Jazz theory book - what to buy?

Im going to buy a jazz theory book, i want to read away from the computer and pads. Also it seems nice to have an overview in addition to the online lessons.

Mark Levine´s books are mentioned often and i now consider “The Jazz piano book” And the “Jazz Theory book”. They overlap so having both seems unnecessary.

Anyone have some advice or recommendations?


Hi @gisle - you might like to check out this book which discusses many of the most important tunes in the jazz standard repertoire:


You can find more information on the book in this thread:

The song references are great inspiration for listening to recordings which is a very important aspect of learning jazz, and @TactfulCactus has compiled the recordings into this awesome playlist for quick and easy reference:

That book would be my best recommendation.

I used to own a copy of Levine’s “Jazz Piano Book” and it is a wonderful resource. It contains so much information that is almost a jazz piano encyclopedia which can be a little overwhelming, but it is a fantastic resource none the less!

I hope that helps Gisle and I look forward to seeing some other recommendations in this thread. Cheers.

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Hi Gisle,

I have both of the Mark Levine books, which are great, but if you want something which is perhaps less “overwhelming”, I would recommend “The Jazz Theory Workbook” by Mark E. Boling, published by Advance Music. It covers the main topics well and has specific exercises (with answers).

For anyone looking to harmonise melodies, check out “The Jazz Harmony Book” by David Bergmann. David has also written another useful book on “Creative Practicing” - these are both excellent books in my opinion.

I hope this helps,

Best wishes,

Dave Stafford, UK

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Sorry, that should say “David Berkman”…!!!

Hi gisle,

The two books by Mark Levine are, indeed, incredible references, but if you’re just trying to wrap your head around the concepts, they’re a bit too advanced. I know–I started out with them and found them hard to understand at the time.

If you want to supplement the great lessons here on PianoGroove, I’d suggest taking a look at Kent Hewitt’s Jazz Piano: Methods and Songbook for Professional Playing. His explanations are quite clear, and he includes transcriptions of tunes to practice that are accessible. It’s a 2-volume set available in two versions:

  1. PDF format ($50.00). He includes covers for each volume and instructions on how to print them off if, as you suggest, you want something “away from the computer and pads.”

  2. Hard copy ($75.00 + $5.00 shipping).

He also has a ton of related videos on YouTube.

I use PDF format exclusively with a 12.9" Apple iPad Pro. The pages are the same size as printed lead sheets/transcriptions–and you can zoom in on difficult passages if, like me, your eyes aren’t what they used to be :sunglasses:. And I like having all of my PianoGroove lessons, my books, lead sheets and transcriptions that I’ve found all in one place–and all at the weight of an iPad. The physical books and assorted papers I have weigh a ton and take up a couple of bookshelves. If you’re curious about what I use use to manage the PDF’s, let me know.

Here is the Table of Contents for the two volumes if you’re interested. Have fun. :musical_keyboard:




I agree, Berkman’s The Jazz Harmony Book is excellent. I especially like the circles metaphor he uses to explain harmony.

For francophone people i can recommand the

  • Philippe Baudoin 'Jazz mode d’emploi ’ in two volumes
  • Jacques Siron “partition intérieure”

and the unavoidable Mark Levine “Le livre du piano jazz” even not the easiest to approach theory


I have both of Mark Levine’s books and also John Novello’s “The contemporary keyboardist”, with a foreword by Chick Corea. The latter is quite intimidating but comprehensive. In the blues section for example, he goes through every blues form and the scales that can be used with them, and gives a list of recordings as examples. I use these books nowadays as references rather than as a plan for learning. I’ve had them for years but didn’t really progress much with them until I took some lessons with a professional keyboard player in one of our local jazz groups. He was able to explain what was confusing to me in the books. I was also able to see what he was doing and get used to the chord and scale patterns on the keyboard rather than on the printed staff. I’ve always struggled with sight-reading which is why I enjoy the way the lessons on the site here are presented, with transcriptions being used as a tool for understanding and ear training rather than an end in themselves. But of course everyone learns differently. If it’s your thing, I don’t think you can do much better than John Novello.


Hi guys, I would 100% recommend David Berkman’s books, they are great for not only understanding harmony and music, but also for how to apply and practice things.



Hi Scott.

I’m interested to know how you manage your PDFs. I’ve been using iBook and recently using ForScore…


I used ForScore at first, but it isn’t flexible enough for all the things I want to do. I use Readdle’s Documents and PDF Expert—both for iPhone and iPad. (PDF Expert is also available for the Mac.)

Documents, a free app, is where everything resides.You can throw anything into it, including Microsoft Office documents, PDFs, and images such as JPGs and PNGs. You can play different kinds of audios and videos, including MP3s, WAVs, MP4s, and MOVs. And you can extract ZIP files. For a thorough explanation, check out this Tech Republic article: How to use Readdle's Documents app as a file manager for your iPhone or iPad - TechRepublic

PDF Expert is for creating and editing PDF documents. It’s free to download, but after a 7-day trial period it’s a $49.99 annual subscription. It’s pricey but well worth it, especially if you work with PDFs on a regular basis. I find working on the Mac easier for creating documents. However, you can do everything using just the iPad.

The apps work seamlessly together. When you open the Documents app, all the features of PDF Expert are ready to use on whatever you have stored there. I use it to mark the sections of a transcript, highlight passages in books, and bookmark parts of texts. It’s great for adding chord alternatives and notes/comments on a lead sheet or transcription. And it works with the Apple Pencil, if that’s the way you work.

It’s bookmarking feature is powerful. It not only bookmarks, but it shows the table of contents of books in PDF format for quick navigation, and you can also see all your annotated (highlighted) passages. The more you work with it, the more ways you’ll find to enhance your workflow.

Hope this gives a few ideas that might be helpful. You should at least give Documents a try.