With the explosion of guitar books over the past two decades, first in hard-copy form and now through the ebook phenomenon, it is harder than ever for guitarists to sift through all of the material available to them and choose a good book to dig into in the practice room. While some books are aimed at specific genres such as metal licks or blues chords, playing in the style of your favorite player or learning a certain technique such as tapping or fingerpicking, one of the most popular formats has been and is still the “umbrella” approach to teaching in book form. With this approach, the author takes a look at a larger concept, while also spending time on a number of smaller techniques and sub-concepts that fit under the overall theme of the book. Writer, guitarist and composer Jonny Cantin has taken this approach with his in-depth volume Chord-Scale Theory and Linear Harmony for Guitar, and the resulting book is a well-written, detailed look at many of the harmonic and melodic concepts that any guitarist needs to raise their playing to the next level.
The book starts with an introduction to the material, which is easy to follow and highly informative, before laying out explanations of the symbols and diagrams to be used in the book’s musical examples. Here, and throughout the book, there is a good amount of musical theory present. Cantin has approached this material with a mix of teaching theoretical knowledge alongside performance based material, explaining everything he lays out on the fretboard along the way. Because of this, anyone who works through this book will wind up with not only a better understanding of this material on the guitar, but also how it all relates to the larger context of music in general.
One of the main reasons that this book is worth the sticker price, besides the well-explained concepts, is the sheer amount of material present in the book. Cantin, using the umbrella approach to writing, uses the larger concept of Chord Scale Theory to dig into a wide range of topics, including:
* Major Scales
* Melodic Minor Scales
* Diminished Scales
* Whole-Tone Scales
* Harmonized Scales With Triads
* Harmonized Scales with Four-Note Chords
* Common Chord Progressions
* Chord Substitutions
* Chord Shapes and Voicings
* Chord Synonyms
This is not even a full list of all of the concepts and material present in the book, so at $7.95 for the ebook and $19.95 for the hard copy, this book is a bargain for the amount of knowledge one can garner from working through this material.
That raises one of the big questions that many students bring up when purchasing a new book, especially one with this wide a range of material, “Do I need a teacher to work through this book properly?” The answer to that question depends on the student. After reading the book and going through the musical examples, I would say that any intermediate or advanced beginner would be able to go through this material on their own. But, since there is a good amount of music theory involved in the book, if you do have a teacher it would be a good idea to bring this book to your lessons to work on together, just to make sure that you are following the material correctly and it lines up what you are already doing in your lessons.
Overall, Chord-Scale Theory and Linear Harmony for Guitar is a well-written, in-depth study of diatonic harmony and common chord progressions/substitutions. By integrating scale theory into the material, Cantin has covered all the bases, providing a one-stop volume of chords, scales and harmonic material. There is a good amount of theory present, which the author is not trying to hide, so if you are a bit shaky on your music theory you might want to work through this material with your teacher, or at least brush up on your theory chops if you get lost here and there in the book.
Both the ebook and hard copy version are properly priced and come in an nice, easy to read format that would make a welcomed addition to the home-library of any guitarist looking to dig deeper into harmonic and melodic concepts.
-Matt Warnock, Jazz Guitarist, Publisher and Music Educator
Author of 30 Days to Better Jazz Guitar