I am an avid reader and always have a pile of books on my night stand. My favorite genres include fantasy, science fiction, mysteries, horror, and of course books about music. I’ve also been known to read a romance or two. With that being said, I’m going to give you a list of 7 books that every musician should have in their collection. These are in no particular order, and I’m not being paid or asked to promote these books. I just think these books are good and should be in a studio collection.
What to Listen for in Music
by Aaron Copland
Written by American composer Aaron Copland (if you’re not familiar listen to some of his works: Rodeo, Quiet City, Appalachian Springs, and Fanfare for the Common Man). It is one of the best books out there to learn about basic music concepts. Copland is great at explaining musical concepts to the layperson and his style of writing is easy to read.
The Art of Practicing
by Madeline Bruser
This is such a great book. It’s one I return to every year just to encourage myself to practice more. In this book Bruser gives great advice on ways to practice and helps the reader overcome practicing hang ups a student may have. She works with other musicians and gives pointer for various different instrument, focusing on technique and breathing all the way through. If you need to improve your practice habits, this is a great book to pick up.
Secret Lives of Great Composers: What Your Teachers Never Told You About the World’s Musical Masters
by Elizabeth Lunday
It’s a long title, but this is a fun read. Lunday gives short biographical accounts of composers from Bach, Berlioz, Glass, and others that are presented in a tongue and cheek in nature, recapping incidences in these composers’ lives that they might wish history would forget. Lunday does it in a way, though, that is not meant to disrespect our musical heroes, but makes them seem more human and relatable.
Musical Composition Craft and Art
by Alan Belkin
Written by Canadian Composer Alan Belkin, this book gives fledgling composers a step by step method to writing their first piece. This is a great book for composition teachers as well as students wanted to learn the basics of composition. Belkin gives exercises at the end of each chapter for students to complete and also has a YouTube channel where he expands upon the material (link provided below). I use this in my studio with my composition students as well. It is clearly written, without a lot of jargon and the methods can be applied all types of composition, be it video game music, chamber music, or a symphony. If you have students that are interested in composition or you yourself are interested in writing, you should give this book a read.
Embrace Your Weird
by Felicia Day
Everyone should have an uplifting book that they can go to, to help them get over the bad days. Felicia Day’s book is one of those books. Not only is it a workbook to help you get through being stuck or just getting a little motivation, but Day gives you glimpses into some of her own personal struggles with her carrier. It is written in a fun quirky manor, reflective of her acting style. If you want something for self-improvement or just a little pick me up, I highly recommend this book.
Beyond Talent Creating a Successful Career in Music
by Angela Myles Beeching
If you are trying to start a career in music or trying to come up with new ideas to change your music career, Beyond Talent is a great resource. Beeching’s book provides a plethora of ideas to help budding musicians get started with their careers and provides information on the essential things that need to be done to help you get started. This book is a must for soon be professional musicians and established professionals alike.
Music in the Western World a History in Documents
by Piero Weiss and Richard Taruskin
This is probably the priciest book that I am going to suggest, mainly because it’s a textbook, but it is such a good book to have that I’m going to risk it. Music in the Western World is a collection of letters, reviews, diary and journal entries, newspaper articles, and the like about musicians, composers, and critics. It’s a great way to get into the mind of some of our favorite past music artists and learning about the time periods that they lived in.
What are some of your favorite books about music? I look forward to reading them!