This page is inspired by one of my Harmony and Composition teachers website, http://www.stephenbrown.ca/
I found the reviews extremely helpful in my search for music resources. These reviews are not going to be greatly organized at the moment and very, very, very short.
I judge the books by their usefulness, and entertainment value.
- Adler, Samuel. 2002,1989,1982. The Study of Orchestration. Third Edition.
Edited by Suzanne La Plante. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc.
The Standard on orchestration books.
- Berkman, David. 2013. The Jazz Harmony Book. Petaluma: Sher Music Co.
A good jazz harmony book, builds up a system of functional harmony that is easy to understand.
It is imperative to expose oneself to the jazz style for too many reasons.
It helps with improvisation, reading romantic harmony and composing which is very useful to any musician.
- Brendel, Alfred. 2001,2007. Alfred Brendel On Music Collected Essays. Chicago: A Cappella Books.
One of the best writers on music and one of the last living great concert pianists of the twentieth century.
This contains a lifetime of reflections and informed perspectives on a large part
of the piano repertoire any professional or music lover would benefit from.
- Brendel, Alfred. 2013. A Pianist's A-Z A Piano Lover's Reader. London: Faber and Faber Ltd.
A charming read with nice anecdotes, jokes, and history.
- Brindle, Reginald Smith. 1986. Musical Composition. New York: Oxford University Press.
He's a good writer on music.
- Bruce Benward, Marilyn Saker. 2003,1997. Music in Theory and Practice. Edited by Nadia Bidwell. Vol. 2. 2 vols. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
After reading Kostkas Harmony textbook I have to recommend giving this text a pass.
- Burton, Stephen Douglas. 1982. Orchestration. Edited by Diane Lange. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
I remember this was a good book.
- Cadwallader, Allen, and David Gagne. 2011. Analysis of Tonal Music A Schenkerian Approach. Third Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, INC.
This might be the worst book on music I have read.
- Cohn, Richard. 2012. Audacious Euphony. New York: Oxford University Press.
A well written introduction to voice leading structures of the tonnetz, hexatonic, and octatonic.
The presentation is thorough and carefully planned and always reflects deeper on the topics at hand.
- Elizabeth A.H. Green, Mark Gibson. 2004,1997,1987,1981. The Modern Conductor. Seventh Edition.
Edited by Charlyce Jones Owen. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
I like the drills and explanation for the technical characteristics of conducting.
- Forte, Allen. 1973. The Structure of Atonal Music. New Haven and London: Yale University.
This will be one of the historic texts of music form that will never be forgotten.
The presentation is concise in the best way possible.
- Fux, Johann Joseph. 1943, 1965, renewed 1971. The Study of Counterpoint.
Edited by Alfred Mann. Translated by Alfred Mann and John Edmunds . New York: W. W. Norton Company, INC.
Every composer, or even musician for that matter should have this book on their shelf.
- Gould, Elaine. 2011. Behind Bars The Definitive Guide to Music Notation. London: Faber Music.
This comes in handy when you have to make a score look pleasing.
- Grout, Donald Jay. 1980,1973,1960. A History Of Western Music. Third Edition. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.
I have a really old edition of this text but I believe it is still considered the standard for a well balanced
general overview of music history. Good economical writing.
- Hindemith, Paul. 1942. The Craft of Musical Composition Book 1: Theory. London: Schott and Co. Ltd.
Though Hindemith is a good composer I cannot say he is a great writer of books.
He uses to ten pages of words to explain topics that could be written on two or three.
To better understand Hindemiths thinking pick up a copy of his Ludus Tonalis.
- Kennan, Kent Wheeler. 1999. Counterpoint. Third Edition. Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall Inc.
Unfortunately this text is outdated and I do not recommend it to the average counterpoint student.
Time is better spent on Peter Schuberts book paired with study of Joseph Fux or Schoenberg counterpoint.
- Kostka, Stefan M., Dorothy Payne, and Byron Almen. 2013, 2009, 2004. Tonal Harmony Seventh Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.
This is the standard university or college text on harmony. I highly recommend it to any student interested in harmony.
- Kostka, Stefan. 1999. Materials and Techniques of Twentieth-Century Music. Edited by Charlyce Jone Owen. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
A useful introduction to 20th century music.
- Levine, Mark. 1995. The Jazz Theory Book. Petaluma: Sher Music Co.
I like the use of chords as the derivatives of scales and not the other way around.
The colors talked about here are worth studying and have a common recurrence in pop and symphonic music.
- Mann, Alfred. 1958. The Study of Fugue. Rutgers, The State University, Renewed by dover 1986.
A historical look at the development of fugal writing. I learned much that you will not find in any other text book on the subject,
especially that the first composers of the fugue considered it a free style of writing.
- Nierhaus, Gerhard. 2009. Algorithmic Composition Paradigms of Automated Music Generation. New York: SpringerWien.
I like to think I understand most of the topics in this book, but it is simply meant for graduate students.
However I think it questions assumptions surrounding the creation of structure that can challenge and sharpen a students understanding of music.
- Perle, George. 1962. Serial Composition and Atonality. Los Angeles: University of California Press.
The very average atonal composing book. It is probably the least favorite one I have read.
- Piston, Walter. 1955. Orchestration. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.
Another standard orchestration book. It is a nice small size, and well worth the price.
- Rosen, Charles. 1975,1996. Arnold Schoenberg. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
A brief but informative analysis of Schoenbergs artistic growth and legacy. Rosen is one of the best writers on music.
—. 2002,2003,2004. Piano Notes the hidden world of the pianist. St Ives plc: Penguin Books.
Cool anecdotes, stories and experiences of one of the greats.
—. 1997,1972,1971. The Classical Style Haydn Mozart Beethoven. Expanded Edition. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.
Great exposition on the nature and history of the Classical style. I wish Mr. Rosen was a composer so he could explain how to compose for this style in a serial fashion.
Salzer, Felix. 1952. Structural Hearing Tonal Coherence In Music. New York: Dover Publications, INC.
- Schillinger, Joseph. 1973. Schillinger System of musical composition. New York: Da Capo Press.
Joseph Schillinger created a mathematical system to compose music, which is described in this enormous book.
It is almost impossible to read.
- Schoenberg, Arnold. 1994. Coherence, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form. Edited by Severine Neff. Translated by CHarlotte M. Cross and Severine Neff. University of Nebraska Press.
—. 1967. Fundamentals of Musical Composition. Edited by Leonard Stein Gerald Strang. London: Faber and Faber limited.
This is the best book written in the history of composition treatises. There multiple solutions to single composition problems which focuses the students attention to the process of writing music. No other book I am aware of demonstrates so thoroughly the importance of sketches. It also builds a formal hierarchy from the smallest to largest pieces in a composition that is invaluable to organizing musical ideas.
—. 1942. Models For Beginners In Composition. New York: G. Schirmer, INC.
Similar to the Fundamentals of Musical Composition, Models for Beginners takes a more brief approach and goes head first into applications vs in depth explanations for some structural pieces. Regrettably out of print.
—. 1963. Preliminary Exercises In Counterpoint. Edited by Leonard Stein. London: Faber and Faber Limited.
This is a perfect companion to the Fux counterpoint book. Unfortunately it is out of print.
—. 1969. Structural Functions of Harmony. Edited by Leonard Stein. New York: W. W. Norto and Company, INC.
A more technical in-depth analysis of Harmony from Schoenbergs point of view. Not essential but I like reading his opinions.
—. 1950. Style and Idea. New York: Philosophical Library, INC.
A collection of essays by the master. It is a pleasure to read his points of view.
—. 1995,2006. The Musical Idea and the logic, technique, and art of its presentation. Edited by Patricia Carpenter and Severine Neff. Translated by Patricia Carpenter and Severine Neff. Bloomington: Columbia University Press, Indiana University Press.
I admire the commitment and dedication the Scholarly authors put into compiling, translating and organizing Schoenbergs journals on his unfinished manuscript. It must have been painstaking, regardless we see Schoenberg attempt to articulate his most complex ideas surrounding music composition.
—. 1911, 1978. Theory of Harmony. Third Edition 1922. Translated by Roy E. Carter. Vienna, Los Angeles: Universal Edition, University of California Press.
I would recommend reading this after a first or second year of harmony. It is a source of reflection and contemplation on the nature and qualities tonal harmony, which Schoenberg was in love with.
- Schonberg, Harold C. 2006,1987,1963. The Great Pianists. Revised and Updated. New York, NY: Simon Schuster Paperbacks.
A nice recollection of many old pianists, of which maybe half I have not heard or known much about of who made their mark. A must have for any pianist.
- Schubert, Peter, and Christoph Neidhofer. 2006. Baroque Counterpoint. Edited by Sarah Touborg. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education.
This is one of the best counterpoint texts I have read.
- Solomon, Samuel z. 2002. How to Write for Percussion a comprehensive guide to percussion composition. First Edition. New York, NY: SZSolomon.
A percussion book with all you'll ever need for a while.
- Stannard, Neil. 2014. Piano Technique Dymistified. Second edition. Createspace.com.
I stumbled on this book by luck, and I highly recommend it. It describes the fundamental basics of piano technique that
I physically and philosophically associate with, small differences aside.
- Straus, Joseph N. 2005, 2000, 1990. Post-Tonal Theory third edition. Edited by Sarah Touborg. New Jersey: Pearson Education.
This is a good companion text to Allen Fortes book.
- Toussaint, Godfried T. 2013. The Geometry of Musical Rhythm. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press.
Maybe when I am more familiar with mathematics I will be able to read this book, but I do not understand the purpose or goal of it.
I was expecting something similar to Dmitrys "A Geometry of Music..." but instead received confusing language that is unapproachable for the average musician.
- Tymoczko, Dmitry. 2011. A Geometry of Music : Harmony and counterpoint in the extended common practice. New York: Oxford.
The geometric models are of highest composition interest in this book. I can't decide if the second half of the book is unnecessary or badly presented.
The models are useful but Dmitry struggles to articulate the analysis of musical work with economy and intensity.
If Dmitry could have made compositions in the same styles that he analyses chronologically using the models presented in the beginning of the book,
then analysed how he generated or created compelling musical pieces this would be useful.
- Walter Gieseking, Karl Leimer. 1972. Piano Technique. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
I like Gieseking and Leimers ideas about mentally learning and memorizing the music before hand and then practicing.
I believe it is possible to do so without ever practicing but I think this special ability will occur for a few people.
I do think this can be cultivated and exercised with gradual progress.
- Wuorinen, Charles. 1979. Simple Composition. New York, London, Frankfurt: C.F. Peters Corporation.
A good writer on atonal music, but again there is not enough explanation or depth to the inspection of what atonal music means.
Generalization does not help student composers who are looking for exhaustive
concrete examples or many solutions to a single composing problem.
—. 1966. Serial Composition. New York: Oxford University Press.
The atonal composition book was very common in the 20th century.
Unfortunately they contained overall to many generalizations to be of substantial use to a composing student.
They needed multiple and varying solutions to single composition problems, and a deeper explanation of form.
Despite the fact these books failed to contain exhaustive exploration of atonal music materials, I still find the philosophical generalizations interesting and inspiring.
I am not convinced by the way Schenkerian analysis is presented. Mainly I do not think it is profound as its champions claim it to be.
I do use it to compose which is practical, but in the books I find more mystique and confusion than clarity of thinking and application.