Music Theory Books

So you’re on your journey of learning about music theory and you want to know what music theory books to buy.

Or you're a parent needing to help your child who’s studying for their ABRSM music theory exam and want to learn alongside them.

I’m constantly asked what are the “best music theory books” to buy and so I’ve put together a list of my music theory book recommendations for you below. 

In this post, I’ll summarise a few of the different options when it comes to music theory books available for learning and also workbooks with exercises to go through alongside a textbook to put in to practice the things you’re learning.

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links which means if you buy them through the link Hello Music Theory will get a small commission.

That being said all of these books I either own and use with my own pupils or have come very highly recommended to us by my music teacher friends.

First Steps In Music Theory

By Eric Taylor

This small and handy book is a great revision and reference book for anyone learning and studying to be able to play and read music. It covers lots of different topics across grades 1 – 5 and whilst it isn’t as in-depth as the following two books, it is easy to jump in and out of as and when you forget something.

It’s laid out clearly, is suitable for all ages and for just over £5 is well worth it. Order it on Amazon here.

AB Guide To Music Theory Part 1

By Eric Taylor

This book is a very common way to learn music theory and is actually one of the ways I first learnt. Part one covers everything you need to know for grades 1 – 5 and is a very in-depth look at music harmony and structure.

Whilst being very comprehensive it is quite hard to digest without a teacher and can feel a bit old-fashioned. Still, it is a fantastic reference tool and I own a copy that I go to very often. Order it on Amazon here.

The AB Guide To Music Theory Part 2

By Eric Taylor

The second book, AB guide to music theory book pt 2 again is a very common way to learn music theory and is a book I’ve owned for many years. Part two covers a lot more complex music harmony and structure and whilst you don’t necessarily need it for grades 1 to 5 it will be very handy for music exams beyond Grade 5.

It’s not an easy read though so I’d recommend still having a teacher to explain things that you don’t understand. Having been published in 1989 it can feel a bit old-fashioned. Still, like part 1 it is a fantastic reference tool and I own a copy that I refer to often. Buy it here on Amazon.

Music Theory For Dummies

By Holly Day and Michael Pilhofer

I’ve only recently come across this music theory book but have been quite impressed with it. It’s laid out clearly and logically and covers a large range of different topics including some more modern music theory such as rock, jazz and blues.

It doesn’t break it down, grade by grade which might be a problem if you’re studying for an exam, but, it’s got a lot of material in here and is explained well. Buy it here on Amazon.

Music Theory In Practice Series

By Eric Taylor

This series of workbooks by Eric Taylor was how I originally learnt about music theory and today is one of the most popular books used to start getting to grips with whats going on behind all the music we hear.

They are meant to be used in conjunction with the AB Guide To Music Theory part 1 and part 2 and will often reference certain pages and chapters for further reading. Buy grade 1 on Amazon here.

Hello Music Theory’s Worksheet Packs

By Dan Farrant

Over the years we’ve made a lot of worksheets and the result is our Music Theory Worksheet Bundle. It contains over 180 pages of more than 1500 exercises covering every topic that you need to know for the ABRSM music theory exams grades 1 – 5. Not only that it comes with all the model answers so you can mark it your self and see where you’re going wrong.

As they’re PDFs you can print them off instantly and use them again which means they’re really popular with students and teachers alike.

You can buy each grade individually for £7 or you can buy them all in one go for only £30 saving yourself £5. Head over to our Worksheets here for more information.

Hello Music Theory's Practice Exams

By Dan Farrant

We also have a series of Practice Exams based on the ABRSM 2018 syllabus for Grades 1 – 5. Each practice paper contains 7 – 9 questions (depending on the grade) and all in all over 800 questions to help you, your child or students prepare for their music theory exam. This download also contains all the model answers so you can see where you’re going wrong.

Each grade contains 5 exams (25 across all the grades) and just like the worksheet packs you can buy each grade individually for £7 or you can buy them all in one go for only £30 saving yourself £5. Click here for more information and to download them now head over to our Practice Exams here.

Theory Of Music Made Easy Series

By Lina Ng

An alternative to the Music Theory in Practice and our Worksheets is this wonderful series from Lina Ng. Very nicely laid out and easy to understand. This series is aimed at children so there are lots of cartoon illustrations alongside the exercises to appeal to a younger audience.

Again, these are more of a workbook full of exercises and short explanations and on its own won’t necessarily teach you music theory. Buy them here on Amazon.

Theory Of Music Workbooks (Trinity Guildhall Syllabus)

By Naomi Yandell

If you’re not taking the ABRSM theory exam then the main alternative is the Trinity Guildhall exams and this is their equivalent workbook.

I’m not really sure what the difference is as I haven’t ever taken their exams or had any pupils take an exam. But if you are taking that exam then these workbooks looks very good and you can buy it here on Amazon.

Take Five and Pass First Time

By Christopher Dunn

There is one other book that I’d recommend which is Christopher Dunn’s Take Five And Pass First Time.

This is the only book in the series and there aren’t any that cover different grades. This book, however, covers a lot of the different things you need to know but maybe not quite as much detail and without any exercises. You can buy it here on Amazon.


That’s It For Our Favourite Music Theory Books

So that about sums up our recommended music theory books for now. I keep these updated as and when I come across new books that I think will help. Email me if you have any other recommendations that you think I should add to this list and I’ll check them out.

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