Just like this author's previous book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory", information is presented in a very readable way without losing necessary details. The author presents many musical examples and each chapter has exercises with some solutions included in the back of the book. This book is designed to be read from beginning to end, and the exercises are very instructive in that by doing them you WILL learn how to compose music based on formal techniques. This book consists of 18 chapters in 5 parts, with each part showcasing a different aspect of composition. Since Amazon does not show a table of contents for this book at the time I am writing this, I shall summarize for the purpose of completeness:
Part 1 is entitled "Before You Start," and it describes different types of composition, and discusses the tools needed to start composing music.
Part 2 is entitled "Harmonic Composition," and discusses the art of composing music, chords-first. Also described is the creation of a harmonious chord progression, using both standard and extended chords, and using chord substitution to create more sophisticated compositions.
Part 3 is labeled "Melodic Composition," and introduces melody creation techniques, including scales and modes, structural tones, embellishments, rhythm, syncopation, melodic contour, flow, tension and release. Also discussed is fitting chords to a melody and reharmonizing existing chord progressions.
Part 4 is entitled "Developing the Composition," and gives instruction on transforming a composition from something basic to a substantial work. Short melodies are transformed into a full musical piece. The use of repetition, variation, and creating multiple-voice compositions is included.
The fifth and final part of this book is entitled "Advanced Techniques". The subject matter moves beyond basic composition into more advanced musical areas. Orchestration, chromaticism, atonality, contemporary composition, and ultimately songwriting are discussed.
I would therefore highly recommend that you first read the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory", and then this book for someone who wants to self-study music theory and composition. These two books are particularly valuable to someone who is familiar with the computer and would like to get into computer music but does not have a formal education in music. These two books will get you up and running to the point where you can understand what some of the computer music books written by musicians are talking about.