Here at Toolroom Academy we truly encourage our students to learn everything they can about their craft. While you can certainly get some great information from YouTube, production forums and our Toolroom Academy courses, we feel there is another great, untapped source of knowledge that too many producers ignore. Today, we’re going to talk about our 5 favorite music production books, and why you should be reading them.
Let’s get started!
Now look, we’re not trying to sound like your high school English teacher, but hear us out. Reading is one of the best ways for the average person to learn just about anything.
Think about it.
Chances are, you’ve been learning by way of good, old fashioned books since you were a child. While all those years in grade school may seem like a distant memory at best, you almost certainly picked up the skill of learning through written text.
There’s no denying how important this process is. Learning through reading may be one of the most powerful skills you’ve ever picked up as a person!
Naturally, you will scour the internet day and night for the solutions to your production problems. Unfortunately, there’s a dark side to getting all of your information from the internet.
While there’s plenty of great info online, it doesn’t take much to see that not everyone who’s blogging about music production is qualified to do so.
Books, on the other hand, take years to write, publish, and revise. The process of writing a book is much more delicate than throwing a blog post up online. Virtually every piece of information is scrutinized. No stone is left unturned. It’s brilliant, really.
Short of enrolling in a course where you’re taught by industry professionals, there is often no better place to gain useful information on music production than by cracking open a paperback.
Without further adieu, here are our 5 favorite music production books.
If there’s a dance music production bible, this would certainly be it.
This is not a book that’s meant to teach you which snare to pair with your kick. Instead, it discusses the fundamental concepts such as compression, EQ, reverb, routing in your DAW, etc.
While genres and fads change like the weather, techniques usually do not. Don’t read this book expecting to get schooled on how to sound like Harry Romero, or for tips on making Techno. Instead, expect timeless knowledge that will benefit your productions both today and five years from now.
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a total beginner, this book deals with the fundamentals of producing Electronic music. Learn them!
Best for: those who want to nail, or brush up on the foundations.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was like…a user manual that came with Ableton Live?
Well, there is. You can actually read it for free here.
But, keep reading…
You don’t need us to tell you that it’s genuinely difficult to learn every little feature that Ableton has to offer.
Picture this: you’re beyond excited for your first day in Ableton. You’ve anxiously awaited the long and complicated installation, and you crack the program open ready to do some serious damage.
…and you’re like a deer in the headlights.
“What the hell does all of this stuff do?”
Houston, we have a problem.
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
Jon Marguiles has helped make order from the madness. In 528 pages, he goes into painstaking detail describing everything from how to properly mix your low end, to the latest program updates.
If you’re an Ableton Live user, you need to have this book on your desk.
Best for: those who want to master Ableton’s features.
Ah yes, mixing. It’s the bane of some producer’s existence, and the specialty of others.
Nothing can be more crippling to a budding producer than being unable to mix their tracks to an acceptable standard. It breaks our hearts to receive demos that, while the ideas are brilliant and the composition extremely solid, they just don’t sound good.
Don’t let this be you.
Here’s a piece of advice: no DJ is going to risk losing a crowd to play a poorly mixed track.
The myth that most producers believe goes as follows: when you’re in a perfectly treated room, the process of mixing becomes far easier than when confined to just your bedroom.
After all, how are you supposed to compete with the top dogs in the business when you have access to little more than your studio monitors?
The only thing that’s worse than the confusion of the whole process is getting suckered into buying a ridiculously high priced set of monitors, or another unnecessary piece of gear hoping that it will solve your mixing woes.
Most of the time, it won’t. We all wish it were that easy.
What will help is learning to improve your mix downs.
Not only will this book show you how to work with a limited budget when picking gear and setting up your room, but he will also take you through the process of a mix-down, step-by-step.
From the basics of EQ and compression, to what he refers to as the magical “fairy-dust” that engineers will sprinkle on their finished work, this piece is possibly the best primer that exists on mixing down your tracks that exists.
Out of all of the music production books listed here, this is by far the most technical.
Best for: those who just can’t seem to get a good mix down.
It’s not everyday that Ableton Live gives a standing ovation to a book about their program. But, when they do, you can be sure it’s pure quality. The best part is that the book is not exclusive to Ableton, either. Logic producers rejoice, every technique discussed in this book is applicable to you too.
Making Music: 74 Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producer is a primer on how to start, work on, and finish tracks in the context of Electronic music.
The book deals with your habits as a producer. Even on your most motivated days in the studio, you can still get “stuck” where it can seem that your creativity and ambition just won’t play nice together.
Think of creativity as that “divine spark,” so to speak.
It’s the invisible hand that pushes you to throw in that random acapella you ripped from vinyl, to write that catchy melody, or to twist a few knobs and come up with a sound the world has never heard before.
This book presents 74 antidotes for a lack of ingenuity. Check it out here!
Best for: those who need some structure.
In this case, last is certainly not least. Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art is possibly the most important book ever written for those who work in a creative field.
This is not a book that’s going to show you how to write melodies, arrange a track, or anything of the sort.
Instead, it deals in mindset techniques that you as an artist must master.
Why is mindset important? Let’s talk about it.
You sit down to start writing…and then your phone rings.
The dog needs let out.
Your mates are asking you “why are you even doing this?”
And then you start to doubt yourself, wondering if you will ever write the big song you know you’re perfectly capable of creating.
Before you know it, it’s 2:00AM and you’ve accomplished nothing.
We know, we know. There’s no other way to say it: it sucks.
Stephen Pressfield calls everything that prevents you from doing the creative work you were born to do as “resistance.”
Whether it’s fear, procrastination, self doubt, or something even more terrible, we’ve seen the impact that resistance can have on an otherwise promising Electronic music producer.
Let me tell you this: it can be deadly.
Pressfield takes you into his own creative struggles over the years when writing two hit novels, and provides actionable advice on how to overcome some of the worst obstacles that can stand in your way.
Best for: those who can’t seem to get started.
Honorable mention: Music Habits – The Mental Game of Electronic Music Production from Jason Timothy is another fantastic music production book for those looking for an effective roadmap to start putting out creative work.
There you have it, Toolroom Academy’s 5 favorite music production books. Do you have any favorites?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!