Music Theory Books

A List Of The Best Music Theory Books In 2019

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” in 2019 and so I’ve put together a list of my favourite music theory books for you below. 

In this post, I’ll summarise a few of the different options available for learning and also some of the music theory workbooks with exercises.

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links which means if you buy them through the link I'll get a small commission.

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

Contents

General Music Theory Books

First, let's cover some more general music theory books that aren't specifically about an individual grade. 

They'll cover more general principles and I'd recommend having one of these to refer to as you learn and practice music theory, no matter what grade you're taking.

However, some of them won't break down what things you'll need to know by each grade so make sure you have a copy of the latest syllabus so you can not over complicate things for yourself.


First Steps In Music Theory

By Eric Taylor

This small and handy music theory book is a great revision and reference guide 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 considering how much information is in it and its price, it's well worth it. 

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.

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. But, like part 1 it is a fantastic reference tool and I own a copy that I refer back to regularly..

Music Theory For Dummies

By Michael Pilhofer and Holly Day

I’ve only recently come across this book but have been pretty impressed with it.

It’s written well, and 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.

Hello Music Theory's Worksheet Packs

By Hello Music Theory

Over the years we've written thousands of music theory exercises for our students and now they're available for you to download and print out.

Going over every topic from grades 1 to 5 our PDF music theory exercise packs are great for students, parents and teachers to download and get practicing with straight away.

For more information click the button below.

Grade 1 Music Theory Books

Grade 1 covers the basics of music theory. You'll learn about the names of the notes and time values, as well how to notate rhythm and pitch.

Start here if you're new to music theory as these will be useful to get to grips with the fundamentals.


The Ultimate Guide To Music Theory - Grade 1

By Hello Music Theory 

I'm currently writing my first series of music theory guides and have finished grade one! It's available to download instantly and learn the fundamentals of music theory.

In this guide I walk you through step by step, everything that you need to know to pass a grade 1 music theory exam.

Click here For more information on my Grade 1 Music Theory Guide or to download it now for £5.00 (plus some VAT if you're in the EU) click the button below.

Music Theory In Practice - Grade 1

By Eric Taylor

One of the most popular resources for people learning music theory is the Music Theory in Practice series by Eric Taylor.

It's full of exercises for you to complete and does through each topic that you're required to know to pass your grade 1 music theory exam.

It doesn't contain much in the way of explanations though so you'll need a text book to use along side this.

Note that it doesn't include the model answers that you'll need to buy separately.

Music Theory In Practice Model Answers- Grade 1

By Eric Taylor

This book contains the model answers for Music Theory in Practice Grade 1.

If you're studying on your own and don't have a music teacher to be able mark your work I'd highly recommend using it.

Hello Music Theory's Worksheet Pack - Grade 1

By Hello Music Theory

Here's the first in our series of music theory worksheet packs. We've put together PDF worksheets with over 330 exercises going through each topic you need to know about for grade 1.

We've also included all the model answers so you can mark them yourself.

To read more about our grade 1 music theory worksheets click here or to download them instantly for £5.00 (plus some tax if you live in the EU) click below.

Theory of Music Made Easy - Grade 1

By Lina Ng

A great and very popular alternative to the music theory in practice series is this book by Lina Ng. It's a fantastic workbook full of exercises and questions going over the grade 1 syllabus.

Again there isn't much in the way of explanations, you'll need to get a separate book for that. It 

One thing to mention though is that I couldn't find the answers for sale anywhere. Not great, if you're studying on your own without a teacher.

Hello Music Theory's Practice Papers - Grade 1

By Hello Music Theory

If you're sitting a grade 1 music theory exam then I'd recommend doing some practice papers before your exam date. They'll help you know what to expect and help you feel more confident.

We've put together a pack of five unique grade 1 music theory practice papers that are based on the real ABRSM exams so you can know what sort of questions they'll be asking you to complete.

Do find our more about our PDF grade 1 theory practice exams click here or to download them now for only £7.00 (plus some tax if you live in Europe) click the button below.

Grade 2 Music Theory Books

On to grade 2! Here you'll find all the workbooks that will be useful if you're learning about grade 2 music theory.

Grade 2 builds on your knowledge from grade 1 and introduces minor scales, some new keys, demisemiquavers, some new time signatures and lots of other things.


Music Theory In Practice - Grade 2

By Eric Taylor

Here we have the second book in the Music Theory in Practice series.

But, just like grade 1, it doesn't contain any explanations and is just a workbook full of exercises to complete.

It's probably the most common music theory workbook that people use.

Music Theory In Practice Model Answers- Grade 2

By Eric Taylor

Here's the model answers for the music theory in practice grade 2 workbook.

Hello Music Theory's Worksheet Pack - Grade 2

By Hello Music Theory

Here's another one of our own products that we put together to help you practice all the topics for grade 2 music theory.

It's our worksheet pack containing 39+ pages and over 350 exercises for you to complete and revise for an exam.

It also contains all the model answers so no additional purchase is necessary.

To download them instantly for only £7.00 (plus a bit of tax if you're in the EU) click below or read more about our grade 2 worksheets here.

Theory of Music Made Easy - Grade 2

By Lina Ng

Here we have the second book of the Theory of Music Made Easy series by Lina Ng.

It's a fun alternative to the Eric Taylor books and is aimed at younger students with loads of illustrations and games as well as the music theory exercises and questions you'd expect.

Just like the grade 1 book though it doesn't contain explanations and I couldn't find an answer booklet for sale anywhere.

Hello Music Theory's Practice Papers - Grade 2

By Hello Music Theory

Here's our pack of Grade 2 Practice Papers for the ABRSM grade 2 exam. 

In this pack you get five unique practice exams based on the real ABRSM grade 2 past papers. You also get all the model answers so you can see when you've got questions wrong.

To download them instantly just click the button below or you can get some more information on our grade 2 practice exam papers here.

Grade 3 Music Theory Books

Grade 3 sees the introduction of simple and compound time signatures like, 6/8 and 12/8 along with major and minor keys with up to four sharps or flats.
Here's some of the workbooks and useful resources that I'd recommend if you are studying grade 3 music theory.


Music Theory In Practice - Grade 3

By Eric Taylor

Again, my first recommendation is usually the music theory in practice series. It's very well put together and covers all the bases with lots of exercises to help you prepare and study.

Just like the previous books though it doesn't contain explanations or answers which you'll need to have separately.

Music Theory In Practice Model Answers- Grade 3

By Eric Taylor

Here are the model answers for the grade 3 Music Theory in Practice book by Eric Taylor. 

I recommend using these if you're studying on your own or don't have a teacher that can help you mark them.

Hello Music Theory's Worksheet Pack - Grade 3

By Hello Music Theory

Here we have our grade 3 music theory worksheet pack. It's a collection of 40+ pages of music theory exercises going through all the different topics and ideas that you need to know if you are learning grade 3 music theory.

As with all our products, we've also included all the model answers so you won't have to make any additional purchases.

To download them for £7.00 (plus a bit of tax if you live in Europe) click below or to find out more about our grade 3 worksheets click here.

Theory of Music Made Easy - Grade 3

By Lina Ng

Another great music theory grade 3 workbook from Lina Ng. Just like the other grades it's aimed at younger students with illustrations and games. It's a popular alternative to people who weren't as keen on the Eric Taylor books.

The downside is that there aren't any answers available that I could find, but other than that, I'd recommend it highly.

Hello Music Theory's Practice Papers - Grade 3

By Hello Music Theory

Here's another one of our products that we've made at Hello Music Theory. It's our grade 3 exam pack.

In it you get 5 PDF practice papers that are based on the ABRSM past papers plus all the model answers so you can mark them yourself and see where you're going wrong without replying on your teacher.

They're available to download instantly and cost £7.00 (plus a little bit of tax if you live in the EU). Click here to read more about our grade 3 practice papers and how they can help you pass your exam.

Grade 4 Music Theory Books

Here are some of the books for grade 4 music theory that I'd recommend you take a look at.

Grade 4 sees the introduction of the alto clef, major and minor keys with up to five sharps or flats, ornaments and being able to recognise inversions of chords.


Music Theory In Practice - Grade 4

By Eric Taylor

The 4th book in the music theory in syllabus, it's full of loads of exercises going through each topic that you'll need to know for an ABRSM grade 4 music theory exam.

Like previous grades though it doesn't have many explanations, so you'll need to get a general music theory book to use along side it.

Music Theory In Practice Model Answers- Grade 4

By Eric Taylor

All the model answers to the grade 4 Music Theory in Practice book above.

Hello Music Theory's Worksheet Pack - Grade 4

By Hello Music Theory

Here is our grade 4 music theory worksheets pack. It's over 40 pages of pdf music theory questions for the ABRSM grade 4 syllabus.

There are over 400 exercises for you to go through covering all the different topics that you'll need to know about.

It also includes all the answers so you can mark them yourself.

Find out more about your grade 4 music theory worksheets or to download them now for £7 (plus a bit of VAT) click below.

Theory of Music Made Easy - Grade 4

By Lina Ng

The 4th of the Theory of Music Made easy series by Lina Ng. It's full of exercises and music theory questions following the ABRSM grade 4 syllabus.

I'm repeating myself again from previous grades but it's a popular alternative to the Music Theory in Practice books.

The only downside is that I couldn't find the answers anywhere for sale, other than that it's really good and popular with children due to all the illustrations.

Hello Music Theory's Practice Papers - Grade 4

By Hello Music Theory

Here's our grade 4 music theory exam pack of five PDF music theory mock exams. We've put them together by painstakingly analysing the last 6 years of real ABRSM exams so that they're as similar to the real thing as possible.

All the model answers are included, and you can download them instantly to print out and get practicing.

You can download them for £7.00 (plus some tax if you live in the EU) or to read more about the grade 4 papers click here.

Grade 5 Music Theory Books

Grade 5 is the grade that most people will be studying for. It also sees quite a big jump in the things that you'll need to know. 
It introduces, the tenor clef, irregular time signatures like 5/4 and 7/8, major and minor keys with up to six sharps or flats as well as more ornaments, more questions about instruments of the orchestra plus lots of other things.


Take Five and Pass First Time

By Christopher Dunn

This guide by Christopher Dunn is a very useful study guide to use if you're studying for your Grade 5 music theory exam.

I'd probably call it a crash course to grade 5, it doesn't go into great for the basics and assumes you know a little bit about music theory but it starts right at the beginning teaching you about time values and basic time signatures etc.

It goes into a lot more details when you get to the more complicated things for grade 5 though.

It isn't a workbook so there aren't any exercises or questions to complete in it. It's more of a reference book and guide. I'd recommend this one if you've left learning everything to the last minute!

Make sure you get one of the workbooks or our music theory worksheets below to use along side it though. You'll need as much practice at answering music theory questions if you want to pass your exam.

Music Theory In Practice - Grade 5

By Eric Taylor

Here is the grade 5 Music Theory in Practice book by Eric Taylor. It's a work book which means it doesn't have much in the way of explanations but is full of different exercises to help you practice all the topics and ideas to see how well you've understood things.

It doesn't contain answers either so you'll need to get the book below as well if you want to be able to mark them yourself.

Music Theory In Practice Model Answers- Grade 5

By Eric Taylor

Here's the model answers to the grade 5 Music Theory in Practice workbook.

Hello Music Theory's Worksheet Pack - Grade 5

By Hello Music Theory

The last of our worksheet packs, our grade 5 music theory worksheets contain over 220 exercises over 35 pages of pdf worksheets.

Covering all the topics that you need to know for grade 5, they're instantly downloadable and contain all the model answers so you can mark them yourself.

To read more about our Grade 5 Worksheets Pack click here, or to download them now for only £7.00 (plus some VAT if you're in the EU) click below.

Theory of Music Made Easy - Grade 5

By Lina Ng

Here's the grade 5 edition of the Theory of Music Made easy by Lina Ng. A wonderful alternative to the Eric Taylor books and ideal for younger students or children as it has some funky illustrations and games.

It's a workbook though so doesn't contain any explanations, just loads of exercises to complete.

The only downside is that it doesn't have any answers and I can't find them for sale anywhere online.

Hello Music Theory's Practice Papers - Grade 5

By Hello Music Theory

If you're sitting an ABRSM grade 5 music theory exam then it's essential to use some practice papers before the exam day.

We've put together a pack of 5 PDF mock exams based on the real ABRSM past papers.

All the model answers are included, there's no additional purchase needed.

Download them for only £7.00 (plus tax if you're in the EU) using the button below or you can read more about our grade 5 practice exams here.

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