5 Books Every Professional Composer Should Own
Most media and film composers and audio professionals tend to focus on gear when it comes to investing into their business while completely ignoring the assets that bring one of the highest returns on investment possible - books. A good book can teach you a valuable skill, open your mind to new forms of artistic expression, or completely transform the way you do business. Either of those alone has the potential to earn you a thousand and more times the value of your initial investment. And the more books you read, the more your value grows in the marketplace.
Besides being a guitarist, I am also a media composer and, of course, a passionate book reader (well, audiobook listener, to be honest). The following is a list of books that I have found most helpful in my musical career and that I wish I had found out about much earlier. You may be surprised that most of them are actually business books. But make no mistake, that is exactly the reason why they are highly relevant to your music composition career.
Most of the books on this list are available as audiobooks on Audible, too.
Are you ready? Let's go!
This is no doubt one of the most famous and most important business books ever written. It will teach you the process of eliminating time-wasters, automation of your tasks and outsourcing of the work that you either don't want to or should not do because you can find somebody else to do it better and/or cheaper. As a result, you will only focus on tasks where your work adds the most value and makes the biggest difference. In other words, you will make more money while working less.
This parable about a mindset shift from a go-getter to a go-giver costs less than $10 but has the potential to literally earn you millions over time if you apply its principles to your life. It is a short story that demonstrates how and why giving is the actual key to success. The authors introduce you to the "Five Laws of Stratospheric Success", each of which has implications not only for your business but for your personal life as well. I can guarantee you that after reading this book, you will never be looking at your music business the same way as before. Powerful stuff!
A great book for composers at the early stages of their careers, even though experienced professionals will surely find it useful, too. Steven Melin is a successful film and video game composer and in his book he summarizes the process of growing his music business, while maintaining enough time for people he loves and things he cares for. All aspects of the business with regard to custom music scoring are covered, from setting up your website, through building sources of passive income, to increasing the speed of your composition process.
Many people believe that talent is given - you either have it or not. But Daniel Coyle is not one of them. In The Talent Code, he argues that anybody can create and nurture talent for a specific activity by approaching it the right way. He introduces the concept of "deep practice" as a crucial part of the process that, using the author's own words, rewires and develops the brain to literally create talent. This stuff is highly relevant to all creative people, especially musicians and composers.
Samuel Adler's comprehensive instrumentation and orchestration manual is used as a standard text on orchestration at music universities around the world. It is pretty in-depth and if you study it carefully, you will have a much deeper understanding of how various instruments work, how to write for them so that they sound the best they possibly can, and how to combine them to create interesting and well-functioning sound combinations. If you're writing for orchestral instruments, this book will and should be your life-long companion.
If you actually notate music that you compose, this notation guide is for you. A standard reference text in the world of professional note engraving, Behind Bars is a reliable and comprehensive guide for everything notation-related. It talks in great detail about general notation rules as well as the notation specifics of various instruments. If you find yourself having to prepare music for rehearsals or recording sessions, especially for large ensembles such as orchestras or big bands, this one is a must-have.
So, there you have it. Five plus one book that will move the needle of your music composition business by a good deal. There are many other great books that I have read recently but I'll keep those for another time. First go and read these. :-)
And what about you? Is there any book that you absolutely love and would recommend to me? Let me know in the comments below or reach out to us on Facebook or Instagram. The RGT team and I would love to hear from you!