#1
I'm currently taking theory classes at my University, but i feel that i can do more to strengthen my understanding of theory. Have any of you read any good theory books that helped you? My primary goal is to be able to write my own songs. Thanks in advance
Last edited by J23L at Jul 7, 2015,
#3
A lot of people here will tell you that books aren't a good way of learning and they have a valid point, but I respectfully disagree since I'm a book learner myself. The problem is, that I mostly have experience in jazz theory books and Finnish music theory books (books written by finns and published in Finland, we don't have our own theory lol. Except that your B is our H).

One thing that comes to mind that is often recommended is William Leavitts "A modern method for guitar", but's it's written completely in notation, so no tabs for those who need them (honestly though, you shouldn't need tabs even though they're useful).

How experienced are you right now? If you're just a beginner you could just look into books like "music theory 1" or whatever, basic courses in theory you know. If you're more advanced, you'll have to wait until someone has some more advanced recommendations that aren't exclusive to Finland.
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

Quote by Hail
*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
#4
Berklee Harmony 1-4

Tonal Harmony by Kostka/Payne

Modern Method for Guitar

Counterpoint by Kennan

Jazz Theory Resources by Ligon

Harmony in Context by Roig Francoli

Those are a pretty commonly cited (for good reason) few.

But if you're doing it at school they probably have a pretty good book.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#6
^Follow that up with Pollack's notes on each song, and you have a gold mine of all things music.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#7
Quote by HotspurJr
Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles, by Pedler.

It's absolutely fantastic.

That sounds really intresting. Im gonna check that out
Last edited by J23L at Jul 8, 2015,
#8
Pedler and Pollack for the Beatles, for sure.
The only thing wrong with Pedler is he doesn't analyse EVERY song they wrote. But then he'd have a book at least ten times as long.... (and it's already nearly 800 pp).
Pollack has very good (short) analyses of every song - http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/AWP/awp-alphabet.shtml - while Pedler looks at broader themes, using their songs as illustrations of certain basic principles or practices.
(And he spends a whole chapter on the Hard Days Night chord. That's the kind of guy he is...)

Otherwise, the best books if you want to learn to be a songwriter are - SONGBOOKS.
Theory be damned.
Study the songs (and writers) that you like, take their work to pieces, put it back together in different order. That's what all the great songwriters do (and did).

The Beatles were around 10 times better than anyone else at the time, because they just copied about 10 times more people than anyone else did. They weren't inhibited by "rules" - other than what sounded good of course. Their originality (such as it was) was in combining their different influences in new ways. Throwing the stolen stuff together in new heaps.
Last edited by jongtr at Jul 8, 2015,
#9
Quote by jongtr
Pedler and Pollack for the Beatles, for sure.
The only thing wrong with Pedler is he doesn't analyse EVERY song they wrote. But then he'd have a book at least ten times as long.... (and it's already nearly 800 pp).
Pollack has very good (short) analyses of every song - http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/AWP/awp-alphabet.shtml - while Pedler looks at broader themes, using their songs as illustrations of certain basic principles or practices.
(And he spends a whole chapter on the Hard Days Night chord. That's the kind of guy he is...)

Otherwise, the best books if you want to learn to be a songwriter are - SONGBOOKS.
Theory be damned.
Study the songs (and writers) that you like, take their work to pieces, put it back together in different order. That's what all the great songwriters do (and did).

The Beatles were around 10 times better than anyone else at the time, because they just copied about 10 times more people than anyone else did. They weren't inhibited by "rules" - other than what sounded good of course. Their originality (such as it was) was in combining their different influences in new ways. Throwing the stolen stuff together in new heaps.

I've never heard of a songbook. Do they only have the songs written in notation? Are tabs in songbooks also? I can't read music so it will probably be useless for me to buy one if it's only notation
#10
Quote by J23L
I've never heard of a songbook. Do they only have the songs written in notation? Are tabs in songbooks also? I can't read music so it will probably be useless for me to buy one if it's only notation
The songbooks I learned from were all notation only, because there was no tab in those days (shortly after the dinosaurs went extinct).
You can get books with both today. A few years ago I even saw a book (Cream, I think) with the vocal melody tabbed out for guitar - extremely useful, but rarely done. (I always give my students songsheets with vocal lines in both notation and tab.)

Of course, there's 100s of songbooks with lyrics and chord symbols (no notation or tab), and lots with notation of vocal only (plus chord symbols).

It's worth learning to read notation (it's not hard!) because your alternative - in learning to be a songwriter - is learning melodies by ear. That's the best method, of course - listening, copying, singing, playing - but some reading ability always helps.

BTW, you can't study theory without knowing how to read notation. That's why theory text books begin by teaching you notation, because it's the language they're going to use to illustrate the concepts. It's the best way we yet have of showing musical sounds in 2D on paper (or on screen). Tab is no good, unless you add clear ways of showing rhythm and duration - most of which need to be borrowed from staff notation conventions anyway.

Still, many great songwriters couldn't read music, so that needn't worry you. As I say, it just offers some help in addition to the work you do by ear. The more songs (by other people) that you learn to play - however you do it - the bigger the vocabulary you build that you can draw from when you make your own songs. Theoretical understanding may or may not help. Like notation, it's one of those optional extras, a way of describing and cataloguing musical sounds.

Lennon and McCartney couldn't read music, and never read a theory book. That doesn't mean you don't need to - only that you need plenty of what they had: good ears, boundless curiosity, broad tastes, self-confidence, etc.... They knew plenty of theory. But they learned it from covering other people's songs.
#11
The Pedler book is expensive, but it has MUCH more information than your standard Hal-Leonard-type book. It's also really based on listening, and he breaks things down by concept, rather than by song. So you'll get a bunch of examples about the concept of a V-I and how the Beatles used it. To me, this is much more useful than other theory books.

That being said, and this is true of all theory books:

You have to be able to hear what's going on. Theory knowledge, divorced from ear training, is close to worthless. Pedler's book made me really think that the true purpose of Theory is to help you learn to recognize aural concepts: how long would it take me to recognize the tool of the V-I if there was no theoretical background pointing out how D-G in G and G-C in C and E-A in A and F#-B in B were all the same thing, and served the same purpose?