The following is a list of books that I feel are incredibly useful for composers and musicians. I’ve read all of the below books myself and will add more as I read them if I feel they are worthwhile. If you like this list, make sure and check out the Resources page for even more tools that you should have!
- Complete Guide to Film Scoring (Berklee Guide) – Richard Davis guides you through the entire film music industry from preparing scores, contracts, fees, royalties, timeframes – its a great introduction to the film music industry.
- Advanced Techniques for Film Scoring (Book and CD) – Although it has some slightly out dated information on equipment and production techniques, this book still has some great information on advanced compositional techniques along with some written examples.
- On the Track: A Guide to Contemporary Film Scoring – Although fairly expensive, this book is great. Full of helpful information about orchestration, timing, rhythm, harmony, and how to create your own sound for a movie. Also contains over 100 great interviews.
- The Reel World: Scoring For Pictures-Updated And Revised Edition (Music Pro Guides) – Again, this is a great book outlining the overall industry, including how to create relationships with others, how to do a spotting session, how to setup your studio etc. Plenty of great information in here.
- Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio – Busts a lot of myths and gives you step by step guides through the mixing process. Gives info on techniques and approaches, rather than specifics of software. Massive book, but well worth the read – some incredible information in here.
- The Producer’s Manual: All You Need to Get Pro Recordings and Mixes in the Project Studio – Written by Sound on Sound editor Paul White, this is a pretty new book with some brilliant info. Packed full of illustrations, 101 guides, and basic to advanced information. One of my favourite mixing books.
- The Sound Effects Bible: How to Create and Record Hollywood Style Sound Effects – If you’re interested in creating sound effects at all, this really is a bible. The book covers mic selection, creating a foley stage, and the science behind it all.
- Study of Orchestration, Third Edition – The textbook for orchestration students. Goes through all of the basics of orchestration to the advanced areas. A must read!
- Principles of Orchestration (Dover Books on Music) – Quite old by today’s standards (it was written by Rimsky-Korsakov in fairness!), its still a classic. Korsakov uses examples of his own music to demonstrate a wide range of orchestation techniques.
- The Guide to MIDI Orchestration 4e – This book could be described as the principles of orchestration updated for the new century. Guides the reader through composing with sample libraries, and how to get the best sounds possible using the current technology – very useful!
- Essential Dictionary of Orchestration (The Essential Dictionary Series) – Like the title says, its literally a small dictionary of orchestration phrases and words. Handy to have.
- Acoustic and MIDI Orchestration for the Contemporary Composer: A Practical Guide to Writing and Sequencing for the Studio Orchestra – Similar to the Guide for MIDI Orchestration, but a little more geared towards beginners than advanced users. Comes with a CD of examples.
- Melody in Songwriting: Tools and Techniques for Writing Hit Songs (Berklee Guide) – I’m a big fan of pretty much all of the Berklee Press books, and this one doesn’t fail either. This book delves into the “science” behind writing a good melody and is applicable to all styles of music.
- Jazz Composition: Theory and Practice – This book discusses the basics of jazz harmony and melody and goes through to intermediate writing also. If you’re interested in jazz at all, its a brilliant starter book – for both modal and tonal writing.
- Study of Counterpoint: From Johann Joseph Fux’s Gradus Ad Parnassum – Another classic, this book is still very applicable to modern day composition. Its also pretty funny as its written from a teacher’s point of view, speaking to a rather dopey composition student.
- What to Listen For in Music (Signet Classics) – I bought this book on recommendation from one of my lecturers in University a few years back, and loved it. The two big questions Copland asks during the book are “Are you hearing everything going on”, and “Are you really being sensitive to it?”? He discusses the answers to these questions throughout the book, and guides you through some music history, structure and much more. Its a strange recommendation for a composer, but a great book.
- Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV: 114 Tips for Writing, Recording, & Pitching in Today’s Hottest Market – I love this book. Its concise, well written, and genuinely contains loads of incredibly useful information for composers who are looking to license their music.
- The Business of Music Licensing – Generating Revenue Through Your Music – This is an eBook I wrote which discusses the music licensing industry, how to get into it, how to grow, and how to earn revenue from your tracks. I cover a wide range of topics in it – take a look at the website for more information. Hope you enjoy it!
- Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook: 201 Self-Promotion Ideas for Songwriters, Musicians and Bands on a Budget – This book is more based around bands than composers, but still has some relevant information in it regarding marketing your music. Baker discusses using social media, blogs, podcasts and more to promote yourself, as well as how to increase your sales and boost your fan base.
- How To Get Your Music In Film And Tv (Omnibus Press) – A fairly concise book compared to others in the list, this would be the one I would recommend if you want a crash course in the music licensing world. The author goes through pretty much every avenue you need to know about when getting your music licensed, but detail is lacking in certain parts.
- The Musician’s Guide to Licensing Music: How to Get Your Music into Film, TV, Advertising, Digital Media & Beyond – Gives you some great information on how to prepare for your first licensing deal, what to expect, who to talk to, how to get your music into each market, the types of licenses you’ll come across, and a whole lot more.
- The Emerging Film Composer: An Introduction to the People, Problems, and Psychology of the Film Music Business – Richard Bellis gives an indepth look into the film music industry and what problems you’ll come across as a composer. He discusses the time management, how to get work, where to get work, contracts etc. Its very up-to-date compared to some of its competitors in the same area, and contains a truckload of help (and interesting) information. More for beginners, but some gems of information there for intermediate/advanced composers in the industry.
- All You Need to Know About the Music Business: Seventh Edition – Written by an entertainment lawyer, this book is more geared towards bands and dealing with record labels, but still contains plenty of information relevant to composers.
- This Business of Music, 10th Edition (This Business of Music: Definitive Guide to the Music Industry) – Similar to the book above, this is written by entertainment lawyers also and contains a plethora of useful information for anyone involved in music – it discusses digital downloads, cover songs, contracts etc. Pretty in depth and daunting at first glance, but you need to read it if you’re serious about being a full time musician.
- Music Business Contract Library (Hal Leonard Music Pro Guides) – The most useful part of this book is the 125 contract templates you get with it. On top of that, the book goes into good detail about which contract to use where and why.
- Screw It, Let’s Do It: Lessons in Life and Business (Expanded) – One of my favourite business books. Not exactly a book to do with composition/music, but its an invaluable book for any self employed person. Richard Branson tells his life story and reflects on lessons learnt throughout – cannot stress enough how good this is. So much information that can be directly applied to any industry, including composition.
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated) – Read this in about 2 days (which is quick for me). If you’re interested in being a full time composer, I would highly suggest you read this. Its an unorthodox book to recommend, but there’s such a wealth of information in here that you can use for any job that I couldn’t leave it out of this list. Note: When reading this book, get a notepad and keep it beside you – there is so much information packed into this, you’ll literally find yourself scrambling for a piece of paper every 2 minutes.
Any other books you’d recommend? Please let me know in the comments!