The Dummies handbook seems to lose the plot a bit. In Part Three “Harmony: Fleshing It Out” we are finally introduced to the notes and scales, at the halfway point of the book. Part Four, “Form: How It’s Shaped” goes into the differences between popular music and classical music, which is fine, but not really something I was looking for. Part Five “The Part Of Tens” kind of speaks for itself with these chapters, “Six Most Frequently Asked Questions About Music Theory,” “Ten Cool And Useful Resources,” and “Nine Music Theorists You Should Know About.”
Overall, the feel of Music Theory For Dummies is lightweight. I did not find much of it useful in a practical sense at all. Sure, the notes and rhythm sections are very important, and the basics of music theory. But beyond that, there really isn’t a whole lot to sink your teeth into.
Both books offer audio CDs to embellish the information. Again, I would have to give the nod to The Complete Idtiot’s Guide. The CD included with it is set up as a series of lessons, with exercises running through all of the subjects taught in the book. The CD with Music Theory For Dummies is pretty random and hard to follow, with no exercises, just examples of the various sounds alluded to in different chapters. None of these are presented chronologically either.
Another big bonus for The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Music Theory is the set of pen and paper exercises included at the end of each part. While both books are written with the layman in mind, for someone who wishes to come away with a solid understanding of what music theory really is, and how it is applied, The Complete Idiot’s Guide is hands-down the winner in my view.
This challenge coincides with a promotion that the people of The Complete Idiot’s Guides are running through the month of October. They are offering a 50% off incentive for orders through the Idiot's guide site, if you use code CIGBlog11.