100 books like Improvising Jazz

By Jerry Coker,

Here are 100 books that Improvising Jazz fans have personally recommended if you like Improvising Jazz. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Artist's Way

Karen Eber Author Of The Perfect Story: How to Tell Stories that Inform, Influence, and Inspire

From my list on unleashing your storytelling and creativity.

Who am I?

I have told stories since the age of five when I shared one about my different colored eyes. Tired of being pointed at and ridiculed for the thing I loved most about myself, I learned that stories can shift energy and create connection, even in the most artificial of settings. I’ve spent my career working in and with the Fortune 500 building leaders, teams, and culture, one story at a time. I’ve used storytelling to persuade people when one had the authority to say yes but 99 others could say no. Stories not only slowed their “No,” but they also helped me recruit them to persuade the decision makers.

Karen's book list on unleashing your storytelling and creativity

Karen Eber Why did Karen love this book?

The Artist’s Way is a classic and a best-seller for a reason.

Julia Cameron gives you the steps to unlocking your creativity, finding your inner voice, and creating a habit. Whether you are stuck, unsure where to start, or looking to build momentum, this helps! This book helps you take away the shame inner critic that is so detrimental to your creativity.

It’s not about writing, it’s about finding your inner creative person – whether that is as a storyteller, author, musician, artist, or even accountant. It helps you improve your art!

By Julia Cameron,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Artist's Way as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"With its gentle affirmations, inspirational quotes, fill-in-the-blank lists and tasks — write yourself a thank-you letter, describe yourself at 80, for example — The Artist’s Way proposes an egalitarian view of creativity: Everyone’s got it."—The New York Times 
 
"Morning Pages have become a household name, a shorthand for unlocking your creative potential"—Vogue

Over four million copies sold!

Since its first publication, The Artist's Way phenomena has inspired the genius of Elizabeth Gilbert and millions of readers to embark on a creative journey and find a deeper connection to process and purpose. Julia Cameron's novel approach guides readers in uncovering problems…


Book cover of Chord Chemistry

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

From my list on for musicians, composers, and songwriters.

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.

Jerry's book list on for musicians, composers, and songwriters

Jerry Jennings Why did Jerry love 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!

By Ted Greene,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ted Greene's Chord Chemistry was originally published in 1971 and has become the classic chord reference book for two generations of guitarists. Whether you are just beginning to search beyond basic barre chords or are already an advanced player looking for new sounds and ideas this is the book that will get you there. Designed to inspire creativity this book is a musical treasure chest filled with exciting new ideas and sounds.


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

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

From my list on for musicians, composers, and songwriters.

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.

Jerry's book list on for musicians, composers, and songwriters

Jerry Jennings Why did Jerry love 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.

By Mick Goodrick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Veteran musician and educator Mick Goodrick presents practical information for guitarists who want to improve their playing technique and style and simply become better musicians. Rather than a step-by-step method book, the information is presented in a general essay format, discussing ways that the various techniques covered may be applied by the advancing guitarist to enhance his/her own style of playing, some of the areas discussed include: basic fingerboard mechanics • modes, scales and chords • contemporary harmony, • harmonica and overtone influences • being self-critical • improvising short pieces • different playing situations.


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

Robert Pagliarini Author Of Badass Retirement: Shatter the Retirement Myth & Live with More Meaning, Money, and Adventure

From my list on retirement to help you create more meaning.

Who am I?

If my early childhood was any indication, I would be the last person you would want to take financial and retirement advice from. Why? Growing up, we never had any money! Every day was a struggle for my single mom of five. At an early age, I knew I didn’t want to be poor and struggle for everything. I knew I wanted to enjoy life and experience it to the fullest. I’d watch adventure movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and dream of going to exotic countries and on adventures like Indiana Jones. From those early years, I’ve been committed to creating and living the best life possible for myself and my clients.

Robert's book list on retirement to help you create more meaning

Robert Pagliarini Why did Robert love this book?

Too many retirees think that as they age, they must lose their energy and their health. That's crap.

You can upgrade your health as you age. You can gain more energy and vitality with each passing day, week, month, and year. This is a great book to introduce you to thinking about your health and aging differently.

Don't feel like you need to implement everything the author discusses, but use the book to expand your view of aging and what's possible. Your #1 job in retirement is to stay healthy. This book can help.

By Dave Asprey,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Super Human as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Bulletproof creator and bestselling author Dave Asprey comes a revolutionary approach to anti-aging that will help you up your game at any age.

Dave Asprey suffered countless symptoms of aging as a young man, which sparked a life-long burning desire to grow younger with each birthday. For more than twenty years, he has been on a quest to find innovative, science-backed methods to upgrade human biology and redefine the limits of the mind, body, and spirit. The results speak for themselves. Now in his forties, Dave is smarter, happier, and more fit and successful than ever before.

In Super…


Book cover of Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation

Katherine Giuffre Author Of Outrage: The Arts and the Creation of Modernity

From my list on maverick creativity.

Who am I?

I’ve spent my career as a sociologist studying how creative people work, what social settings are most conducive to creativity, and how to foster creativity for everyone in our daily lives. I know that creativity is often not easy and can even be met with hostility much more frequently than we might think. Creativity is, after all, a type of deviance and creative people can face real obstacles in finding and following their vision. But a richer understanding of how and why creativity happens – and of its obstacles – can be a tool for making a more vibrant, creative, inclusive, and just world.

Katherine's book list on maverick creativity

Katherine Giuffre Why did Katherine love this book?

How do jazz musicians think about what they are doing when they are improvising within a group? How do they learn to do such a thing in the first place – going their own way, but still going there together?

This is an immersion into the minds of musicians, starting with their earliest days and going through the rigors of learning their craft and then mastering it. The combination of discipline and freedom, hard work and wild inventive joy, finding an individual voice, and being part of the larger whole – the things that make improvisation a breath-taking artistic high-wire act – come together in this book.

I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but this book made me wish I was a jazz musician.

By Paul F. Berliner,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Thinking in Jazz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This text reveals how musicians, both individually and collectively, learn to improvise. It aims to illuminate the distinctive creative processes that comprise improvisation. Chronicling leading musicians from their first encounters with jazz to the development of a unique improvisatory voice, Paul Berliner demonstrates that a lifetime of preparation lies behind the skilled improviser's every note. Berliner's integration of data concerning musical development, the rigorous practice and thought artists devote to jazz outside performance, and the complexities of composing in the moment leads to a new understanding of jazz improvisation as a language, an aesthetic and a tradition. The product of…


Book cover of Stomping the Blues

David W. Stowe Author Of Swing Changes: Big-Band Jazz in New Deal America

From my list on the social history of jazz.

Who am I?

I grew up hearing jazz thanks to my dad, a big swing fan who allegedly played Duke Ellington for me in the crib. My father couldn’t believe it when I developed a taste for “modern jazz,” bebop, even Coltrane, but he never threw me out. Fifty years later I still love to play jazz on drums and listen to as much as I can. But along the way, I realized the world might be better served by me writing about the music than trying to make a living performing it. I had the great privilege of studying jazz in graduate school and wrote about big-band jazz for my first book, which helped launch my career.

David's book list on the social history of jazz

David W. Stowe Why did David love this book?

I came across this book when I decided to focus my graduate study on the history of jazz and was reading everything I could find. It’s a short book, full of incredible vintage photographs, and it taught me so much about what swing is, how music and dance are joined at the hip. How it’s all rooted in the blues. And about the link between the “Saturday Night Function” of celebrating life with music and dance, followed a few hours later by the “Sunday Morning Function,” singing and celebrating God and community in church. The two are not all that far apart. Along with Ralph Ellison, Albert Murray was probably the first author to write about jazz with a real sense of lyricism and poetry. In this book, the writing itself carries the energy and exuberance of jazz.

By Albert Murray,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this classic work of American music writing, renowned critic Albert Murray argues beautifully and authoritatively that "the blues as such are synonymous with low spirits. Not only is its express purpose to make people feel good, which is to say in high spirits, but in the process of doing so it is actually expected to generate a disposition that is both elegantly playful and heroic in its nonchalance."

In Stomping the Blues Murray explores its history, influences, development, and meaning as only he can. More than two hundred vintage photographs capture the ambiance Murray evokes in lyrical prose. Only…


Book cover of The Praxis System Guitar Compendium: Technique / Improvisation / Musicianship / Theory Volume 1

Keith Wyatt Author Of Blues Rhythm Guitar: Master Class Series [With CD]

From my list on blues and playing the blues guitar.

Who am I?

I am a professional guitarist and music teacher specializing in American roots music. For more than 35 years I taught, wrote curriculum, and oversaw programs at Los Angeles' Musicians Institute (formerly Guitar Institute of Technology) while creating and directing instructional videos, writing method books, and publishing magazine articles and columns. Since 1996 I have been recording and touring as the guitarist for American music icons the Blasters. In 2014, I developed the online School of Electric Blues Guitar at Artistworks, where I interact every day with students from around the world.

Keith's book list on blues and playing the blues guitar

Keith Wyatt Why did Keith love this book?

Howard was a top Los Angeles session guitarist (one of the fabled Wrecking Crew), jazz stylist, and brilliant visionary who combined his skills to create the Guitar Institute of Technology, an innovative, intensive program that trained thousands of professionals and transformed guitar education.

The Guitar Compendium is the result of Howard’s decades of research into learning theory and information flow applied to the guitar. It’s not a standard guitar method (and not designed for raw beginners), but rather a collection of practical, thought-provoking solutions to the universal challenges of learning and playing the instrument, from developing technique to breaking through creative roadblocks. If you’re an aspiring, curious, and perhaps frustrated guitarist, The Praxis System is a unique source of wisdom and inspiration from one of the greatest.

By Howard Roberts, Garry Hagberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Praxis System Guitar Compendium as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the first instructional book of its kind, taking a strikingly new and refreshing approach to learning guitar, carefully designed to guarantee efficient practice with rewarding results. Whether your playing falls under one of the more traditional styles, or whether you're a composer and arranger or exploring new musical regions and establishing your own musical direction or personal fusion of musical ideas and influences, The Praxis System has what you need. The name of the system (Praxis" comes from the Greek word meaning "practice" and "to do") accurately reflects its general orientation. Play it first, getting sound and satisfaction…


Book cover of Blues People

Dennis McNally Author Of On Highway 61: Music, Race, and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom

From my list on jazz and the story it tells about America.

Who am I?

I have a sophisticated education, including a Ph.D. in History from the University of Massachusetts. I have had a career, if that’s precisely the word, in the music business as the publicist for the Grateful Dead. I spent ten years researching what became On Highway 61. I have been a close observer of America’s racial politics at least since 1962, when the head of the Hollywood NAACP, James Tolbert, and his family, moved in next door to my family’s home in the white working-class neighborhood of Pacoima in the San Fernando Valley. Mr. Tolbert instructed me in music among other things, and I’ve been studying ever since.

Dennis' book list on jazz and the story it tells about America

Dennis McNally Why did Dennis love this book?

I have gone back to Blues People for all three of my books. His insight into the blues, jazz, and the relationship of white people and Black music still resonates, and the book is now 60 years old. Things would get much weirder in his life personally and between the races socially in the years after, but this book is no-bullshit truth.

By Leroi Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A must for all who would more knowledgeably appreciate and better comprehend America's most popular music." — Langston Hughes

"The path the slave took to 'citizenship' is what I want to look at. And I make my analogy through the slave citizen's music—through the music that is most closely associated with him: blues and a later, but parallel development, jazz... [If] the Negro represents, or is symbolic of, something in and about the nature of American culture, this certainly should be revealed by his characteristic music."

So says Amiri Baraka (previously known as LeRoi Jones) in the Introduction to Blues…


Book cover of Teaching Music to Children: A Curriculum Guide for Teachers Without Music Training

Jonathan Peters Author Of Meet the Orchestra: A Guide to the Instruments of the Orchestra Through Star Constellations and Greek Myths

From my list on children’s books on classical music.

Who am I?

I am an award-winning composer, author, and educator. Since 1990 I have had the privilege of teaching others about music through my concerts, children’s books, academic books, lessons, and online courses. 

Jonathan's book list on children’s books on classical music

Jonathan Peters Why did Jonathan love this book?

This is a nice resource for teachers to have at their disposal. The book encompasses various grade levels. It was nice of the author to give permission to teachers to make copies for their classrooms. I love that besides the lessons, games, worksheets, and puzzles, it also includes a listening CD and PowerPoint presentation.

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

Gayla M. Mills Author Of Making Music for Life: Rediscover Your Musical Passion

From my list on helping 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.

Gayla's book list on helping you make music

Gayla M. Mills Why did Gayla 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…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in music education, jazz, and the blues?

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