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They Don't Make Idiots Like They Used To
on May 6, 2007
This books covers a world of material on crafting rock/jazz/blues solos for less than the price of a music lesson. You need to have reasonable mastery of your instrument before tackling this book (playing scales, reading music, producing proper tone, etc.). The book will easily take a non-obsessed musician over a year to plow through and absorb fully if they do not have much background in improvisation or theory. The "Idiot" that masters the material would be an amazing idiot indeed. What makes this book stand out from others?
1) The amount of material covered: There are some gaps (like modes of the melodic minor scale), but this book does an incredibly good job of hitting important topics in comprehensive fashion. Its broad scope almost rivals an encyclopedia.
2) Clear and concise explanations: the book opts for clear explanations and illustrative examples, rather than giving technically perfect explanations. Other books deal with topics in exhaustive depth (Bert Ligon's jazz books and Mark Levine's Drop 2 book come to mind); this one presents the concepts and suggests their application, then leaves it to the student to explore.
3) Interviews - there are two very good interviews with pros from jazz and rock
4) Appendices - the appendices have some good scale charts that will be useful for reference and practice.
5) Lots of practice patterns
6) Advice that goes beyond the theory - theory is indispensible, but it doesn't equal music, any more than colors equal art. The real value in this book is the discussion of how to make solos interesting and effective. The advice in this realm is as useful to a reaasonably experienced improviser as it is to a beginner, and trancends all genres. Every solo can be analyzed through these concepts to find where room for improvement may be found.
This books has plenty to offer to the budding improviser. Do not be fooled by the bargain price or the title: it is not a half-hearted introduction or a quick fix. It is as jam-packed with information as any book on the subject could be. It will require time, practice and dedication to master the material in this book, but it will produce results if you do your part.
Because of the breadth of material covered, go elsewhere for depth (not a fault, just a fact). That might come in the form of a book on a specific topic or a music teacher. In fact, this book would probably be an excellent text to use with music lessons so that important topics can be identified and expanded, and bad habits can be avoided.