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  1. #1

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    So I have tons of books on scales/arpeggios/technique, and even more with transcriptions. So I'm really hoping I can find just one theory book. Mark Levine's The Jazz Theory Book seems to be the most obvious but I'm wondering if there's another one folks like better. The Berklee book of jazz harmony looks interesting; I'm sure both are different...but wondering if Levine's books spends half his time covering obvious stuff...or if in fact it really is a must have. Or if there's another book that's better. Again, hoping to buy just one! Appreciate your thoughts.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Mark's book is good, but it has it's detractors. Bert Ligon has some good books

    http://www.amazon.com/Jazz-Theory-Re.../dp/0634038613

    If you scour the internet some of the early Berklee Harmony materials are available.
    No, I'm not going to give you the answer to your question. I don't want to deny you the pleasure you'll receive when you figure it out yourself. -- Bill Evans talking to his brother.

  4. #3

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    Bert's books look great. Looks like there are four. Which ONE is a must have?

  5. #4
    Jazz theory resources vol 1 and 2 are theory books and probably best to start with, since that's what you're looking for.
    They're really a 2 volume edition of a single text. Start with vol. 1 if you like.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 04-12-2015 at 06:21 AM.

  6. #5

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    I have the Levine book, and I'd recommend it with reservations. You need at least one other book to balance its bias, which is towards chord-scale theory.
    It's very well-written, easily readable - sensible spiral binding so you can put it on a music stand (although the stand will need to be sturdy...), plenty of real musical examples from solos by jazz masters.
    However the latter are misleading. They seem to give Levine's concepts unassailable authority - look, those guys actually played these scales! - but most of the time other interpretations are possible. (The other thing that makes him look totally authoritative is his mind-boggling listening list at the end; my life is too short for all that...)

    In short, Levine's book doesn't really examine functional harmony, the major-minor key system on which all jazz standards were based up until 1959(ish). He presumably takes it as read that you know what that's all about, and his area of interest is really post-modal jazz. That's fine, except that the book still presents itself as "The Jazz Theory Book", as if it's all you need to know. It ain't. What it contains is great (and there's years, maybe decades, of work in it), but you need other books too.

    Robert Rawlins' and Nor Eddine Bahaa's book Jazzology: The Encyclopedia of Jazz Theory for All Musicians: Amazon.co.uk: Robert Rawlins, Nor Eddine Bahha: 9780634086786: Books was designed partly as a response to what Rawlins felt was lacking in Levine, so should make a good companion to it. Problem with that one is it seems a little dry and text-booky after Levine, and (worse) has no real-world quotes; all the musical examples were written by the authors.

    I agree that Bert Ligon's books look ideal, although I've not read them myself.
    Last edited by JonR; 04-12-2015 at 08:07 AM.

  7. #6

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    Thanks so much, I was just going to ask about Rawlins/Bahha. Reviews are good and it's cheap!

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    Your 1959 question is interesting. I think I'm more interested in pre than post. I prefer Wes, Grant Green, and Jimmy Bruno playing standards rather than Pat Metheny modern-type stuff. Not my bag.

  9. #8

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    Daniel Ricigliano's book might be helpful then. I'm not certain if it's still in print.

    http://www.amazon.com/Popular-Jazz-H...iel+ricigliano

  10. #9

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    The best Jazz theory "book" for me is the records first and foremost. However, I do have a bookshelf with lots of reference books for when I need to leaf through to figure out what I'm hearing. I don't have any one favorites I learn from many. Even bad books.
    "If I don't practice for a day, I know it... for two days, the critics know it... three days, the public knows it." -- Louis Armstrong

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by tomems View Post
    Your 1959 question is interesting. I think I'm more interested in pre than post. I prefer Wes, Grant Green, and Jimmy Bruno playing standards rather than Pat Metheny modern-type stuff. Not my bag.
    In that case, I doubt you'll get much from Levine.
    It might be worth remembering that nobody back then learned from books. They learned from (a) listening to records and (b) jamming with other musicians. They probably had some conventional (classical) lessons on their instrument as kids, which would have taught them all their scales, and some basic key theory.
    So the best kind of book you can learn from would be a Real Book, or any collection of standards. The chord changes will show you the theory in action, which is the best way to understand it.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by tomems View Post
    Your 1959 question is interesting. I think I'm more interested in pre than post. I prefer Wes, Grant Green, and Jimmy Bruno playing standards rather than Pat Metheny modern-type stuff. Not my bag.
    Those guys learned by listening, listening, and listening then playing. Most learned "theory" in the streets except Jimmy Bruno who I believe his father and mother were both musicians. FYI: Pat Metheny is also basically is self taught and started by transcribing every Wes record as a kid (and Beatles) he even got some gig as a kid playing Wes tunes note for note. So like smokinguit said your stack of CD's is your best source of learning, that's how the old guys did it.
    Last edited by docbop; 04-12-2015 at 12:24 PM.
    No, I'm not going to give you the answer to your question. I don't want to deny you the pleasure you'll receive when you figure it out yourself. -- Bill Evans talking to his brother.

  13. #12

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    The winner? Jazzology by Raw/Bah. The table of contents is fantastic and it's half the price of the others. That, and all the stuff written on the Internet about Giant Steps.

  14. #13

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    I like the Levine book. I already knew functional harmony from my classical theory classes in college. The Levine book is really what made things "click" for me with modal/chord-scale stuff.

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    I have the Levine book, and I'd recommend it with reservations. You need at least one other book to balance its bias, which is towards chord-scale theory.
    Ligon's Jazz Theory Resources are probably good to balance. Jonny Pack was always enamored with them as being a "remedy for un-learning some of the common pitfalls of Mark Levine's Jazz Theory Books" (from his amazon review). That's purely 2nd hand. I don't have the above mentioned books, but I have Ligon's other 2 books and they're excellent.

    tomems, you probably couldn't go wrong having both authors' books.

  16. #15

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    Gosh, there are so many books. It's not a huge amount of help but I would say that the best book is the one you find useful.

    Personally I find that reading a lot of different ideas is best for me. I usually fix on something and look at that in detail.

    Someone mentioned having a good grasp of functional harmony before thinking about the Mark Levine book (which is chord/scale based.) This strikes a chord for me.

    No jokes, perhaps the most influential book on theory I ever read was the AB Grade 5-8 Music Theory guide (here in the UK) for pre-college classical music students which explained secondary dominants, diminished sevenths, Aug 6ths, modulations and borrowed chords. Suddenly, the structure of jazz standards started to make sense. A similar intermediate-advanced of college primer on Harmony should do the job, though you will have to wade through a lot of stuff on part writing and grapple with figured bass notation. Obv. helps if you read a bit of music.

    Jerry Coker's Hearing the Changes, and Conrad Corks New Guide to Harmony with Lego Bricks are good books.

    So - you are interested in classic jazz guitar:
    I also recommend, Forward Motion (Hal Galper), this book, the Barry Harris approach (there are a few books out there - I think Alex Kingstone has one for guitar.) These have all been very useful.

  17. #16

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    Also I like Andy Jaffe Jazz Harmony.

  18. #17

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    I was looking for theory books in my university library and I found Jazz Theory Workbook by Mark E. Boiling and I like it very much. However, I think it is recommended to go through the book with a teacher or someone that knows his stuff because I find that I've had to figure out some stuff on my own while reading it. I also think that reading other theory books and lessons has helped me understand a lot of stuff found in it, while reading this book has helped me understand stuff I've read in other books. This forum has also helped me a lot. Overall I'd say it my not be a beginners book but I like the "workbook" approach of it where they give you exercises, examples, and just enough information for you to understand what they're talking about. If you can find it in a library do take it out, but I wouldn't buy it.

  19. #18

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    You can't go wrong with the Ligon books, or with Jazzology. Another good series is Contemporary Music Theory, by Mark Harrison. It is a 3 book series, and each book is just under $30, which is relatively expensive compared to books like Jazzology. What I like about it is that is is set up in workbook format, and is very easy to follow independently. It may not be complex enough for some, but for those with little to no background in music theory it is a great place to start, and in a fairly short time will give you a solid understanding of the important aspects of theory. Progressing through the more intense books will then be much easier.

  20. #19

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    I love The Jazz Piano Book very much as they describe the Jazz related things very nicely and in detailed.

  21. #20

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    Here's my recommendation:

    Best jazz theory book?-record-stack-jpg

    #theresalwaysone

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Here's my recommendation:

    Best jazz theory book?-record-stack-jpg

    #theresalwaysone
    Jamey Aebersold: "All your answers are on the records."
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola