I am a self-taught and studied off Schoenberg's 'Treatise of Harmony' and MacPherson's 'Melody and Harmony'. The former is an unique and philosophical study in harmony, the latter a more common harmony textbook,but nevertheless very succint and well organized.
I also bought many other music books. In fact, I think I bought most of the ones that are comparable to Complete Musician: Tonal Harmony, Theory for Today's Musician,
1.almost 900 pages that cover almost every topic about musicianship: how to use motives, harmony, counterpoint, musical structures. All geared toward the classically inclined, which is what I prefer. Even though I listen to a lot of different good music, learning from classical is what I prefer
2.packed with a whopping TWO dvds that include dozens of AUDIO examples to refer to the ones in the text. This is so helpful. You can read the explanation about a certain concept, and then you just click on the audio file and listen back. All the examples are played by a professional orchestra! This is the best innovations I have seen in a music book, for years. What's more, the two dvds are included with the book.
3.very dense. This is a book that will go into minute detail about the various concepts. It's not one of these books that dabble with a bit of this and a bit of that but in the end explain all very superficially. Some of the topics are explained better than in any other similar books, e.g. the chapter about sequences was very detailed and hugely informative. Learned lots in little time.
4. all the DVDs are included in the basic price (which is a VERY good price considering the very high quality of this product).Unlike other similar books, you don't have to kill yourself to buy the audio examples as 'extras', which is a waste of time. I'd rather pay more and get it over with.
1.audio examples not available for every text examples. I would also prefer only or mostly keyboard examples, the simpler, the better.
With some examples you have to take your time to do reductions. It would be great to have the reductions done , as well.
2. many of the examples are a bit too difficult to play back on a keyboard, especially the orchestral examples.
There's books like 'Melody, harmony and composition' by Paul Sturman, which mentions very easy examples, even from folk music, which prove the techniques very well. I understand that The Complete Musician aims at to higher and more sophisticated examples, but still, it would be great to have the easy and the more difficult. The fact is, I learn a lot from easy examples, and from then on it's easy to understand the more difficult examples, too.
3.not as 'artistic' as a book like 'Fundamentals of Music Composition' or 'Models for Beginner in Composition' by Arnold Schoenberg. In these book, there are things that I have not seen in other books, for example models of progressions for contrasting middle sections. I find this kind of explanations, really, really useful. Even if you won't use one of these models, you'll understand why it is desiderable to write a pedal over a dominant, in a contrasting section. Also, the analysis of Beethoven's music examples, to me are unequalled. These books were written by a composer who had to deal with problems in composition (and I think that this 'dealing with problems' is the most remarkable thing in these books by Schoenberg)
4. I was HUGELY disappointed to see no solutions to the exercises in the book. I think the solutions are included in the 'Instructor's Manual' , which for the life of me, I can't understand why it is only be sold to instructors! The solutions should ALREADY be included wherever there's ANY exercices, or at least making an answers book. In 'Tonal Harmony' by Kostka, if I am not mistaken, there's solutions for all the exercises in the book. The thing is, many self-taught musicians, like me, would buy 'The Complete Musician'. So why not including solutions to whatever exercises, so that the student (self-taught or not) can compare his solution to the one on the book....I think that a lot can be learned by comparing. The exclusion of exercises solution, and especially, the difficulty in obtaining the 'Instructor's manual' for the solutions alone, is inexcusable (if you are not an instructor, you can't buy the book, which really makes no sense).
5. the last thing that I find can be improved, is how the book introduces new concepts. Often it jumps right in with an example from
the literature, which I find 'detract' from a more immediate understanding. For example, the chapter about suspensions: I found it of more immediate understanding from some other books, again such as Paul Sturman's 'Harmony, melody, composition', where all that is needed to
understand how suspension work, is a bare example of three chords written in minims. You don't need to examine the start of a Bach fugue right away. I -still- very much welcome all the examples from the literature, but I find it more effective to get introduced to a new concept, with a bare, simple example, and THEN to show it's effectiveness in the context of a literature example.
Even with all the imperfections, The Complete Musician is one of my fav books about music theory, bar none, and I still give 5 stars to it. I still learn a lot from it, and the detailed, very professional explanations plus the inclusion of two dvds makes this book very, very hard to beat. If you are serious about music, whatever your level or genre, you should get this book. The worst that will happen is that you'll learn stuff you can use.
update: I understand that in the newer edition, textural reductions have been added as well as 'selected' answers to exercises (which might means, not all answers but most?). So the new edition is certainly worth checking, I'll do that too.