Music Book Reviews / Recommended Reading

Making Music for the Joy of It  •  Mastery  •  Positive Discipline
The Inner Game of Music  •  Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching


Making Music for the Joy of It

Author: Stephanie Judy

Publisher: Tarcher Press

I've read many books about music, practicing and music theory. “Making Music For the Joy of It,” by Stephanie Judy is certainly the friendliest, and it's a book that consistently encourages and inspires people.

Ms. Judy speaks with authority and experience. She covers many subjects in depth, offers a wealth of information and touches on a bit of music theory. Fortunately she focuses primarily on the practical, personal, essential and everyday aspects of learning music. "Making Music for the Joy of It" is easy, enjoyable reading—and a welcome relief from the dry, esoteric tomes that focus exclusively on theory and musical pedantry.

Ms. Judy discusses several important subjects, topics that most music books fail to cover at all: practicing, selecting a teacher, working with a music teacher, memorization, improvisation, playing with other musicians, rehearsing, performing and overcoming nervousness. In the first chapter, she effectively dismisses the common notion that some people are tone deaf.

Throughout her book Ms. Judy speaks primarily to adult beginners and amateur musicians. This alone makes her book a unique and long needed work. In reminding us that the term amateur comes from the French word “amour,” she underscores that amateurs are motivated by love, not professional goals, and that the level of their achievement and satisfaction is not limited in any way.

She offers lots of encouragement, pep talks, and heaps of useful advice. Her insights and guidance should be appreciated by musicians of all levels; teachers and students alike.

Get this book! You'll be glad you did. One of my students said reading each chapter feels like "having tea and with someone who knows all about music."  

(NOTE: Don't confuse Stephanie Judy's book with a book entitled "Music for the Joy of It," which is out of print.)


Mastery — The keys to Success and Long-term Fulfillment

George Leonard

Penguin Group: Plume Self-Help   


Mastery, by George Leonard is concise and easy to read. Every couple of pages you'll encounter a profound statement regarding the acquisition and mastery of physical skills. Leonard’s examples and stories reflect his experiences in learning Aikido and teaching Kido. Though Leonard doesn't talk specifically about the development and acquisition of musical skills, his enlightened coaching is 100% applicable.

Leonard expresses himself quite clearly in this book, and the concepts he conveys should prove invaluable to anyone pursuing mastery of a physical skill … and musicians -- sometimes called the small muscle athletes -- are certainly on that path.

Always remember, as Leonard points out, that “mastery is not perfection, but rather a journey, and the true master must be willing to try and fail, and try again.” His book also underscores that the people who achieve a high level of mastery are those who can endure the "plateaus."


Positive Discipline

Jane Nelsen

Ballantine Books   


I recommend Jane Nelsen’s book Positive Discipline to any parent. I'm pretty good at enlisting cooperation from kids. Still Nelsen's book showed me numerous ways to improve. Although there are countless books on parenting and discipline this book is a true gem!

Positive Discipline is based on the principles of Adlerian psychology. It models an intelligent, compassionate style of dealing with people. Adlerian styled interactions foster cooperation, respect, self esteem, responsibility, and lead to a "path of least resistance" in relationships. They also help people to communicate they're likes and dislikes, establish better boundaries, build trust, and develop fuller self expression.

Bear in mind, Ms. Nelson's book does not offer quick-fix solutions for all problems between parent and child. It doesn't promote a magic panacea for problems between teacher and student. There's no such thing.

Nor is Positive Discipline perfectly easy to apply. Actually, at first, positive discipline requires a good bit of thought, careful listening, and some extra time establishing agreements. As you may have guessed, in certain circumstances the principles are practically impossible to apply. Nevertheless because the concepts prove effective so often, you'll surely benefit from taking an openminded look down this path. You'll probably find it well worth the effort in the long run.

Central to Nelsen's book is the concept of "logical consequences." This is powerful tool capable of improving recurring relational conflicts, resolving power struggles, and minimizing out-of-control tantrums. Positive Discipline can turn "nightmare" interactions into "a walk in the park." I've seen it happen.

Positive Discipline is not an attempt to sugar coat situations, nor is it a recommendation to act nice when a serious problem is at hand. Positive Discipline demonstrates how to be more direct and produce better cooperation without inflicting needless punishments.

The concept of logical consequences is not a scheme for avoiding conflict—controlled, honest and caring conflict is a natural part of healthy relationships, and it leads people to a higher level of love and respect. Logical consequences are not always painless. Indeed, when people are engage in the manners prescribed, there are sacrifices on both sides.

If you're skeptical about such philosophies please read Ms. Nelsen's first book Positive Discipline. (I've read two other books on the subject of positive discipline, both by Nelsen, and I think her first work is her finest. For me, the other books were less concise and less compelling.)

Here's an example that illustrates the difference between "logical" and "punitive" consequences:

Consider an angry parent saying to a child, "You used your paints in the living room! But I told you to stay at the kitchen table. And look!! There's paint on the floor and coffee table! I'm taking away your paints for the rest of the day, and no TV tonight. You need to learn to follow the rules. Now I have to clean up the mess you made!"

There are a number of problems inherent in this kind of reaction.

First, the consequences are not logical. There is really no connection between TV privileges and the misdeed — except that withholding TV serves as a punishment. The child can correctly conclude, "You just want to hurt me." And though the well intended sting is supposed to be constructive, one should ask, 'Is it?"

Secondly, the announcement or administation of punishment often causes a reaction called splintering. The child's attention splits between the two issues— a) the lesson, the message the parent intends to impart and b) the punishment. Contrary to intention of the angry parent, the child is likely to concentrate on the punishment rather than the guidelines or a request for a specific behavior. In other words, the punishment can prove counter productive because it distractions from your core message.

Point One: When teaching someone, don't distract them. When possible, keep the focus singular. Make a clear expression of what you want or don't want. And refrain from judgments—most judgments are needless, hurtful, distracting, and promote a negative self image and are grounds for resentment and resistance.

Situation like this become immediately inflamed because punitive discipline is usually needlessly upsetting to the child, and the child's central thinking sees the parent as being mean and unfair. Although the parent's goal is to clearly delineate guidelines and foster cooperation, little is accomplished when the air fills with judgments, protests, threats, denials, excuses, and bargaining from both sides. Due to the stress of the moment, communication becomes difficult. You react thinking "I've got to instill some regard for my rules. Plus, I need to get this interaction under control and establish some child-to-parent respect. And soon!"

An escalating exchange may likely provoke retaliatory misdeeds, like the child throwing or breaking something in anger. And a cycle my easily leads toadditional punishments, hurt feelings, perhaps a spanking, lingering resentments, bad attitudes, and erroneous belief systems about each other's intentions.

Worst of all, lost amidst the turmoil may be the essential messages, "I want to you to cooperate with me," and "There are rules in this house that you are to follow," "You are responsible for your actions, and I can help you with that," and most importantly, "I love you. I always want to be fair with you and help you have as much fun and freedom as you can."

If the child misses these nurturing points, if he or she doesn't learn what you want, what purpose does punishment serve?

Point Two: Punishments and punitive consequences enflame the situation, hampering communication, and probably obscure the messages you're trying to deliver. Punishments are big distractions, lightning rods that attract attention away from the central message.

Delayed punishments like, "No TV tonight" are destined to backfire. In the evening when everyone is happy, do you really want to start another upset by invoking the sentence you meted earlier in the day? Probably not. And if you did, would it be beneficial? Probably not. And what if you don't? Then you communicate to the child that you don't stand by your word, that your cautions needn't be taken seriously.

Point Three: Make sure you "solutions" and punishments don't set the stage for future conflict and punishment. Don't make statements that you won't stand by -- thus tempting your child to test your limits.

The paint on the floor and the furniture is a problem, there's no arguing that. But handled positively, it's also an opportunity for your child to learn cooperation, respect and responsibility.

In reading this article, by now you might be thinking, "Boy, if that happened in my house I'd take away those paints faster than you can say Van Gogh!" But confiscating the paints in this situation is only a semi-logical consequence. It sends the message, "If you don't use you paints right you don't get to paint." But isn't the real message: "If you fail to use paints properly in the house, then you don't get to paint in the house."

Remember the original problem? The child failed to use the paints in the recommended location. So rather than punishing by removing painting privileges for a painful period of time, emphasize the true issue, that painting should occur only in the proper places.

The logical consequences?

Impose a very temporary removal of indoor painting privileges and immediately engage the child in a friendly compromise on how to fulfill both your needs: the child's desire to continue painting, and your desire for the painting to occur in a good location where clean up is easy and damage is unlikely. See if the child can come up with a solution. Invite the child to inform you when he or she is ready to paint in a good location.If the child suggests outside at the picnic table, and you agree that's suitable, then so be it. If it's a nice day plan to move the project outside.

When the child invents the solution you know the thought made it to their mind. You don't have to worry about whether he or she heard you.

Point Four: Try not to punish kids by taking away things you want them to have. You wanted your child to use the paints. You bought them for the child's enjoyment and development.

So there's a tendency to give them back quickly, with an admonishment like, "Oh… just be more careful and stay in the kitchen, OK?" (And in doing so you've caved in.) On the other hand, if the paints end up on long term hold in the cabinet above the refrigerator, then you deny yourself and your child something you both want.

Point Five: Kids are very logical, even at a very young age. If you pull a random punishment out thin air, they'll want to argue with you that it's not fair. And they're usually right. The more logical the consequence, the more likely that they will see the justice and comply.

And what about style? You needn't mete logical out healthy, logical consequences sternly and ominously. Show kindness, concern and support for the child's enthusiasm about painting, and do what you can to continue to make that possible.

Point Six: Don't overlook opportunities to teach your child to act responsibly. And remember, being responsible does not need to be a grim experience! People can often find some joy in responsibility, let it be.

And how many times do parents say, "And now I have to clean up this mess you've made!" even when that's not necessarily true, and not necessarily the best idea. Might be the easiest and quickest, but that's not what parenting is about.

Instead of doing it yourself, take the time to oversee or tutor the child on the best way to clean up the mess. If this task can be accomplished with enjoyment, all the better. Should we all be able to resolve our problems with a little cheer! As a result your child will learn to act responsibly, and won't feel overly anxious about making mistakes.

Point Seven: Use punishments as a last resort, when you absolutely can't think of an intelligent way to handle a situation. We all survived punishments. Your child will too. Use logical consequences when you can, because they lead directly toward deeper, more harmonious and satisfying relationships.

In summary, we often dole out punitive and hurtful consequences to children in our attempts to teach or control. But children are able to learn lessons and improve their behavior without punishments. In truth they're more likely to remember messages when they're delivered without needless upset. Children also retain the lesson better when they are successfully directed to act responsibly. When we engage children in resolving problems, like cleaning up a mess they've made, they learn to act responsibly and come to understand that responsibility is not necessarily a distasteful task, and largely it's a way of being fair with other people and looking out for out one's own welfare. Logical consequences focus attention on the problem, highlightling previous agreements and understanding, and they underscore proper behavior and various solutions.

While Positive Discipline is not a solution for all problems, it can help tremendously in normal, everyday living.

----- ------------ ----

It's important to remember that kids are more forgetful than neglectful. And they are more neglectful than devious. And they are often quite willing to cooperate, especially when given options and choices. Mainly they need lots of friendly reminders ... and logical consequences.

Positive Discipline is available on audio cassette. Many schools promote and use positive discipline through mentoring programs. The Positive Discipline mentoring seminars and mentoring partnerships teach teachers how to apply positive discipline in the classroom.


Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching

Author: Ivan Galamian

Publisher: Prentice-Hall (Shar Publications)


If you read one book on violin technique and violin instruction, make this the one! Galamian's book should prove insightful to the student and invaluable to the instructor.

It's astonishing what goes out of print. Fortunately this book is back, thanks to Shar Music! And now it's available in paperback and hard cover, for $30 and $60 respectively.

Although Ivan Galmian's book covers many topics in extraordinary depth, bow technique in particular, it maintains clarity throughout — an accomplishment achieved by few authors in this field. As a testament to his insights, there are few teachers who have received a level of recognition matching that of their world renowned students.

In the words of his Galamian's student Itzhak Perlman:

"Ivan Galamian … was a virtuoso teacher whose system of teaching the violin was both ingenious and logical. This book … give us a wonderful insight into Mr. Galamian's very special method of teaching the violin.

At some point be sure to take a peak at Galamian's revolutionary work.


The Inner Game of Music

Author: Barry Green and Tim Gallwey

Publisher: Doubleday


The Inner Game of Music (Doubleday) is co-authored by Barry Green and Tim Gallwey. Gallwey has written and co-authored “Inner Game” books for golf, tennis, and other topics. Overall the books are quite similar. They offer techniques for developing focused attention. Although focused attention can serve many purposes, (for instance, deep relaxation and better communication) the authors present it mainly as a means of eliminating distractions to improve performance, and as a tool for overcoming nervousness and stage fright. Its sports psychology for the musician. And quite useful, for what pertains to sports athletes certainly applies musicians — the “small muscle athletes.”

There's no arguing about the veracity of the authors’ opinions. Verification is easily found in the various fields of body-based psychology. Those struggling with nervousness may benefit from this book.

Unfortunately this book is rather repetitive. About half way though I stopped looking for new information. For all I know, there may have been much more of value.

The last time I checked there were a couple of copies of this book in the Contra Costa Library System. Check it out.


The Art of Practicing

Author: Madeline Bruser

Publisher: Bell Tower


In her book "The Art of Practice" Madeline Bruser encourages musicians to pursue relaxation and to cultivate pleasure in practice. This welcomed advice! And I wholeheartedly agree that quality practice is far more important than the quantity.

Here are few quotes from the first chapter:

"Giving up our struggle opens us to the music. And the performer's job is just that …

"Our most valuable asset … [is] the willingness to be vulnerable, genuine, and spontaneous, to communicate from the heart. Communicating this openly in performance feels risky. You are on the spot and can't control what will happen. But it is invigorating because you are wide awake to the present moment. You walk onto the stage and notice every little thing—how your shoe feels on your foot, how the light hits the floor, how the shadows fall, every little sound in the audience. You think, "Oh, no! I don't know if I can do this! All these things are going on!" These things are going on every day, all day in your life, yet suddenly you are aware of them. As you place your fingers on your instrument or open your mouth to sing, you feel extraordinarily sensitive to every move you make.

"The Art of Practicing is a discipline that cultivates this heightened awareness in every moment of our practicing. We practice noticing the details of our sensory experience, letting the sensation of sound, touch, and movement saturate the body and mind from moment to moment. By deliberately practicing such receptiveness, we gradually become familiar with the experience of brilliant awareness, and we begin to feel at home in the bright light on stage."

"… the better you understand [your fear] the less grip it will have on you. Ask yourself what exactly are you afraid of … Whatever your fear is about, it has a lot to do with how much you love music and how much you long to express yourself as an artist and a person.

"… I sometimes point out to students that their frustration … is an indication that they care deeply … It is especially important to be kind to yourself when your notice you are tightening up."

Bruser says some things so well! However, overall I found "The Art of Practice" rather difficult to read. At the core of Bruser's book is her ten-step approach, but I found myself lost among various tangents wondering, "Which step am I studying?" Chapter titles are more poetic than informative and because the subchapter organization is weak, which only contributes to the confusion.

Sometimes Bruser's advice and instructions are detailed and clear. Other times they're incomplete, intangible or non sequitur. I found myself skipping over portions here and there, struggling to catch the thread, .

I was disheartened by sweeping assumptions, unsubstantiated conclusions ... and I bristled occasionally when she included you and me in the global "we."

The chapter "Basic Mechanics" is quite interesting and informative. This portion of the book is an ambitious project. It succeeds rather well for a chapter that touches on so many instruments. Needless to say, here Bruser was restricted by the size of this book, thus each instrument only receives superficial treatment. Still I was enticed by the details and found myself wanting more. I'd like to see a larger work in this direction.

At times Bruser's writing is unfocused. She witches abruptly from an instructive voice to a reflective one. When she shares her personal experiences, the book turns quite personal -- for better and for worse -- reading more like a diary, frequently revealing or alluding to struggles and triumphs in Bruser's musical and personal life.

Bruser imparts admonitions like, "Abandon inflated approaches … but open yourself to the exact texture of the music so that it penetrates you completely." Statements like these provoke an awkward oxymoronic tension. Cumulatively they form Bruser's ostentato, which spans from cover to cover: a call for the utmost in personal authenticity and depth of performance. Good advice really. But Bruser delivers this message repetitively, rather dramatically at times, occasionally obscuring and distracting attention from the point at hand. Regarding the achievement of "the utmost in personal authenticity" and such, I'd say, all things in moderation, including moderation!

This book would be easier to recommend if Ms. Bruser had not blended great advice and conjecture side by side. When she does I begin to doubt the depth of her knowledge and authority. Nevertheless, I'm sure her message and delivery will resonate with many.


Stretching, Somatics, Musical Health

Few things are as important as good physical health. To engage in lifelong music, musicians need excellent health, and they should attend to issues of discomfort, limited function, or injury.



Stretching: 30th Anniversary Edition

Author: Bob Anderson , Jean Anderson: Illustrator

Publisher: Doubleday


For people who want to stay healthy and flexible, or who need to stretch properly to recover from an injury or to address a loss of mobility.It's all about a proper approach, which Anderson succinctly explains in the first few pages.

You'll probably find some edition this book on any physical therapist's bookshelf. It has endured the test of time, and is now revised. The 30th anniversary version of Stretching by Bob Anderson, came out in May 2010.

Though Anderson's book is thorough and detailed, it is quite accessible to the layperson and well illustrated.

Highly recommended for anyone who wants the health benefits of stretching, with advice on stretching effectively, so you don't veer into counter productivity by invoking the "stretch reflex." (One drawback is that it does not identify very many muscles by name.)




Somatics: Reawakening The Mind's Control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health

Author: Thomas Hanna

Publisher: Da Capo Press


Hanna Somatics provide in depth methods for healing and discovering relaxation. It's a course in systematically teaching the body to let go of chronic tension. Sage advice: Chronically tense muscles tend to fail to produce adequate of sensory feedback, so use extra caution when stretching them stiff muscles, because they don't provide true, normal warning signs if you begin to over-stretch.



Digital Audio, Sampling and
the Mathematics of Music


Musimathics — Volume 1: The Mathematical Foundations of Music

Author: Gareth Loy

Publisher: Press (2006)


Musimathics — Volume 2: The Mathematical Foundations of Music

Author: Gareth Loy

Publisher: Press (2007)


Classics of the Brazilian Choro: Jacob Do Bandolim (A two book/CD set)

Composer: Jacob do Bandolim

Publisher: Choro Music


The music of Jacob do Bandolim! Mandolin choro at it's best. This package includes two books and 2 CDs. The materials comprise a masterpiece of masterpieces. The sheet music, author's comments, presentation and recordings are incredibly well done—and I rarely give out such compliments. The music reaches melodic and harmonic heights, in the form of latin/jazz—choro! Clearly a labor of love, and something worthy of a spot on your music stand!


Classics of the Brazilian Choro, Vol. 1: Altamiro Carrilho

Composer: Altamiro Carrilho

Publisher: Choro Music


The music of Altamiro Carrilho! Composer and flute performer extraordinaire!



Fiddle Lessons & Workshops. Guitar Mandolin, Banjo & Bodhran Lessons
Private Music Lessons
Workshops • Performances






Books on this page:

Stretching - Bob Anderson

Hanna Somatics

Audio / Sampling

Gareth Loy Books

Jacob Do Bandolim