The best books to help you make music

Who am I?

After dabbling in music in my youth, I returned to playing roots music over fifteen years ago. I’ve joined music circles, jammed, made new friends, and learned a lot. My husband Gene and I have recorded three albums and played at bars, festivals, weddings, and listening rooms. Professionally, I’ve spent years as a writing teacher and writer, and I also teach at an annual folk music camp. I wanted to share the joys of music with others, so I talked with dozens of musicians, dug down to find rare resources, and pulled it together into Making Music for Life to make it easier for others to pursue their own musical journey.

I wrote...

Making Music for Life: Rediscover Your Musical Passion

By Gayla M. Mills,

Book cover of Making Music for Life: Rediscover Your Musical Passion

What is my book about?

Millions of people play music when they’re young but set it aside while they create families and careers. As they get older and miss the joys of making and sharing music, where can they turn for inspiration and ideas so they can bring music back into their lives? If you want to return to music—or take it up anew—roots musician Gayla M. Mills can help you take your next step. You'll become a better musician, with hundreds of tips on practicing, singing, jamming, enjoying adult music camps, gigging, and recording. Discover how music can help you live and age well.

"Making Music for Life is a doorway into the endless joys of making music, for everyone at any age." - Bernard Holland, music critic emeritus, NY Times

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Garage Band Theory

Gayla M. Mills Why did I love this book?

This is the best book I’ve seen on understanding music in a practical, accessible way, with an accompanying website full of free support materials such as audio files, music scores, and a huge variety of songs across genres and instruments. It’s aimed at those who play by ear, back-porch pickers, semi-pros, and pros. I’ve tried learning theory in many ways, from college classes to online courses, but I found the approach of this book the best, and I imagine learning from it for years to come.

By Duke Sharp,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For less than the price of a single lesson, Garage Band Theory offers a lifetime of learning.

It's a gift that keeps giving.

GBT covers everything you need to understand, play and make your own music!

• lets you listen to hundreds of examples for every instrument.

• combines the freedom of playing by ear and the strength of traditional music theory.

• assumes you know nothing about basic theory and is written in a conversational, easy to follow style.

There are hundreds of exercises and examples using familiar songs and with the free downloads on the book's website, you…

Book cover of The Inner Game of Music

Gayla M. Mills Why did I love this book?

Barry Green suggests a method for shifting your musical focus from external achievement, which can lead to performance anxiety and misery, to the quality of your experience and the pleasure you gain from learning and playing music—the inner game. I found his method helpful for my own struggles with self-doubt and stage fright, and a good reminder to enjoy the amazing journey of making and sharing music. 

By Barry Green, W. Timothy Gallwey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Inner Game of Music as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling guide to improving musical performance

The Inner Game of Music is the battle that all musicians have to fight against elusive opponents such as nervousness, self-doubt and fear of failure. Using the world-famous Inner Game principles, developed by bestselling author Timothy Gallwey, acclaimed musician Barry Green explains the basic principles of 'natural learning' and shows how you can apply them to reach a new level of musical application and performance.
In precise, easy to understand language, Green and Gallwey explain how natural skills - such as awareness, trust and willpower - can be nurtured and enhanced. Through a…

Book cover of The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart

Gayla M. Mills Why did I love this book?

Madeline Bruser is a professional musician and teacher focused on teaching dedicated music students of all ages. She brings her own meditation practice and fresh insights into improving music practice through mindfulness, attention to the sounds and sensations one experiences while practicing or performing, and increased awareness of the joys of music. Although I haven’t attended music school or spent a career as a professional musician, I still picked up useful tools and insights that have improved my practice time. If you’re finding practice to be boring, painful, or unproductive, this book can help you reorient your approach and savor music more fully.

By Madeline Bruser,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An illustrated guide for the amateur and professional musician that teaches us how to transform practicing from an often laborious activity into an exhilarating and rewarding experience

Foreword by Yehudi Menuhin • “Give this book to any musician you love and to any person who loves what music does for them and for the world.”—Richard Stoltzman, clarinetist 
In The Art of Practicing, acclaimed pianist and teacher Madeline Bruser combines physiological and meditative principles to help musicians release physical and mental tension and unleash their innate musical talent. She offers practical techniques for cultivating free and natural movement, a keen enjoyment…

Book cover of Mel Bay Presents How to Make a Band Work

Gayla M. Mills Why did I love this book?

Pete Warnick is best known in the bluegrass world as a performer (Country Cooking and Hot Rize) and teacher (the Warnick Method), but his book on the nuts and bolts of being in a band is uniquely helpful in its specific details, particularly for weekend warriors. He addresses getting a sound system, rehearsals, prep immediately before the gig, band dynamics and emotions, performance details, and more. Although some material is now dated, I’ve used much of the book’s details to improve our bookings and performances and found tips available nowhere else. 

By Pete Wernick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mel Bay Presents How to Make a Band Work as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This "guide to success" has been created especially for bluegrass and acoustic performers, with applications for all levels of the music/entertainment business. Many of the skills necessary for a band's success do not directly involve music and are rarely formally taught. This book is an attempt to fill that gap and teach you how to help yourself on the professional level so that you can achieve your musical dreams. It covers such topics as: How to create good promotional materials; Whom to call to get bookings, and what to say; How to attract important allies such as record companies and…

Book cover of Making Music and Having a Blast! A Guide for All Music Students

Gayla M. Mills Why did I love this book?

This book comprehensively addresses a wide range of topics geared toward teen music students, from the foundations of practicing and understanding theory to working with a teacher and parents, playing in an orchestra, or planning a music career. Although some of the topics are useful for any musician (such as practice ideas and improving one’s musicality), this book is best for guiding adolescents on a musical path.

By Bonnie Blanchard, Cynthia B. Acree,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Making Music and Having a Blast! A Guide for All Music Students as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In her follow-up to Making Music and Enriching Lives: A Guide for All Music Teachers, Bonnie Blanchard offers students a set of tools for their musical lives that will help them stay engaged, even during the challenging times in their musical development. Blanchard discusses issues such as finding an instructor, selecting the right instrument, and choosing a college or conservatory. The book includes lessons on music theory and history as well as a guide to finding additional materials in print and online. Blanchard's strategies for making practice productive and preparing for auditions are useful tips students can return to again…

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Hayley and the Hot Flashes

By Jayne Jaudon Ferrer,

Book cover of Hayley and the Hot Flashes

Jayne Jaudon Ferrer Author Of Hayley and the Hot Flashes

New book alert!

Who am I?

I grew up in a small town, with wonderful librarians who introduced me to books I remember fondly to this day. The Flicka, Ricka, Dicka series, the Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew, and, of course, Little Women shaped my love for stories about relationships and the simple pleasures of daily life. Whether it’s a mystery or a memoir, I want interesting interactions between the main characters, meaty descriptions of daily activities and affairs, and, of course, a happy ending. As I’ve gotten older, I like books with older protagonists; those are hard to come by—one reason I wrote a novel about the adventures of five middle-aged girlfriends!

Jayne's book list on entertaining stories about relationships

What is my book about?

Country music diva Hayley Swift has fallen off the charts and into a funk. Desperate to regain her place in the limelight, she agrees to a low-budget tour of Southern venues, starting with her 35th high school reunion.

There, in an unexpected but fortuitous reconnection, The Girls Next Door —who sang together in their teens--become Hayley and the Hot Flashes as they embark on a road trip that will forever change their lives. You'll laugh out loud as the ladies deal with stage fright, stalkers, attitudes, egos, harmonies, hormones, and more. Middle age has never been moodier—or more melodic!

Hayley and the Hot Flashes

By Jayne Jaudon Ferrer,

What is this book about?

When five middle-aged girlfriends trade in carpools and casseroles for microphones and music halls, look out!

Hayley Swift, a country music diva who has slipped out of the limelight, gets more attention when she's mistaken for Taylor Swift's mom than for her former glory days. When she's invited to perform at her 35th high school reunion, a bus accident puts her back-up singers in a hospital, Hayley begs her long-gone-domestic quartet from high school to join her onstage for the gig. They're such a hit that she invites the women to fill in on a low-budget tour for a couple…

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