Skip navigation

Conductor Robert Ziegler’s Top Ten Musical Moments

To celebrate the publication of DK’s Music: The Definitive Visual History Conductor and Musician Robert Ziegler has chosen what he believes to be the most important moments that have shaped the history of music. Do you agree?

1. The first musical instruments:

Though shrouded in mystery, the first musical instruments required new skills, new inspiration and new thought. Around 60,000 years ago, bone flutes and primitive trumpets were made from conch shells and were an integral part of everyday life, and accompaniment to work and leisure, religious rituals and popular festivities.

2. Music and speech combine to make song:

The ‘Tonal’ languages of Africa and Asia use pitch to distinguish different words. Song uses tones to emphasise and colour the words. A whole world of expression opened up when these were combined.

3. A new system of musical notation:

In c.1000 the monk, Guido of Arezzo devises a system musical notation through his use of a four line stave, which consists of dots written on several horizontal lines based on the fingers or the hand.

4. The Birth of Opera:

The first flowering of an art that captures the essence of drama, music, singing and acting and becomes the pinnacle of sophistication for the courts of Europe.

5. Stradivari makes his string instruments:

The instruments of Antonio Stradivari are regarded as being close to perfection. His violins, viols, mandolins, guitars and harps are prized for their elegance, craftsmanship and the beauty of their sound.

Stradivarius mandolin
Gary Ombler (c) Dorling Kindersley, Courtesy of The National Music Museum

The above image is of a mandolin made by Antonio Stradivari in 1680. The table is made of one piece of medium-grained spruce with a small wing added to the bass side. The back has 7 ribs of Italian native maple with bog oak bands separating the ribs. Although best known today for his bowed stringed instruments, the surviving patterns and relics now housed at the Civic Museum in Cremona show that Stradivari made all kinds of other stringed instruments, as well. This choral mandolino is one of only two that are known.

6. Beethoven revolutionises what music is capable of expressing:

Ludwig van Beethoven’s titanic talent transforms our understanding of music forever. An individual who cared little for conformity, he believed himself to be a ‘Tondichter’ – a poet in sound. He epitomised the Romantic artist for whom the expression of emotions was more important than the observations of traditional structures.

7. Stravinsky’s explosive talent:

In 1913, Igor Stravinsky premieres Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) and changes the course of music history and composition. The radical score provokes disturbances in the audience and the scandal confirms Stravinsky as a leader of the musical avant-garde.

8. Recording and listening to music:

Technology makes its first slow steps towards global domination of the world’s living rooms with the wax cylinder, gramophone and 78 rpm shellac discs.

Wax-coated cylinder with ornate red hornDave King (c) Dorling Kindersley, Courtesy of The Science Museum, London

9. Early musicals:

In the early 20th century, a really new art form is created, which Robert calls ‘a kind of rude offspring of the opera and popular song.’

10. The Electric Guitar:

Les Paul and Leo Fender perfect the iconic instrument of pop music which dominates the world for decades to come: the electric guitar.

Electric guitar

Efired (c) Fotolia

Hear Robert Ziegler talk further about the history of music and in specific writing music for film in our DK Chats series on Soundcloud:

Music: The Definitive Visual History is available for purchase Monday 21st October 2013. Pre-order your guide now from DK.

LEGO Minifigure Year By Year

Pics from the mini book launch for our new book…LEGO® Minifigure Year By Year A Visual Guide:

Minifigure book launch

The book launch came complete with a LEGO Minifigure sized version of the book:

Minifigure book launch

A few celebrities attended…Jonathan Ross and Michael Mcintyre:

Jonathon Ross

Someone made the mistake of wearing the same outfit as LEGO Pretzel Girl:

The mini books are for the minifigures only but you can buy your full sized book with 30% off from The book includes three free minifigures! #DKLEGOBooks

Big book and little book

Mary Berry’s Fish Pie: perfect Freshers’ fuel

Calling all students: we’ve got the perfect recipe to see you through Freshers’ week or to help you recover from an overload of take-aways and convenience food.

This tasty recipe for Mary Berry’s Fish Pie with Cheesy Mash Topping  is taken from Mary Berry’s Cookery Course, an ideal book to slip into your suitcase as you head off to uni. Whether you’ve never even boiled an egg before or you’re already a bit of a whizz in the kitchen, you’ll find all sorts of recipes to remind you of home (plum crumble for those wintry nights and how to make the perfect omelette – nutritious AND cheap!) as well as recipes to impress your new flatmates (you’ll definitely end up with friends for life if you’re able to nonchalantly whip up Mary’s classic roast chicken on a rainy Sunday).

[NB Also perfect for those worried parents out there who want to make sure their kids are not surviving on a diet of cheese toasties].

We’re currently offering 40% of all Mary Berry’s cookery books (until the end of Oct) – find out more here

Mary Berry Fish Pie

We’re sure that this fish pie will become one of your staple dishes in no time and as an added bonus you can freeze it in portions to save you time in the long-run. Ok, here’s how to make it:

Fish Pie with Cheesy Mash Topping (serves 6)


  • 50g (1¾oz) butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 50g (1¾oz) plain flour
  • 600ml (1 pint) hot milk
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 350g (12oz) smoked undyed haddock fillet, skinned and cut into 2cm (¾in) cubes
  • 350g (12oz) fresh haddock fillet, skinned and cut into 2cm (¾in) cubes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 100g (3½oz) mature Cheddar cheese, grated

For the topping:

  • 1kg (2¼lb) floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper or King Edward, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • knob of butter
  • about 6 tbsp hot milk
  • 50g (1¾oz) Parmesan cheese, grated


  1.  Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan 180°C/400°F/Gas 6). Grease a 1.7- to 2-litre (3- to 3½-pint) baking dish.
  2. Make the topping: place the potatoes in a pan of salted cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and mash with the butter and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the Parmesan and set aside.
  3. Hard-boil the eggs for 10 minutes, drain, and peel. Cut each egg into quarters.
  4. Make the filling: melt the butter in a large pan, add the onion, and fry for a few minutes. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the lid, add the flour, stir until combined, and gradually blend in the milk. Stir over a medium heat until thickened and smooth.
  5. Add the dill, lemon juice, and haddock. Season with salt and pepper and stir the mixture for a couple of minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the Cheddar, stir in the egg quarters, and tip into the baking dish. Spread the cheesy mash over the top.
  6. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the pie is bubbling around the edges and piping hot in the centre.


  • USE HOT MILK: When making a white sauce or adding milk to mashed potatoes, it’s best to use hot milk. Bring the milk to a gentle simmer over a medium heat.
  • FRY THE CHOPPED ONION: Heat the butter in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and stir with a wooden spoon to ensure they are coated in butter and will not stick.

Kill or Cure event with author, Steve Parker

Date: Wednesday 6th November 2013

Venue: Barts Pathology Museum, St Barts Hospital, London, EC1A 7BE

Doors: 6.30pm for a 7pm start (Ends by 9pm)

Cost: £6.50 inc. wine and refreshments

Book your ticket

You may be familiar with medical history through the eyes of doctors and surgeons – but what about the unlucky patient? Set in the atmospheric Barts Pathology Museum, Steve Parker, author of our new book, Kill or Cure, will be tracing the experience of the same patient with headache and cough symptoms consulting the medical profession throughout different eras in history – 500 years ago, 150 years ago, present day and 50 years into the future. Professor Chris Thompson, Chief Medical Officer of The Priory, will introduce Steve and lead a Q&A session after the talk.

About the book:

Kill or Cure tells the riveting history of medicine from chipping holes in skulls to the latest gene therapy and revolutionary cancer treatments. Read compelling stories of drama and detective work that reveal the trial and error behind man’s endless search for cures to diseases and how lucky we are to have the medicines we do today.

Written by Steve Parker, a Senior Scientific Fellow of the Zoological Society and author of over 250 books, Kill or Cure is the perfect prescription for anyone interested in the history of medicine, terrible diseases and revolutionary cures.

Kill or Cure

About the venue:

Named one of CNN’s Ten Weirdest Medical Musuems, the beautiful Grade II listed Barts Pathology Museum houses 5,000 medical specimens. Purpose built in 1879, it spans there mezzanine levels and includes pathological pots relating to all areas of anatomy and physiology, including the skull of John Bellingham – the only person to assassinate a British Prime Minister.


GTAV Strategy Guide Gets Top Spot

Our Brady Games Grand Theft Auto Official Strategy Guide was the UK’s top selling book last week with sales of 28, 980 (Nielson BookScan). This comes after the success of the game which reached a staggering $1 billion worth of sales just a few days after its release last week. Celebrations all round!


Get your guide now from Brady Games.

Top 10 Tips For Buying (And Drinking) Wine

As the weekend approaches, our Top 10 Idiot’s Guide tips for today are all about one of our favourite subjects… wine! Whether you’re the type to scour the supermarket for a half price bargain, or spend your time cooing over a 2005 Chateaux Latour, part of the fun is in knowing how to get the best from your bottle. Here are our top ten tips for buying, tasting and storing wine, from our Idiots Guide: Wine (now just £6.50).

1)   Think of the four C’s. When buying wine, keep the four C’s of cost, choice, compatibility (with food), and cellar potential in mind as you peruse wine shelves and read magazine recommendations.

2)   If times are tight, scout for wines from up-and-coming or lesser-known wine regions or unusual grape varieties. Be aware that many prominent wineries also bottle less-expensive second labels, or second wines, typically named with a nod toward the original estate.

3)   Simple, everyday, ultra-affordable wines are intended to be enjoyed sooner rather than later. Contrary to popular thought, the vast majority of today’s wines are not built to age.

4)   A restaurant’s cheapest wines are often the most marked up. You’ll recognise these right away – they’re the wines offered by the glass at the same price you could buy the whole bottle retail. So for better value, stick with wines that are moderately priced for maximum gain, and steer clear of the very cheapest restaurant wine options.

5)   If the red wine bottle doesn’t feel cool to the touch, stick it in a bucket of ice or the fridge for 10 minutes. Red wines served too warm can come across fairly harsh, showing tight tannins and excessive alcohol on the palate.

6)   Your sense of smell is your greatest asset when it comes to tasting wine. Your nose picks up thousands of unique scents and partners with your tongue to convert those scents into full-on flavours.

7)   Temperature is key. If you remember nothing else, remember 13ºC/55ºF as the average optimal storing temperature for wine.

8)   Ultraviolet light can cause wines to age prematurely and spoil, rendering white wines out of sorts faster than reds.  Light certainly isn’t a friend to either, ever.

9)   Excessive vibration, like that found in or on a refrigerator, can shake up sediment and alter the chemical ageing process of a wine. It’s best to store wine bottles in a still, static environment and always on their side. The constant contact with the wine keeps the natural cork from drying out.

10) Refrigeration is mission critical to prolonging the limited life of the wine – for both red and white. Once the bottle is opened and the wine has been poured, stick the cork back in the bottle and refrigerate the wine right away (unless you’re confident the wine bottle will be completely consumed).

Get 50% off all new Idiot’s Guide titles until 5 October 2013


Discover how easy it is to draw Manga characters

In a slightly different vein to our other Top 10 Tips from the new Idiot’s Guides series (all half price until 5th October), we thought we’d put our money where our mouth is and have a go at seeing how simple it is to draw Manga characters. Here’s how Helen in our team got on…

Idiot’s Guides: Drawing Manga (now just £6.00) recently arrived in the office and we couldn’t resist flicking through all the cool Manga characters.

I really liked all the tips about showing characters’ emotions, from happy and sad to embarrassed and angry, but I thought I should probably start with the basics. So I had a look at  the fun tutorials on drawing people and decided to sharpen my pencil and have a stab at one.

This is an awesome three-quarter view of a female Manga face.

Step 1

Draw an oval as the basic face shape. The head is slightly turned, so it should be flattened on the left and rounder on the right. Add lines for a neck. Draw guidelines where the eyes, nose, and ears will be located. The vertical line should be angled toward the left side of the face.

Manga 1

Step 2

Refine the face shape. Draw a delicate jaw, a small nose, and an ear on the right side. Draw the eyes and eyebrows. The eye on the left should be narrower than the eye on the right.

Manga 2

Step 3

Draw the basic shape of the hair. Hair should be drawn slightly bigger than the head.

Manga 4

Step 4

Refine the hair and eyes. Adding strokes for texture will make the hair more realistic.

Manga 6


My first ever Manga face was finished! How do you think she compares to the one in the book?

Manga 7

If you want to try drawing your own Manga characters, check out Idiot’s Guides: Drawing Manga (now just £6.00)


Top Ten Tips for Playing the Guitar

Whether you dream of fronting the loudest rock band in history, or fancy yourself as a classical maestro, when it comes to the guitar it’s essential to start with the basics. Below are our top 10 tips from our Idiot’s Guide To Playing The Guitar (now just £6.50 until the end of September), which will take you from beginner to rock god in no time.

1) Choose wisely. When buying your first guitar, choose a guitar that is going to make you want to play it day after day.

2) As a beginner you want to focus on learning chords and strumming in rhythm regardless of what styles you might want to play. Whether you want to be a classical guitarist, singer/songwriter, or a heavy metal speed demon lead player, you have to be able to play in rhythm.

3)  If you’re not going to be playing your guitar for a while, put your guitar in its case and keep the case in a cool, dry location. You don’t want to leave your guitar where it can get “overexposed” to the elements. Keep it away from heaters radiators, air conditioners, and even constant direct sunlight whenever possible.

4) Hold it right. How you hold your guitar can make all the difference in the world when it comes to playing clean and clear notes.

5) Learn how to play chords. Recognising the chord’s name and knowing exactly on which frets to place your fingers is the first of your two biggest steps as a beginning guitarist.

6) If you’re not able to smoothly change between chords, slow down the tempo until you can. Repetition of the chord change will build up muscle memory and you’ll be picking up speed in no time.

7) Silence is as much a part of music as sound. Incorporating rests, or moments of silence, into your strumming is yet another way to create interesting rhythms.

8)  Your guitar is a one-man band sometimes. Providing not only chords for a song’s accompaniment but also the bass parts and even a bit of the drums!

9)  Get percussive. Learning to incorporate a bit of percussive strumming into your playing will make your rhythms more interesting, not to mention more fun.

10) Keep still. If you use a lot of arm motion to pick the strings, you will find palm muting to be a bit of a challenge. It’s important to keep the heel of your hand relatively still and let most of the picking motion come from your wrist and thumb.

Get 50% off all new Idiot’s Guides until 31 September 2013



Top 10 Tips For Knitting

Perfect as the nights start drawing in, our next set of Top 10 tips from the new Idiot’s Guides are all about knitting…

Not just something your Gran gets up to – knitting can be a great way of creating a huge variety of wearable clothes and accessories. Whether you want to get creative from the comfort of your sofa, or take part in high octane yarn bombing (look it up) here are our top 10 tips from the Idiot’s Guide to Knitting (now just £6.50).

1)    Choose your yarn. When you’re learning to knit, start with a yarn that feels nice in your hands and is fairly smooth.

2)   A yarn made wholly or partially of wool is ideal for learning to knit. Wool has a little spring to it, which makes it comfortable in your hands and keeps the stitches neat and even.

3)    Treat yourself to a good pair of knitting needles. Learning to knit with bent, dull or rough needles is frustrating.

4)    Knit in a well-lit spot. It’s a good idea to have your scissors, a notepad, and a pencil close at hand, too.

5)    Knitting gauge, or tension, is key to the finished measurements of all your knitting. It refers to the width and height of each stitch.

6)    Knitting instructions tend to be written in a condensed, specialised language. The primary reason for this is to save space on the page, but it also helps organise repeated steps for the knitter.

7)    Whenever you encounter an abbreviation or a “rep from *” or a bracket, make a note in the margin or on a sticky note with the translation. This helps as you’re knitting but also trains your knitter’s brain.

8)    A piece of knitting fresh off the needles isn’t always the exact shape you want it to be and sometimes your stitches might look a little uneven. Blocking can help rectify this – using pins, heat and/or moisture to straighten edges, smooth out uneven spots, and get your piece into shape.

9)    Most knitting projects involve some sewing. The sewing can sometimes be one of the most noticeable aspects of a knitted item, so it’s worth taking a little time to do it carefully.

10) No matter how sophisticated your knitting skills get, you’ll never stray far from the basic knit stitch.  It’s the foundation for all your knitting. The front of the basic stitch is the knit, and the flip side is the purl.

Get 50% off all new Idiot’s Guide during September – find out more


Top 10 Tips For Digital Photography

Buying your first digital camera can seem daunting, and if you want to take it out of auto mode and start shooting creatively, you’re going to need some practice. Check out our top 10 tips for digital photography below and find out more in our Idiot’s Guide: Digital Photography (now just £6.00).

1)    Take time to familiarise yourself with the various menu screens. Once you do, you’ll realise how much control you have over your camera and how easy it is to operate.

2)    The rule of thumb is to purchase a camera with the largest sensor ratio you can afford. Because the sensor is rectangular and the lens element is round, know that the larger the sensor, the more information the sensor can record from the image circle of the lens.

3)    Choose your speed. While a slow shutter speed will compensate for low-light conditions, any movements your subject makes may blur the photo so you must make adjustments to your other settings to avoid the issue.

4)    While a fast shutter speed allows you to freeze fast action, it also permits a lesser amount of light to enter the camera. Therefore, you must compensate shutter speed with other adjustments, such as the aperture, or the image may turn out too dark.

5)    The longer the focal length of the lens, the heavier it becomes and the more need you’ll have for a sturdy tripod or stabilisation device.

6)    Your lens’s aperture setting plays a key role in capturing the image that you want. The aperture allows the user to control the amount of light passing through it. The larger the aperture, the more light is able to reach the image sensor.

7)    How deep? Depth of field refers to the relative sharpness of subjects at varying distances from the camera and is directly related to the aperture setting you choose for your shot.

8)    A high ISO setting makes your camera more sensitive to light. This results in better performance in low-light conditions while a low ISO setting makes your camera less sensitive to light but produces sharper, crisper images with less distortion or “noise”.

9)    Don’t leave your monitor on all the time. it will drain your battery very quickly, so only use your monitor when you need it, e.g. to review the image you just shot.

10) When shooting on location, it’s always better to have more gear than you need. Nothing is worse than seeing a great shot and not having the proper equipment to shoot it.

Get 50% off all new Idiot’s Guides until the end of September




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 65 other followers