Introduction There are so many books out there to study rudimentary theory, harmony, and counterpoint. However, they are not all very useful for the self learner. What I have found, being a self-learner myself, is that the so called "Programed" instruction method was extremely helpful to me to ensure I got a full grasp of the materials.
Rudiments The first place to start, if you are lacking some basic theory knowledge (key signatures, intervals, scales), is the excellent Basic Materials in Music Theory: A Programed Course (11th Edition). Go through this book and make sure that you have a good grasp of the materials. You will need it to move along to Harmony and Counterpoint.
As well, it is probably a good idea to study counterpoint at the same time as Harmony.
A few tips I'd like to give for those self studying harmony:
- Each book may give different rules of voice leading and doubling, which, though they largely are the same, sometimes conflict with each other. This confused me greatly while I was self studying Harmony. The reason for this is that the music theorists do not completely agree on some of the finer details of this subject. For more information on this, see: http://mto.societymusictheory.org/issues/mto.04.10.2/mto.04.10.2.aarden_hippel.html http://www.music-cog.ohio-state.edu/Huron/Publications/huron.voice.leading.html
- Each book may give different names for non-harmonic tones. There is little standardization in the names for the non-harmonic tones. Appogiaturas are infamous for this, with several conflicting meanings.
UPDATE! - Something I have found is that in all the Harmony books I listed above, there is very little insight as to how the rules of voice-leading apply to instrumental music. There is also very little explanation of what kind of ear-training regimen is required to accompany your Harmony studies.
I have recently come across a book that addresses both those issues: The Dynamics of Harmony: Principles and Practice. If as as part of your Harmony studies you wish to compose Instrumental music, and want help with your ear training to compose away from the piano, check it out. This book requires a few additional music books for study and analysis:
- 371 Harmonized Chorales and 69 Chorale Melodies with Figured Bass - Mozart Sonatas and Fantasies Urtext Edition Study Score - The G Henle Verlag publishing company has a very cheap box set of study score-size Urtext editions of all Mozart's piano music. It is unfortunately not available through Amazon but is available through other sellers. - The Schubert "Die Schone Mullerin" song cycle (Note: make sure you get this in the original key! There are a lot of transposed versions of this so that people can sing it in different voice ranges. Ex. Song #1 in the cycle is in B-flat major originally, some versions transpose it to F major, which screws up analysis a bit if you are following "The Dynamics of Harmony" text.
Counterpoint Most universities seem to like to teach modal counterpoint before tonal counterpoint as that allows the student to focus on creating contrapuntal interest without having to worry about the harmonic progressions created. The book that I am using to study modal counterpoint is Modal Counterpoint, Renaissance Style as I have heard rave reviews on it. Though for counterpoint there are too many possible correct answers to have answer keys in the books, there is a wonderful software program called CounterPointer available that will evaluate your exercises and tell them if you got them correct. You can find it at:
What about form/analysis and ear training/sight singing?
I'm still determining which books are the best for studying form and analysis and ear training and sight singing. I have to amass a larger library of those before I can make recommendations.
UPDATE! - For Form and Analysis I have been studying Form in Music (2nd Edition) which is excellent, but has no included Anthology for study. I've also been reading Leon Stein's Structure and Style and it's accompanying anthology, but it is not nearly as enjoyable and understandable a read as the Wallace Berry text. I still have to check out "Musical Form and Analysis" and "Form in Tonal Music", which are very well respected texts in the field.