The best books about musical instruments

3 authors have picked their favorite books about musical instruments and why they recommend each book.

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Guitarmaking

By William Cumpiano, Jonathan D. Solomon,

Book cover of Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology: A Complete Reference for the Design & Construction of the Steel-String Folk Guitar & the Classical Guitar

Making a guitar is something many woodworkers aspire to, but are often stymied by what seems to be the daunting nature of the work. Actually, it’s fairly simple; something the average woodworker can easily do. All you need is the right advice. This is the best comprehensive book on guitar making you can find. It will give you straightforward information, step by step, to help you successfully build your own guitar.


Who am I?

Michael Dresdner is a nationally known finishing and woodworking expert and guitar maker/designer, author of five books and several videos on wood finishing and guitar making. He’s been a Contributing Editor to Fine Woodworking Magazine, American Woodworker Magazine, and Woodworker’s Journal, wrote the Just Finishing byline column for American Woodworker Magazine for over 7 years, and the Finishing Thoughts byline column for Woodworker’s Journal for almost 20 years. While a consultant to one of the country’s largest coatings conglomerates, he wrote answers to over 8,000 questions for the www.woodanswers.com website blog and edited the Woodworker’s Journal eZine, an award-winning online woodworking magazine with over a quarter of a million subscribers.


I wrote...

The New Wood Finishing Book

By Michael Dresdner,

Book cover of The New Wood Finishing Book

What is my book about?

The New Wood Finishing Book is a comprehensive textbook on everything you need to know about wood finishing. From choosing the right finish (and the right finishing tools), through sanding, sealing, application, coloring, repair and refinishing, and right on to final rub out, this is the complete course you need to become a better finisher. 

This Magical, Musical Night

By Rhonda Gowler Greene, James Rey Sanchez (illustrator),

Book cover of This Magical, Musical Night

This book not only introduces readers to the sections and instruments in an orchestra, it does so in lyrical, rhythmic, rhyming verse. Readers will love saying – and hearing – sounds like “pling…plung,” “lootle-oots,” and “bumble, boom…crash!” As a bonus, readers learn musical terms like “arpeggio,” “glissando,” and “diminuendo.” The illustrations are colorful and dynamic and remind me of a movie I loved as a child – Fantasia!


Who am I?

I’m a children’s book author with a Master of Education in Language and Literacy who loves the musicality of words. Growing up in a musical family, I started piano lessons in second grade, clarinet lessons in fourth, and dabbled a bit in saxophone in high school. Clarinet was the instrument that really stuck for me – I played in bands, pit bands, and orchestras all through school and beyond. My picture book Clarinet and Trumpet blasted forth from my own band experiences. 


I wrote...

Clarinet and Trumpet

By Melanie Ellsworth, John Herzog (illustrator),

Book cover of Clarinet and Trumpet

What is my book about?

Clarinet and Trumpet are best friends, but their friendship falls flat when a new instrument (a double reed!) comes between them. The tension crescendos as the brass and woodwinds face off in an ear-splitting musical duel. With humor and musical puns, this book highlights the important role music plays in creating empathy and community. A rain stick built into the book’s spine allows young readers to shake the book and join the band! 

The Oboe Goes Boom Boom Boom

By Colleen Af Venable, Lian Cho (illustrator),

Book cover of The Oboe Goes Boom Boom Boom

This book makes a wonderful read-aloud for a music class or a library storytime. The main character, Mr. V the band director, introduces each instrument in the band. The best feature of this book? It’s funny! Kids will crack up as the young drummer keeps interrupting right before each instrument in the band is about to play. As a former clarinetist, my favorite line is, “Listening to a clarinet is like eating rich chocolate cake, bold and sweet at the same time.” Warning to parents: any reader who hasn’t yet chosen their just-right instrument will ask to after reading this book! (If your little readers love Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein or Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky, I bet they’ll love this one, too.)


Who am I?

I’m a children’s book author with a Master of Education in Language and Literacy who loves the musicality of words. Growing up in a musical family, I started piano lessons in second grade, clarinet lessons in fourth, and dabbled a bit in saxophone in high school. Clarinet was the instrument that really stuck for me – I played in bands, pit bands, and orchestras all through school and beyond. My picture book Clarinet and Trumpet blasted forth from my own band experiences. 


I wrote...

Clarinet and Trumpet

By Melanie Ellsworth, John Herzog (illustrator),

Book cover of Clarinet and Trumpet

What is my book about?

Clarinet and Trumpet are best friends, but their friendship falls flat when a new instrument (a double reed!) comes between them. The tension crescendos as the brass and woodwinds face off in an ear-splitting musical duel. With humor and musical puns, this book highlights the important role music plays in creating empathy and community. A rain stick built into the book’s spine allows young readers to shake the book and join the band! 

Play This Book

By Jessica Young, Daniel Wiseman (illustrator),

Book cover of Play This Book

Play This Book is a rhyming, rhythmic read-aloud with plenty of fun-to-say onomatopoeia. With full-spread illustrations of instruments and text that encourages readers to “play” the instruments, toddlers will be tapping on the book and hopping around to their own beat! I love the bright colors and energy of the illustrations. Toddlers who enjoy this book can explore more instruments in the board book, Hello, World! Music by Jill McDonald.


Who am I?

I’m a children’s book author with a Master of Education in Language and Literacy who loves the musicality of words. Growing up in a musical family, I started piano lessons in second grade, clarinet lessons in fourth, and dabbled a bit in saxophone in high school. Clarinet was the instrument that really stuck for me – I played in bands, pit bands, and orchestras all through school and beyond. My picture book Clarinet and Trumpet blasted forth from my own band experiences. 


I wrote...

Clarinet and Trumpet

By Melanie Ellsworth, John Herzog (illustrator),

Book cover of Clarinet and Trumpet

What is my book about?

Clarinet and Trumpet are best friends, but their friendship falls flat when a new instrument (a double reed!) comes between them. The tension crescendos as the brass and woodwinds face off in an ear-splitting musical duel. With humor and musical puns, this book highlights the important role music plays in creating empathy and community. A rain stick built into the book’s spine allows young readers to shake the book and join the band! 

My First Classical Music Book

By Genevieve Helsby,

Book cover of My First Classical Music Book: Book & CD

This is a great little book for introducing younger readers to their first pieces of classical music. Although it is meant for a younger audience, there are many anecdotes that slightly older readers will also enjoy. The accompanying music is available in both a CD and an online version. The recordings are from Naxos which has an excellent music library of top-notch performances. A great value!


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. 


I wrote...

Meet the Orchestra: A Guide to the Instruments of the Orchestra Through Star Constellations and Greek Myths

By Jonathan Peters,

Book cover of Meet the Orchestra: A Guide to the Instruments of the Orchestra Through Star Constellations and Greek Myths

What is my book about?

Meet the Orchestra teaches children about the instruments of the symphony orchestra in a very fun and unique way. Each instrument plays the part of a character from Greek mythology connected with a specific star constellation. After a short narration of the Greek myth, the instrument performs a musical portrayal. Children can read along as they listen to the narration and music on the downloadable CD. Following each piece of music is information about each instrument and interesting facts about the constellations.

Includes a free CD download, a teacher’s guide for optional classroom use, 70 full-color images of instruments, mythological characters, star constellation diagrams, and stunning pictures from outer space!

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin

By Lloyd Moss, Marjorie Priceman (illustrator),

Book cover of Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin

This book starts with one trombone, all alone, and adds another instrument on each page until there’s a chamber group of ten. The text swirls and twirls in happy harmony with the illustrations. It’s quite a feat to describe instruments and their sounds in rhyming verse, but this flows along seamlessly. Listen to this oboe description: “Gleeful, bleating, sobbing, pleading, through its throbbing double-reeding.” In addition to introducing orchestra instruments, this book teaches counting (1-10) and terms like “duo,” “trio,” and “quartet,” so it works well for a wide age range of picture book readers. My favorite illustration is the silliest one, where the musicians have become so enthused by the music that the violinist is playing the violin on his head, and the clarinet has attached itself to the clarinetist’s nose.


Who am I?

I’m a children’s book author with a Master of Education in Language and Literacy who loves the musicality of words. Growing up in a musical family, I started piano lessons in second grade, clarinet lessons in fourth, and dabbled a bit in saxophone in high school. Clarinet was the instrument that really stuck for me – I played in bands, pit bands, and orchestras all through school and beyond. My picture book Clarinet and Trumpet blasted forth from my own band experiences. 


I wrote...

Clarinet and Trumpet

By Melanie Ellsworth, John Herzog (illustrator),

Book cover of Clarinet and Trumpet

What is my book about?

Clarinet and Trumpet are best friends, but their friendship falls flat when a new instrument (a double reed!) comes between them. The tension crescendos as the brass and woodwinds face off in an ear-splitting musical duel. With humor and musical puns, this book highlights the important role music plays in creating empathy and community. A rain stick built into the book’s spine allows young readers to shake the book and join the band! 

Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build

By Trevor Gore, Gerard Gilet,

Book cover of Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build

This is very nice a two-volume set, written by Trevor Gore, an accomplished guitar maker with an extensive technical background, and Gerard Gilet, a builder of fine acoustic guitars. This is required reading for people who are interested both in how to make guitars and how they work.


Who am I?

I’ve been making guitars for about 30 years now and love it. I’m mostly self-taught and there were some pretty rough instruments early on, but I got better with every one. I’ve lost track of how many I’ve made and my favorite is always the next one. I learned my craft from people who took the time to write about it. I’ve now written dozens of articles and three books on guitars. As a professor, I run a guitar-making lab and teach classes on stringed instrument design and manufacture. I hope to do my part to help new builders the way others have helped me.


I wrote...

Acoustic Guitar Design

By Richard Mark French,

Book cover of Acoustic Guitar Design

What is my book about?

This book is for guitar designers, builders wishing to improve their designs, and guitar fans who just want to know more about their instruments. It’s heavily illustrated and doesn’t require any technical background. The book begins with the history of how the acoustic guitar evolved over centuries and leads up to a chapter focusing on three iconic instruments that represent the most important types of acoustic guitars: classical, steel-string flat top, and archtop. Later chapters focus on the specifics of guitars that are hard to find anywhere else. The book also features sidebar contributions by top guitar designers and builders including Tim Shaw, Chief Engineer - Guitars at Fender Music; and Andy Powers, Master Guitar Designer and Partner at Taylor Guitars.

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