Music Theory

May 31, 2018, 5:02 AM · Can anyone recommend a book that will help me understand music theory with my violin? I know that a lot of studies involve the piano but I have no intention of picking that up any time soon.

If anyone knows of a good book that will help me understand the scales, chords, intervals (majors/minors/modes...etc) using my violin, I would appreciate it.


Replies (9)

May 31, 2018, 5:11 AM · I'd recommend getting a cheap childrens' keyboard to be honest - you don't need to be able to perform anything on it, but it is *way* easier to sound different chords on the piano than trying to do it on the violin.

(particularly if you are still learning intonation on the violin...)

Edited: May 31, 2018, 7:32 AM · I agree with Chris. Folks will say you don't "need" a keyboard to learn theory, but it sure does make it one hell of a lot easier and faster. If you go to Amazon there are dozens of books (type "music theory" into the search box). There are some that seem to have very good customer ratings. The one's that come from "Alfred" seem to rate very well. Probably you cannot go *too* wrong that way.

Returning to the question, though, I'd still be interested in learning what violin teachers have found particularly useful in their studios.

Edited: May 31, 2018, 7:35 AM · Elementary Rudiments of Music, 2nd edition, Barbara Wharram 2010.

Written for older beginners and adult students. This is not a piano theory book as many are.

May 31, 2018, 8:21 AM · For fixed-pitch (12-tone) instruments like pianos and other keyboards standard music "theory" books will tell you everything you need and using a keyboard instrument (that is precisely in tune) will help you experiment. Although the information is called "theory" it is just the rules by which music is played and written down on paper.

However for bowed-string instruments that can play any pitch it is also worthwhile to check out some books about "temperament" and various other scale systems. It is there that the real "theory" of music is given rational bacground that has significant impact on string ensemble playing.

Edited: May 31, 2018, 9:07 AM · The higher exam grades in instrument playing (7 and 8 if I remember rightly) require the student to have at least a pass in grade 5 theory.
May 31, 2018, 7:00 PM · No one is expecting you to also play Beethoven piano sonatas and just need a couple of fingers to plunk out chords on the keyboard. Don't how you would really hear and appreciate an 11 chord on your fiddle for example.

I'm sure there are iPad apps/websites that let you use a virtual keyboard too.

June 1, 2018, 8:33 AM · Lester,
As Andrew said, music theory is just a set of rules, and since music can be complicated, the rules can be stated and used in complicated ways. Or it can be really simple.

What is your purpose? If you want to hear intervals better for intonation, get a solfege CD and practice. As several have suggested, a piano is helpful to check violin intonation. If you want to play classical scales and chords for warm-ups, Carl Fischer's book is a classic and there are others. If you want to improvise jazz, C&W, or rock, my book Arpeggios, Rhythms, and Scales has all the 7th chords with fingerings and the modal and blues scales that are commonly played in these genre's.

The answer to your question depends on your purpose. For performing musicians, music theory is a tool, not an end in itself. Its like rosin. You need it, and other complementary things, but the music comes from somewhere else.

June 1, 2018, 8:58 AM · Simply getting a keyboard won't teach anyone the rudiments of music theory. There's a wealth of music theory books on the market--you just have to sit down with one and read it.

I have a student whose parents are writers, and they gave me a sample copy of one of their recent books,. It's called "Music Theory 101: a Crash Course in Music Theory" by Boone and Schonbrun/Adams Media.

This is probably just what you need. There are many books on basic theory, and they pretty much give you the exact same information (it's not like it's changed much in 200 years...).

June 1, 2018, 10:00 AM ·
No need to buy a piano, you just need any piano to help give you a mental image...

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