Top 10 Desert Island Books for Musicians

Some of my all time favorite music instruction books (in no particular order):

1. Edly’s Music Theory for Practical People by Ed Roseman – The best book on general music theory I've found yet. Written with a healthy dose of irreverence, and plenty of pictures and cartoons (the definition of a quality read in my book).

2. Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo – Technically not an instruction book but a collection of interviews, with many of the worlds greatest songwriters expounding on their various creative processes. Dylan, Colvin, Cockburn, Madonna…..Madonna? They’re all in there. Great inspirational toilet reading.

3. Hal Leonard Guitar Method Complete by Will Schmidt – A good beginner to intermediate method for people that want the structured approach that a method book can provide. No substitute for the song based approach we teach at the Old Town but a decent addition. Better than the Mel Bay books (by a thin margin) in my opinion.

4. Hal Leonard Jazz Guitar Method – For anyone remotely interested in adding some jazz into their musical stew, this is a very concise introduction that gets you up and running in a fairly short time. Most of the jazz books I've seen are overly complex and pedantic. This one manages to present the material in a way that doesn't suck all of the fun out of it.

5. Solo Guitar Playing - Books 1 and 2 by Frederick Noad – This is one of the greatest method books of all time in my humble opinion. The first 30 pages of book 1 (book 2 is quite advanced) will make you better by 100 percent, guaranteed. The only problem is, it’s for classical guitar, so if you have no interest in learning that particular style of guitar playing, you should stay away from it. But if you think you would like to explore classical, an organized (ie. teacher guided) study of these books will show you:
- How to read standard notation
- Some of the most beautiful music ever written for the guitar (or any instrument for that matter).
- How to become a really snappy finger-style player.
- Songs that will impress and awe your friends, but don’t require you to sing anything.

6. How to Write Music for Hit Songs by Jai Josefs - What a terrible title, but what a great book. This covers music theory from a songwriter's perspective, which is a unique and valuable approach. I've learned an awful lot from this book. Look for the Night Ranger reference!

7. Singing For the Stars by Seth Riggs - An even worse title than the Jai Josefs book. Seth Riggs is one of the music industry's most famous "vocal coaches" and in this book he lays out a series of vocal and ear training exercises to help you learn to sing in a "pop" style (as opposed to the classical approach of most vocal methods). Invaluable if you want to be a better singer (and who doesn't...I'm pulling my copy off the shelf right now as a matter of fact....)

I’ll keep adding to this list as I find out about new books. Let me know of any you think I should add to the list.

Strange But True Gig Stories (PG-13 version)

Here are some pf my more memorable gig experiences:

Strangest location I've ever played a concert: A chicken coop in Bermuda.

Strange (in a good way) guest appearance: Having legendary drummer Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp, Mellissa Etheridge, etc. etc.) play Sweet Home Alabama with my country band. He played the whole song in cowboy boots (not typical drummer footwear I must say). After this once in a lifetime opportunity (for me anyhow) to play with one of my musical heroes, I realized 2 things. 1)There is a reason why Kenny Aronoff is one of the most in demand drummers in the business and 2) I've never heard a guy hit his drums that hard in my life. I'm still buzzing from the experience...and my ears are still ringing too!

Strangest behavior at a wedding I've played: watching one of the groomsmen go to the center of the "Disco Circle", drop his pants, shimmy around the dance floor with his pants around his ankles for several minutes, and eventually rip the seat of his pants wide open. It's just a guess, but I think he may have been drinking.

Strange (in a good way) guest appearance part 2: Having the legendary and world famous jazz drummer Paul Wertico (from the Pat Metheny Group and others) sit in with UWP at a wedding he happened to be a guest at, and during an absolutely amazing drum solo, accidentally fall right off the 
back of the stage (and then jump back up onstage a few seconds later and start playing right where he left off!).

Strangest thing you would be surprised to know I've stumbled upon more than once at gig: a couple forming what is known in Shakespearean lingo as "the beast with two backs".

Most Hostile Crowd I've Ever Played For: Underwater People opening for the Grammy winning rap group The Roots in front of a few thousand very serious and biased hip-hop fans. Needless to say, our pop-rock songs and Paul Simon covers didn't go over very well. The kicker: the Roots showed up for the gig almost 2 hours late, so we had to keep playing! I've never heard booing so loud....

Most Haunted-House-Like experience: Performing under a Gazebo on Algonquin, IL that had several hundred, possibly over a thousand enormous Godzilla sized spiders calling it home. Every few minutes during our 90 minute set, one of these suckers would drop down within inches of our face and start spinning a web or just hang there. The sacrifices we make for our art....