly competitive industry. Not only beginners but even experienced industry players need to have a complex understanding of music theory. The theory serves as a foundation for anyone who wants to learn about or improve their music engineering skills. Unfortunately, it’s challenging for any artist to get the right books on music theory. This is because the market offers thousands of books on this title and other related music aspects.

For that reason, we’ve prepared an ultimate reading list for music theory. We have carefully selected the best books on music theory for every level of understanding. From the basics of melody and harmony to the complexities of electronic music production, these books cover all the essential topics that every musician should know.


1.      The Musician’s Guide to Theory and Analysis

Jane Piper Clendinning and Elizabeth West Marvin have authored this comprehensive music theory and analysis textbook that covers an extensive range of topics. The textbook also incorporates a workbook filled with exercises and a CD which provides musical examples. The book has been specifically crafted for undergraduate students and music theory instructors; however, it can be immensely helpful to anyone who wishes to understand the intrinsic structure and deeper meaning behind the music.

2.      Ghostwriting Secrets: How to Write Hit Songs for Other Artists

The popular title by J. Anthony Allen is a guide to the theory surrounding ghostwriting, a form of ghost production that focuses on writing songs and lyrics for other artists. It teaches you how to write catchy hooks, memorable melodies, and engaging lyrics.

It also shows you how to pitch your songs to artists and labels, how to negotiate contracts and royalties, and how to build your reputation as a ghostwriter. It’s a great copy to help beginners understand how to become a ghost producer with minimal hassle and start making money.

3.      The Ultimate Guide to Music Theory

Mark Harrison’s comprehensive guide to music theory equips all levels of musicians with the necessary skills and knowledge needed to read, write, and understand music notation and symbols. This book delves into important concepts such as keys and chord progressions.

Whether you’re an aspiring musician or looking to refine your skills as a seasoned professional in the industry, this practical guide is perfect for you. It caters to both beginners and intermediate musicians who are passionate about improving their musical knowledge and enhancing their abilities.

4.      Harmony and Theory: A Comprehensive Source for All Musicians

The book serves as a thorough source of information on harmony and theory that covers topics such as intervals, seventh chords, chord voicings, modulation, blues harmony, and more.

The book by Keith Wyatt and Carl Schroeder also includes musical examples and exercises to help you apply the concepts to your music. The book is designed for musicians of all levels and styles who want to enhance their harmonic and theoretical knowledge.

5.      Alfred’s Essentials of Music Theory

This concise guide offers a course on music theory targeting students of any age or level. It covers a range of crucial topics, from staff, notes, and rests to scales, intervals, chords, key/time signatures, and more. Additionally, the book provides ear training exercises, a glossary of terms, and an accompanying CD with audio examples. This guide serves as an excellent resource for aspiring music students seeking to learn the essential principles of music theory.

6.      Music Theory: The Basics You Need to Make Better Music

Being one of the best guides to music theory, the book teaches how to make better music using various concepts including chords, harmony, and rhythm among others. It also shows you how to use popular software tools, such as Ableton Live, Logic Pro X, FL Studio, and more. The book is suitable for beginners and intermediate producers who want to improve their musical skills and creativity.

7.      How to Read Music in 30 Days by Matthew Ellul

How to Read Music in 30 Days by Matthew Ellul is a book that teaches you how to read music notation and symbols with easy-to-follow lessons. It also explains the basics of music theory. The book offers a unique 30-day program that helps you learn how to read music in a simple and fun way.

It also includes exercises, quizzes, audio examples, and tips to help you practice your skills and test your knowledge. The book is ideal for beginners who want to learn how to read music quickly and easily.

8.      The Complete Musician: An Integrated Approach to Tonal Theory, Analysis, and Listening

This book is an integrated approach to tonal theory, analysis, and listening. It also includes a workbook with exercises and a CD with musical examples. The book is designed for advanced students and instructors of music theory and analysis who want to deepen their understanding of tonal music.

9.      Music Theory for Computer Musicians by Michael Hewitt

Designed explicitly for computer musicians, this book serves as a course on music theory. It delves into the fundamental concepts and skills of music theory including modes and song structure.

The book also illustrates how to utilize these concepts in one’s music by leveraging widely used software tools such as Ableton Live, Logic Pro X, FL Studio, and others. This guide is an excellent resource for beginners and intermediate musicians looking to learn music theory within a computer-based framework.

10.  Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask

This book is an excellent resource for guitar players of all levels and styles who are seeking a comprehensive guide to music theory. With the expertise of author Tom Kolb, readers will be guided through various topics with carefully chosen examples and exercises designed specifically to help them hone their music theory skills on the guitar. Whether you’re a seasoned player or just starting, this guide is an ideal tool for those looking to integrate music theory into their playing and take their skills to the next level.


Final Thoughts

The aforementioned books are a comprehensive foundation for any musician or music student looking to grasp the basics of music theory. They each offer a distinctive teaching style, covering crucial topics in music. Whether you choose to read all or just one of these selections, rest assured that your knowledge of music theory will greatly increase and subsequently enhance your musical ability.