Musical Renaissance: DIY Music | Collection Development

By Barry Trott

Despite, or perhaps because of, the dramatic increase in the opportunities to listen to recorded music over the past few years‚ from Napster to iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, and beyond‚ there seems to have been an equally substantial increase in people playing and recording their own music. One only has to look at YouTube briefly to see that there is a vast number of folks making music at home and recording it for posterity. The musical styles displayed run the gamut from rock ‘n’ roll to jazz and from singer/songwriter to myriad traditional music forms.

We are in a renaissance of do-it-yourself (DIY) music-making, and a strong collection of materials on instrument instruction, songs and tunes, musical instruments, home recording, and the music business will enhance any library’s holdings and circulation figures. Although many of these titles will fall in the adult nonfiction area, they will appeal to both adults and to younger budding musicians. This is a subject area that cuts across age boundaries and can be a strong draw for teens and young adults.

Building your collection
As with any subject, music collections demand that selectors consider several parameters when making choices. Are there musical styles that are hot in your community? Is there a local Irish or old-time music session going on? Do you have coffeehouses that offer open mike nights for aspiring songwriters? Consider going out to the music stores in your area and talking to the teachers there about what sorts of music their students want to learn to play. Do the teachers have particular books that they recommend to their students? This also gives you the opportunity to promote the library’s collection to those instructors and, through them, to their students.

Offer a mix of materials aimed at neophytes as well as more advanced players. Those new to music or to a particular instrument will be looking for basic self-instruction materials, focusing on developing skills and techniques. Here, be sure to look for materials that present music in both standard notation and tablature. Intermediate players and beyond will appreciate song and tune collections that allow them to expand their repertoire. Players at all levels will benefit from books on home recording and digital music. Some will be looking for insight into building their music into a business (look for titles that cover both solo acts and bands). Finally, some players will find the musical instrument itself almost as important as the playing, so make sure that your collection addresses instruments and collecting.

Several publishers dominate the music instruction and learning world. Mel Bay ( and Hal Leonard ( both publish prodigious quantities of useful and popular titles in all areas of music, particularly music instruction and song and tune collections. For other music sources, the Music Publishers Association ( offers a useful directory of publishers and imprints.

In addition to browsing the collections at local music stores, look at the offerings in online music stores, such as Elderly Instruments ( and larger online retailers like Amazon ( and Barnes & Noble ( These sources offer a wide range of music titles arranged in useful categories that give selectors both a sense of what titles are being published and a feeling for what is popular.

Collection maintenance
Titles in the DIY music collection are not especially time sensitive. It is important to keep up with local trends and demands, but older titles often continue to be of interest. This is particularly true of song and tune collections. Often, an older title will have pieces in it that are not found in newer editions. So, you will want to weed on condition, but be sure to consider replacing well-worn titles, as those are the ones that have proven most valuable to your users. However, music instruction books may go out-of-date more quickly than song and tune collections. Finally, books on home recording and the music business become outdated fairly quickly (especially titles on digital recording).

The selective bibliography below will guide librarians in developing a DIY music collection. In many cases, the titles listed are only examples of the kind of material available from a particular publisher, and the specific choices of titles should be guided by local needs and interests.

Core purchases are designated with a star [].



Berry, Mick & Jason Gianni. The Drummer’s Bible: How To Play Every Drum Style from Afro-Cuban to Zydeco. See Sharp. 2003. 181p. ISBN 9781884365324. $32.95 w/CD.
This guide to basic rhythm patterns is an essential resource for drummers. Berry and Gianni use notation and an accompanying CD to demonstrate grooves for over 140 dance styles, with a brief history of each.

DuBrock, Andrew. Travis Picking: A Guitarist’s Guide to Fingerpicking Techniques, Patterns, and Styles. Hal Leonard. 2011. 72p. ISBN 9781423494355. $16.99 w/CD.
One of many introductory guitar playing titles available from Hal Leonard, this superb introduction to finger-style guitar playing will be useful for both acoustic and electric players. The book and accompanying CD move smoothly from basic to more advanced styles.

Harnum, Jonathan. Basic Music Theory: How To Read, Write, and Understand Written Music. 2d ed. Sol Ut. 2005. 236p. ISBN 9780970751287. pap. $19.95.
Both beginners and players needing to polish their music-reading skills will benefit from Harnum’s easy-to-understand approach.

Leftwich, Brad. Round Peak Style Old Time Fiddle. Mel Bay Pubns. 2011. 128p. discog. bibliog. ISBN 9780786682942. $24.99 w/CD.
In this great example of the Mel Bay music instruction series, Leftwich captures the history and the technique of this specific fiddle style in his carefully crafted manual. Tunes are notated both in standard notation and tablature, and Leftwich plays all 83 discussed titles on the accompanying CD.

Monath, Norman. How To Play Popular Piano in 10 Easy Lessons: The Fastest, Easiest Way To Learn To Play from Sheet Music or by Ear. Touchstone: S. & S. 1984. 141p. ISBN 9780671530679. pap. $15.95.
Monath’s method gets the player right into playing tunes, without focusing on endless scales and exercises. For folks who want to be able to play favorites on the piano and not looking to be the next Glenn Gould, this is the perfect tool. An excellent resource for adult learners.

Play Acoustic: The Complete Guide to Mastering Acoustic Guitar Styles. Backbeat. 2005. 192p. ed. by Dave Hunter. ISBN 9780879308537. spiralbound $29.95 w/CDs.
Hunter’s excellent introduction to acoustic guitar playing in a variety of styles‚ pop and rock to jazz, folk, and world music‚ offers useful exercises in both tab and notation (and played on the accompanying CDs) and introduces the player to basic rhythm and melodic styles.

Schmeling, Paul. Berklee Music Theory. Bk. 1. 2d ed. Berklee. 2011. 112p. ISBN 9780876391105. pap. $24.99 w/CD.
While many DIY players learn by ear, there are those who wish to develop an understanding of music theory. Berklee College of Music professor Schmeling presents an understandable guide to the basics.

Smith, Putter. Jazz Bass Improvisation. Hal Leonard. (Musicians Inst.Master Class). 2011. 40p. ISBN 9781423477716. pap. $16.99 w/CD.
Another example of the breadth of titles available to players, Smith’s guide to jazz bass presents exercises that lead the user from basic to advanced playing.

Stuckert, Carrie L. Celtic Fiddling Made Easy: 20 Favorite Celtic Tunes in Beginning and Intermediate Version. Mel Bay Pubns. 48p. ISBN 9780786683536. pap. $17.99 w/CD.
Stuckert’s book is another great illustration of the variety of genre-specific DIY music available. Using standard notation and basic fingerings for beginners, this is a useful resource for those interested in getting started with Irish traditional fiddling.

Wood, Alistair. Ukulele for Dummies. Wiley. (Sports & Hobbies). 2011. 360p. ISBN 9780470977996. pap. $24.99.
The ukulele is hot right now, and Wood’s manual gets players right into the music. Just one of the many For Dummies music titles, this combines humor and visuals with tab and standard notation.



Brody, David. The Fiddler’s Fakebook. Music Sales America. 1992. 302p. discog. ISBN 9780825602382. $24.99.
Part of a series for various instruments, this essential resource for players of all levels interested in traditional fiddle tunes from the British Isles and America includes 500 tunes in a range of styles.

Cline, Leigh & Sandy MacIntyre. Cape Breton: Traditional Style Fiddle Sets with Guitar Tablature. Mel Bay Pubns. 2011. 120p. ISBN 9780786677887. spiralbound $17.99.
Players interested in the Scottish roots of Cape Breton fiddle-playing will find over 75 tunes with chords, presented in standard notation and guitar tablature.

The Great American Songbook: The Singers. Hal Leonard. 2007. 398p. ISBN 9781423430940. pap. $24.95.
An indispensable collection of 100 classic songs from the Golden Age of American vocal music, this offers standard notation with guitar chords. See also The Great American Songbook: The Composers.

The Greatest 60’s Rock Guitar. Alfred Pub. (Guitar Tab). 2007. 245p. ISBN 9780739046104. $24.95.
A useful collection of classic rock tunes from the 1960s played by groups from the Animals to the Zombies and presented with chords, lyrics, solos, and rhythm changes, in tab and standard notation.

Jazz Standards for Easy Guitar. Hal Leonard. 2011. 152p. ISBN 9781423491705. pap. $14.99.
A useful gathering of 60 popular jazz songs arranged in tablature and standard notation, with lyrics, guitar chords, and rhythm suggestions.

O’Neill, James & Francis O’Neill. O’Neill’s Music of Ireland. Mel Bay Pubns. 1998. 368p. ISBN 9780786624980. $39.95.
O’Neill’s is considered by many to be the bible of traditional Irish tunes.

The Real Book. 6th ed. Hal Leonard. 2004. 462p. ISBN 9780634060380. plastic comb $32.50.
Now up to four volumes, The Real Book is an essential tool for jazz players. Each volume presents the chords and melody line for over 400 songs in standard notation.

Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook. 15th anniversary ed. Sing Out Pubns. 2005. 288p. ed. by Peter Blood & Annie Patterson. ISBN 9781881322122. spiralbound $22.95.>
This classic songbook for folksingers contains the chords and lyrics (though no melodies) to over 1200 traditional and popular songs, arranged by subject.

Shipton, Russ. The Complete Guitar Player Songbook. Omnibus 2d ed. Amsco Pubns. 2005. 240p. ISBN 9780825628283. pap. $29.95.
Shipton presents over 100 classic pop and rock songs with chords, lyrics, and melody line, in standard notation, in this valuable collection from great songwriters.

The Singer’s Musical Theatre Anthology: Soprano. Hal Leonard. 2007. 248p. ed. by Richard Walters. ISBN 9781423423645. pap. $39.95 w/CD.
Broadway songs with a CD of piano accompaniments. There are editions for soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and baritone/bass, as well as a teens series and a duets edition.

Songer, Susan M. & Clyde Curley. The Portland Collection: Contra Dance Music in the Pacific Northwest. Susan M. Songer. 1997. 308p. ISBN 9780965747608. spiralbound $25.
In this outstanding resource, Songer and Curley give the melodies and chords for over 360 contra dance tunes, with many less-well-known pieces including an assortment of French Canadian tunes. A second volume expands the repertoire.

Songs of the 60’s. Hal Leonard. (Decades). 1993. 224p. ISBN 9780793526703. pap. $14.95.
The Decades series covers the 1910s through the 2000s by decades, and this installment gives a musical snapshot of the period. Pieces are arranged in standard notation for piano, with guitar chords and lyrics.



Gordon, Steve. The Future of the Music Business: How To Succeed with the New Digital Technologies. 3d ed. Hal Leonard. (Music Pro Guides). 2011. 350p. ISBN 9781423499695. pap. $29.99.
Detailed information on the business and legal aspects of music performance, with significant attention to online presence, sales, and promotion.

Savage, Steve. The Art of Digital Audio Recording: A Practical Guide for Home and Studio. Oxford Univ. 2011. 288p. illus. ISBN 9780195394092. $99.
In this excellent guide to all aspects of digital recording, including software, hardware, and studio setup, Savage guides the reader from recording to mastering in clear prose, with lots of illustrations.

Tulipan, Bob. Rockin’ in the New World: Taking Your Band from the Basement to the Big Time. Sterling. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9781402770586. pap. $14.95.
Covering all aspects of building and maintaining a band, Tulipan draws on his own work in the music business to guide bands through the pitfalls on the way to success. With useful appendixes of sample forms and contracts.

Writer’s Digest Eds. 2011 Songwriter’s Market. 34th ed. Writers Digest. 2010. 368p. ISBN 9781582979540. $29.99.
The go-to guide for aspiring songwriters, with information on music publishers, record companies and producers, managers, booking agents, and more.



New Bay Media publishes a number of music periodicals. In particular, see:

Bass Player
The premiere magazine for bassists of all sorts includes interviews, lessons, and gear and music reviews. The website offers a community forum for bass players and artists, lessons, and gear videos.

Downbeat is the bible for all things jazz. The magazine offers interviews with players, instructional articles, and an extensive number of music and equipment reviews. The website includes concert reviews and news headlines.

Fretboard Journal
Combining elegant photography with crisp writing, Fretboard Journal is a must-have for players of plucked string instruments. The interviews with players and instrument makers in the United States and worldwide are complemented by superb illustrations. With instruments both as tools of the trade and as works of art.

Guitar Player
Whether it’s jazz, rock, pop, classical, country guitar, or some hybrid, Guitar Player has something for all pickers, covering artists, gear, and instruction; the website also offers video and a forum.

All sorts of articles, reviews, and lesson information for pianists. The website expands to include blogs, a community forum, and video clips.

Sing Out Magazine
Since 1950, Sing Out has been at the center of the folk music world, offering readers interviews, music reviews, and coverage of an amazingly broad range of traditional and contemporary folk music styles. Each issue includes lead sheets (melody, chords, and lyrics) for 15 songs. n



Carter, Walter & George Gruhn. Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars. 3d ed. Backbeat. 2010. 500p. ISBN 9780879309442. $32.99.
The owner of Nashville’s famed Gruhn Guitars store teams up with Gibson expert Carter to present the definitive guide to identify and value vintage guitars, basses, mandolins, banjos, and amps.

Cumpiano, William & Jonathan Natelson. Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology; A Complete Reference for the Design & Construction of the Steel-String Folk Guitar & the Classical Guitar. Chronicle. (Guitar Reference). 1994. 392p. ISBN 9780811806404. pap. $40.
One of the best on instrument construction and a good starting point for a collection of materials on luthiery (the making and repair of stringed instruments).

Hunter, Dave. Star Guitars: 101 Guitars that Rocked the World. Voyageur. 2010. 288p. ISBN 9780760338216. $35.
For pop and rock players interested in the intricate details of their favorite performer’s axe, Hunter gives the particulars on 101 classic vintage instruments of the 20th century.

Shaw, Robert. Hand Made, Hand Played: The Art and Craft of Contemporary Guitars.Lark: Sterling. 2008. 416p. illus. ISBN 9781579907877. pap. $35.95.
Shaw celebrates the guitar, looking at over 300 hand-crafted instruments and their builders. With exquisite illustrations and a useful index of builders for players looking for a new instrument.

Spann, Joe. Spann’s Guide to Gibson 1902‚ 1941. Hal Leonard. 2011. 296p. ISBN 9781574242676. pap. $39.99.
Gibson is famed for its mandolins, guitars, and banjos, and here Spann gives a thorough history of the company and detailed information on identifying and dating its pre-World War II instruments. Essential for Gibson aficionados.

Taylor, Bob. Guitar Lessons: A Life’s Journey Turning Passion into Business. Wiley. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780470937877. $24.95.
An excellent memoir of the development of the Taylor Guitar Company.



In the tunes section users will find links to the music to several hundred traditional tunes from the British Isles.

International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
Over 122,000 (as of 10/5/11) public domain scores for mostly classical works, browsable and searchable by composer, instrumentation, time period, nationality, and melody.

Mutopia Project
A collection of over 1650 pieces of classical sheet music in the public domain, browsable and searchable by composer and instrument.

Old Time Fiddle Tunes
John Lamancusa presents a collection of several hundred traditional American fiddle tunes in PDF format, along with midi files.

The Session
A searchable list of over 10,200 traditional Irish tunes available in ABC and image formats.

Many websites target players of specific instruments; they often include sheet music, lessons, and more. Here are some to get started with.

Banjo Hangout

The Guitar Forum

Mandolin Café

Barry Trott is Adult Services Director at the Williamsburg Regional Library, VA. He has performed music professionally for the past 27 years, playing everything from Renaissance songs to jazz standards. He currently plays and records with the Runaway String Band ( and Hot Club of Dog Street (

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