3 Free Books: Jumpstart Your Music

Happy New Year! I hope your music skills get a big boost this year. Here’s a gift of 3 great books to help make it happen. Click on the cover to get the free Kindle edition. Two of them are frequently #1 bestsellers in their category on Amazon.

Essential Music Books (age 14+)

I’ve read every practice book out there (most of them twice), and many other music-related books besides. Here’s a compilation of the best of the best. Great advice and excellent writing. If I’ve left out a favorite of yours, let me know in the comments. I’ve done extensive reviews of most of these titles. Look for the link, or go here.

Lots of food for thought in these books for players of every level. These books should be in your music library. The order in which they’re presented reflects my own loose ranking system. The first one is the best. All of them are good.

Do You Have a Growth or a Fixed Mindset?

Research begun by Carol Dweck in the mid-1980s explored the repercussions of how we think about intelligence. She identified two ways of thinking about intelligence that people hold. Either we tend to believe that intelligence is a fixed thing: you’re born with a certain amount of smarts and that’s what you have to work with,…

Jazz Trumpeter Avishai Cohen, on Practice

Avishai Cohen Talks Practice Jazz trumpeter Avishai Cohen first came to my attention when Chad McCullough spoke with me about practice several months ago. I promptly checked him out and was psyched to discover a new favorite jazz trumpet player. He’s one of the most interesting players I’ve heard in a while; definitely check out his albums Triveni and After the Big…

Book Review: “Free Play,” by Stephen Nachmanovich

Free Play doesn’t deal directly with music practice, but it is nevertheless an important book for anyone interested in music (or other arts, or life). I strongly believe that improvisation benefits practice. To me, improvising is an essential musical skill, one possessed by musical greats (Hussein, Bach, Shankar, Beethoven, Duke, Mozart, etc.), and is practiced in musical traditions all over the world, as well as by young children who haven’t developed some of the fear associated with improvisation in those overly focused on the written notes. Remember when you drew letters over and over as a young child, taking great care (or not) with the shapes? Now imagine that despite all that practice time forming letters and sounding out words, that you never (ever) spoke extemporaneously. Crazy, right? To me, that’s about the same as practicing scales over and over until they’re memorized, but then never using that tonal material to improvise. Crazy talk! At the end of this review is a link to an mp3 of my improv group Meh! playing an improvised story with Nachmanovich.

Nudge-Nudge, Wink-Wink, Say-No-More

It’s tough to change our behavior radically, or even significantly. It’s easier to give ourselves a nudge towards utopia. Some real-world examples of the nudge are putting fruit at the front of the school lunch line instead of pizza, because hungry kids (and let’s face it, adults, too) often grab whatever is closest to hand; or the new Illinois policy that changed the wording for the organ donor program so that drivers have to explicitly opt out of being an organ donor instead of signing up to participate in the program, a simple change that saves the lives of many. These nudges are examples from Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler’s book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. In the book they suggest useful nudges that help us behave or perform better than we might otherwise. Others are from A. J. Jacobs, author and personal experimenter extrordinaire.

Book Review: The Musician’s Way, by Gerald Klickstein

I’ve read (and re-read in many cases) most books out there on practice and this is one of the best, hands down. Klickstein is a classical guitarist who performs throughout the U.S. and internationally and is a professor at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

My favorite 2 aspects of the book are…

Book Review: The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green

The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green, with Timothy Gallwey

15 chapters
225 pages
This book is based on Gallwey’s quite successful title, The Inner Game of Tennis. What is striking and admirable is that Green didn’t just write a knockoff cribbed from Gallwey’s book. After meeting with Gallwey about the project, they decided Green should live with (and teach) the principles and then write the book. Three years later, Green was ready and this book is the result.

Book Review: The Art and Technique of Practice, by Richard Provost

Without Unceasing Practice nothing can be done. Practice is Art. If you leave off you are lost. ~William Blake (1757 – 1827)
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Book Review: The Art and Technique of Practice, Richard Provost (1992)

Provost’s take on practice is simple and easily digested. Lots of white space on the 56 pages, and that’s a good thing, especially if you’re starting out. The book is an excellent primer for those new to practice and contains a wealth of basic information. The book’s got 6 chapters: