7 Great Books for Musicians

Here are 8 great books for musicians on your gift list.

Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.

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How Music Worksby Talking Heads frontman David Byrne is an excellent new book. Byrne, with his intelligent and thoughtful prose, explores music and the music industry in what I’ve found so far (I’m halfway through it) to be an excellent read. Highly recommended. However, I’m a bit surprised that McSweeney’s (the publisher) has allowed it to go out of stock at Amazon. I bet they’ll get it together before the holiday season is behind us. If they don’t, there’s always the Kindle version.

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image of Dan Coyle's The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills, by Dan Coyle. You’ll see another great book by Coyle further down this list. This little gem here is short, sweet, and just about small enough to fit in most instrument cases, and it’s a hardcover, so it’ll take a beating if necessary.

Though I personally don’t like the word “talent,” because it’s a loaded term that tends to mean “gifted,” or “you either have it or you don’t,” but Coyle’s superb book may convince you that “talent” isn’t a gift, it’s earned through  effort, attention, and perseverance. This book is chock-full of excellent advice on practice. Get it!

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Music by Andrew Zuckerman Music by Andrew Zuckerman. This book is chock full of the voice of experience. Zuckerman interviews musical icons from many genres: rock icons like Ozzy, pop musicians like Lenny Kravitz, Iggy Pop, Chrissie Hynde, Ani DiFranco, Rosanne Cash and others; jazz luminaries like Herbie Hancock and Dave Brubeck; classical composer Phililip Glass; Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar and many, many, many more. A total of 50 musicians were interviewed for the project and nearly everyone has interesting things to say about music. The last I checked, this $50 hardcover book was going for less than ten bucks! The pictures are also pretty amazing, just the artist against a stark white background.

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Abrams; Har/Psc edition (October 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • Product Dimensions: 12.3 x 12.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars (7 customer reviews)
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by Gerald KlicksteinThe Musician’s Way by Gerald Klickstein. This is the best book on music practice available, in my opinion. My in-depth review of the book lists the detials of what’s inside. Long story short, even though Mr. Klickstein approaches practice from a classical perspective, and from a classical guitarist at that, there is a ton of useful information in this book that would be valuable for anyone who wants to practice smarter. The writing is clear and easily understood. Highly recommended. ~$20

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (September 3, 2009)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  (16 customer reviews)
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The Talent CodeThe Talent Code by Dan Coyle. This is one of the most engaging reads that tackles practice in general, and what’s happening in the brain. Coyle uses anecdotes and interviews with experts to help the reader understand how people get better and what’s going on in the brain. My review of the book goes into more details. Highly recommended. ~$15

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1 edition (April 28, 2009)
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars (103 customer reviews)
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The Inner Game of MusicThe Inner Game of Music, by Barry Green. This is an excellent book for any musician even though Green, like many other books, is a classical bass player. Lots of smart things in this book, based on the “inner game of tennis” format. Green took the principles from that book lived with them and applied them to music for ten years, then wrote this book. My review of the book is here if you’d like more info. Highly recommended. ~$15

  • Hardcover: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (1986)
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars (31 customer reviews)
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The Inner Game of MusicFreeplay: Improvisation in Life and Art, by Stephen Nachmanovitch. An excellent book on improvising in many forms, both musical and in your life. It’s an easy read that’s well worth it even if you’re not an improviser. Lots of great material in here. My review is here if you’d like more info. Highly recommended. ~$15

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher; 1 edition (1990)
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.2 x .06 inches
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars (35 customer reviews)
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Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.
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