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Pretty much anything you imagine can be found in an online article or some other digital outlet. That being said, the value of reading a book is as relevant as ever.
Whether you’re looking to be an audio engineer, a mastering engineer, or a music producer, books can provide in-depth production knowledge.
Here’s a list of the best books for music producers:
- Mastering Audio by, Bob Katz
- The Mastering Engineer’s Handbook by, Bobby Owsinski
- Pro Audio Mastering Made Easy by, David S Eley
- Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio, Mike Senior
- Mixing with Impact, Wessel Oltheten
- ZEN And The Art of Mixing, Mixerman
- Welsh’s Synthesizer Cookbook, Fred Welsh
- Creating Sounds from Scratch, Andrea Pejrolo
- How To Program Any Synthesizer, Ashley Hewitt
- Fundamentals of Music Composition, Arnold Schoenberg
- Voice Leading, David Huron
- Behind The Glass, Howard Massey
- Listen To This, Alex Ross
- The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
- The Art of Practising, Madeline Bruser
Below you’ll find all the best books on mastering.
Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science
Starting off our list is one of the most famous books on mastering, Bob Katz’s “Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science”. Bob Katz explains the technical detail of the subject in his informative and humorous style.
Focusing on workflow, this ,third edition details mastering by providing a step-by-step approach to the process. The book is written in a way that’s easily digestible and everything is laid out in a need to know way, so that you’re never overwhelmed by it.
Covering practical techniques and basic theory, this industry classic addresses advanced theory and practice. Several new chapters have been added to address the influence of loudness measurement and the so called “Loudness wars”.
Also included is an extended dive into noise reduction techniques, and an updated chapter on surround mastering.
The Mastering Engineer’s Handbook
“The Mastering Engineer’s Handbook”, Fourth Edition by Bobby Owsinski has been redesigned and updated to reflect the latest strides in mastering technology. This book shows you both the fundamentals, and the advanced aspects of both self-mastering, and prepping your mix for mastering by a pro.
Another great addition to the book is a comprehensive look at mastering for vinyl, which is often left undiscussed in books of this sort. Especially relevant for the lockdown, the book also explains mastering techniques for the best possible sounding masters on streaming services, like Spotify.
The book also features interviews with a number of legendary mastering engineers discussing their techniques and tips.
Lastly, an overview of the tools required for successful self-mastering is included, to get you straight down the path of mastering your own music. Whether you’re a mixing, mastering engineer or a music producer, you will find some value in this book.
Pro Audio Mastering Made Easy
“Pro Audio Mastering Made Easy” by David S Eley is the perfect book to read for a bedroom producer.
This book explains and demonstrates how to achieve a commercial sounding finish using software found in any typical home studio. The book contains topics like how to get your masters REALLY loud while still sounding spacious and dynamic.
This must read for bedroom producers reveals how a mix should sound to produce a commercial volume and radio quality master.
As the author, David S Eley explains:
“About the first 90% of getting that commercial sound is technique. The final 10% is the tools you use. So before you go and buy the most expensive compressor and EQ, it’s a lot more financially worthwhile to instead invest some ‘time’ rather than money.”
If you’re a music producer that does all of your own mixing and mastering, this is the book for you.
Below you’ll find all the best books for getting tight mixes.
Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio
“Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio” by SoundOnSound’s resident mix guru, Mike Senior, shows you how to achieve high quality mixes even in the smallest studios. With this book you’ll unravel the mysteries of every type of mix processing, from simple EQ and compression, to advanced spectral dynamics.
The book is written in a very user-friendly manner, so that you’re never bombarded by technical language and is useful at all levels, regardless of the size of the studio, or its facilities.
The emphasis is very much on mastering the correct approaches and techniques, rather than how to use any specific equipment or software.
Everything is described in such as way as to make it easily transferable across any DAW platform or even to a traditional console‑based mix environment.
Through and through, “Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio” is a must read for anybody working as a music producer.
Mixing with Impact: Learning to Make Musical Choices
In “Mixing with Impact: Learning to Make Musical Choices”, Wessel Oltheten discusses the creative and technical concepts behind audio engineering. Whether you’re a music producer in your home studio, a live mixer in a club, or an engineer in a big studio, the mindset is largely the same.
The same goes for the questions you run into: “where do you start?” “Why doesn’t your mix sound as good as someone else’s?” etc.
Following a clear structure, this book covers these and many other questions, bringing you closer to answering the question it poses.
“How do you tell a story with sound?”
All the usual themes are covered here: setting up your listening environment, understanding how EQ, compression and reverb work, gain structure etc.
Wessel manages to do this in a way that is engaging and provides all info on a need to know basis.
All in all, Mixing With Impact is packed with useful ideas, up-to-date information, and great explanations backed up with lots of useful diagrams.
It should help anyone, be they seasoned pros or aspiring engineers taking their first steps into the world of mixing.
Zen and the Art of Mixing
“ZEN And The Art of Mixing” by Mixerman uses a more philosophical approach and pays less attention to the technical side.
The book discusses the various planes inside the mix and its visualization, as well as the popular “Steps to better mixing” section. Mixerman outlines his own approach to recording success, based on his years mixing records in all genres of music.
Unlike most other books on this list, Mixerman doesn’t delve too deep into any particular technique or technology. Rather, he writes about how to be a better mixing engineer, how to think and how to approach problems.
Mixerman also provides a lot of insight into the professional audio engineering process, and the mixers role in the business.
“Zen and the Art of Mixing” is a must read for any engineer, aspiring to work in a professional recording studio.
Below you’ll find the best books on sound design.
Welsh’s Synthesizer Cookbook
“Welsh’s Synthesizer Cookbook” by Fred Welsh is a book that covers ground that is often left untouched by other synthesizer books.
It was written with synth programmers in mind, however most of the techniques covered are extremely valuable for any producer.
Section one explains the parts of an analog synth in detail to make clear, precisely what each synth parameter does.
Section two explains through examples how to use freely available analysis software to analyze and recreate patches from other synths.
The last section contains 102 universal patches for ALL dual-oscillator analog synths, you can recreate at home.
This book is of great help when it comes to understanding in-depth, what every section of a synthesizer does.
The only downside is that is a little dated, so you won’t find the latest trend sound in EDM explained there. However, it will give you all the information you need to be able to master your creative process.
Creating Sounds from Scratch
“Creating Sounds from Scratch” by Andrea Pejrolo & Scott B. Metcalfe is a practical, in-depth resource on the most common forms of music synthesis. It includes historical context of computer musicians, an overview of concepts in sound, and practical training examples to help you create new sounds.
The book covers all of the main synthesis techniques including analog, subtractive, FM, additive, physical modelling, wavetable, sample-based, and granular.
While the book is grounded in theory, it relies on practical examples and contemporary production techniques to help improve your work.
Creating Sounds from Scratch is ideal for all who work in sound creation, composition, editing, and modern commercial production. In addition to this, compared to other classic sound design books, it’s up-to-date and more synthesis and sound design centered.
How To Program Any Synthesizer
“How To Program Any Synthesizer” by Ashley Hewitt is the perfect book for a complete synthesis beginner. If you’re struggling to recreate a sound you’ve heard, or you wish to step beyond presets and online tutorials, How To Program Any Synthesizer will help you.
This book provides everything you need to understand how all synthesizers work.
It breaks down each element of synthesizer programming into easy steps and shows you how to build your own, signature sounds from scratch.
Whether you’re creating a funky lead on a Minimoog or a huge bassline on Massive, How To Program Any Synthesizer will teach you the method behind the magic.
If you’re a complete beginner in sound design, or an electronic music guru, we highly recommend you read this one.
Below you’ll find the best books on musical composition.
Fundamentals of Musical Composition
“Fundamentals of Musical Composition” by Arnold Schoenberg is one of the most famous books about musical composition.
The work represents the culmination of more than forty years of Schoenberg’s life devoted to the teaching of music theory to composers in Europe and America.
For his classes , Schoenberg developed a manner of teaching in which ‘every technical matter is discussed in a very fundamental way. This makes it so that the book is at the same both simple and thorough.
On one hand, it has the practical objective of introducing students to the process of composing in a systematic way. On the other hand, the author analyses those particular sections in the works of the masters which relate to the compositional topic under discussion.
While focusing mostly on classical composition, every technique and concept explained carries over to all types of music production.
Voice Leading by David Huron
“Voice Leading” by David Huron is primarily a scientific book.
Besides the technical aspects of it, the book is an accessible explanation for the traditional rules of voice leading. This includes an account of why listeners find some musical textures more pleasing than others.
Expanding beyond traditional writing, Huron shows how established principles can be used to compose and analyze any kind of acoustical texture.
Finally, he offers a psychological explanation for why certain kinds of musical textures are more likely to be experienced by listeners as pleasing.
Compared to the rest of this list, Voice Leading is a very niche book. It’s also quite heavy on the music theory.
That being said, it’s one of the best sources to learn the theory behind melody, and how to use it to invoke certain emotions in your listener.
Behind The Glass: Top Record Producers Tell How They Craft The Hits
“Behind The Glass” by Howard Massey is one of the best books, that gives solid, real-world advice on production and composition.
In this collection of first-hand interviews, 37 of the world’s top record producers share their creative secrets and techniques on how they’re making music.
George Martin reveals the technical and musical challenges of working with The Beatles.
Phil Ramone (producer for such artists as Billy Joel) discusses studio wall treatments.
The book offers real-world advice on everything from, mics, to mixing, to coaching a nervous singer.
Producers interviewed include Arif Mardin (Aretha Franklin), Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys), Alan Parsons (Pink Floyd) and more.
Howard Massey has written a great book for anyone looking to get some first-hand knowledge of how great producers go about their work.
Below you’ll find the best books on mindset.
“Listen To This”
“Listen To This” by Alex Ross is a sequel to his contemporary classic “The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century”.
The book is a collection of essays, showcases the best of his writing from more than a decade at The New Yorker. While it’s not a book that will tell you what to do and how to do it, Listen To This manages to accomplish something even greater.
It gives a sense of wonder to the process of listening to music.
In the book, Ross manages to talk about canonical composers like Brahms and Verdi, while having interviews of contemporary artists like Bjork and Radiohead.
Listen to This casts a wide net with it’s topic and manages to be witty and passionate, while brimming with insight.
If you want to know about the music you’re listening to in a deeper manner, this is a great read for anyone in the music industry.
The War of Art
“The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles” by Steven Pressfield is one of the best books for musicians, while not being about music at all.
It’s all about how to get in the right mindset to battle through those terrible creative blocks we all sometimes suffer from.
An internationally bestselling author Steven Pressfield delivers a guide to inspire and support those who struggle to express their creativity.
The book is based around the concept of resistance. Resistance is what keeps us from sitting down and doing our best work.
Pressfield believes that “resistance” is the greatest enemy, and he offers many unique and helpful ways to overcome it.
For anyone struggling with motivation, artists block or creativity, The War of Art is a must read.
The Art of Practicing
“The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart” by Madeline Bruser is the one book, every musician should read.
An often overlooked process (practice), is what separates the wannabe’s from the devoted. If you’re anything like us, practicing always seems like a chore and a necessary evil. The process of practicing is often monotonous, frustrating and labour intensive.
The Art of Practicing enlightens the reader about a way of practicing that turns the process into an exhilarating and rewarding experience.
While mostly centered around Piano, the book is valuable to any musician, whether they’re a pianist, a producer or mixing engineer.
No matter your field, practice makes perfect, always.
“Rick Rubin: In the Studio” by Jake Brown
A biography and a closer look at the life and creative process of Rick Rubin, one of the most important and enigmatic record producers in history.
“Mixing Engineer’s Handbook” by Bobby Owsinski
One of the best selling books on audio mixing and mastering, covers a wide range of topics. Great for beginners.
“How Music Works” by David Byrne
An easy to digest read on how context, location, dance, set design, technology and more play a role in creating good music.
To recap here are the best books for music producers:
Whether you’re an avid reader, or haven’t bought a book since high-school, any of these reads are a great pick-up.
There’s something here for you if you’re creating electronic music, mixing, looking for recording techniques or are just looking for some tips and tricks.
We hope you enjoyed the post, now get busy reading!