Any good recommendations for music theory books?

Anyone have any good recommendations on learning music theory books that’s not too overly complex? Almost like a simplified version of it to where it would be for a child to try to learn it? I was just reading the description of circle of fifths and how it works on Wikipedia and I felt like my brain was going to explode. Haha thanks :pray:

These may be out of print but I’ve found these to be excellent.
Eric Roche The Guitarists Bible
Introducing the Dots: Reading & Writing Music for Rock Musicians (1980, later revised and reissued as The Musician’s Guide To Reading & Writing Music ) this got me through music theory exams Highly recommended.

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Thank you I’ll check them out! :pray:

Rick Beato’s “Beato Book” is a great resource. I can’t say it’s written at a child’s level but it is written very clearly. Steve Vai’s music theory book is a lot less comprehensive, but is decent for the basics.


Ha! Funny I asked Rick earlier if he knew of any good books theory wise. Doh! :roll_eyes: I was looking at that Vai one on IBooks. I don’t have any desire to learn how to read music or notation or any of that stuff it’s more for learning what 3rds and 4ths are how to weave different scales together etc, things that can make me a better soloist and more creative.

Beato’s book is a really good resource indeed. Just keep in mind that the way he teaches intervals for triads is antiquated and was designed for keyboards and not the guitar.

Hal Leonard Pocket Book of Music Theory - outstanding, imo. Written for non-theorists, basically.

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Is this the one you’re referring to?

Yes! Love it. If I remember correctly, Musicians Institute created it for gigging musicians who need to understand some theory. It’s fairly comprehensive, quite clear and makes very few assumptions about prior knowledge.

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Awesome I’ll download it! :+1:


and this

are different things. One of misconceptions about mus. theory is that it allows you to ‘create’ music or whatever. It doesn’t. Musical theory is primarily descriptive. I mean, you can analyse some piece in Rhieman or Shenkerian way but it wouldn’t help you to write anything.

Beato book is good specifically because he has those practice+theory moments, which you can seldom see in pure traditional musical-school oriented books.

P.S. Notation is actually a good thing if you dig it. It’s much more clearer from the thoretical point of view. At least it helps students to not confuse aug4 with dim5 ))

I wasn’t very clear with what I was saying so I apologize I totally understand that learning music theory isn’t going to allow me to write a masterpiece like Yesterday if that’s what you’re saying. Haha

Yamaguchi Guitar Method. Best I’ve come across.

Great point. But, the more theory I learned the better my understanding and appreciation for a totally great piece of music grew. It helped shed light on what was so great about the piece in question.

@Regotheamigo is there a particular area of theory you’re interested in? Narrowing the scope could help with more focused suggestions. Theory is pretty deep. A lot of people just think of it as chords/scales. Knowing how to construct a chord like Cmaj7#11 without the help of chord chart, what scales/modes/arpeggios belong with underlying chords so we know how to solo etc. That was my initial concept prior to majoring in it in college. While that’s indeed part of it, there’s a lot more to it though.

One of the more fascinating theory classes I took in college was called ‘Form and Analysis’. It focused more on the structure of pieces than what key/chords/scales were in use. The interaction of sections, the importance of motifs and how they can be a glue that holds entire pieces together. The use of modulation as a structural device (not just a tension builder like the typical pop song that shifts up a 1/2 on the last chorus lol). Also a general better understanding of phrase interaction within a section. The list goes on and on. I wish I knew of a book that put that in a nutshell, but unfortunately it’s complicated. Very valuable concepts live in this space though.

I always liked Ted Greene’s Chord Chemistry. I’m not sure I’d call it a “Theory” book exactly, more like a guide to exploring chord shapes on the guitar in a creative way.

The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine is a classic. It’s not a “guitar book”, reading notation is probably a requirement - but it’s very comprehensive. Jazz Theory Resources by Bert Ligon is another excellent resource.

I respectfully disagree with both quotes! At the very least, music theory allows you to access more options when you are running out of ideas.

Just as one example, learning the rules of “counterpoint” may help you to write a full-length piece using a short phrase or melody as a starting point:

It is true, of course, that you won’t be automatically a better songwriter after learning some theory. Conversely you won’t be automatically a bad songwriter if you don’t read a theory book :slight_smile:

It’s lesser known companion is even better. Modern chord progression, in which he has a book full utilising all you learn in chord chemistry, honestly chord chemistry is a mouthful without the progressions book.

Honestly modern chord progressions is a perfect deser island book if yiu could take only one. It’s an encyclopaedia in its own right.

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Moral of the story: Get all the Ted Greene books


There are four I know of and have. The other two are pages in notation.
Has all his student lessons, priceless. I once learnt jump back blues and could play it perfectly, but I couldn’t change a note. Played it like a classical piece. Forgot it soon after I took a long break from guitar. The site is gold though.

Well, may be it’s my ‘curse of knowledge’, I don’t know. But many of my fellow students from musical school were much better than me in theory though they didn’t write anything, while I have been ‘composing’ some melodies (primitive and stupid though) since I was 6, when I did know anything about theory.

I mean, yes, now I see that smooth jazz chords progressions I use are built on the principles similar with old good classical 4-voice polyphony. But I can’t say for sure whether this knowledge really helped me, or I use it just to describe things and I would came up with the same idea regardless of musical education.

I don’t know.

For me the most important step was when I decided to make myself to listen to different music. I literally made myself to listen to new genre every week, even if sounded like s…t for me. I feel that that step gave me much more in terms of musical imagination than traditional musical theory, though classiacl music is still a love of my life. As a bonus now I can carry on a conversation whether people are talking about Stravinsky, Tupac or Deadmou5 ))