Great Books for Artists (of any kind) Pt. 2

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by Jan Seides
Friday 14th February, 2014, 12:13am

Over the years, I’ve found a number of books that got me motivated, thrust me into action, or helped me resolve some of the many stumbling blocks artists are prone to.  I discovered them mostly in random fashion, or they were recommended by a friend, or mentioned in something else I was reading. Here is an aggregated list (about 5 at a time, so you’ll have time to investigate them) of all the ones I found useful, and usually entertaining. (Disclaimer: I am not financially involved in any of these. Just appreciative.)

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 1.28.54 AMThe Inner Game of Music, by Barry Green, was part of a popular string of books by W. Timothy Gallway and others, that I believe began with The Inner Game of Tennis.  They all describe the same phenomenon, but apply it to different activities, among them golf, music, work, stress and more.  More than anything else, they describe ways to let go of, or trick yourself into ignoring, your inner critic, and letting your natural abilities take over.

I found this advice immensely useful, not only for playing; the author was attempting to learn to play jazz on piano, but for writing as well. One of my favorite descriptions in this book was where he was playing, finally, in the way he’d been trying to learn and he’d beaten his inner critic. And the little critical voice said, “Well, that was great! How long can you keep it up?” “Forever” was not the answer, as it turned out.

I have had that experience myself.

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 1.05.44 AMPaul Zollo’s book, Songwriters on Songwriting, is an engaging and brilliant collection of interviews with various songwriters. It is also a description of how each writer works, as told by the writers themselves, and as such is full of advice for songwriters, both new and experienced.

Pretty much every songwriter I’ve ever admired has a chapter in this book, and Zollo is very good at asking the questions that enable to tell their own stories.  Among the many writers: Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, David Byrne, Tom Petty, Burt Bacharach, Neil Young, Frank Zappa, Randy Newman (who tells a story about Jimi Hendrix that will REALLY surprise you!), Brian Wilson and many, many more.

Plan to savor this one very slowly. Lots of meat on these bones.


Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 1.15.44 AMWhat if? by Anna Bernays and Pamela Painter is exactly what it sounds like, a series of scenarios for fiction writers to play with. They themselves call them “writing exercises”, but here’s an example: Name the following characters. 1) a petty white-collar thief, 2) an envious, bitter woman, 3) a sweet, shy young man, 4) a grandmother who just won the lottery.

Can you imagine anything more fun?





Part 3 will be devoted not only to one of my favorite teachers of songwriting creativity, but to some of the more playful of the workbooks for songwriters .

If you would like to investigate how this played out in my own songwriting, please check out my music at and I’ll send you some examples for free!





Category: Music, Songwriting, Uncategorized

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