The first thing that struck me about The Jazz Guitar Handbook when it arrived was although it looks like a regular hardback, when you open the front cover you notice that the content pages are actually spiral bound. This might sound trivial but if you are playing examples from a book that is not spiral bound the pages close or turn as you have the book perched on your music stand or table which is very annoying. Having the book spiral bound means that once you open the book to a certain page it stays there and you can work through the examples in a section without having to juggle the book and a pick! The Jazz Guitar Handbook also includes a 96 track CD and all of the examples listed in the contents section making it very easy to see which track to skip to for each example. In the book
This book starts with the history of jazz guitar and guitar basics but quickly dives into some real world applications of theory technique in the section “Beginning with the blues” which obviously is a much more simplistic style of music to begin learning about improvisation. As you can probably guess this first section therefore is based around the pentatonic minor and major scales over 12 bar seventh chord vamps. The next section is all about chords, building triads, seventh and extended chords, substitions and inversions. There are plenty of examples, using both chord boxes and TAB to help you play arpeggiated chords, melodies over chords and even entire chord based Jazz standards which mix up arpeggiation with straight chord strumming. Substitutions, inversions and extensions covered in the next couple of sections is where things start to get intense but the examples are clearly thought out, displayed and demonstrated taking some of the brain strain away, remember nobody said learning Jazz guitar was easy take time to read over the information, play the examples and go back again and again to sections to help this information start to make sense.
Part 3 of The Jazz Guitar Handbook is entitled ‘Beyond Pentatonics’, yes there is a whole new world out there for you once you break out of those comfortable 5 note scale shapes we know and love. You will learn the Major scales and modes as wel as the melodic minor scale and it’s modes (finally learn what on earth the Lydian augmented mode and Mixolydian b6 modes are). And as if that wasn’t advanced enough already the next section covers Symmetrical scales such as the half step/whole step diminished scale and whole tone scale and how to put them into practice.
The final part of the book is about Jazz Guitar Styles, rhythm styles, chord/melody techniques, time signatures and not choices. Examples in this section are full pieces based on blues, jazz standards, walking bass lines and chord/melody arrangements where you need to make melodies within the chords stand out which is a difficult technique to master but used all the time in Jazz and Classical guitar composition. It also covers various styles such as Bebop and Gypsy Jazz and an extended solo piece to really test you at the end of the book.
I’m not a Jazz guitarist by any means but I do find theory pretty interesting (I did study Music at Uni but forgotten most of it) which makes me curious to try and put these examples into use but I also have a tendency to rush and want to run before I can walk, which is why, like I just said, I’m no Jazz guitarist. If you really take the time to understand all of the concepts in this book it will make you a much better guitar player the theory taught in this book is useful in all genres of music and will serve as a reference book for years to come. I’m determined to try and work through this book over the next few months to try and better understand Jazz harmony and theory and to improve my improvisation. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is also interested in advanced guitar theory.
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