The following readings are suggested for Music Theory majors when they first begin their study. Music Theory is a widely diverse field, with many different topics and approaches. While this list is but a mere sampling of possible readings, it gives a sense of the breadth and depth of the field.

See also: Introductory Readings

Works with Multiple Readings

Rethinking Music, eds., Cook, Nicholas and Everist, Mark (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Tovey, Donald F. Essays in Musical Analysis, 7 vols. (Oxford: Oxford U Press, 1935-1939).


Cohn, Richard. Audacious Euphony: Chromatic Harmony and the Triad's Second Nature (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

Form Theory

Bergé, Pieter, ed. Musical Form, Forms, and Formenlehre (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2009). [Essays by Caplin, William (21–40); Hepokoski, James (71–89); Webster, James (123–39).]

____________. Beethoven's Tempest Sonata: perspectives of analysis and performance. Co-edited by D'hoe, Jeroen and Caplin, William. (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2009).

Gender, Sexuality, Embodiment

Cusick, Suzanne G. “Gender, Musicology, and Feminism,” in Rethinking Music, eds,. Cook, Nicholas and Everist, Mark (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999): 471-98.

Guck, Marion A. "A Woman's (Theoretical) Work," Perspectives of New Music 32/1 (1994): 28-43.

Maus, Fred. "Masculine Discourse in Music Theory," Perspectives of New Music 31/2 (1993): 264-93.

History of Theory

Christensen, Thomas, ed. The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory (Cambridge, UK & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

Music & Meaning

Agawu, Kofi. "Challenge of Semiotics" in Rethinking Music, eds., Cook, Nicholas and Everist, Mark (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999): 138-160.

Almen, Byron. A Theory of Musical Narrative (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2008): 1-92.

____________. "Narrative Archetypes: A Critique, Theory, and Method of Narrative Analysis," Journal of Music Theory 47/1 (2003): 1-39.

Hatten, Robert. Interpreting Musical Gestures, Topics, and Tropes: Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004): 21-34; 68-96; 217-290.

Neo-Riemannian Theory

Cohn, Richard. 1996. "Maximally Smooth Cycles, Hexatonic Systems, and the Analysis of Late-Romantic Triadic Progressions," Music Analysis 15/1: 9-40.

____________. "Neo-Riemannian Operations, Parsimonious Trichords, and Their Tonnetz Representations," Journal of Music Theory 41/1 (1997): 1-66.

Hyer, Brian. "Reimag(in)ing Riemann," Journal of Music Theory 39/ 1 (Spring, 1995): 101-138.

Performance & Analysis

Cone, Edward T. Musical Form and Musical Performance (NY: Norton, 1968).

Popular and Rock Music

Walter Everett. "Making Sense of Rock's Tonal Systems," Music Theory Online 10.4 (2004).

John Covach. "Popular Music, Unpopular Musicology," in Rethinking Music eds., Cook, Nicholas and Everist, Mark (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999): 452-70.

Rhythm and Meter

Krebs, Harald. "Robert Schumann’s Metrical Revisions," Music Theory Spectrum 19/1 (1997): 35-54.

____________. Fantasy Pieces: Metrical Dissonance in the Music of Robert Schumann (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Malin, Yonatan. Songs in Motion: Rhythm and Meter in the German Lied (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010): 35-66.

Post Tonal Analysis

Schuijer, Michiel. Analyzing Atonal Music: Pitch-Class Set Theory and its Contexts (Rochester: University of Rochester, 2008).

Straus, Joseph N. Introduction to Post Tonal Theory, 3rd edition (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1989, 2004).

Schenkerian Analysis

Burstein, Poundie. "Beethoven’s Tempest Sonata: A Schenkerian Approach," Structure and Meaning in Tonal Music: Festschrift for Carl Schachter (Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press, 2006): 61-85.

Schachter, Carl. "Motive and Text in Four Schubert Songs," in Aspects of Schenkerian Theory ed., Beach, David (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1983): 61-76. (Also in Stein, Engaging Music.)

____________. Unfoldings: Essays in Schenkerian Theory & Analysis, ed., Straus, Joseph (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

____________. "The Triad as Place and Action," Music Theory Spectrum 17/2 (1995): 149-69. (Also in Straus, Unfoldings.)

See also: Introductory Readings