What is the ultimate music producers reading list?
Our friends at Get That Pro Sound have compiled a list of life changing books… books that makes you think about and listen to music in a whole new way, with a deeper understanding.
Here they’ve brought together books on recording, mixing, mastering, orchestration, film scoring, sound design, EDM and House music production, Pro producer interviews and tutorials, musician and producer biographies, and academic/philosophical writing on the more abstract aspects of music and its construction.
You may think the titloe of this post is a little over the top – but if you’ve ever been struggling for days, weeks or months with some aspect of your music-making, or come across a new album, artist or idea that just blew yu away… You’ll know it doesn’t feel like an exaggeration at the time to say it was life-changing :)
Mastering Audio, Second Edition: The Art and the Science
Author: Bob Katz
The title of this book refers not just to the catch-all term for the final processing stages of a track or album, but perhaps also to the idea of becoming a ‘Master of Audio’. It provides pretty definitive information on working with digital audio, dithering, metering, levels and decibels, monitor calibration, album sequencing, and mixing as it relates to creating a complete record.
A book on the more technical aspects of this stuff could be fairly tedious to say the least, but Katz is a great guide and somehow never lets things appear more complicated than they need to be. He’s entertaining and philosophical, and always keeps the explanations of each topic straightforward and actually useful for others to follow. Clearly, his experience (he’s won three Grammys) and passion shine through.
Mixing Audio, Second Edition: Concepts, Practices and Tools
Author: Roey Izhaki
There are lots of books and resources on mixing, but few seem to actually help you become a better mixer. Roey Izhaki’s book is one of the few, striking a pretty good balance between covering all the essential tools and processes you need to know about, and making sure that you’re approaching the whole thing in the right way, with a strong vision of what you’re trying to achieve, to begin with.
It’s partly so useful because as well as the text, you also get a DVD with clips from each of the mixing case study examples (they’re arranged by genre: Rock, Hip Hop/Urban, D&B, Techno, Metal etc.), and access to a companion website with another 2000 downloadable clips.
Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio
Author: Mike Senior
Finally, a proper book on mixing dedicated to small/project/bedroom studio owners everywhere. The most significant aspects of Mike Seniors book for me are the emphasis on monitoring – you can have all the software to rival a professional studio, but if you can’t hear accurately what’s coming out of the speakers it’s still going to be a frustrating experience; and the idea of planning a mix strategically, learning not just what compression or EQ do, for example, but when and how it’s best to use them in context. Recommended for everyone!
Behind the Glass – Top Record Producers Tell How They Craft the Hits
Author: Howard Massey
A bit like On The Track for rock production, the two volumes of Behind The Glass are probably the most insightful and inspiring collections of first-hand interviews with top record producers to be found anywhere. It’s like sitting in a bar and eaves-dropping on conversations with George Martin (The Beatles), Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix), Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys) and Alan Parsons (Pink Floyd). Favourite quote (from David Bowie producer Tony Visconti): “I want to work with people who have a vision. It’s boring to work with a person who lies back in bed and says, ‘Do me.’”
It’s a brilliant mix of discussions and detailed advice on the technical and creative aspects of producing, all wrapped up in anecdotes that give you a privileged peek into the inner circles and creative processes of legendary bands and artists. And the way both books are organised, it’s also a disguised history lesson with the interviews arranged by the age groups and locations (US and UK) of the producers, so you get a real sense of how things have evolved over the decades.
Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey
Authors: Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton
I feel that anyone who wants to know how to make dance music absolutely must read this before reading any technical manuals or buying any equipment or software. Why? Because I guarantee that you will have a completely different impression of what electronic music is, where it came from, what it’s designed for and why it sounds the way it does, after you’ve read it.
The book goes right back to the very beginnings of DJing and dance music with the Northern Soul scene in the North of England, and takes in the stories behind Reggae, Disco, Hip Hop, Garage, House and Techno. For me, the House and Techno chapters especially were a revelation, detailing how these styles were really local scenes that grew out of specific cities, clubs, producers and DJs, before they went on to global domination. There are plenty of interviews with the key people who were actually there, and of course you come away with a list of classic tracks and forgotten gems that you might otherwise never be aware of.
Dance Music Manuel, Second Edition: Tools, Toys and Techniques
Author: Rick Snoman
Ok, so you’ve now got Last Night A DJ Saved My Life…, right? Now, if you want to make electronic dance music of any style, this should probably be your next port of call. Most music production books and guides are written with rock or pop production firmly in mind, so it was refreshing to find a book that strictly cuts to the chase for EDM producers. You won’t find masses of information about how to mike guitar amps and real drum kits, but you will learn how to sequence, arrange, sample, compress and process your electronic tracks, as well as tips on mastering, publishing and promoting your tracks once you’re done mixing. The programming and sound-selection conventions of each genre are discussed as well, which can really get you going fast if you’re a beginner wondering why your hard-edged Techno track ended up sounding like a Donna Summer disco special…
The Secrets of House Music Production
Author: Marc Adamo
This one is from the sample-makers Sample Magic, so of course it comes with a handy 500MB of samples to get going with if you’re just starting out. The style is quite different from Snoman’s Dance Music Manual, focusing more on tutorials (in Cubase, Logic and Ableton Live) for creating very specific ‘genre’ sounds, but I found some amazing tips and tricks that I hadn’t picked up anywhere else or discovered for myself. Modern dance music production is so tight and specific-sounding you really just have to be very accomplished at a few recording, programming and processing techniques – this book is good for this, saving you from being overwhelmed by discussions of gear and more complex (albeit more flexible) working methods.
There are also some good contributions from producers including Way Out West and American House DJ/producer Wolfgang Gartner.
Big thanks to Get That Pro Sound for the recommendations. For more great reads, click here.