The 5 Essential Best Music Theory Books – From Amateur to Expert

Every music lover would get to a stage where learning music theory turned into a need. No matter what the purpose could be, you would soon consider to find the best music theory books for your musical career.

I did struggle myself when coming to this problem. I had spent a great deal of time skimming through many books of this kind. This leads me to a thought of putting up a list of the best books about music theory for anyone who wants to get a grasp of the thing.

So here it is: The 5 essentials best books on music theory.

Quick Comparison: 5 Best Music Theory Books Reviews

Music Theory – Idiot’s Guides Music Theory for Dummies Alfred’s Essentials of Music Theory How to Read Music in 30 Days Music Theory: From Beginner to Expert
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Micheal Miller

Holly Day &

Michael Pilhofer

Andrew Surmani, Karen Surmani & Morton Manus

Matthew Ellul

Nicholas Carter

My Rating My Rating My Rating My Rating My Rating

Detailed Reviews of the Best Books for Music Theory

1. Music Theory – Idiot’s Guides

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Things I liked about Music Theory – Idiot’s Guides

  • Lessons on the basics
  • Clear, informative, and well organized
  • Have end-of-chapter question

Written by a famous name of many best-selling music books, “Music Theory – Idiot’s Guides” by Micheal Miller is an updated edition of “The Complete Idiot’s Guides to Music Theory”. It is the best music theory book for beginners who are good at self-learning.

The book has lessons on the basics which are constructed by a succinct language. It is clear, informative, and well organized that every beginner could easily find a way to follow the instructions in the book. Thus, this book has end-of-chapter questions to help learners check new knowledge.

In my case, I have little experience in playing guitar and I found this book exceptionally helpful.

2. Music Theory For Dummies

Things I liked about Music Theory For Dummies

  • Covers a huge range of academic knowledge
  • Easy and understandable words, supported by pictures

  • Dive into historical facts to explain theories

Do not be fooled by the title. “Music Theory for Dummies” is no “dumb” at all. It brings you a range of information on how to read, write, and understand music. Moreover, it gives you fruitful advice on composing, arranging, creating melodies, harmonies, etc…

This book covers theories from beginner to intermediate/advanced level. Written in an intelligible manner, supported by pictures, this could be a perfect start for anyone who has a small touch of understanding on music theory and wants to delve deeper into the field.

This book, with its further reasoning and explaining many elements of music, could also be a good tool for experienced musicians who want to review their knowledge.

3. Alfred’s Essentials Of Music Theory

best music theory books

Things I liked about Alfred’s Essentials Of Music Theory

  • Thin but detailed and concise
  • Go with a CD to help improve ability on hearing

Although this one is quite thin compared to other names on the list of best music theory books, when it is only 120 pages long, “Alfred’s Essentials of Music Theory” was praised by many learners. It is a great option for anyone who wants to have a thorough understanding of music theory.

The book contains concise lessons on the essential principles. The material is clearly explained. It helps learners practice music reading, writing, and listening skills by exercises not only on the book but on the CD attached to it, which is a good extra point to improve skills on recognizing different notes and chords.

4. How to Read Music in 30 Days

best music theory books

Things I liked about How To Read Music In 30 Days

  • ​A day-to-day approach which helps schedule learning process
  • Lots of tips, exercises, and a final test to challenge knowledge
  • Have audio examples

The book is divided into three sections which give detailed lessons from elemental to higher notions about how to read, write, and listen to music.

Each lesson goes with audio examples which help you understand the concept being discussed more precisely. Most of these examples are from well-known classical pieces. In addition, at the end of each lesson, there are written exercises for practicing.

The book has a day-to-day approach, which means you can easily follow a process of a-lesson-a-day. This method serves me best in my time management; also, it prevents me from feeling overwhelming with all the academic facts I access.

5.Music Theory: From Beginner to Expert 

best music theory books

Things I liked about Music Theory: From Beginner To Expert The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide To Understanding And Learning Music Theory Effortlessly

  • In-depth information from basic to advanced
  • Clear format
  • Have audio examples

Despite its length of around 150 pages long, this book is an effective intro to music theory. It is filled with information and topics from basic to advanced.

The first section of the book is dedicated to explaining the importance of learning music theory. In the next, the author delves into fundamental concepts, such as intervals or notes. Then, the more complicated notions, including pentatonic, chords and rhythm, are brought to analyze.

With a clear format, the book can be a good start for beginners on the journey of learning music theory or a perfect way to update knowledge and understanding for someone who is at intermediate level or higher.

  • Leave your email and I would send you some best deals on these best books on music theory.
Music Theory – Idiot’s Guides Music Theory for Dummies Alfred’s Essentials of Music Theory How to Read Music in 30 Days Music Theory: From Beginner to Expert


& Advanced




& Advanced

A book for a good self-learner A choice for not only beginners but also advanced musicians A tool to train your reading and writing, and hearing music A pick for better scheduling your learning process An in-depth introduction for beginners or a way to update knowledge for experts

How to Choose Your Own Best Books about Music Theory?

All of the 5 best books for music theory above are suited to people who have a few or no notions on the subject. But, to choose the right book, you need to consider 3 things:

  1. Your level: beginner or expert?
  2. The amount of time you want to invest in learning
  3. The way you want to learn: reading or reading and listening

best music theory booksbest music theory books

If you are at an intermediate level and want to enhance understanding of music theory, “Music Theory for Dummies” or “Music Theory: From Beginner to Expert” can be your pick.

If you have little time or don’t know how to arrange time on learning, “How to Read Music in 30 Days” is a great choice for its day-to-day process.

best music theory booksbest music theory books

While “Music Theory for Dummies” and “Music Theory – Idiot’s Guides” are solely knowledge on writing, the other three have audio examples to help improve listening skills.

Something More Specific?

You may be a fan of jazz or are playing guitar or piano and want to find music theory books that are more related to your tastes, check these remarkable names below:

Guitar: “Music Theory for Guitarist” by Tom Kolb

Jazz: “The Jazz Theory Book” by Mark Levine

Piano: “Adult All-In-One Course: Lesson-Theory-Technic” by Willard A. Palmer, Morton Manus, and Amanda Vick Lethco

best music theory booksbest music theory books

My Personal Best Books to Learn Music Theory

There is one thing I am sure we can all agree with that you might not need to know theory to become a phenomenal musician. You need passion, and a little bit of talent, of course. But it is always better to arm yourself with knowledge. And it only costs you your time and the amount of money for a few books .

So why not? I have never felt I was wasting my time when reading through “Music Theory – Idiot’s Guides” – now you know which one I recommend most heartily.

  • Tell me in the comment section best books about music theory you choose and don’t forget to like and share!

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