I would like a list of three to ten books to learn all there is to know about conducting.

Please be concise, try to cover all the stages from a beginner conductor (but already an experienced adult instrumentalist or composer) to what an advanced conductor would need.

My dream is that the reader of this series could go out, grab a score, learn it and have an orchestra rehearse and rock it out.

I am more interested in chamber orchestra as opposed to a full symphony, but this is a general question. If there are books on conducting symphonic formations but it still applies to conducting in general, it should be on the list.

I would prefer books easy to find and purchase, not the kind you need an archeologist to excavate. I am ready to invest in valuable books if their content warrant it.

So, which set of books could I read to become an advanced conductor?

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    You're making a number of assumptions here, and I'm not convinced the question is answerable as a result. 1) You're assuming that there is a "right way" to conduct. There are more schools of conducting than you can count, and while I certainly have an opinion of what the "right way" is, the book for that method actually hasn't been published yet, and many people would disagree with me. 2) You're insisting that no one book is "complete," but in less than 10 it's possible to know all there is to know.
    – NReilingh
    May 13, 2011 at 19:53
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    Calling a question "very straight-forward" does not make it so, especially when the question then lists four paragraphs of restrictions and provisos. May 13, 2011 at 20:13
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    Related meta discussion: meta.music.stackexchange.com/questions/125/… May 13, 2011 at 20:13
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    a) You are asking for complete immediate, all-purpose and multi-stage answers, but very good answers are progressive and grow out of comments and confrontation. b) If you do not rephrase your question to narrow it and make it answerable, it will likely be closed without any answers at all. c) If your way of asking this community for help is to tell it in advance that most things they are likely to do will be "bad", you are perhaps not very keen on having answers. d) You have not enough reputation to downvote any incorrect answer. :-)
    – ogerard
    May 13, 2011 at 20:24
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    (Thanks commenters. It's apparent I'll have to reformulate my question. Unfortunately I have to go offline now. I'll address the issues you pointed out as soon as I can.)
    – Allan K.
    May 13, 2011 at 20:27

1 Answer 1


There are many reference books about conducting, some of them still being read despite dating from the early 20th century but your dream is just a dream. Conducting is as much apprenticeship as theory. And as many here have remarked, conducting schools and styles abound. You have to make a choice or let life make the choice for you.

In the original version of your question you warned:

Please don't include books on peripheral subjects. For example "read this book about rhythm because you need to know rhythm to conduct" is bad. This question is about books specific to conducting.

That's twice a pity. First because what you assume to be peripheral, most good conducting books I could recommend would tell you to spend as much time as possible on them:

  • Understanding harmony and orchestration from a composer's point of view

  • Understanding the subtlety of the rythmic and dynamic hierarchy of instruments

  • Always go deeper in your analysis of the music notation.

  • Go on practicing chamber music as much as possible (you are probably doing it)

  • Go to concert as much as possible. Try to be allowed backstage.

Second, because one of the best book I could recommend to every budding conductor is on what you might term "a peripheral subject" and was published just six months ago (you won't need an archeologist) and I am fortunate to know one musician who was consulted for its content:

To build a progressive repertoire for a chamber music orchestra, you might be interested by this book from a violinist and conductor, starting at the beginning

In general their orchestra conducting books are recent, innovative and not too expensive and cover from beginner to intermediate, both from a conducting point of view and from an orchestra member point of view.

Same publisher than Elaine Gould, for a conductor with already some field experience, wanting to try himself of some of the greatest works of the repertoire, I find this book very inspirational:

to be read while listening to some of his recordings and some by other conductors with a very different style like L. Bernstein.

This is the kind of book that you would better loan from a library than buy yourself.

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