Theory Textbooks | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Theory Textbooks

This entry provides a list of some of the theory books written by Canadians.
This entry provides a list of some of the theory books written by Canadians. 'Theory,' in this context, is a broad term encompassing the standardized rudiments of notation and terminology and the analytical and practical study of norms and principles of harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, arranging, and the forms of composition. Voice technique instruction books and sight-singing manuals are mentioned in the entries on Singing and Solmization; treatises on instrumental performance techniques are cited in the entries on the playing and teaching of individual instruments or families of instruments. See also Songbooks, school, and Theory and analysis.

Canadian contributions to the literature of music theory have been designed most often for the elementary student at the school or conservatory and only rarely for the advanced student who has the choice of many well-established foreign textbooks and who provides only a very small market for the Canadian author.


Erich Schwandt in his essay "Musique spirituelle (1718): Canada's first music theory manual" has discussed Mother Marie-Andrée Duplessis de Ste-Hélène (1687-1760) as the author of "the first treatise on the theory and practice of music to have been undertaken in North America." The manuscript, intended for the sisters at the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec City, has survived at that institution. Like most other manuals and treatises written in Canada before 1970, 'Musique spirituelle où l'on peut s'exercer sans voix' is primarily an explication of musical rudiments rather than a scholarly treatment of a topic by a writer specializing in music theory. This early instance apart, the need for theory manuals arose in early-19th-century Canada, when each choirmaster and bandmaster had to teach the fundamentals of melodic and rhythmic notation as he rehearsed his group. Hence the early compilations of church music nearly always had an introductory chapter devoted to theory. For example, Humbert's Union Harmony of 1816 included an 'Introduction to the Grounds of Musick'; Daulé's Nouveau Recueil de cantiques of 1819, a 'courte méthode pour apprendre à les mettre en plain chant'; Mark Burnham's Colonial Harmonist of 1832, a chapter 'Rudiments to the Art of Singing'; Alexander Davidson's Sacred Harmony of 1838 (and again the Canadian Church Harmonist of 1864), an 'Introduction to the Science of Music'; The Harmonicon of 1841, an 'Introduction to Vocal Music'; and J.P. Clarke'sCanadian Church Psalmody of 1845, a set of 'Introductory Lessons and Exercises.'

Music theory books appeared frequently with each new generation of composers and theorists. Until the mid-1900s, theory books focused on the basics: classical theory based on the major-minor scale system. By the 1960s, Canadian musicians realized that music theory needed to include contemporary modes and rhythms in order to educate young people focusing on the "now" rather than working from the past forwards. Barbara Pentland was one of the first Canadian composers to adapt the theory system to include the twentieth-century idioms of tone clusters, additive and alternating rhythms, retrograde and inverse canons, unharmonic polyphony and serial construction.

Using the sound-to-symbol and back-to-sound idea, instead of the traditional rules of harmony, Pentland developed a system modelled on Hindemith, who divided instruction between rhythm and pitch exercises. The student was encouraged to hear, to react and to write down. Working with the well-known Toronto piano teacher Rachel Cavalho, Pentland brought her ideas together in a three-volume method entitled Music of Now (Waterloo, 1970).

Other composers like Jean Coulthard, David Duke and Joan Hansen followed her example and developed their own contemporary approaches to music theory. Gordon Delamont, like Pentland, Coulthard, Duke and Hansen, saw a need to make the study of music theory relevant to twentieth-century Canada. His theory manuals, Modern Harmonic Technique (1965) and Modern Contrapuntal Technique (1969), presented music theory with a strong emphasis on the ear and the student's ability to listen and to hear harmonic sounds. Unlike the standard texts on music rudiments, Delamont briefly defines the major and minor scale modes and then proceeds directly into discussing the 12-tone scale, then the 7-note diatonic scale followed by the modal scales.

The latter part of the twentieth century saw an increased demand for music theory methods that were both interesting and innovative. The need to entertain as well as to educate the young mind resulted in methods that included games, puzzles and composing initiatives as in methods by Mary Lindsay and Frances Balodis. While contemporary composers and teachers look towards new directions in music theory, conservatories continue to demand a strong background in the basics of classical music theory. In 2004, Conservatory Canada published its theory books, Theory for Students, as requirements for their conservatory examinations.

Chronological Listings

Along with many forgotten books the appended list contains several that were used by generations of students, eg, certain works by J. Humfrey Anger, Frederick Horwood, Gustave Smith, and Leo Smith and a few others embodying original approaches, ie, those by Orpha-F. Deveaux and Gordon Delamont.

Stevenson, A. The Vocal Preceptor or Key to Sacred Music From Celebrated Authors (Montreal 1811)

Molt, T.F. Elementary Treatise on Music / Traité élémentaire de musique (Quebec City1828)

Sauvageau, Charles, ed. Notions élémentaires de musique (Montreal 1844)

Molt, T.F. Traité élémentaire de musique vocale (Quebec City 1845)

Smith, Gustave. Le Parfait Musicien ou Grammaire musicale (Montreal 1859)

- Abécédaire musical (Montreal 1861). Subsequent editions appeared under such titles as Nouvel Abécédaire, Abécédaire musical, Le Célèbre Abécédaire. The 78th printing appeared in 1920.

- Le Gamma musical (Ottawa 1887)

Tufts, John W., and H.E. Holt. The Normal Music Course (Toronto 1883)

Héroux, G.P.O. Méthode d'harmonie, a set of 12 cards, each numbered as one lesson (no publisher; no place of publication, registered 30 Jan 1892)

Anger, J.H. Form in Music (Toronto 1898, rev edn Boston 1900)

- Elements of Harmony (Toronto 1902)

- A Treatise on Harmony, 3 vols (Toronto 1905, Boston 1906-12); edn rev by H. Clough-Leighter from posthumous annotations of the author (Boston 1919)

- The Modern Enharmonic Scale (Boston 1907)

- A Key to the Exercises in Part I & II of A Treatise on Harmony, 2 vols (Boston 1909, 1913)

Ham, Albert. The Rudiments of Music and Elementary Harmony with Test Papers (London 1910, 1919)

Marie de St Mathieu, Sister. Précis de la théorie musicale (Montreal 1911, 11th edn 1954). The author also wrote Théorie musicale, Recueils d'exercices sur la théorie, Recueils d'exercices sur le précis, Corrigé des exercices sur la théorie, and Corrigé des exercices sur le précis. All appeared in English: Abridgement of the Musical Theory, Musical Theory, Exercises Based on the Musical Theory, Exercises Based on the Abridgement, Key to the Exercises Based on the Musical Theory, and Key to the Exercises Based on the Abridgement.

Ham, Albert. Musical Ornaments and Graces and Their Interpretation, Novello's Canadian Music Text-Books, vol 1 (London 1914)

Deveaux, Orpha-F. Les Principes de la musique (Montreal 1918)

- Les Principes de l'harmonie (Montreal 1919)

Smith, Leo. Musical Rudiments (Boston 1920)

Morin-Labrecque, Albertine. Recueil de modèles et de dictées musicales (Montreal no date)

Ham, Albert. Outlines of Musical Form, Novello's Canadian Music Text-Books, vol 3 (London [1924])

Stoupanse, Al. Traité simple et pratique d'harmonie consonante à l'usage du Conservatoire National de Musique (Montreal [1924])

Marie-Stéphane, Sister. Traité d'harmonie (Outremont [Montreal], 1926, 1960 )

Grey Nuns of the Cross. Petite Théorie musicale suivie d'un supplement (Ottawa 1925). English transl The New Manual on the Elementary Theory of Music (Ottawa 1927)

Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary [Sister Marie-Stéphane]. Théorie de la Musique (Montreal 1929). English transl Musical Theory (Montreal 1946)

Cooper, Irvin. Circle of Fifths (Toronto 1933)

Speirs, James B. How Music Grew (Montreal, 1938)

Smith, Leo. Elementary Part-Writing (Oakville, Ont, 1939)


Burke, William E. Theory of Music, vol 1 (Waterloo, Ont, 1941), vol 2 (Waterloo, Ont, 1931, rev 1943)

Ahrens, Cora B.Rudiments of Music, 9 vols (Toronto 1943-6)

Létourneau, Omer. Théorie de la musique (Quebec City1943)

- Questionnaire de la théorie musicale (Quebec City1943?)

- École de dictée musicale, 2 vols (Quebec City1943?)

Horwood, Frederick J. The Basis of Music (Toronto 1944)

Soeurs de la Charité de Québec. Questionnaire de la Grammaire musicale (Quebec City1945)

Horwood, Frederick J. The Basis of Harmony (Toronto 1948)

Berlin, Boris. Lessons in Music Writing (Toronto 1952)

Rollinson, Eric. Elementary Harmony and Counterpoint (Oakville 1953)

Rollinson, Eric. Elementary Harmony and Counterpoint (Oakville, Ont, 1954)

Burke, William E. Condensed Harmony of Music (Waterloo, Ont, 1956)

Horwood, Frederick J. Elementary Counterpoint (Toronto 1958)

Lagacé, Claude. Sixteenth Century Counterpoint (Toledo, O, 1958)

Rollinson, Eric. Free and Double Counterpoint (Oakville 1959)

Soeurs de la Charité de Québec. Questionnaire de la théorie musicale (Quebec City 1959)

Rollinson, Eric. Musical Notation (Oakville 1960)

Dubois, Jules. Théorie élémentaire de musique (Montreal 1961)

Bray, Kenneth, Snell, D. Bruce, and Peters, Ralph M. For Young Musicians, 2 vols, workbooks (Waterloo, Ont, 1961-74)

Lyons, Jean. Harmony Course, 3 parts (Vancouver 1961-73)

Ahrens, Cora B., and John B. Younger. Hints on Harmony (Oakville 1964)

Marquis, Welton. Twentieth Century Music Idioms (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1964)

Delamont, Gordon. Modern Harmonic Techniques, 2 vols (New York 1965)

Berlin, Sclater, Sinclair. Keys to Music Rudiments (Toronto 1968-9)

Chatillon, Jean. Le Procès des clefs (Trois-Rivières 1969)

Delamont, Gordon. Modern Contrapuntal Techniques (New York 1969)

Wharram, Barbara. Elementary Rudiments of Music (Oakville, Ont, 1969)

Chatillon, Jean. Initiation aux structures de la musique pantonale, 3 vols (Trois-Rivières 1969, 1970, 1975)

Kirby, Kelly. Kelly Kirby Kindergarten Method: Theory Workbook (Oakville 1970)

Pentland, Barbara. Music of Now, 3 vols (Waterloo 1970)


Chatillon, Jean L'Emploi des accords ascendants par les grands compositeurs (Trois-Rivières 1971)

Lawless, James, and Podoliak, Tela. Writing music, 3 vols (Waterloo, Ont, 1972, 1973, 1974)

Baron, Michel. Précis pratique d'harmonie (Montreal 1973)

Delamont, Gordon. Modern Twelve-tone Techniques (New York 1973)

Hepner, Lee. Dimensions of Music (Toronto 1973)

Wharram, Barbara. Theory for Young Beginners (Oakville, Ont, 1974)

Lawless, James. The New Theory Book, 3 vols (Waterloo, Ont, 1975, 1976)

McEachern, Jim. Contemporary Music Theory (Winnipeg 1975)

Delamont, Gordon. Modern Melodic Techniques (New York 1976)

George, Graham. Twelve Note Tonal Counterpoint (Oakville, Ont, 1976)

Lawless, James. Complete Answers Book (Waterloo, Ont, 1978)

RayBould, Michael William. Just a Little Theory (Ottawa 1979)

Ballantine, Leonard. Inside music (Toronto 1980)

Fréchette, François. Notion musicales: préparatoires aux apprentissages harmoniques et analytiques (Linière, Que, 1980)

- Théorie musicale: programme de façon auto-instructive (Linière, Que 1980)

Walden, David E. Music Theory for the Bored and Confused (Toronto, 1980)

Laberge, Jocelyne. J'apprends la musique et ça m'amuse (Châteauguay, Que, 1982)

Lesage Aubin, Lise Initiation à la musique (La Prairie, Que, 1982)

Paul, David. Sound and Symbol: the rudiments of music (Oakville, Ont, 1982)

Picha, Zdenka Helena Theory Workbook for Beginners (Markham, Ont, 1982)

Paul, David. Sound and Symbol: The Rudiments of Music, vols 1 & 2 (Oakville 1984)

Vandendool, Grace. Keyboard Theory, 5 volumes (Campbellville, Ont, 1984)

- Keyboard Theory, Preliminary, Grade 1, Grade 2 (Campbellville, Ont, 1989)

Vandendool, Grace. Keyboard Theory (Campbellville, Ont, 1984)

Asselin, Pierre-Yves. Musique et tempérament (Paris 1985)

Lawless, James. Total Theory (Waterloo 1985)

Sclater, Molly, and Andrews, William G. Materials of Western Music, Parts 1, 2, 3 (Toronto 1987-8)


Lindsay, Mary. Marching Through the Basics: Books 1 - 3 (Kingston 1992)

Sarnecki, Mark. The Complete Elementary Music Rudiments (Mississauga 2001)

- Elementary Music Theory, Books 1 - 3 (Toronto 2001)

- The Elementary Music Theory Note Speller (Toronto 2004)

- Elementary Music Rudiments - Preliminary, Grade 1 and Grade 2, plus answer books and test papers (Toronto 2004)

Balodis, Frances. The Young Composers Notebook (Toronto 2004)

Conservatory Canada. Theory for Students, 3 vols (London 2004)

Further Reading