Books! - Great for Off-the-Bench practice

Looking for a way to round out your child's music education? Or to squeeze in some practice when you are away from the piano? Just peruse your local library or bookstore's performing arts section. I headed over to Vroman's last week to see what was available and found some great choices! I was also glad to see some of my long-time favorites are still in print. This list is mostly picture books  meaning that if you read the book, then went on YouTube and listened to the artist or piece you read about, these would be a perfect fit to substitute for a 15-20 minute practice time.

Children's Book of Music by DK Publishing (pictured)
This book is an incredible survey of music history from early ancient to popular & film music of today. It comes with a CD to listen along, and has the photo and information block layouts that we've all come to love and expect from DK nonfiction books. This is an excellent book to take on a trip and study a few pages each day. (We also have a studio copy we're happy to loan out if you ask ahead of time).

My absolute favorite find from today. I had no idea this book existed, and now I want all my students to read it! This tells the story of how the piano as we know it was created in the 1700's in Padua by Bartolomeo Cristofori. It has very colorful illustrations, is well-researched and is sprinkled throughout with the dynamic and tempo markings young pianists are learning. A beautifully crafted book about my favorite instrument. 

If you thought the first cats who achieved fame for piano playing were on YouTube, we need to talk. This is the true story of a cat whose composition received an honorable mention in a composing contest in 1997! (8 years before YouTube). In addition to being an adorable story about a cat, it has some lovely commentary on the nature of composing and creativity. 

A very witty picture book about the relationship between the dead composers, and the living musicians who interpret their music. A great book to read in tandem with giving or seeing a live performance. 

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin 
A classic I remember from childhood, this book is about the members of the orchestra getting ready to go to work. It's a fun look at the life of a musician, and a truly unique book. 

The story of how one girl's courage to dream to play drums in spite of being told she couldn't. This tells the story of the world famous jazz musician, Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who at the age of 10 performed with the first all girl dance band in Cuba. 

Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev, retold by Janet Schulman
Another one I remember reading as a child, this lovely picture book comes complete with a fully orchestrated and narrated CD, this is a picture book to accompany Prokofiev's iconic musical work that uses distinct musical themes and instrumental voices for each of the animals and characters in the story.

A retelling of one of Mozart's most famous operas. I really enjoyed the vibrant colors and how they managed to capture so much of the story in the illustrations without making them too busy. Most of my students have been introduced to Mozart and his character Papageno through the My First Classical Music App, now they can learn the whole story! This music storybook would be great to pair with listening to excerpts from the Magic Flute. 

Another beautiful picture book, this one is about Bach, a little about his family & history, but the bulk of this book is an ode to the brilliance behind his music. His reliance on patterns that are simple enough on the surface, but manage to create some very complex, intricate and intellectual pieces. 

This is a good one to take on a road trip. The book comes with a CD so you can listen to the music as you follow Orchestra Bob to learn about the instruments and the composers. Basically your music appreciation 101 condensed into picture book form. 

Ultimate Guide to Music - with an INTERACTIVE APP. 
Download the app, hover over the pages, and start your journey through Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. This is another survey of the different instruments, and the music they make with a technological twist

The true story of an orphan, Goldberg, a student of Bach's who was also the inspiration for the famous Goldberg variations. This book also has a good explanation of the compositional technique of theme and variation. 

I really liked this one. Written shortly after Beethoven realized that he was going deaf, this book briefly addresses the deep depression Beethoven experienced, and focuses on his creation of his Heroic Symphony. It is fascinating to see what he set out to write, and how what he ended up with was so much more. 

Music is pitch, rhythm, and harmony. It's for dancing, singing and feeling. Music is history, and it's the future. It's instruments and ideas. This is a good book for elementary aged students that explores all that music is in an approachable and understandable format. 

And there are many, many more out there! It's easy to find great biographies on musicians and composers from all genres, time periods and places at your local library. So if you are away from your piano one day, or know you'll be going on a trip, plan ahead, grab a book, stay on track for your practice challenge! And don't forget to tell us what you discover at the next lesson!