Book recommendations for learning to play musical instruments
October 29, 2008 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Which books do you recommend for learning to play musical instruments?

Although learning with a teacher is probably more effective, I'm a busy person with a weird schedule and limited budget. And while there are an abundance of resources on-line, I prefer the portability and convenience of a book.

Personally I'm interested in learning more about mandolin, violin, trumpet, and piano, but if you've found "Didgeridoo For Dummies" to be instructive, by all means include it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: What about video's as well? I will bet your local library has a wide selection of both books and video's... So you can "try" before you "buy".

I am in the same boat as you (different instrument though) and don't have time/money/inclination to do formal lessons (the money we spend on lessons is for the kids).
posted by jkaczor at 10:47 AM on October 29, 2008

This isn't answering your question, but it would most likely help if people knew what level you were already at, what you know about music, etc.
posted by mandal at 10:53 AM on October 29, 2008

Response by poster: Good point, mandal! I play guitar at a (low) intermediate level, so books for beginner-intermediate level players that include the fundamentals but advance and progress with the reader would probably the best.

And thanks for the library tip, jkaczor, it totally slipped my mind!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:08 AM on October 29, 2008

Best answer: Standard of Excellence by Bruce Pearson is individualized for each instrument, and has three levels of book (Red=beginner, Blue=intermediate, Green=advanced). Geared towards middle school students, but it does a great job with embouchure and developing a characteristic sound quality. Most any school-type beginner book also comes with an accompaniment CD. Good luck!
posted by bach at 11:21 AM on October 29, 2008

Best answer: There's a great web site called Mandolin Cafe ( where there are all kinds of resources, including reviews of books and dvds for players at all levels. Beginners are always posting questions about the best mando books and other instructional materials--including online lessons. My personal favorite is Greg Horne's "Beginning Mandolin."

The fiddle counterpart is Fiddle Hangout (, which has the same sort of information. For fiddle I really like the Brian Wicklund "American Fiddle Method" books.

Sorry I can't help with trumpet or piano!
posted by fiery.hogue at 11:29 AM on October 29, 2008

Would software fit into this category?
posted by adipocere at 11:35 AM on October 29, 2008

Yeah - in this online age, the library slips everyones mind. It is also a great way to find new music, and well, it your CD ripper happens to slip when it is in your drive the RIAA will never, ever find out about it ;-)
posted by jkaczor at 11:39 AM on October 29, 2008

If there is any software adipocere, I for one would love to hear of a few links.
posted by jkaczor at 11:40 AM on October 29, 2008

Mod note: A couple comments removed. The question is not "please tell me that books are a bad tool", so let's not go there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:39 PM on October 29, 2008

Best answer: I would recommend The Complete Piano Player Series, principally because I learned from it, but it goes from absolute beginner (just to practice moving your fingers and reading music) through to some fairly advanced stuff. It's biased away from classical music. It also has pictures which wil help you develop correct positioning without the aid of a teacher. It's balanced, with some light theory. You'll recognise many of the tunes.

If you want to really exercise your fingers, some of the easier studies by Czerny are good.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:17 PM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

the How and Tao of folk guitar.

not mandolin or violin specific, but enjoyable and educational, and free.
posted by robotot at 9:14 PM on October 29, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, all!

adipocere: I'm not looking for software suggestions mainly because I don't have a laptop and find trying to juggle an instrument while browsing/scrolling/mousing around on the PC distracting and frustrating, but what the heck, feel free to share!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:53 AM on October 30, 2008

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