MUST HAVE BOOKS, TOOLS AND RESOURCES

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Look below for a regularly updated list of books on writing musicals, writing for the stage, composing musicals and composing for the theatre, software for writing music, and other resources for writing musicals!

MUSICAL THEATRE SPECIFIC

The Secret Life of the American Musical

How Broadway Shows Are Built

Jack Viertel

By far one of the best books on writing or studying musical theatre.  Mr. Viertel breaks down each element of a musical by chapter with examples from real shows and advice from himself and other professional theatre experts.

How Musicals Work

And How To Write Your Own

Julian Woolford

Another expert level book for writing or studying musical theatre.  Mr. Woolford goes in depth on dramatic structure for storytelling as it relates to musicals.  A must for anyone serious about writing musicals.

Beating Broadway

How to Create Stories for Musicals That Get Standing Ovations

Steve Cuden

Another good one, not as organized as the above two, but still an excellent aid to construct brilliant, attention-grabbing musical storylines.

 

This one goes further by giving practical advice on how to interest producers to put up your work.

Writing The Broadway Musical

The Essential Reference for Musial Writers

Aaron Frankel

This one surprised me.  This book clearly explains the fundamentals of the three crafts of a musical—book, music, and lyrics with lots of examples from recent hits.

I guess I judged this one by its cover before reading it!

PLAYWRITING

The Playwright's Process

Learning the Craft from Today's Leading Dramatists

Buzz McLaughlin

I think the title is a little misleading, as I think it focuses more on digging deep inside yourself to discover the story that's trying to get out rather than how to actually write it, but it's chock full of author interviews which I found helpful.

The Art & Craft of Playwriting

Jeffery Hatcher

Another misleading title, I would title it "The Art of Playwriting" more than the craft, however it was also chock full of interviews with authors.

It's definitely one I keep within hands reach when I'm in the middle of a new musical.

The Playwright's Guidebook

An Insightful Primer on the Art of Dramatic Writing

Stuart Spencer

I have not used this book frequently, I believe I read through it twice.  There were a couple new pieces of advice in it, but overall I felt it was a technical walk-through of writing a musical.

However, it has a great section about what happens after you write your musical.

Going Solo

Creating Your Own Dynamic One Person Show

Aaron Braxton

This book focuses on the process of writing a one character show.  I used it when I was in the middle of the Hammerstein-Sondheim Method and it really helped be grasp the differences between a full length musical and a solo performer show.

My result was "A Kiss To The Dance Floor"

GENERAL WRITING

The Anatomy of Story

22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller

John Truby

The BEST book for giving your story substance!

This book remains by my side through the entire outlining and writing process, the author goes into depth about how to create believable stories, characters and is full of real world examples.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The Secrets of Story

Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers

Matt Bird

Another useful book which I tend to use more as a reference shelf book rather than read completely through it.  I find myself turning to specific chapters during the writing process.

SONGWRITING

Song Maps

A New System To Write Your Best Lyrics

Simon Hawkins

When you are struggling with getting a song on paper, this book may help.  The author has plotted several popular types of songs visually which broke me from my songwriting block.

There is an accompanying workbook too.

Song Maps

A New System To Write Your Best Lyrics

Simon Hawkins

When you are struggling with getting a song on paper, this book may help.  The author has plotted several popular types of songs visually which broke me from my songwriting block.

There is an accompanying workbook too.

MUSIC COMPOSITION TOOLS

FORTE 8 Premium

Music Composition Software

by Forte

I've been using this Midi software for years and it has finally landed in the portfolio of a developer that is keeping it alive.  I especially love the clean easy interface that seems to have been built by a musician, for musicians.  A midi keyboard is not required to use!

My advice is to skip Version 9 - it's very buggy!

FL Studio 20 (or current version)

Music Composition Software

by Image Line

After I compose in Forte, I transfer the files into FL Studio to create demos and backing tracks.  Purchase includes lifetime updates and this product has been around for decades.  It's also easily expanded with millions of VST plugins for practically any instrument you may need.

HELPFUL YOUTUBERS & WEBSITES

I wish the internet had been around when I was growing up, I could have figured things out so much faster.  But that's life I guess.  I have compiled a list of online resources that have been beyond helpful to me!  Check them out!

YOUTUBE CHANNELS

WEBSITES