Good Homework for the Working Musician

There are plenty of books out there and many of them are a waste of time, but, there are some excellent and inspiring books in every genre that can help us gain perspective as people and artists. These volumes are handfuls of books I’ve read and that have stuck with me through the trials and tribulations of artistic life.

For overcoming rejection and other emotional challenges:

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F****: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
I listened to this as an audiobook while stomping around Edinburgh during Festival Fringe in August of 2017. It was pretty awesome, and those of us who live an artistic life, one of vulnerability and a lot of rejection, can certainly benefit from this philosophy. I found myself thinking about it whenever I wondered if I’d said something awkward to someone or, frankly, whenever I was worried about anything. The philosophy is solid, no nonsense, actionable, and most importantly, very applicable to the life of a musician.

For tightening up your technique:

The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
This is one of those books I find myself thinking about often and telling stories from regularly. This is a no-nonsense, neuro-science based book about skill acquisition that is full of lively examples rich with detail and very impressive in its scope and applicability. If you want to hone your practice techniques to be able to increase your proficiency and learning speed, this book is for you.

For making your dream life a reality:

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
I read this book back in 2011 at the recommendation of a now out-of-print boyfriend, and it is one of the most, if not the most impactful non-fiction book I’ve ever read. This is a lifestyle design book that’s all about letting go of societally defined concepts of success and asking yourself what it is you really want from your life. Then, you figure out how much time and money you need in order to live that life, and how you can get the time and money you need. This isn’t an entrepreneur’s book for how to make $$$. This is a book about living your best, most authentic and individual life, with a lot of effective tools and strategies for making that happen. There are other great books that go well with this one and I’ll be sure to feature them in future volumes of the Musician’s Reading List, but this one is the perfect foundation.

For improving your relationship with your fans:

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
This was another book I listened to, but this time while riding the subway to and from my conservatory in NYC. Amanda Palmer is a remarkable, subversive, warm woman with an incredible artistic backstory. She is a simultaneously controversial and inspirational figure. I highly recommend listening to this book if you’re interested in exploring the relationship between musicians and fans and the power that can have for your career and in your life. On a practical note, Amanda Palmer made a new record for revenue collected by a musician through crowdfunding when her 25,000 fans contributed over a million dollars to a Kickstarter to fund her next album. The book is worth reading.

For getting the most out of your practice time:

The Practice Journal founded by Eddie Chen and Brett Yang
This is a sort of book/journal hybrid that makes a great companion to The Talent Code, since the first third is full of applicable facts about how to optimize your practice time. I found the information extremely helpful, and what’s even better is that the rest of it is a journal you can use during your practice to track your progress, plan your intentions, and truly get the most out of your practice time. I was sceptical at first, but I found a lot of value in this little book.

I hope you enjoyed these reads! Leave a comment below with your opinions about any of these books, or with your recommendations for future volumes of the Musician’s Reading List.


Guest Post by Allie Mazon