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Recommended books on Music Theory


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I've played a little bit of guitar over the years, and then stopped completely for 4 years or so.


I'm now taking interest in guitar again--still as a side hobby, but I'd like to truly understand the theory behind music, rather than just attempting to replicate what others play and what I conjure in my brain.


It is not so much that I want to become "better" at playing a musical instrument, but rather that the study of such a thing interests me. Unfortunately, I have no reliable contacts that can lead me in a direction other than going to school or taking a few classes on the subject, but I've found that this route usually leads to a waste of money (which I have little of, and very little ambition to acquire) and time (and also results in a disinterest in the subject due to various reasons, but I am already ranting) . In any case, I find it much more enjoyable and effective to study on my own (with the aid of a book where fitting, of course).


So now that I've put you through enough text to justify this thread, are there any books that members here can recommend on music theory, perhaps books even suited to guitar? Don't hesitate to offer things that may have drove others mad due to excessive details/complexity, not because I take pride in any patience to set aside time to understand such things, but rather I am very bothered when one tells me to assume something without understanding it (by "understand," I don't mean this in a "mathematical proof" sense. There are many mathematical proofs that rely on techniques that I can not so easily visualize, and thus I look for or try to derive other arguments so I can develop a true harmony between what I knew prior and the new concept). Disclaimer: I am not a pretentious asshole (this is required, because--in my society at least--when one shows interest in knowledge, they are automatically labeled a pretentious asshole).


Also, if there are any books members know of that can relate mathematical concepts to music theory, I would very much enjoy those. I am not mathematician, but I am well versed enough mathematics to understand a good deal of things, and I have no qualms with setting aside a book to understand a concept that is assumed (this last sentence almost sounds like a contradiction with what I've stated before, but I can only afford so many books. Reading too much text on a computer screen tends to hurt my eyes; for some reason coding doesn't have such an effect).

Edited by woah
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I used a book on Jazz music theory that I like that also covered general theory along the way; but I don't have any idea how it stands in relation to other books (although I have to say that jazz theory gets into some pretty deep territory) but it's probably not the one for you unless you want to concentrate on jazz.


It's still worth making the point, though, that you might consider a theory book coming from the perspective of whatever genre you are most interested in ... classical, jazz, blues, rock, etc... It gives the theoretical stuff you're learning a practical edge and you can apply it to what you want to play more easily. It also keeps you interested in the abstract details when you see how it translates into real music (that you like).



Since I don't want to leave you totally empty handed, here are two online resources that are ok...






I found this surfing once on online guitar lessons that looked good (since I play guitar too, although I'm most at home with piano). I haven't tried it, but I've been considering it.



And speaking of music and math, this is a really fun utility, where you use mathematical algorithms to compose.


Edited by demagogue

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(this is required, because--in my society at least--when one shows interest in knowledge, they are automatically labeled a pretentious asshole).

I am sorry that you live in such a tragically misled society. :mellow:

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well, I don't know exactly what type of music theory you're into, but the book I use is called "harmony and voice leading, 3rd edition" (Edward Aldwell & Carl Schachter)


there's a work book that goes along with it, if you want a rigid way to practice, of course, you don't need a workbook to practice, just a pencil and staff paper, and some creativity.


if you can get a handle on everything in this book, you should learn just about everything you'd need to be able to understand and possibly mimick jazz, rock and pre 20th century classical music. it won't help you much with 12-tone serialism, if that's what you're into, but if that is where you want to go, you'd probably need to read this book first anyway.


one word of warning tho, this is a textbook, so it's highly informative, but fairly dry to read, and, naturally, overpriced. (all textbooks seem to be)


hope that helps

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