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  • Backbeat Books The Jazz Guitar Handbook by Rod Fogg

    By Chris Loeffler |

    If history informs the future it's important to understand, not just learn, the past if we want to move forward. Author Rod Fogg embraces history as a path to better jazz playing by weaving a survey of the evolution of jazz music and deep dive into the physical construction of the jazz guitar with over two hundred pages of jazz theory and lessons and a supporting CD.


    By Chris Loeffler


    In the world of playing guitar, there are few genres more demanding than jazz. From its purist roots to its requirement of higher music theory, jazz demands discipline and creativity. It is also one of the most colorfully storied genres of modern music.  

    The Jazz Guitar Handbook features a hard cover and spine with an interior spiral binding, resulting in a book that looks nice on a shelf but folds out perfectly flat when reading/practicing. All sections include illustrative examples with explanatory summaries of what the reader should be paying attention to, the exercise in tablature and standard notation, and a supplemental audio track to hear the example played. The accompanying audio CD includes 96 tracks and is playable in any CD player or convertible to MP3 for download.


    What You Need to Know


    • Part one of the book leads with 23 pages covering the history of the jazz guitar, the jazz movement, and prominent jazz guitar players who shaped the genre. From a detailed overview of the most iconic jazz guitars to the current state of jazz, the author provides a brief but compelling narrative of how the nature of jazz music and musicians shaped the instrument’s design. Following this overview, the author dives straight into the instrument itself, with a survey of the various components of the typical jazz guitar and the various options available. After taking time to familiarize the reader with the workings of the instrument, the author turns his focus to the handling of the instrument and the basics of reading music notation.
    • The lessons section begins exactly where jazz did; the blues. The author walks through typical blues progressions, chords, and scales with a heavy emphasis on pentatonic scales. Elementary scale theory is introduced and the concept of shapes and geometry helps guide the visual layout of major and minor pentatonic scales in each key. By the end of this section, readers will have covered all the essential theory behind blues music and have a solid foundation for jazz.
    • Part two of The Jazz Guitar Handbook turns its attention to chords. Starting with open string chords and evolving to triads, sevens and moveable chords, the author lays out an intuitive method for building chords across the entire neck. Once these basics are covered, keys, modulation, and voicing are addressed. Building on this framework is a fairly deep dive into substitutions, inversions, and extensions. The chord theory presented in the section is diverse and, for novices, a little intimidating. Those with a limited jazz listening catalog will be challenged with some of the more esoteric extensions, but these come together nicely as the following section addresses scales.
    • Part three jumps into the bread and butter of jazz showboating; scales, modes, and arpeggios. After thoroughly exploring the major scales and modes, the author ties chords and scales together through an analysis of arpeggios and how they are used within the context of a scale to address individual chords. Ascending and descending melodic minor scales are covered with many melodic explorations in the form of exercises, and the composition and application of symmetrical scales closes out the section.
    • The final section of the book focuses on the elements of jazz music and techniques that make music intrinsically “jazz”. This exploration includes rhythm styles, chord/melody techniques, time signatures, and a dozen or so exercises dedicated to demonstrating note choices in various musical contexts.



    • It’s a jazz instructional book… no matter how well explained (and this book does a fantastic job of explaining), the nuances of the theory are gained from practice, not just reading and mastering a single exercise.




    Anyone ready to step up to the world of jazz guitar should give The Jazz Guitar Handbook a look; it is beautifully designed, the lessons are intuitively sequenced and paced, and the regular sprinkling of tips, theory, and techniques keep things interesting an informative by breaking up the exercises. While by no means a comprehensive overview of the history of jazz, the first portion of the book does a fantastic job of intertwining the evolution of jazz music and the jazz guitar into the context of the lessons that follow.




    Backbeat Books The Jazz Guitar Handbook (Street $29.99)

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