A Comparative Study of Music Theory Textbooks in the Areas of Notation, Rhythm, and Harmony
The intent of this study was to determine how the concepts of notation, rhythm and harmony were introduced in music theory textbooks. The texts reviewed were most likely used for an introductory of music theory class in high school instrumental ensembles. These three concepts are the cornerstones of music theory and are presented in various depth and sequence in each text book. The method books were selected based on their availability, and their presentation as introductions to notation, rhythm and harmony. This investigation was an attempt to show how an introduction to notation was presented in music theory text books relative to sequence, formatting, style, ear training exercises, theory exercises, graphics and figures. The research also demonstrated how an introduction to rhythm was presented in music theory text books relative to sequence, formatting, style, ear training exercises, theory exercises, graphics and figures. Finally, this investigation explained how an introduction to harmony was presented in music theory text books relative to sequence, formatting, style, ear training exercises, theory exercises, graphics and figures.
Research suggested that all three books were remarkably similar in style and sequence. Practical Theory, by Sandy Feldstein, offered the largest scope since it is a complete introductory course of music theory material. The other books, Master Theory, by Charles S. Peters and Paul Yoder, and Essentials of Music Theory, by Andrew Surmani, Karen Farnum Surmani and Morton Manus, are both the first books in a series, so they have a similar scope of material.
The results of the investigation suggest that all of the books introduce notation, rhythm and theory in similar fashion. A concept is introduced on each page through a definition and notated musical examples. The concept is then reviewed through several brief exercises on the bottom of each page. A review page is presented after several lessons in each book which has exercises that review all of the concepts introduced in the previous lessons. Master Theory also has a comprehensive Student Test at the end of the book that covers all of the material in the book.
The results of this investigation also suggest that the biggest differences between the books were small, mostly with format variations. Essentials of Music Theory did have the biggest distinction among the books with the largest offering and variety of ear training exercises with compact disc that is included with the textbook.