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7 Best Music Production Books – Must-Reads for 2023

by | Books | 3 comments

If you’re looking for the best music production books, there’s only a handful that make the list.  

As a composer and producer for over 28 years, I’ve bought many books over the years to improve my skills.  Some have proven to be too technical, and others were too basic and didn’t provide much value for the money. 

But there are a select few that have proven to be worth many times what I paid.  The best of those I’ve added to this list.  I still use and refer to them today. 

Whether you’re a producer, composer, songwriter, or arranger, all of these books will help you improve your craft and ultimately help you earn more money from your work. 

And no matter the genre or style you work in, you’ll learn tips and techniques you can apply to any music tracks you write or produce.

Hint: Each book brings something different to the table, so I’d recommend getting all of them if your budget allows it!

Best Music Production Books

Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio

Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio (Sound On Sound Presents...)Hands down, Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio is the best book overall for improving your production, arranging, and mixing skills.  It’s one of the best books on music production for beginners as well as advanced producers.

Author Mike Senior is best known for his long-running Mix Rescue articles in Sound on Sound magazine (you can check them out online).     Each month readers submit their songs to the magazine to get advice on improving their mixes.  

Mike chooses one song and analyzes the overall mix plus the individual tracks, and gives detailed explanations on how to improve each part with EQ, compression, effects, etc.

Each article includes audio links to the original mix as well as Mike’s new mix, and includes the separate parts with “before” and “after” versions.

In Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio, Mike draws on the tips and techniques from many of today’s top producers and engineers and puts them into one book.  It’s a deep dive into everything from choosing monitors and studio acoustic treatments to how to best use EQ, compression, dynamics, reverb, delays, and stereo effects. 

He also covers arranging techniques that will make your mix more coherent and focused.

Mike’s approach is to teach topics simply so beginners can understand but provide lots of technical data for more advanced users.

For those of your short on cash, you’ll be happy to know the Mike uses a lot of free plugins in the examples so you can get the same sounds without having to spend tons of money on high-end plugins like Waves.  He also uses the Cockos Reaper DAW in all his mixes, which is a very inexpensive ($60) full-featured DAW for anyone on a small budget.

Amazing FREE companion website!

Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio comes with what is the most comprehensive FREE companion website you’ll ever find!  You can even listen and download files without even buying the book!

The website includes:

  • Audio and text resources for each chapter
  • A free Multitrack Download Library that contains hundreds of multitrack projects submitted by readers that you can download to practice mixing. Each track is available in 24 or 16-bit WAVs.  You also get the contributor’s mix to compare yours to it, plus a forum to check out other’s mixes too.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  It’s a must-have for anyone recording, mixing, or arranging tracks.  You’ll be referring to this book every time you sit down to mix.

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Recording Secrets for the Small Studio

Recording Secrets for the Small Studio (Sound On Sound Presents...)Mike Senior released this companion book to Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio in 2014. Using the same approach as Mixing Secrets, Mike takes proven recording and mic techniques used by top engineers and producers and applies them to home studio recordings.  It’s a must-have resource for improving your recording skills and making your recordings sound like commercial records.

This book is excellent for beginners as he explains concepts very clearly but also provides tons of in-depth info for advanced producers and engineers.

Mike covers all the essentials: vocal recording, guitar and bass recording, mic techniques, stereo recording, ensemble recording, and much more.  There are more than 300 audio examples, links to other resources online, charts, and more throughout the book. 

FREE Companion Website

As with Mixing Secrets, there’s a comprehensive FREE companion website that you can check out without even buying the book.  It’s full of audio file downloads, resources links, and more, including:

Keep this book close by in your studio- you’ll be referring to it all the time!

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Mixing Audio: Concepts, Practices, and Tools (3rd Edition)

Mixing Audio: Concepts, Practices, and ToolsAnother excellent book on mixing is Mixing Audio: Concepts, Practices, and Tools by Roey Izhaki. It’s a comprehensive resource on music production mixing for both beginners and more advanced mixers.

I’ve owned the 2nd edition since it came out in 2008, and it’s full of yellow highlighter markings and Post-It notes – there’s tons of useful tips and tricks.

The newest 3rd edition has a lot of updates and extras that make it even better!

Mixing Audio: Concepts, Practices, and Tools is a big book (my version has over 550 pages!) divided into three parts: Concepts and Practices, Tools, and Sample Mixes.  A complete list of topics covered can be found here on the book’s accompanying website. 

Concepts and Practices runs about 70 pages and presents an overview of mixing concepts and best practices.

The Tools section is the majority of the book and goes into detail on monitoring, mixers, and all the different types of effects (EQ, compression, limiters, gates, delays, reverb, saturation).  There are about 350 pages of material here, and it goes into great detail on each tool used in mixing. 

It does get technical at times (for ex., when describing how compressors work), so beginners may glaze over, but the extensive audio examples and graphics provide a clear illustration of each concept.

Finally, the Sample Mixes section has five multitrack mixes that are available for download.  Each track in the mix has detailed notes on all the effects and EQ settings used.

The book comes with access to a website with over 2,000 audio samples and the five Pro Tool/ Multitrack sessions.

A great addition to any producer’s reference library.

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Step By Step Mixing: How to Create Great Mixes Using Only 5 Plug-ins 

Step By Step Mixing: How to Create Great Mixes Using Only 5 Plug-insAre you unhappy with the way your mixes sound?   This practical book is a fantastic resource for beginning producers and mixers who aren’t getting the results they want and get overwhelmed by the whole mixing process.

Step By Step Mixing: How to Create Great Mixes Using Only 5 Plug-ins simplifies the complexity of mixing by only focusing on the most commonly used effects:  EQ, compression, reverb, delay, and saturation.

Author Bjorgvin Benediktsson uses a simple step-by-step method that walks readers through each step in the mixing process. 

The main steps are:

  • You start with mix preparation so your tracks are optimized to mix quickly and efficiently.
  • You start your mix process without any plugins to get a good balance of all parts.
  • Effects are added to produce the final mix. Benediktsson first explains how each effect type works, and then shows how to use it to achieve different results.

This simple 3-step process will help you achieve professional-sounding mixes with minimal frustration!

Some free videos, cheat sheets, practice multi-tracks, and guides for the book are available here.

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Mixing and Mastering – Book 6 (Hal Leonard Recording Method)

Hal Leonard Recording Method Book 6: Mixing & Mastering (Music Pro Guides)Mixing and Mastering is one of a series of six books in the Hal Leonard Recording Method series. Great for anyone starting out who wants a more creative and less technical approach, this book is one of the best ways to learn music production skills.

I bought all six books years ago, and I recommend the whole set for anyone wanting to understand the entire music recording, mixing and mastering process and how to get great results.

I will say that some of the content is a little dated (such as striping with SMPTE code), but the audio examples included on a DVD are worth the price of the book alone.

Geared for beginner producers and engineers, it stays away from audio theory and focuses on practical tips and procedures.

Mixing and Mastering goes through the whole mixing and mastering process from beginning to end.  Here’s an outline of what’s covered:

  • Getting Ready To Mix
  • Monitoring
  • Mixing Theories – What Makes A Good Mix
  • Imaging – Panning, Reverb & Delay
  • Mixing
  • Automation
  • Mix Tips
  • Mastering Prep
  • Mastering

Each chapter includes a multiple-choice test to make sure you understand the concepts before moving on to the next section.

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All Six Hal Leonard Recording Method Books

Below are short descriptions and links to the first five books in the series.  Together, the whole six volumes add up to more than 1,500 pages and many hundreds of examples.  I highly recommend the entire series; it’s a complete master class on music recording, production, mixing, and mastering!

All books come with a DVD of audio and video examples.

Book 1: Microphones and Mixers  

Hal Leonard Recording Method Book 1: Microphones & Mixers (Music Pro Guides)Book 1: Microphones and Mixers is an excellent resource for understanding basic audio concepts, microphones, mixing boards, effects, and how to use them.

Chapter 1 delves into some basic audio concepts relating to sound (cycles, amplitude, wavelengths, etc.).  The author presents what can be a very technical subject with a minimum of jargon, so it’s easy to understand.

Chapter 2 is devoted to connectors, cables, and how to connect gear correctly.  This section also includes an overview of studio monitors.

Chapters 3 and 4 go into mixers and signal paths.  You’ll learn all the functions and controls found on mixing consoles (aux busses, inserts, etc.) and how to use them.

Chapter 5 is a detailed section on the different types of microphones (dynamic, condenser, ribbon, etc.), which ones are best for various instruments, and when and how to use them.

Chapters 6 and 7 are all about signal processors and effects like compression, delays, and reverb.

The book includes a DVD of audio and video examples.

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Book 2: Instrument and Vocal Recording   

Hal Leonard Recording Method Book 2: Instrument & Vocal Recording (Music Pro Guides)Book 2: Instrument and Vocal Recording focuses on best practices and techniques for recording vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, acoustic and electric bass, piano, and drums.  You’ll learn where and how to place microphones to get high-quality results.

Both mono and stereo recording is covered, as well as multi-mic drum kit recording.

The book includes a DVD of audio and video examples.

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Book 3: Recording Software and Plugins  

Hal Leonard Recording Method Book 3: Recording Software & Plug-Ins (Music Pro Guides)Recording Software and Plugins is book 3 in the series, and it covers all the essentials needed to understand the digital side of recording music.  Great for beginners, it starts from the very basics and leads to more advanced topics.

The first sections discuss the principles of digital audio in detail with topics like bit depth, sampling rates, and more.

The main section is all about DAW (digital audio workstation) software and how it works.  Digital editing concepts are also explained.  It also covers audio interface hardware and how software and hardware work together.

Finally, an extensive section on plugins explains how and when to use them in projects.

The book includes a DVD of audio and video examples.

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Book 4: Sequencing Samples and Loops 

Hal Leonard Recording Method Book 4: Sequencing Samples & Loops (Music Pro Guides) (v. 4)The first three books in this series taught you all about microphones, mixers, recording vocals and instruments, and how software and plugins work. Sequencing Samples and Loops is the 4th book in the series, and it teaches you about all software samplers and audio loops.

The first half of the book goes into the history of samplers and sampling basics, and you’ll learn all about the various audio file formats.

Next, there are four chapters devoted to sampling and editing, using loops in your tracks, and how to create custom loops for your music productions.

And finally, a section on MIDI and MIDI programming completes the book.

The book includes a DVD of audio and video examples.

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Book 5: Engineering and Producing   

Hal Leonard Recording Method Book 5: Engineering and Producing (Music Pro Guides)Book 5: Engineering and Producing provides valuable info on how to become a producer and engineer who gets professional results.

The book starts with an in-depth discussion on the role of a music producer in the recording process.

Since the producer’s job is people-oriented as opposed to gear oriented, author Bill Gibson takes you through a section on communicating with temperamental artists and bands and how to be able to provide criticism without bruising fragile egos.

There’s also a long section on getting the best from the musicians in terms of performance.

You’ll also learn all about the business side of producing –  contracts, deal points, booking studio time and musicians, working in home studios vs. professional studios, plus setting budgets and production schedules.

And finally, production concepts such as song structure, flow, and arrangements are discussed, and several hit songs are dissected to illustrate what works.

The book includes a DVD of audio and video examples.

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The Secrets of Dance Music Production

The Secrets of Dance Music ProductionIf you’re looking for one of the best electronic music production books available today, this should be your top choice. 

Published in 2016 by Attack Magazine, a leading electronic music production magazine, it covers just about everything you need to know to produce EDM tracks in a variety of styles and genres.  

The Secrets of Dance Music Production is perfect for beginners just getting into EDM, or more advanced writers looking for some fresh new techniques.

The book is organized into 8 Sections:

  • Drums
  • Bass
  • Synthesis &Sound Design
  • Using Samples
  • Vocals
  • Music Theory
  • Tools of the Studio
  • Mix & Master

Because electronic music covers so many genres, author David Felton explains the different elements common to EDM tracks and then shows how they can be used in various genres like house, techno, trance, downtempo, etc.

One of the book’s strengths is that it gives you just enough detail to let you create sounds and arrangements easily, without adding in too many technical details to make it confusing.

The core of the book is 100 step-by-step techniques to create popular sounds in different genres.  These techniques incorporate not just elements like sweeps, sound effects, and breakbeats, but what scales to use, how to construct a topline, creating risers, using vocals effectively, scales to use, and much more.

The Secrets of Dance Music also includes arrangement breakdown charts which give you excellent visual tools to construct your tracks.

Highly recommended as one of the top books on electronic music production.

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Audio Mastering Secrets: The Pros Don’t Want You To Know!

Audio Mastering Secrets: The Pros Don't Want You To Know! (Home Recording Studio, Audio Engineering, Music Production Secrets Series: Book 1)Mastering is the final part of the recording and production equation, and it makes a huge difference in the final product.

If you are looking to master your tracks yourself, then Audio Mastering Secrets is my top book pick.  The whole focus of Audio Mastering Secrets is learning how mastering your tracks so they can sound as close as possible to commercial recordings.

While this book won’t put top mastering labs out of business, it does fill a need for home recordists to produce commercial-quality recordings without spending a fortune. 

Author John Rogers runs a mastering company and has mastered over 40,000 songs since 1999.  He has taken his knowledge of what works and put it all down in this 184-page guide.

Rogers breaks down the whole process into 18 steps.  He lays out each step in a straightforward, no-nonsense style without tons of technical jargon. 

Rogers starts with the basics of what is mastering and why it’s necessary.  He then explains mastering definitions and concepts.  You’ll also learn how to set up your listening environment by calibrating your monitors, and he includes some soundproofing tips.

The bulk of the book is devoted to explaining how to use the most commonly used effects, which are EQ, compression, exciters, stereo wideners, reverb, and loudness maximizers.

What I like about this book is that it’s current (written in late 2017) so the info on plugins and other software is up to date.  Rogers also uses gear and plugins that are affordable to most people.

On his website, Rogers also sells a 3-hour step-by-step mastering session video set to accompany the book.    The videos show him mastering ten songs in different genres. Amazingly, he sells it available at a super low price under $4.00!

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Song Mixing Secrets: How To Fix The Most Common Mistakes

This companion book to Audio Mastering Secrets is geared towards song mixing.   It’s also highly recommended!

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