Music Theory For Computer Musicians – Review

Music Theory for Computer Musicians front cover

For years I worked primarily as an improvisational musician; I could jam with anybody, I just needed a little time to work out something that sounded good. Eventually as I grew into a composer I felt I needed to fill a large gap in my musical ability; it was time to learn the basics.  I looked at a number of books and found one that fit where I was going, Music Theory for Computer Musicians by Michael Hewitt. A book on theory geared toward the modern digital composer? Sounds like exactly what I need.

Since then I’ve spent an ample amount of time reading the book, doing the exercises, and yes.. practicing.. a lot 😉 I’ve also had plenty of time to develop my thoughts on the book, and I’ve definitely got some opinions to share with you.

The Review

Music Theory for Computer Musicians is what it says it is.. sort of.  Its definitely a book on music theory, although in my opinion it falls short in the ‘computer musician’ department. Regularly the author will sort of hint at how something is attributed to a particular style of music, and from time to time you’ll be met with a sequencer diagram instead of a staph, but that’s about it. I think this book really could have gone much deeper.

On the music theory side of things this book covers quite a lot and is reasonably easy to read. Overall the book features 25 chapters on various rudimentary topics and a handful of more advanced topics toward the end. Whereas the book provides a good introduction to a number of topics, I found it often wasn’t enough to get the understanding I was seeking.  The audio examples were acceptable, but the author could have provided much more in this department as well.

The book does provide exercises for the reader but I often found the book lacking the information I would need to successfully complete those tasks. The chapters would regularly provide the reader with basic examples but rarely approached even a medium level of complexity which made the harder exercises difficult. This was especially problematic because you  don’thave a teacher you can really ask for clarification; you buy this book so you can teach yourself.  A good book needs to be complete in this regard unless its truly intended for the classroom. In addition, the answers for the exercises littered with errors, very stupid errors at that. It was seriously as if no one proof read the answer sheet. The exercises really felt like an after thought, this is perhaps why neither of the author’s other books contain any exercises at all.


This book definitely could have been more. Even though I did get a lot out of it, I had plenty of supplemental material to help and really took my time. For anyone interested in a music theory book, consider this one, but also consider supplementing your education with plenty of other material.

Rating:  6/10

Supplemental Material

Here are a couple things I was doing while working through this book that helped a lot:

  • Lypur’s Youtube channel — This guy is awesome.  He’s got a whole series of videos on music theory as well as learning to play piano.  He goes into great detail and includes a large number of exercises for the student to complete.
  • Karajan ear trainer — The first time I really stopped in the book to practice was intervals.  I used this app and would practice regularly on my commute.  The app does more than just intervals, although interval training was all I used it for.