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Best Music Theory Books

Whether you want to learn music theory from scratch or advance your knowledge, music theory books are an effective and affordable way to get started. You can order a book online or download an audiobook and start learning right away. 

With so many titles to choose from, how do you find the best music theory books? We’ve got you covered with a list of the top options. 

Best Music Theory Books

What Makes a Music Theory Book Great?

The best music theory books meet the following criteria: 

1. Written by a Professional Musician

The author doesn’t have to be a descendant of Mozart. They should, though, be an experienced musician that understands and can teach music theory in an engaging, practical way. 

2. Includes Illustrations and Activities

It’s helpful if the music theory book you’re considering contains illustrations and activities. Both allow you to get a more in-depth understanding of the material and apply your knowledge. 

3. Affordable 

You don’t have to spend thousands or even hundreds on an expensive course to learn music theory. An affordable physical or audiobook will do the trick. 

Our Top Picks

Below are the best music theory books from Amazon and Audible for all skill levels – beginners, intermediate musicians and advanced musicians.

Music Theory Books for Beginners

These music theory books are ideal for beginners. 

1. Music Theory: From Beginner to Expert – The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide to Understanding and Learning Music Theory by Nicolas Carter 

Music Theory: From Absolute Beginner to Expert

Learning music theory doesn’t have to be hard, overwhelming or boring. This book takes a unique approach by teaching all you need to know in a way that’s easy to understand. You will also have access to Audio Examples so you can hear music theory concepts in action. 

Author Nicolas Carter is a professional guitarist with over 15 years of experience. 

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2. Alfred’s Essentials of Music Theory: A Complete Self-Study Course for All Musicians (Book & 2 CDs) by Andrew Surmani, Kaaren Farnmum Suranmani and Morton Manus 

Alfred’s Essentials of Music Theory: A Complete Self-Study Course for All Musicians (Book & 2 CDs)

Alfred’s Essentials of Music Theory: A Complete Self-Study Course for All Musicians teaches the fundamentals of music. It is designed for arrangers, composers, guitarists, instrumentalists, pianists, songwriters and vocalists. 

The book is divided into 75 lessons. It also includes in-depth music reading and writing exercises, a test-your-knowledge activity, and ear CDs to help you create and sharpen your musical ear. 

This title is co-authored by Andrew Surmani, Karen Farnum Surmani and Morton Manus. 

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3. Music Theory 101: From keys and scales to rhythm and melody, an essential primer on the basics of music theory by Brian Boone and Marc Schonbrun 

Music Theory 101

This book also teaches the basics of music theory in a way that’s simple to comprehend. You will learn how to read sheet music. The course also covers the construction of chords and scales, rhythm and time signatures and the identification and organization of keys. 

Inside the book, you will also find supplementary resources, like visual aids and trivia, to help you grasp the material. 

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Intermediate Music Theory Books

If you already have the basics of music theory down, consider these titles for intermediate musicians.  

4. Garage Band Theory: Music Theory for Non-Music Majors- Tools the Pros Use to Play by Ear by Duke Sharp 

Garage Band Theory: Music Theory for Non-Music Majors- Tools the Pros Use to Play by Ear

Garage Band Theory: Music Theory for Non-Music Majors- Tools the Pros Use to Play by Ear is designed for working musicians. It teaches all you need to know about understanding, playing and making your own music. 

It includes discussions on multi-genre approaches, chapter quizzes and music-reading activities. You can also download exercises and examples online from the book’s website to gain greater insight into the material presented in the lessons or apply your knowledge. And there’s a YouTube channel with over 250 videos so you can listen in on the songs used in the examples throughout the book. 

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5. The Everything Music Theory Book with CD: Take your understanding of music to the next level by Marc Schonbrun

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

This book is ideal for intermediate musicians and collegiate music majors who want to master their musical understanding. 

It covers several core concepts, including chord and scale construction, rhythm and time signatures. You will also learn how musicians and composers think about and approach songwriting. 

Along with the practice exercises included in the book, you will also receive an audio CD to supplement your learning. 

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6. Hal Leonard Pocket Music Theory: A Comprehensive and Convenient Source for All Musicians by Carl Schroeder and Keith Wyatt 

Hal Leonard Pocket Music

This highly-rated pocket-sized book is one of the most popular music theory offerings on the market. It covers chords, intervals, harmonizing major and minor scales,  key signatures, rhythms, sc\ales and so much more. Inside, you will also find valuable information from the Harmony and Theory class at Musicians Institute. 

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Advanced Music Theory Books

Advanced musicians may find these books on music theory useful. 

7. The Musician’s Guide to Theory and Analysis Workbook (Third Edition) by Jane Piper Clendinning and Elizabeth West Marvin

The Musician's Guide to Theory and Analysis Workbook (Third Edition)

Use this in-depth workbook to hone your music theory and analysis skills. It includes several real-world music examples. You can also complete the analysis, composition, drill-and-practice, figured bass and melody harmonization exercises to apply your new-found skills and knowledge. 

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8. Critical Issues in Music Education: Contemporary Theory and Practice by Columbia University

Critical Issues in Music Education: Contemporary Theory and Practice

Are you a new music educator or music theory instructor? You may find this title useful as it covers everyday challenges in music teaching from different perspectives. The material is backed by research and aims to provide instructors with more innovative teaching approaches that can be used in the classroom. 

It is co-authored by faculty and graduates of the Teachers College of College University. 

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9. Music Production Mastery: All You Need to Know About Producing Music, Songwriting, Music Theory and Creativity (Two Book Bundle) by Tommy Swindali 

Music Production Mastery: All You Need to Know About Producing Music, Songwriting, Music Theory and Creativity (Two Book Bundle)

Written by music producer, disc jockey and best selling author, Tommy Swindali, this book covers music theory and all you need to know to become a top-notch music producer. You will also learn about songwriting, lyrics, creativity and what it takes to create hits and musical masterpieces. 

This valuable book bundle is available for purchase on Amazon Kindle for only $19.95. Or you can access it for free with a 30-day trial. 

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Choose the Right Music Theory Book for You 

Consider one of our recommendations to start learning music theory or enhance your knowledge. They’re affordable, comprehensive and written by top-notch musicians.