Other Great Practice Books

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Hi. Jon Harnum here. I’m an avid and critical reader, and recommending books to others is not a task I take lightly.

The following books have had a significant impact on me, both personally and professionally, and I highly recommend each of them. If you’re looking for a good, interesting read to take your understanding of practice further, start with these.

I’ve ordered them from “most useful” at the top to “still quite useful” at the bottom.

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Musician's Way, by Gerald Klickstein

The Musician’s Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness

by Gerald Klickstein

One of the best practice books, 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 the well-chosen quotations sprinkled throughout, and the use of solid research to inform and back up what Klickstein puts forth. The bibliography is solid though not comprehensive. The book covers the nitty gritty of practice and includes concrete things to actually do, which mostly means strategies for excellent practice, but there are other worthy tidbits, too.

Part I: Artful Practice
Part II: Fearless Performance
Part III: Lifelong Creativity
MY REVIEW

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Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within

by Kenny Werner

This book came along at just the right time to make a big impact on me and because of this, I had to revisit it as I thought about The Practice of Practice. In my re-reading of Werner’s book I see again a wisdom and a reverence for Music that still shines through. I still recommend the book highly.

Especially useful in this book are Werner’s thoughts on how fear can (and usually does at some point) affect one’s playing, and even the way one listens to music. If you can get a handle on fear early in your pursuit (or at any phase of your journey), you’re better off than most.

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 The Inner Game of Music

by Barry Green, with Timothy Gallwey

Barry Green’s book is based on Gallwey’s quite successful title, The Inner Game of TennisWhat 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.

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image of Dan Coyle's The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills

 by Daniel 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.

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Cover of "Free Play: Improvisation in Lif...

Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art 

by Stephen Nachmanovich

Pages: 197
Chapters: 22
Back Matter (10 pp): notes/sources, bibliography, illustrations list, bio
4 Sections: The Sources; The Work; Obstacles & Openings; The Fruits

(At the end of my review of the book is a link to an mp3 of my improv group Meh! playing an improvised story with 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 (Hussain, 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.

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Cover of "The Talent Code: Greatness Isn'...

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How

by Daniel 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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Click the cover to learn more.

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Click the cover to learn more.

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Click the cover to learn more.

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Click the cover to learn more.

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Click the cover to learn more.

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Click the cover to learn more.

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Click the cover to learn more.

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Click the cover to learn more.

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Click the cover to learn more. This one may be hard to find. Also try Abe Books.

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Click the cover to learn more.

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Click the cover to learn more.

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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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