Knowledge is power when it comes to most things in life, but it is certainly true in music. If we consider the process behind learning how to speak a language, you would want to know the letters, words and phrasing before attempting to speak the language. This works the same in music. Where music theory can teach you the components and the parameters of the musical language. Here, music theory does not stifle creativity but underpins some logical guidelines on which to base the creativity off from! Whilst there have been many examples of musicians who have created some great music without theory knowledge, it can make the whole process a lot easier as understanding the guidelines gives you more control and confidence in what you’re playing.
1. The Jazz Theory Book - Mark Levine
This is a must have for any jazz musician. It has a very pragmatic approach that makes these concepts easier to follow. It’s also worth pointing out that this book is massive, and consists of 522 pages, and you will likely take a long time to finish this book (but it is worth it!) To make it easier to use, the book comes in spiral bound so you don’t have to keep wrestling with the pages as you’re trying to practice. Definitely one for the bookshelf as its great as a reference book.
2. Building A Jazz Vocabulary - Mike Steinel
This book took me a while to understand its contents as you have to have a strong base level of theory before using this book, but was a great eye opener and really filled in some knowledge gaps for me! This book is truly an excellent resource, and requires active practicing and participation from the reader to ensure you reap the benefits from the book. It is a serious read that requires the user to read treble clef music notation. I wish there was a bass clef version! This book definitely helps build your vocabulary. By analysing many great solos, Mike Steinel discovers that they can all make use of the same musical cells, which are:
- Scale Cells
- Chord Cells
- Approach notes
3. How To Improvise - Hal Crook
This book is a bit of a classic, and is the go to music theory book on improvisation. Like the others, it is written in treble clef, so if you’re a bassist you’re going to have to learn the treble clef! If you want to learn how to improvise then this book is a must, and theres plenty of material to practice for years!
4. The Beato Book
Rick Beato has taken the Youtube world by storm, probably because he actually teaches you things rather than beat around the bush like other Youtubers do! He’s got some fantastic videos that I recommend checking out, especially his Music Theory Masterclass Videos. His book is also very good and is a great compliment to his videos. Definitely recommended for a guitarist as thats what the book is aimed at and contains many guitar diagrams!
5. The Ultimate Music Theory Book
If you’re looking for a theory book that relates specifically to the bass guitar, I can recommend any of my books from my store!
However, I’ve recently made a new book that is tailored for any musician, producer and artist. I’ve really thought hard about the structure and the order of learning that would most benefit the reader. The book covers playing diagrams for piano, guitar and bass, so perfect for any multi instrumentalist! Please do consider giving it a read if you want to experience greater musical freedom.
Let me know in the comments if you can recommend any other best music theory books!