Best Books for Music Composers?

Hello Composers, Mike here! :slight_smile:
Let’s make a list of great books for aspiring composers.

I have read several books on music theory, harmony, composition etc. over the years. But I think it would be nice to create a guide/list of recommended books for composers.

So, please share your favorite books to learn any aspect of music composition, both theory and practical application!

Mikael “Mike” Baggström
Founder of


Here are my favorite books:

Film Scoring

  • The Emerging Film Composer - Richard Bellis
  • Music Composition for Film and Television - Lalo Schifrin
  • Scoring the Screen - Andy Hill
  • On the Track - Fred Karlin and Rayburn Wright
  • Guerrilla Film Scoring - Jeremy Borum

Video Games Music

  • A Composer’s Guide to Game Music - Winifred Phillips
  • Writing Interactive Music for Video Games - Michael Sweet

All the books are available on Amazon :slight_smile:


This book is temporarily FREE from Ableton.

Making Music: 74 Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producers , is temporarily free to download in .pdf, .mobi, and .epub format.

Lots of good tips and ideas for solving common problems and situations.

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If you’re aiming for television music these books are a good read:

It’s not music theory, more like tip/strategy books.

books are very usefull
here is my list but there are plenty of books

the best of is : the study of orchestration from samuel adler with the CD, it is the top
then you have
the 4 volume of orchestration study of koechlin very usefull
orchestration from rimski korsakov
there is also some book for the cunterpoint

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Here’s my list:

About Music Composition

  • Musical Composition, Craft and Art, by Alan Belkin
  • Twentieth Century Harmony, by Vincent Persichetti
    Belkin’s book is somewhat easier. He talks about basic stuff such as motives, phrases, punctuation and forms but also of things we dont usually hear about such as constrating, connecting, progressing, returning…very interesting stuff indeed and Belkin is a wonderful teacher. Look at his Youtube channel.
    Persichetti’s book is more about advaced harmony and twentieh century music. This is not for everybody but if you are looking for ideas to expand the way you think about harmony or you would like to learn new compositional devices, this is the book for you.

About Film Music

  • Scoring The Screen, by Andy Hill
  • Music composition for Film and Television, by Lalo Schifrin

Would love to own Koechlin’s books but they are SOOO expensive. At least in Canada.

The best ones I’ve read are:

  • The Berkeley guide to film composition.
  • On the track - a guide to contemporary film scoring.

Others that have been useful for business purposes are;

  • Music marketing for the DIY musician
  • Guerrilla music marketing volume 1.

Id have to say that I use the first two every day. They’re expensive books but come in use so often.

The Berkeley book is quite direct, so if you need info quickly its right there. Whereas on the track is a compilation of information from all your favourite film composers. So you can reference their styles along with excerpts from the scores. This is hugely helpful to my workflow. It’s one of those books your eyes widen when you read it.

Here is a pre-order link for the new eBook, “21st Century Part Writing” by J.Jay Berthume. He is currently my composing/orchestration tutor and he has an extreme wealth of knowledge on this subject and is a great composer to boot!

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Not sure if the musicians for dummies book count. I have two of them. I have the Home Recording for Musicians book, I recommend this one because it explains things very simply, it goes over home recording from A-Z and includes technical information on how to prepare your room and how to connect hardware and analogue. If you understand the basic analogue features of home recording, you will also be prepared to work in the box on any daw. You can find it on amazon.

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Yes I believe they do Carl! :slight_smile:
I read several “for dummies” books myself when I started learning more about music theory, composition, production, mixing etc. Often they have a great way of breaking down concepts in an easy to digest format. :slight_smile:


And you know what’s the most important book for dummies they have? Statistics for dummies, because numbers don’t lie and we must also understand numbers. Music is also about numbers but that’s not why I got it.

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Hey Guys, which one would you prefer?

Scoring the Screen - Andy Hill


Rona, J: The Reel World: Scoring for Pictures (Music Pro Guides)

Thank you so much,


I love the topic of resource books!

A few years ago I had the massive good fortune to spend an hour with Patrick Williams at his home. When I asked a similar question he said he would leave condensed orchestral scores around the house so whenever he sat how somewhere he could reach out, find a score, and learn.

The first book I ever bought on arranging was Dick Grove’s “Arranging Concepts”. It is a wonderful book. Dick was so methodical and organized in presenting material and logically walking students through scads of references, concepts, and real world examples. I still use his analysis technique of density and span of orchestration to double check my work and manage the emotional contours of pieces.

At Berklee the Earle Hagen “Scoring for Films” was the go to text. Don Wilkins, my instructor there, had studied privately with Earle.

Frank Mantooth was a friend and mentor. When I worked for the old Northwest Airlines I would use my flight privileges to fly from Minneapolis to Chicago once a month to have a lesson. Frank taught arranging from his “Jazz Voicings for Keyboards” book which focused on voicings in fourths, upper structure triads, and his own “miracle voicings”. While the book was geared to help pianists voice chords quickly I can still hear those concepts in his writing. He was a master theorist, great arranger, and a truly nice gentleman. I miss him daily.

Other books I’ve used and worn out include:

“The Contemporary Arranger” by Don Sebesky
“The Complete Arranger” by Sammy Nestico
“Instrumental Jazz Arranging” by Mike Tomaro
“Sounds and Scores” by Henry Mancini (I believe that’s the title … it’s in another studio at the moment)

I also use Nelson Riddle’s book often. I’m drawing a blank on the title. Excellent book with arranging examples and some marvelous stories from his experience.

Sorry for the windy post. As I said above, I love arranging books!

Take care!