The most game changing books for musicians, composers, and songwriters

Jerry Jennings Author Of Triad Magic - An Introduction to Guitar Chord Theory
By Jerry Jennings

Who am I?

As a self-taught guitarist at age 18, I was limited to certain styles I could do justice. I began listening to artists that were more schooled, such as Steely Dan, Weather Report, and Yes. I became obsessed with getting the background musical knowledge to expand into these styles. Easier said than done! The difficulty was in blending my “street” knowledge with the more legit “college” knowledge. As I began to write books, I realized my claim to expertise was not that I was overly schooled, but that I was “just like you,” and somehow developed these shortcuts that brought the higher concepts within reach, unifying all musicians.

I wrote...

Triad Magic - An Introduction to Guitar Chord Theory

By Jerry Jennings,

Book cover of Triad Magic - An Introduction to Guitar Chord Theory

What is my book about?

Triad Magic is an introduction to chord theory for guitar, with access to videos online. You will learn how basic chords are constructed from scales, laying the groundwork for understanding more complex chords.

By the end, you will be able to construct whichever chord forms you think are necessary for a song, based on what the other players in the band are already playing, and where you want to fit in that sound. And when you learn the parts of an existing song by one of your favorite artists, you will have a better understanding of how they constructed the parts. Your solos will likely improve as well, because you will have a greater awareness of triads within scale patterns.

The books I picked & why

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Chord Chemistry

By Ted Greene,

Book cover of Chord Chemistry

Why this book?

I found his book to show a great comparison of chord construction to chemistry. For example, if I asked you for H2O, you could really only give me water. The naming of a molecule tells you all you need to know about what’s in it. In the case of a chord, if I said play me a G13b9, even if you had never played one, you could construct it from the name only, knowing that a letter name followed by an odd number implies dominant, and that in this particular dominant you will be adding two other elements: a 6 and a flat 9. Brilliant!

Improvising Jazz

By Jerry Coker,

Book cover of Improvising Jazz

Why this book?

This was the first book I ever read about jazz. If you’re studying jazz, it won’t be the only book you’ll ever want, but I found it to be an essential one. It lays out all the chord types, discusses the elusive topic of “swing,” and has a list of common jazz song forms at the end of the book. My copy has pencil marks all the way through it, because the book involves you by having you write things out on the staff. For me, being self-taught on guitar, this repetition really jump-started my understanding of the basics of the staff.

The Advancing Guitarist: Applying Guitar Concepts & Techniques

By Mick Goodrick,

Book cover of The Advancing Guitarist: Applying Guitar Concepts & Techniques

Why this book?

This book brought me hours of pleasure, and I learned a ton from it. He takes brainy concepts about modes and scales and turns them into exercises any working guitarist can grasp. The book isn’t written as a method book that needs to be followed from beginning to end. It’s more of a grab bag of fun exercises. You can open any page and just start working there. He coins some pretty interesting terms, such as the “unitar.” “The first guitar probably only had one string…” All written from a fun and lighthearted angle, you’ll be surprised at some of the advanced concepts that will begin to occupy your thinking. Very challenging, yet he manages to pull you into the game.

The Artist's Way

By Julia Cameron,

Book cover of The Artist's Way

Why this book?

This book will motivate you tremendously. Every time I tell another friend about The Artist’s Way, the most common response is, “Oh I love that book!” If a person hasn’t heard of it, within a week it becomes their favorite book as well. If you’re a songwriter, author, composer, filmmaker, or anyone in a creative field, she will show you how to rekindle your motivation using her simple exercises. And when I say “exercises” don’t even think exercises. Just think you’re about to learn a whole bunch about yourself. Very fulfilling! The “artist date” was a highlight for me. I won’t give it away here, but I rate it as one of the most liberating things I’ve ever experienced.

Super Human: The Bulletproof Plan to Age Backward and Maybe Even Live Forever

By Dave Asprey,

Book cover of Super Human: The Bulletproof Plan to Age Backward and Maybe Even Live Forever

Why this book?

This book isn’t about music per se. Founder of the bulletproof brand of supplements and coffee, Dave Asprey is known as a figurehead in the field of “biohacking”. He’s the author of several books on how to get more quality in your life, through supplements and other therapies. For me, this is important because “superhuman” is exactly what I need to be when I have a performance coming up. I will take advantage of any safe and beneficial way to get there, and Dave’s book is full of them.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in guitar, creativity, and ageing?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Praxis System Guitar Compendium: Technique / Improvisation / Musicianship / Theory Volume 1, L'Esprit Manouche: A Comprehensive Study of Gypsy Jazz Guitar, and Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind if you like this list.