The best inspirational books on musical pedagogy

Paul Harris Author Of You Can Read Music: The Practical Guide
By Paul Harris

Who am I?

Paul Harris is one of the UK’s most influential music educationalists. He studied the clarinet at the Royal Academy of Music, where he won the August Manns Prize for outstanding performance in clarinet playing and where he now teaches. He is in great demand as a teacher, composer, and writer (he has written over 600 books); and his inspirational masterclasses and workshops continue to influence thousands of young musicians and teachers all over the world in both the principles and practice of musical performance and education.

I wrote...

You Can Read Music: The Practical Guide

By Paul Harris,

Book cover of You Can Read Music: The Practical Guide

What is my book about?

This is a practical workbook for anyone who has ever wanted to read music notation. It explains the process in clear manageable steps and blows the myth that reading music is difficult right out of the water. It is ideal for anyone wishing to develop this ability whether they are entirely new to reading music or someone who wants to improve and perfect their skill. It works for both players of any instrument and singers. By the end of this book, you will be able to read and understand music notation - you don’t even need a musical instrument!

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening

Why did I love this book?

This book explores music in a delightfully refreshing way where the author considers music essentially an activity and develops his concept of ‘musicking’ or ‘doing music’ in all its various ways. He gives much confidence to those who may think ‘they are not very good at music’ to take part in a much more enthusiastic and practical way. It’s a lovely way in to the exploration of this wonderful art.

By Christopher Small,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Musicking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Extending the inquiry of his early groundbreaking books, Christopher Small strikes at the heart of traditional studies of Western music by asserting that music is not a thing, but rather an activity. In this new book, Small outlines a theory of what he terms "musicking," a verb that encompasses all musical activity from composing to performing to listening to a Walkman to singing in the shower.

Using Gregory Bateson's philosophy of mind and a Geertzian thick description of a typical concert in a typical symphony hall, Small demonstrates how musicking forms a ritual through which all the participants explore and…

Book cover of Musical Excellence: Strategies and Techniques to Enhance Performance

Why did I love this book?

For anyone who is performing at any level really, this book will help them enhance their performance and manage the stress that sometimes seems to appear in the performance situation. The book looks at ways to approach the music that we have decided to perform a variety of practice strategies and some particularly interesting techniques for all-around improvement taking in both the physical side of playing and the musical side. It’s a serious and quite academic book but well worth the effort.

By Aaron Williamon (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Musical Excellence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Musical Excellence offers performers, teachers, and researchers, new perspectives and practical guidance for enhancing performance and managing the stress that typically accompanies performance situations. It draws together, for the first time in a single collection, the findings of pioneering initiatives from across the arts and sciences. Specific recommendations are provided alongside comprehensive reviews of existing theory and research, enabling the
practitioner to place the strategies and techniques within the broader context of human performance and encouraging novel ways of conceptualizing music making and teaching.

Part I, Prospects and Limits, sets out ground rules for achieving musical excellence. What roles do…

Book cover of Music Psychology in Education

Why did I love this book?

Whether you’re a learner or a teacher, developing an interest in what goes on behind the scenes will naturally reap many benefits. This fascinating book deals with many issues that need to be considered whether music is a hobby or a profession. Susan considers how music is processed in the brain, what musical ability actually is, the psychological side of learning to play an instrument and sing, what feeds into our motivation, and generally the extraordinary impact that music has on our lives.

By Susan Hallam,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Music Psychology in Education as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The book will be of particular interest to those training to be instrumental and class teachers, and teachers wishing to further their understanding of teaching and learning. It addresses the psychological underpinnings of all elements of music education and provides a short introduction to the field of music psychology.

Book cover of In the Key of Genius: The Extraordinary Life of Derek Paravicini

Why did I love this book?

This is a wonderfully inspiring and motivating book, for anyone involved in developing as a musician. It’s the story of Derek Paravicini who was born blind, with severe learning difficulties and autism. At a very young age, his parents found him picking out melodic fragments on an old keyboard; now Derek is a world-famous pianist specialising in Jazz but able to play anything you like. The story is told beautifully by his teacher, Adam Ockelford, who has been his mentor from the very beginning. Again, it highlights the power and importance of music as a means of maintaining humanity. 

By Adam Ockelford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Key of Genius as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Derek Paravicini is blind, can't tell his right hand from his left and needs round-the-clock care. But he has an extremely rare gift - he is a musical prodigy with perfect pitch whose piano-playing has thrilled audiences at venues from Ronnie Scott's to Las Vegas, the Barbican to Buckingham Palace.

Born prematurely, Derek remained in hospital for three months and technically 'died' several times before he was finally strong enough to go home. It was not long before his blindness became apparent and later it became clear that he had severe learning difficulties and autism.

Desperately trying to find something…

Harmony In Practice

By Anna Butterworth,

Book cover of Harmony In Practice

Why did I love this book?

Should you decide to work through my book, I’m sure you’ll find reading music a very attainable skill. And having attained this skill, you may now be considering the possibility of writing music. There are quite a number of books on the subject to recommend but a very comprehensive and thorough approach is Anna Butterworth’s Harmony in Practice. She takes you through the process of understanding musical harmony which will form the background of the melody and rhythm you may wish to impose and in a short amount of time you may find yourself writing your first simple pieces. 

By Anna Butterworth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Harmony In Practice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Harmony in Practice explores the main elements of tonal harmony. Students using this book will acquire a secure knowledge of the basics of harmonic practice. Singing, playing and completing the exercises, and studying the music examples, will provide essential experience of the 'tools of the trade'. More than 280 music examples illustrate the author's clear and direct exposition of the history and practice of harmony while the student will be able to work through
over 180 exercises. The practical workbook format will enable students to prepare for a variety of musical examinations - for the Associated Board's Grade 6 to…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in pedagogy, music, and execution?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about pedagogy, music, and execution.

Pedagogy Explore 12 books about pedagogy
Music Explore 557 books about music
Execution Explore 16 books about execution