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Basic Music Theory: How To Read, Write, and Understand Writing Music Review by Lisa McClanahan

Jonathan Harnum, PHD
Sol-Ut Press
Chicago, IL 60626

Music is a big part of our everyday lives whether you write, play, or just listen to it. My girls love to play their instruments and have even made up their own little songs on the guitar and piano. They have been using the Basic Music Theory: How to Read, Write, and Understand Written Music to reinforce what they know and help them understand new concepts.

This 210 page book is divided into seven sections with 36 chapters. This non consumable 8X10 softcover book is available for $19.95 and can be used by anyone wanting to learn music theory.

Jonathan Harnum begins with the history of written music and teaches notes, chords, double flats and sharps, piano keyboard, guitar fingerboard, and so much more. The layout of the book is very easy to use and helpful icons are placed where there are interesting facts, places we need to take special notice, and where there are methods to improve our memory.

Each chapter goes over a specific topic, and includes study guides and practical use exercises. After each section of the book there is a review of all the topics covered. These reviews are set up so you may cover up the answers on the right side of the page in order to verbally answer the question on the left. If you are unsure of the answer the page number where that topic was discussed is included with the question to help you go back and study some more.

Technology is a wonderful thing and Basic Music Theory takes advantage of it by placing QR codes throughout the book to link to extra material useful to the study. Some of the extras are videos, pictures, PDFs, and just cool stuff related to the topic. The links to these pages are also included in the text if you do not have access to a device that will read the QR code. In the back of the book are a couple of pages that can be cut out that contains key definitions, guitar fret board, and a blank music sheet. The QR code will also take you to a blank music sheet that may be printed as many times as you would like to have for homework and personal use.

I used this book along with all three of my girls ages 9, 11, and 12. They have taken piano lessons for several years and have started adding other instruments to learn. We started at the beginning of the book, but most of the information at the front was review for them. Although the first chapter, A Brief History of Musical Notation, starts with evolution we did find the other information included here very interesting. I read the chapter topic out loud and we discussed the review questions together, and then everyone could work on the Practical Use Exercises on their own. The format was great for my 11 and 12 year old. Topics that they didn't know or had forgotten they picked up very easily. They thought everything was explained very well and straight to the point.

Basic Music Theory: How To Read, Write, And Understand Written Music is a very thorough book. I plan on keeping this for my girls for easy reference to topics they might forget or need to restudy. My 12 year old just started giving piano lessons and she will read over some of the topics before her lesson to help her explain them to her student.

Product Review by Lisa McClanahan, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2014