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#1850305 - 02/23/12 05:04 PM Suggestions for intermediate-level theory books
briallyn Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/26/11
Posts: 2
Hello, I'm new to this forum, and I'm so very sorry if there is a better forum/previously answered thread that would be better for this inquiry - please let me know!

I'm an 18 year old currently working towards my Grade 9 piano while attending university full-time. I'd really like to get my history and harmony theory exams done this summer, but as I live in a different area of the country than my piano teacher (who is in the city I go to university in) these would be self-taught subjects.

I have no trouble self-teaching (I did the same for my advanced rudiments exam last summer, and passed with high 90s), but I was wondering if there are any text/exercise books that would be optimal for a self-taught theory student. (Up until now, I have only used the Grace Vandendool books)

thanks so much for any insights you have!


Edited by briallyn (02/23/12 10:08 PM)

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#1850609 - 02/24/12 09:18 AM Re: Suggestions for intermediate-level theory books [Re: briallyn]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 14581
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Keith Snells' Fundamentals of Piano Theory have become my new favorites. These go up to level 10 (not sure where that is in comparison to your reference to "grade 9"), but I'm sure you will find what you need there. Each book reviews the previous level at the beginning, so look things over carefully to make sure you're not missing something that you'll need from a previous level.
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#1850625 - 02/24/12 09:45 AM Re: Suggestions for intermediate-level theory books [Re: briallyn]
pianolady14 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/07
Posts: 131
I second the Keith Snell recommendation. Someone on this forum recommended them to me (can't remember who!) and they have become my favorites also.
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Piano teacher since 1995

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#1850640 - 02/24/12 10:28 AM Re: Suggestions for intermediate-level theory books [Re: briallyn]
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1269
Loc: California
Ditto the Keith Snell series. They correlate well with California's Certificate of Merit theory exams. I know a few students who went through all levels and then tested out of first year college theory.
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#1850643 - 02/24/12 10:29 AM Re: Suggestions for intermediate-level theory books [Re: briallyn]
briallyn Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/26/11
Posts: 2
Thanks so much for the suggestions!

I'm sorry for not clarifying the grade level- I'm currently working through the RCM conservatory's Grade 9

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#1850710 - 02/24/12 12:19 PM Re: Suggestions for intermediate-level theory books [Re: briallyn]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 13837
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: briallyn
Thanks so much for the suggestions!

I'm sorry for not clarifying the grade level- I'm currently working through the RCM conservatory's Grade 9

If you want to take the RCM theory exams then there are already books recommended by the RCM. You would start with Rudiments, which expand the topics incrementally along preparatory, intermediate and advance. Rudiments give you basic concepts. The recommended book is "Elementary Rudiments of Music" by Barbara Wharram - 2005 edition (the older edition is outdated).

The next level is harmony (several levels) but since a lot of concepts from rudiments are referred to, it's good to have done rudiments first. One book recommended for preparation is Sarnecki (Harmony) which also comes in different levels matching the exams. The books tend to teach toward the exams so you might want to go beyond any of the books.

If you're going the RCM route, the people of the RCM are helpful in answering questions.

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#1850816 - 02/24/12 02:25 PM Re: Suggestions for intermediate-level theory books [Re: briallyn]
AZNpiano Online   happy
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 6807
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: briallyn
Thanks so much for the suggestions!

I'm sorry for not clarifying the grade level- I'm currently working through the RCM conservatory's Grade 9


The Snell/Ashleigh books won't be too helpful for you. Their books were written for the California CM exam back in 1998, and even CM itself has moved on with new editions of its syllabus. There will be some overlap of material covered, but your safest bet is to use the books recommended by the RCM syllabus.
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#1852739 - 02/27/12 08:11 PM Re: Suggestions for intermediate-level theory books [Re: keystring]
LadyChen Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/25/12
Posts: 521
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: briallyn
Thanks so much for the suggestions!

I'm sorry for not clarifying the grade level- I'm currently working through the RCM conservatory's Grade 9

If you want to take the RCM theory exams then there are already books recommended by the RCM. You would start with Rudiments, which expand the topics incrementally along preparatory, intermediate and advance. Rudiments give you basic concepts. The recommended book is "Elementary Rudiments of Music" by Barbara Wharram - 2005 edition (the older edition is outdated).

The next level is harmony (several levels) but since a lot of concepts from rudiments are referred to, it's good to have done rudiments first. One book recommended for preparation is Sarnecki (Harmony) which also comes in different levels matching the exams. The books tend to teach toward the exams so you might want to go beyond any of the books.

If you're going the RCM route, the people of the RCM are helpful in answering questions.


Sarnecki also has books for rudiments that I prefer to Barbara Wharram's. It depends on the student though -- I find that Wharram has more exercises per concept than any decent student could possibly need, but I suppose if you have a really slow student, it might be helpful. I find that the Sarnecki books are paced better and have an appropriate number of exercises per concept.

(both Sarnecki and Wharram's books are excellent prep for RCM theory exams)

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