Forty Essential Instructions Books

Following on from the 19 great books about music musicians and the creative process post a while ago, here are some great instruction books that I’ve found particularly useful. I have many more books than this, probably too many, but these are the ones I seem to come back to and have gotten most use out of. I’ve added links to Amazon if you feel moved to make an investment.

They make pretty good Xmas presents too :)

So, in no particular order…

  • Exploring Jazz Guitar – Jim Hall
    • Lots of great ideas from Jim Hall. He analyses some of his approaches to playing and composition. Especially like the tune Cross Court and his dissection of it. Good things on phrasing with other instruments, rhythm guitar and the magic of music. Inspiring stuff.
  • Jazz Harmony – Andy Jaffe
    • This is a great book about harmony. Very well laid out with good examples.
  • Training The Ear Vol. 1+2 – Armen Donelian
    • Pretty systematic ear-training course.
  • Music Notation – Mark McGrain
    • A great book on how to notate music properly. Your music will look really nice after you’ve read this. I really love seeing hand-written music as there’s so much personality that comes through in a beautifully notated score.
  • An Improviser’s OS – Wayne Krantz
    • I love all things Wayne Krantz. The first part of the book is a big list of permutations of note grouping possibilities from 1 to 12 notes. The rest of the book is how Krantz uses this material to practise. It’s full of good stuff.
  • Metamorphosis – Sam Most
    • Reams of stuff in here, great to practice reading with. There’s a bit at the back that’s sort of a ‘basic stuff you should totally know backwards’ thing. Scales and what not.
  • Guitar Comping – Barry Galbraith
    • Great book for practising sight-reading chords. And a good book to study 4-note voicings too.
  • British Fingerpicking Guitar – Stefan Grossman
    • Transcriptions and interviews with three of my favourite guitarists: John Renbourn, Bert Jansch and Davey Graham. I’m always playing Renbourn’s ‘The Hermit’, a brilliant drop D tune. All three players have incredible touch on the instrument, and in totally different ways. Renbourne is very deep and precise, Jansch and Graham are really physical.
  • Creative Rhythmic Concepts For Jazz Improvisation – Ronan Guilfoyle
    • Great book on different rhythmic ideas.
  • Chord Chemistry – Ted Greene
    • Some good stuff here. Best thing I ever did with chords was to write my own little chord book, will blog about that sometime soon. I’ve found some fantastic Ted Greene stuff on the net recently that I really need to sit down and go through. Amazing chap.

So, that’s it. Hope my list is of use. Feel free to share any other recommendations. I’m always up for getting lost in book world…


Comments on Forty Essential Instructions Books

  1. Dave Tompkins says:

    Hi Mike,
    I recommend The Music Lesson by Victor Wooten. It’s not like any other music book I’ve come across. There’s a review of it here and it’s only about 6 or 7 quid on amazon.

    1. Mike Outram says:

      Thanks, Dave! I got that one at christmas but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. Looked a bit Carlos Castenada-ish from my brief scan through.
      I’ve been going nuts reading creativity/GTD books at the moment. Trying to get creative about procrastination by reading massive amounts of books on procrastination. And loads of podcasts on the road. Just listened to Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg and Word by Word (the podcast related to the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott). Also Seth Godin’s new book Linchpin was fun.

  2. Glenn Thompson says:

    Hi Mike,
    Reading through your list was very close to looking through the bookshelf in my practice room. Although there’s a couple of your suggestions I’ll have to add ie. the ones by Jon Damian and Bob Moses. I don’t know how they slipped by me unnoticed. A couple I’d like to suggest are: Jazz Structures for the New Millennium from Joe Diorio’s Right Brain Guitarist Series (anything by Joe Diorio is a welcome addition to my library); and Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner. So there’s my 2 cents worth…
    Glenn Thompson

    1. Mike Outram says:

      Hi Glenn,
      Been away for an aeon, so forgive my tardy response!
      Thanks for your suggestions.
      Do you mean those articles Joe wrote for Guitar Player magazine? I really enjoyed the one article I read; are there more?
      Probably from the 80s, no? The golden age of Guitar Player and their flexi-disc! Michael Hedges and Steve Vai in the same month, Jerry Donahue, Gambale, etc.

      1. Glenn Thompson says:

        Hi Mike,
        It’s been awhile since I’ve checked the site. Trying to keep busy and being successful at it! Yes that GP article was the beginning of what he’s written on the “Right Brain” stuff. The springboard for his ideas came partially from “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards(another great book). But he continued writing several books,
        Jazz Structures for the N.M.(mentioned above), Jazz Blues Styles,etc.
        These he registered as “The Right Brain Guitarist Series” published by Mel Bay. His older books have been re-released w/ cd’s(no longer cassettes or flexi-discs lol) by 2 different publishers, Hal Leonard, and Alfred. So lucky for us guitar players there remains a treasure trove of knowledge from Joe Diorio.
        I have to mention 1 more title, “Guitar Compendium-The Praxis System” by Howard Roberts & Gary Hagberg,vol 1-3. Incredible resource material for any teacher or student covering all styles.
        Thanks. Take care.

  3. Tom says:

    Hey Mike,

    Only just saw this post. Some great stuff on there I’ve not seen before so thanks!

    Also – For sight reading, the Tommy Tedesco Book – For guitar players only is amazing. And the Dave Liebman books – A chromatic approach to jazz harmony and a chromatic approach to playing standards are compendiums of awesome to say the least!

  4. Phil Robson says:

    Great collection. I’d also add ‘Complete Book of Harmonic Extensions for Guitar’ by Bret Willmott (Author). Published by Mel Bay. It’s a really clear and practical book with lots of examples based on well known standards. When I found out about this book, it really made me re-think my voicings.

    1. Hi Mike, Excellent website! I don’t know whether you’ve seen my book “From Dreaming To Gigging – Jazz Guitar in 6 Months”. I wrote it for all those guitarists who play rock or blues or even classical, but say jazz guitar is just too hard. It’s really a complete music theory book for guitar. 24 weekly lessons, each one containing 3 elements: Theory, Exercises and Listening (I introduce a guitarist, sometimes 2 , in each chapter). Some cool cats have said nice things about it: “Essential reading whether you’re an experienced player or starting out… insightful & entertaining.” MARTIN TAYLOR “Creative concepts & practical advice – I’ll use this in my teaching” DON PEAKE (Wrecking Crew) “An essential, indispensable and fun guide.” JIM MULLEN “A progressive, entertaining and multi-dimensional tutorial” LAURENCE JUBER “Biting humour and erudite scholarship. A classic.” MITCH DALTON

      1. Mike Outram says:

        Hi Richard, yes of course I have your book, really enjoyed it :)
        The Metheny one is awesome too!

    2. Mike Outram says:

      Thanks, Phil! I’ll definitely check that one out :)

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