Tonal Harmony


Super interested in theory but I don’t even know what in particular to look up.
For over two decades Tonal Harmony has been the leading text for the two-year theory curriculum for music majors. Used at nearly 800 schools, Tonal Harmony has been consistently praised for its practicality and ease of use for student and instructor alike. The straightforward approach is supported by well-chosen examples and thoughtful exercises, and the total presentation is compatible with differing teaching styles and theoretical points of view. In addition, students can purchase a CD o…

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Top rated Music books on Reddit rank no. 88

Super interested in theory but I don’t even know what in particular to look up.(r/musictheory)

There are a lot of courses. Any specific topics you’re interested in?

Edit: I’ll just list a few anyway that I’ve used in classes (this may not reflect all professors’ choices for the same subjects).

Tonal Harmony: Kostka-Payne – Tonal Harmony

Counterpoint 1: A Berklee book by the late professor Rick Applin. Some also use this Fux translation/adaptation

Counterpoint 2: Bach Inventions & Sinfonias (any edition, really)

“Advanced” Counterpoint: The Well-Tempered Clavier (again, any edition)

Early Twentieth-Century Harmony: Persichetti – Twentieth-Century Harmony

Post-Tonal Theory/Analysis: Straus – Intro to Post-Tonal Theory

Instrumentation/Orchestration: Adler – The Study of Orchestration & Casella/Mortari – The Technique of Contemporary Orchestration

Western Music History – Burkholder/Paiisca – A History of Western Music (8th or 9th edition)

Conducting 1 – Notion Conducting

Conducting 2 Notion + Stravinsky’s Petrushka

Berklee’s own (jazz-based) core harmony and ear-training curricula use Berklee textbooks written by professors which, as someone else mentioned, come unbound and shrink-wrapped at the bookstore. You can find older (PDF) versions of the Berklee harmony textbooks here. Of course this list only represents explicit book choices – there are a lot of excerpt-readings, and there’s a lot of instruction that isn’t found in these books even in the associated courses.


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Stefan Kostka

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McGraw-Hill Education

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Tonal Harmony

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Super interested in theory but I don’t even know what in particular to look up.

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