Are you trying to master a new instrument, or polish up on one your have been playing for awhile? Nothing is quite like one on one lessons, but instructional books are a great alternative. The nice part about instructional books is that you can learn at your own pace. You never have an excuse to put off learning if the book is right there waiting for you. Here is a curated list of five books to help you master the skills for your instrument.
I chose books that are made for beginners. I wanted these to reflect musicians who are starting a new instrument or want to brush up on the basics. Once you graduate from these books, you can continue with private lessons or more advanced books.
Drums can be complicated to learn. I started on drums as a youth and quickly gave it up because I had no idea what I was doing. I also did not have a good book to reference at the time. If these books were around back then, I probably would be a drummer today. I always regret not learning how to play drums properly.
This book by Ben Hans is a great way to start playing drums. Ben has been teaching for many years and has written dozens of books about learning how to play drums. He is a touring musician playing percussion with famous artists and also an instructor at the Nashville Music Academy.
I remember thinking switching from guitar to bass would be easy. After all, it has two less strings and you usually play one note at a time. Bass is much more than that for sure. At that point, I had already been playing guitar for 17 years. I realized I needed help really figuring out how to play bass properly. I signed up for lessons and grabbed some books. That extra study paid off and I soon found more jobs as a bass players than I ever did as a guitar player.
This highly rated book is a great way to start. The really cool thing about modern published books is that some come with links to online resources. Those resources can help out a new student in ways similar to a live lesson.
Here are what those resources include:
“The audio and video are accessed online using the unique code inside each book and can be streamed or downloaded. The audio files include PLAYBACK+, a multi-functional audio player that allows you to slow down audio without changing pitch, set loop points, change keys, and pan left or right.”
*This book is co-authored by Jeff Schroedl who taught me guitar back in the day. He is an accomplished music instruction author and plays guitar for the blues band Altered Five.
Guitar is an instrument that a lot of people gravitate towards. When we picture a rockstar, we probably think of somebody with an electric guitar. Well, I did. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. Once I did, I never let go. Over the years, I have played several types of different instruments, but I always come back to guitar.
I used books like the one below to help me get past certain plateaus. This book would make a great choice if you already had the book listed above for bass. It can also be used in conjunction with somebody using the bass book so you can both practice to the same resources and songs. Grab a buddy and learn together.
Again, this is co-written by Jeff Schroedl. I highly recommend any of his books. My personal experience with Jeff’s teaching technique was wonderful. He makes learning fun and explains things well for beginners.
Here are the online features included:
“The audio is accessed online using the unique code inside each book and can be streamed or downloaded. The audio files include PLAYBACK+, a multi-functional audio player that allows you to slow down audio without changing pitch, set loop points, change keys, and pan left or right.”
Vocals are an instrument that only a few of us think about getting lessons for. I would recommend learning proper technique, however. Even the most successful musicians out there are taking vocal lessons. For example, James Hetfield of Metallica waited until they had a #1 selling album to learn proper vocal techniques. He still uses those lessons today.
Most of us can sing to a certain degree naturally. Those who can sing really well are on another level, in my opinion. It is hard to beat somebody who has amazing vocals. Even if vocals aren’t your main instrument, having good vocal technique makes you a better musician on paper. Therefore, musicians who can sing well on top of playing an instrument are far more likely to get hired.
When I asked my friend Tommy Hahn about which book to get to learn vocals, he recommended the one below. Tommy is one of the best vocalists I know and also is a great teacher. If he recommends a book, it must be good. I really enjoyed the lessons inside. It also has access to audio that you can sing along to. This, in turn, made my voice lessons more comfortable and productive. (Tommy Hahn performed on musical theatre shows including Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale.)
From the publisher:
The second edition of this bestselling, comprehensive guide contains improved vocal workouts and additional topics, including performance anxiety and healthy singing. The companion online audio makes this guide an ideal tool for creating a singing course for students of almost any age or gender, who can practice technique along with lead sheets for such standard vocal pieces as “Yesterday” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” Topics covered include getting started, posture, belting and diction, maintaining vocal health, microphone technique, and much more. The accompanying audio is accessed through Hal Leonard’s popular MyLibrary system using the provided code. The audio can be streamed or downloaded and includes PLAYBACK+, a multi-functional audio player that allows you to slow down audio without changing pitch, set loop points, change keys, and pan left or right.
Keyboards are typically an instrument where you spent years of your youth learning boring scales and lessons. Meanwhile, all of your friends were outside playing. You might have learned something, but you might have hated it at the time.
Don’t let that deter you from learning this wonderful instrument now. The newer instructional books make learning fun. Keyboard players seem to know how to change keys easier, and also seem to know a little more about how song are structured. I am not sure how. I think it is because once they know how the keyboard/piano works, it just makes sense.
Here is another book by the Hal Leonard Fast Track series. Hal Leonard is a trusted publisher and has been making music instructional books since 1947. Every one I have ever seen is great, and this one is no different. The ratings for this book are very good as well.
Description from the publisher:
Learn how to play that piano today. With this book you’ll learn music notation, chords, riffs, licks and scales, syncopation, and rock and blues styles. Method Book 1 includes over 87 songs and examples and access to online audio tracks. The price of this book includes a unique code that provides access to audio tracks online, for download or streaming. The tracks include PLAYBACK+, a multi-functional audio player that allows you to slow down audio without changing pitch, set loop points, change keys, and pan left or right available exclusively from Hal Leonard.
Use these tools to improve your skills
I am a huge fan of getting tools to improve your skills as a musician. Hopefully, these books will help you achieve your goal of learning or improving on the instrument of your choice. Even if you are getting one on one lessons, I would still recommend a book like these. They can always assist you and give you inspiration to learn between lessons.
If you have a favorite book, online resource, YouTube channel, etc. for learning instruments then please leave a comment below. After all, I want this post to help others in their journey as a growing musician.
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