Classical Music for Dummies: No home should be without it! Every time you turn around, those guys at IDG Books have a new 'Dummies' title on the shelf. Classical Music for Dummies is no disappointment. It's chocked full of good hard information, but written with tongue in cheek. Included it action-packed chapters are a complete history of western music, an unbelievable chapter on music theory (by itself worth the price of the whole book), top ten lists, a CD-ROM and other enticements to get you and your family more involved as music listeners. Available at most larger bookstores for $24.95.
Master Theory Workbook: Cheap, Easy & Thorough - As a teacher who strives to get students the 'jamming' skills that they need to play in the real world, I know the need for good basic non-egghead musical knowledge. This can be a tall order for wind instrument students. First, the book must teach them the theory knowledge that is relevant to what they do. Second, it must be usable (and the work checkable) with a minimum of supervision. Third, it must function for those who do not have a piano or guitar at home. And finally, it must be written in universal musical terms--illustrated with notes on the staff rather than piano keys or guitar tabliture.
I've kissed a lot of frogs in search of such a book, and so far only one prince has appeared. That prince is the Master Theory Workbook, a 6-volume compilation published by Neil A. Kjos. After completing the first three books (90 lessons total) a student can write out a simple familiar song, add a harmony part, and select the chords for accompaniment. At this point, they are bridging the gap between the worlds of those who play from sheet music and those who play by ear. (this is why I include references to Master Theory lessons in the activities section of this website)
Important Note: While this is written, academic work, it also involves skillbuilding. This means that lessons are not to be rushed through as soon as written work is completed. Rhythmic exercises must be performed by the student in real time, and ear training exercises must be realized in audio on the student's instrument. With my private students (whom I see only once a week) I rarely recommend doing more than one lesson per day, and never assign more than four lessons per week. (it's usually more like two lessons per week) This work is to be digested and savored, not rushed through. Completed books should be kept for future reference.
Harmony & Theory: A Comprehensive Resource for All Musicians - (by Keith Wyatt & Carl Schroeder, Musicians Institute Press, Hal Leonard, Inc.) Music harmony and theory are not rules that someone makes up. They occur naturally in practice and the theorists simply codify them for the rest of us to understand. In the 18th century, J. S. Bach observed, codified and even personified the rules that classical musicians have cherished and wrestled with for over 200 years. Then, in the 20th Century, popular music began to slide away from from some of these rules and much of the nomenclature. Bach couldn't possibly have envisioned the impact of the blues, the return of the church modes, the guitar revolution or the flirtations with world music that have invaded the vernacular of popular music today.
As a result, many fine music students graduate from high school, college, and private lessons without a solid understanding of principles and nomenclature that are in common use in recording studios or by the band in their corner bar. Much of this is because popular music is developed by musicians with a minimum of formal schooling, who create their own solutions to the problems that confront them.
Fortunately for us all, pop and jazz musicians have also become dedicated educators, trying to spread the practical knowledget that they worked so hard to gain. Schools like Boston's Berklee College or Southern California's Musician's Institute are leading the way. And forward-looking publishers like Hal Leonard are helping them to disseminate their texts.
At $17.95, Harmony & Theory is not a cheap publication but it is a practical, real-world guide to understanding music and communicating with other musicians. Its 157 pages are divided into three sections: 1) The Tools: a review of the basics, 2) Structures: chords and chord progressions, and 3) Variations: melody and harmony in the real world.
I just bought my first copy of this book a week before posting this review. I'm already so impressed, that I plan to add it to the curriculum for my private students. Available thru Hal Leonard Publishing.
Back to Music Books Back to Music Consumer Page Home Email me