Suggested Textbooks

© 2001 James Walker

From time to time, I am asked to recommend certain textbooks related to music. The following are texts which I have found helpful in my studies, as a performer, composer, and educator. The information listed in terms of publication dates, ISBN and LOC reference numbers, etc., is taken from the editions in my own library, and may or may not reflect the most recent editions of these works.


This page is intended purely to present textbooks which I recommend to students and other musicians. I am not soliciting any additional texts for inclusion on this page; please DO NOT send unsolicited texts to me for review. Click here for more details if necessary...

Music Theory

Benjamin, Thomas, Michael Horvit, and Robert Nelson. Techniques and Materials of Tonal Music (Second Edition). Boston: Hougton Miflin Company, 1979. ISBN 0-395-27066-9, LOC Catalog Card Number: 78-69578

The clearest and most concise presentation I've found dealing with beginning and intermediate music theory.

Hindemith, Paul. The Craft of Musical Composition; Book 1: Theory. New York: Schott Music Corporation, 1942/1970. ISBN 0-901938-30-0

Mandatory reading (IMHO) for the serious student of music. Very involved theoretical discussions, but dealing with material that is very relevant to an improvising musician.

Levine, Mark. The Jazz Theory Book. USA: Sher Music Co., 1995. ISBN 1-883217-04-0

The closest thing I've found to a complete "all in one" jazz theory text.

Persichetti, Vincent. Twentieth-Century Harmony: Creative Aspects and Practice. New York: W. W. Norton Co., 1961. LOC Catalog Card Number: 61-5615

As with the Benjamin theory text mentioned above, a very clearly organized theory text.

Slonimsky, Nicolas. Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1947/1975. ISBN 0-02-611850-5, LOC Catalog Card Number: 86-75442

An extensive collection of one- and two-octave scales and patterns, well-suited for use in technical practice and as a source of ideas for melodic improvisation.


Bernstein, Leonard. The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976. ISBN 0-674-92000-7 (clothbound), 0-674-92001-5 (paperbound), LOC Catalog Card Number: 74-83378

Much "food for thought" from an eloquent student of music.

Goldstein, Gil. Jazz Composer's Companion. West Germany: Advance Music, 1993.

Theoretical concepts for the advanced jazz musician; especially valuable are the interviews with such noted composers as Ralph Towner, Horace Silver, Chick Corea, and others.

Goodrick, Mick. The Advancing Guitarist: Applying Guitar Concepts and Techniques. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Books, 1987. ISBN 0-88188-589-4

While much of the text is "guitar-specific," there is a wealth of information (and musical philosophy) from which any musician can benefit.

Hindemith, Paul. A Composer's World: Horizons and Limitations. Harvard University Press, 1952.

A collection of lectures addressing Hindemith's philosophies regarding the role of the composer in music.

Liebman, David. Self-Portrait of a Jazz-Artist: Musical Thoughts and Realities. West Germany: Advance Music, 1988. ISBN 3-89221-013-6

An insightful and instructive collection of essays by a master jazz musician.

Morgenstern, Sam, editor. Composers on Music: An Anthology of Composers' Writings From Palestrina to Copland. USA: Pantheon Books, Inc., 1956. ISBN 0-394-49669-8 (clothbound), 0-394-73040-2 (paperbound), LOC Catalog Card Number: 55-10283

A fascinating collection of essays and letters penned by some of the most significant composers in the history of Western music.

Moses, Bob. Drum Wisdom. Cedar Grove, NJ: Modern Drummer Publications, Inc., 1984.

An excellent - and deceptively brief - text dealing with general rhythmic concepts found in jazz. As with the Goodrick text, a portion of the book is instrument-specific (in this case dealing with drumming), but the player of any instrument can benefit from the ideas presented here.

Tutko, Thomas, and Umberto Tosi. Sports Psyching: Playing Your Best Game All of the Time. New York: Perigree Books, 1976. LOC Catalog Card Number: 75-27975

While this text is (as one can guess from reading the title) geared towards the world of athletics, it deals with many of the same issues faced by performers: lack of confidence, inconsistency, distractions, etc. This book offers practical and logical approaches to dealing with these performance-related issues.

Werner, Kenny. Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within. New Albany, IN: Jamey Aebersold Jazz, Inc., 1996. 1-56224-003-X

The best book I've found dealing with the "why do I play what I play" issues faced by every musician.


Backus, John. The Acoustical Foundations of Music. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc, 1969. ISBN 393-09834-6, LOC Catalog Card Number: 68-54957

The study of acoustics is often overlooked by performers, even though the physics of how sound is created and transmitted should be a basic concern of every musician.


Laverne, Andy. Handbook of Chord Substitutions. Katonah, NY: Ekay Music, Inc., 1991. ISBN 0-943-48-51-8

A great starting point for those looking to move beyond basic jazz theory, offering clear examples and explanations of different reharmonization techniques.

Russo, William. Jazz Composition and Orchestration. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974. ISBN 0-226-73211-8 (clothbound), 0-226-73213-4 (paperbound), LOC Catalog Card Number: 67-20580

A thorough examination of jazz harmony from a more "classical" perspective. Recommended for composers and arrangers looking to expand their harmonic and melodic vocabulary.

Sebesky, Don. The Contemporary Arranger. Sherman Oaks, CA: Alfred Publishing Co., INc., 1974/1984. ISBN 0-88284-032-0, LOC Catalog Card Number: 75-23493

Along with the Wright text, this is found in many University jazz curricula. Addresses a broader range of arranging issues than the Wright does, including orchestration.

Wright, Rayburn. Inside The Score. Delevan, NY: Kendor Music, Inc., 1982. ISBN 0-226-73211-8 (clothbound), 0-226-73213-4 (paperbound), LOC Catalog Card Number: 67-20580

One of the most popular jazz arranging textbooks at the University level. While the text deals with big band arranging, the concepts and techniques Wright addresses will be valuable to players of any chordal instrument. "Inside The Score" analyzes the work of noted arrangers Sammy Nestico, Thad Jones, and Bob Brookmeyer.


Reeves, Scott. Creative Jazz Improvisation. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1989. ISBN 0-13-189671-7 01, LOC Catalog Card Number: 89-5832

A very complete approach to the vocabulary of jazz improvisation, including many brief examples demonstrating harmonic and melodic concepts, as well as transcriptions of solos by noted jazz musicians. A good text for improvisation classes, or for the motivated student who does not have access to an improvisation teacher.

(This page and all the materials within copyright ©2001 James Walker, All Rights Reserved.  No portion of this page may be duplicated or distributed without the author's written consent.)

(click the "lessons" icon to return to the index of lessons at