HomeIn SeriesReviewsMusic Theory: What are the best resources out there?

Music Theory: What are the best resources out there?

Finding the best resource to begin a journey in music theory is not easy. It’s a jungle out there! To help you navigate through it, Musicroom provides here a review of some of the most reputable theory books available on the market. Picking the right resource will be at the heart of successful learning, so please read carefully and make an informed choice.


This fully revised version of Eric Taylor’s classic theory resource has reached over a million musicians worldwide. Specifically coordinated with ABRSM’s theory syllabus, it is designed to align perfectly with the graded examination. This beginning book deals with note values and their equivalent rests from semibreve to semiquaver, simple time signatures, the stave, construction of the major scale and basic musical terminology.
The book is structured as a series of functional exercises that assess the learner’s comprehension of theory concepts. You’ll need ‘The AB Guide to Music Theory’ to access further background knowledge on each topic, in addition to ‘Music Theory in Practice Model Answers’ for assessment. There may not be many bells and whistles here, but as far as workbooks go, this is one of the most trusted resources out there and a safe bet if you are on the home straight to an ABRSM exam. It is part of a series that will take you right up to Grade 5.
View it here.


Samantha Coates’ colourful and engaging learning resources are designed to integrate perfectly with ABRSM theory examinations. Part of a series that ranges from ‘Beginner’ through to ‘Grade 5’, this book contains all the information required to sit your Grade 1 ABRSM theory exam. Grounded in solid pedagogy, the ‘How to Blitz!’ range is packed with quizzes, games and fun animated characters. The focus here is very much on accessible and enjoyable learning.
Designed particularly for younger learners, the book also has a useful degree of flexibility, with additional exercises and techniques available via online links. Witty informal annotations and graphics bring the learning to life, but good quality learning is at its heart. The book also features workbook assessments and revision tests to consolidate comprehension. Other titles beyond ‘theory’ in the range include Sight reading, Sight singing and Rote learning.
View it here.


A staple for many music theory teachers and in classrooms for 30 years, Josephine Koh’s popular book is part of a series that complements all of ABRSM’s theory exams from Grades 1-8. Functionally presented, but thorough and sound, each book in the series comprehensively covers all aspects of the ABRSM syllabus. This book takes the learner step-by-step from time values and rests, through beaming, key signatures and the tonic triad. Each chapter opens with some introductory content and is followed by a series of practical exercises. The focus here is very much on application, and Koh’s rigorous, no-nonsense approach has been the secret to the book’s longevity.
View it here.


Functioning alongside the bestselling instrumental series, this is an ideal source for the beginning of a journey in music theory. David Harrison’s engagingly designed book gives users plenty of space to reflect on their learning, and gently guides them through a series of tasks and games that provide a solid grounding in theoretical rudiments. Covering the basics of notation, rhythm, metre and tonality, the book has a very clear and user-friendly layout that is especially useful for younger learners. In particular, the Glossary acts as a good reference point for teachers, whilst regular workbook exercises allow for comprehensive assessment.
View it here.


The ‘easiLEARN’ series of theory books, which includes ‘Prep’, Grade 1 and an activity book ‘Magic Castle’, really does get an excellent balance between design and content. Covering everything on the ABRSM and Trinity College Grade syllabuses, this theory book is cleverly constructed into a series of workbook-style exercises, a ‘fun zone’ of music theory games, sample test papers and useful flashcards. It also is accompanied by excellent online learning tools, of particular note being the initial ‘Prior Knowledge Test’, which assesses whether the learner is at the right stage for the book.
Colourful insides make for an especially attractive look, and the text is nicely broken up with animations, graphics and accessible tables. It feels substantial too. Just a shame that the series ends at Grade 3, but for those on the earlier examinations an excellent find.
View it here.


Part of a range of theory books designed for a smooth transition to Grade 1, Faber’s series (beginning with ‘My First’) is a lovely concept, full of quaint animations and fun dialogue. This book covers the very basics, from treble and bass clef and time signatures, to notation, rests and accidentals. Every third ‘theory section’ is preceded by a fun little game, and there’s plenty of repetition, ideal for younger learners. Designed with young children in mind, a particularly nice feature is the ‘completion of a phrase’, which encourages some real-world musical creation, allowing the child to see how theoretical knowledge is utilised in the creation of music.
View it here.


Perhaps one of the most comprehensive and widely used books on the market. This is part of a series by Ying Ying Ng that continues all the way up to Grade 5, and very reasonably priced. The focus here particularly is on thoroughness, with plenty of workbook exercises, sample papers and clear explanations. Grade 1 covers the basics, including metre, notation, major tonalities up to two sharps and flats, note groupings and degrees of the scale. Colourful insides make for an appealing look, and the end-of-book ‘revision notes’ are an especially useful feature not all theory books accommodate.
View it here.


Ranging from ‘Debut’ through to Grade 5, these books are designed specifically to meet the requirements of Rockschool’s new theory exams. Excellently constructed for those with an especial interest in popular music, this book manages well the balance between important rudiments (like notation) whilst introducing genre-specific knowledge such as idiomatic features of band instruments and vocal production. Particularly successful is the chapter on ‘Popular Music Harmony’, which tailors important harmonic content to those whose musical education has been transmitted through popular music performance. A useful ‘syllabus content overview’ at the end engenders peace of mind, whilst specimen papers allow for comprehensive assessment prior to the examination.
View it here.
For some ideas on teaching theory at home we have lessons for Key Stages 1 & 2 and Key Stage 3 available on our blog!

Must Read