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10 Books Every Musician Should Read

by | Master Your Craft

There’s so much information about music, but one precious source that many musicians find beneficial for their craft is books. At BandMix, we’ve sculpted a list of some of our favorite books about music and the music industry that we think should be on every muso’s shelf. We’ve split them into memoirs and autobiographies, industry reads, books on musical craft, and we’ve thrown a wild card novel in the mix too.

So without further ado, here’s our top 10 list of books every musician should read…

Memoirs and autobiographies

‘A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons’ by Ben Folds

This memoir is about American musician Ben Folds, including stories of his upbringing, struggling career, and eventual success in the music industry. As well as detailing his career fronting Ben Folds Five and his breakthrough with piano-based alternative rock, Folds includes lots of mistakes he made in both life and the industry and openly says he still hasn’t learned from them. Like his music, this book is a bit of a Jekyll-and-Hyde, for it’s as comical as it is poignant.

‘Just Kids’ by Patti Smith

The multi-award-winning Just Kids’ is a gritty memoir by American singer-songwriter and poet Patti Smith. She was influential in the 1970’s NYC punk rock movement, and this book details having crossed paths with Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, and Andy Warhol, to name but a few.

‘Brother Ray’ by David Ritz

Ritz’s autobiography of Ray Charles talks about poverty, racism, and blindness and an enlightening perspective on how he combined influences from soul, blues, jazz, R&B, gospel, and country music. Also, check out another of David Ritz’s books called ‘Blues All Around Me,’ an autobiography about blues legend B.B. King.

‘Born To Run’ to Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen brings us his memoir that shares a name with arguably his best record ‘Born To Run, but this is more than just a memoir. Springsteen tells the story of his life from humble beginnings to superstardom in a way that mimics his lyrics – honest, detailed, and emotional. 

‘Fire and Rain’ by David Browne

1970 was a stunning year for music, even by today’s standards. The Beatles worked on the album ‘Let It Be,’ Crosby Stills & Nash released their second studio album, James Taylor finalizes his debut. Simon & Garfunkel complete ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’ Fire and Rain interweave each of these artists’ stories and their landmark albums from 1970.

Industry reads

‘How To Make It In The New Music Business’ by Ari Herstand

The industry is ever-changing, and this book keeps up with modern trends in the music industry. Offering a how-to guide on making things happen for yourself, musician and author Ari Herstand is back with the second edition of this book. It contains advice for the modern musician about gigs, royalties, revenue streams, building a following, and plenty more. This is a highly recommended read, especially if you’re trying to make it as a full-time musician.

‘Cowboys and Indies: The Epic History of the Record Industry’ by Gareth Murphy

This book takes readers on a journey from 1850’s Paris and the earliest sound recordings right up until the modern-day digital era. With a focus on both sides of the Atlantic, Murphy talks us through the changes in music, culture, and technology that have played a part in shaping recording history.

Books on musical craft

‘Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison

This needs to be on your bookshelf if you are serious about lyric writing. ‘Writing Better Lyrics’ delves into the details of songwriting techniques and cross-examines some existing songs. With accompanying exercises that help you use the techniques in your creative process, this goes way further than just the confines of the book!

‘The Art Of Practicing: A Guide To Make Music From The Heart’ by Madeline Bruser

Whatever instrument you play, practice and rehearsals can often be frustrating and can therefore hinder our creativity. Pianist and teacher Madeline Bruser talk us through the joy that can come from practicing our craft, including physical exercises, listening techniques, and the psychology behind it all.

Wild card

‘The Music Lesson by Victor L Wooten

Presented as a novel, this book explores the spiritual side of creativity. Based on a young bass player’s journey, the story follows the lessons he learns about life and music along the way. It is part novel and part self-help book written by Grammy award-winning bassist Victor L Wooten and will make an interesting read for musicians and music fans alike. 

So when you’ve found your bandmates through BandMix, and you’re all looking for something to do in between rehearsals, use this list to decide which book you’re going to get your head stuck into.


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