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Really Learn Music Theory (updated)

A guide by J. W. Turner (North Carolina)
(REAL NAME)   

Products sampled from this guide:

Gather Around, My Young Apprentices
While I'm sure you've all successfully navigated your instutionally-approved courses in music theory, you may still have some questions regarding fine details (How does the Iadd6 differ from the vi6/5?), tricky concepts (What was a common-tone o7 again?), or even the purpose of it all (How will this help me do anything, much less play the piano?). Well, unfortunately, you have encountered me, and I wrote a whole dissertation about this sort of thing. I am prepared to tell you far more than you want to know. So, I will begin by providing a brief recess for those of you who wish to jump ship. Farewell, and good luck!

Disclaimer
These are books I like. I make no apology for my taste, and if something's missing feel free to put it on your own list.

Still Here? Good...
I'm going to assume a basic knowledge of the fundamentals ... you know, clef and rhythm reading, scales, key signatures, intervals, and triads. Even though most of you went on directly to harmony, the well-informed theory student will proceed next to counterpoint:

Counterpoint
Study of Counterpoint: From Johann Joseph Fux's Gradus Ad Parnassum The original text, a classic since 1725.
Counterpoint: Fundamentals of Music Making A startling and orignial text.
Counterpoint in Composition: The Study of Voice Leading A very beautiful text, and probably the most comprehensive.
After you've mastered all of that, then you can tackle harmony:

Harmony
Harmony and Voice Leading By far, the very best.
Tonal Harmony, with an Introduction to Twentieth-Century Music Almost as good, and very easy to read.
This will do it, of course, but you really owe it to yourself to read some of the other great works on harmony, to name only two:
Theory of Harmony (California Library Reprint Series) Schoenberg is my hero.
Harmony An early work of Schenker's with some amusing jibes at Schoenberg.
If this seems like too many books to read, there is a brilliant overview of both counterpoint and harmony in:
Structural Hearing: Tonal Coherence in Music (Dover Books on Music) and, in fact, if you only buy one book from this list, make it this one. Salzer must have been an extraordinary teacher.

Analysis
Well, I have to admit, my favorite form text is Kent Williams's "Form, Texture, and Process in Tonal Music" which is not generally avaliable (unless you take one of my classes or order it from him). However, there are many other great resources, including:
Sonata Forms (Revised Edition) The definitive work.
Guidelines for Style Analysis Great ideas.
Philosophy and the Analysis of Music: Bridges to Musical Sound, Form, and Reference (Contributions to the Study of Music and Dance) Flawed, but interesting.


Aural Skills
Perhaps the most important element, although frustrating for the beginner.
A New Approach to Sight Singing (Fourth Edition) This is the one I've always used in class. While I'm quite fond of it, I think, given the choice, I'd switch to Music for Sight Singing
I've never used a dictation text before, but this year I'm trying Ear Training: A Technique for Listening w/ Audio CD, I'll let you know if I like it.

[A quick word from the field: I like the idea of this text, but ultimately, I don't like the text. I suscribe to the scale-step function philosophy, and this has too many interval drills. Further, the pacing of the examples is not ideal--the rhythm problems get too difficult too quickly, while the harmonic examples don't proceed quickly enough.]


That's It, Right?
Wrong. You have just mastered the materials. Now the real study of music theory can begin, and it is glorious! You may, for example, wish to understand the music of the last hundred years:

The Twentieth Century
Theories and Analyses of Twentieth-Century Music My mentor's book. I'm not biased at all, but this is really good stuff.
Introduction to Post-Tonal Theory (2nd Edition) Also very good.

Rhythm
Another seemingly minor aspect of music ... actually the scholarship on rhythm is so vast that I can only list a few books.
Phrase Rhythm in Tonal Music Find it where you can.
A Generative Theory of Tonal Music This is not so much fun to read, but has a lot of interesting ideas.
The Stratification of Musical Rhythm I just like this one.

Style
Everyone talks about style, but who really studies it? To scratch the surface...
The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven (Expanded Edition), The Romantic Generation (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures), in fact, just read everything Rosen has written!
A Classic Turn of Phrase: Music and the Psychology of Convention (Studies in the Criticism and Theory of Music) This book is so much fun!
Computers and Musical Style This is the one I read, but it looks as though it has been superceded by his later books. If I get a chance, I'll check them out.


Timbre
It never ends, yes?
Sonic Design: The Nature of Sound and Music A greatbook-good luck finding it!
New Images of Musical Sound Same with this one.

Performance
You can, of course, simply read my dissertation. However, these may be a little easier to find:
The Practice of Performance: Studies in Musical Interpretation Who has this kind of cash? Get it from the library!
To Hear Ourselves As Others Hear Us: Tape Recording As a Tool in Music Practicing & Teaching Actually a sneaky little introduction to Schenker!
Interpreting Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier: A Performer`s Discourse of Method Not just for pianists!

Schenker
...and finally we get to Schenker. I was saving the best for last. Remember Salzer's "Structural Hearing"? Start with that, then read:
Analysis of Tonal Music: A Schenkerian Approach The best there is.
Unfoldings: Essays in Schenkerian Theory and Analysis Schachter is my hero (or, was it Schoenberg?)
Schenker's Interpretive Practice (Cambridge Studies in Music Theory and Analysis) Contains a particularly good study of lines (zugen).
Schenker's Argument and the Claims of Music Theory (Cambridge Studies in Music Theory and Analysis) Enjoy particularly the footnotes.

Pedagogy
You don't want to turn out like me do you? Ah well, if you want to pass on the passion for how things work, here are some good resources:
Teaching Approaches in Music Theory: An Overview of Pedagogical Philosophies My bible, such as it is.
Aural Skills Acquisition: The Development of Listening, Reading, and Performing Skills in College-Level Musicians The one for ear-training.

MISC.
I wish I could tell you more, but I need to hit the books. Here are some of the theory texts on my short list of books to read:
Bach's Works for Solo Violin: Style, Structure, Performance, Compositional Theory in the Eighteenth Century, Emotion and Meaning in Music (Phoenix Books), Musical Meaning in Beethoven: Markedness, Correlation, and Interpretation (Advances in Semiotics), Tonal Pitch Space, A Guide to Musical Analysis,

Products mentioned include:
Counterpoint
1.  Study of Counterpoint: From Johann Joseph Fux's Gradus Ad Parnassum  by Johann Joseph Fux
$15.06 Used & New from: $7.25
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2.  Counterpoint: Fundamentals of Music Making  by Markand Thakar
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3.  Counterpoint in Composition: The Study of Voice Leading  by Felix Salzer
$46.07 Used & New from: $25.68
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Harmony
4.  Harmony and Voice Leading  by Edward Aldwell
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5.  Tonal Harmony, with an Introduction to Twentieth-Century Music  by Stefan Kostka
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6.  Theory of Harmony (California Library Reprint Series)  by Arnold Franz Schoenberg
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7.  Harmony  by Heinrich Schenker
$33.75 Used & New from: $4.68
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8.  Structural Hearing: Tonal Coherence in Music (Dover Books on Music)  by Felix Salzer
$17.05 Used & New from: $0.45
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Analysis
9.  Sonata Forms (Revised Edition)  by Charles Rosen
$19.98 Used & New from: $8.44
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10.  Guidelines for Style Analysis  by Jan LaRue
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11.  Philosophy and the Analysis of Music: Bridges to Musical Sound, Form, and Reference (Contributions to the Study of Music and Dance)  by Lawrence Ferrara
$67.72
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Aural Skills
12.  A New Approach to Sight Singing (Fourth Edition)  by Sol Berkowitz
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13.  Music for Sight Singing  by Thomas E. Benjamin
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14.  Ear Training: A Technique for Listening w/ Audio CD  by Bruce Benward
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The Twentieth Century
15.  Theories and Analyses of Twentieth-Century Music  by James Kent Williams
$179.19 Used & New from: $105.38
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16.  Introduction to Post-Tonal Theory (2nd Edition)  by Joseph Nathan Straus
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Rhythm
17.  Phrase Rhythm in Tonal Music  by William Nathan Rothstein
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18.  A Generative Theory of Tonal Music  by Ray Jackendoff
$45.00 Used & New from: $24.88
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19.  The Stratification of Musical Rhythm  by Maury Yeston
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Style
20.  The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven (Expanded Edition)  by Charles Rosen
$19.08 Used & New from: $8.95
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21.  The Romantic Generation (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures)  by Charles Rosen
$22.99 Used & New from: $5.28
4.5 out of 5 stars   (10)
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22.  A Classic Turn of Phrase: Music and the Psychology of Convention (Studies in the Criticism and Theory of Music)  by Robert O. Gjerdingen
Used & New from: $84.38
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23.  Computers and Musical Style  by David Cope
Used & New from: $23.32
4.0 out of 5 stars   (1)
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Timbre
24.  Sonic Design: The Nature of Sound and Music  by Robert Cogan
Used & New from: $36.41
5.0 out of 5 stars   (1)
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25.  New Images of Musical Sound  by Robert Cogan
Used & New from: $17.38
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Performance
26.  The Practice of Performance: Studies in Musical Interpretation  by Professor John Rink
Used & New from: $91.92
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27.  To Hear Ourselves As Others Hear Us: Tape Recording As a Tool in Music Practicing & Teaching  by James Boyk
Used & New from: $22.61
5.0 out of 5 stars   (1)
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28.  Interpreting Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier: A Performer`s Discourse of Method  by Ralph Kirkpatrick
$22.80 Used & New from: $9.99
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Schenker
29.  Analysis of Tonal Music: A Schenkerian Approach  by Allen Clayton Cadwallader
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30.  Unfoldings: Essays in Schenkerian Theory and Analysis  by Carl Schachter
$60.83 Used & New from: $24.72
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31.  Schenker's Interpretive Practice (Cambridge Studies in Music Theory and Analysis)  by Robert Snarrenberg
Used & New from: $2.33
3.0 out of 5 stars   (2)
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32.  Schenker's Argument and the Claims of Music Theory (Cambridge Studies in Music Theory and Analysis)  by Leslie David Blasius
$119.99 Used & New from: $55.69
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Pedagogy
33.  Teaching Approaches in Music Theory: An Overview of Pedagogical Philosophies  by Michael R. Rogers
Used & New from: $10.30
4.8 out of 5 stars   (6)
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34.  Aural Skills Acquisition: The Development of Listening, Reading, and Performing Skills in College-Level Musicians  by Gary S. Karpinski
$112.46 Used & New from: $65.50
4.3 out of 5 stars   (3)
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MISC.
35.  Bach's Works for Solo Violin: Style, Structure, Performance  by Joel Lester
$25.56 Used & New from: $17.36
4.0 out of 5 stars   (2)
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36.  Compositional Theory in the Eighteenth Century  by Joel Lester
$39.50 Used & New from: $18.00
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37.  Emotion and Meaning in Music (Phoenix Books)  by Leonard B. Meyer
$19.67 Used & New from: $1.86
4.8 out of 5 stars   (10)
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38.  Musical Meaning in Beethoven: Markedness, Correlation, and Interpretation (Advances in Semiotics)  by Robert S. Hatten
Used & New from: $15.89
4.0 out of 5 stars   (1)
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39.  Tonal Pitch Space  by Fred Lerdahl
Used & New from: $25.00
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40.  A Guide to Musical Analysis  by Nicholas Cook
$32.19 Used & New from: $14.75
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Author

J. W. Turner (North Carolina)
(REAL NAME)   
Qualifications: Theory Instructor at Large
Last updated: 8/9/04
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