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Thread: Slonimsky's "Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns"

  1. #1
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    Slonimsky's "Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns"

    Is anyone else into this book? I'm a bit of a noob to it, and I was wondering how others are applying to their playing, and I'm a bit lost. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

    Cheers,


    Hypnus9

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    I'm a bit of a noob to it
    I don't know the book. You are a noob to what? Scales? Theory in general?

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    I'm a noob to the book. I've actually been a guitarist for 35 years come June, and, yes, I know at least a modicum of theory, and I'm not a novice in regards to improvising. It is just that this book is a bit of a mystery to me. I know that Coltrane practiced out of it, and that Allan Holdsworth uses it to substantiate what he does, and even Frank Zappa used certain things out of it. I was just wondering if anyone else on this forum had used it at all in their musical experience.

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    I never heard of that book. I assume from what you say about Coltrane using it, it must be a very old book (not that "old" means bad in any sense).

    But of course there are loads of guitar books filled with various scale patterns, and some of them describe all sorts of melodic scale exercises and sequences etc. There are also a few exceptionally good instructional DVD's like the Scott Henderson DVD (which I'm always recommending to anyone who will listen ) which are packed with all sorts of playing examples of numerous different scales and arpeggios.

    So I'm not sure in what way the Slonimiski book could really be doing anything that all those other more well known modern books and DVD's are not also doing for you.

    For more "advanced" or more masochistic players there are also books like The Advancing Guitarist (Mick Goodrick) which are not so much trying to teach clear examples in the melodic use of scales and arpeggios, but instead attempting to be more obscure in a thought provoking way of making all sorts of "left field" suggestions and "intellectual hints" for using/practicing/improvising with all sorts of scale ideas.

    Having said all that, there is a clear preference amongst some of the more experienced players here for concentrating much more on chord ideas and far less on scales anyway (eg in improvisational jazz) ... though personally I do approach my music more from a scale perspective rather than by primarily thinking in terms of chords.

    Just my 2:cents. of course .
     

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    I first heard of the book maybe 15 years ago, and have looked at copies, but never used it myself at all.

    I personally wonder if it would still be in print if it weren't for the "Coltrane Connection" - which *invariably* is brought up every time I've seen it mentioned - it doesn't seem to me to have had a major impact otherwise.

    Sounds to me like you have enough experience to determine for yourself whether the Emporer has any clothes, as it were, though...

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    Unless this book has sources from a university in every country in the world, I doubt it has every scale. I even thought there was only one or maybe two Ethiopian scales which are the ones which nearly every other source reports as Ethiopian scales, but then I read a thesis from people working in and studying from the university of Addis Ababa, and there's like 6-7 Ethiopian scales, some of which are similar to modes of other scales in the world, but African music doesn't always see C# and Db as the same pitch, so there's some difference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by walternewton View Post
    I first heard of the book maybe 15 years ago, and have looked at copies, but never used it myself at all.

    I personally wonder if it would still be in print if it weren't for the "Coltrane Connection" - which *invariably* is brought up every time I've seen it mentioned - it doesn't seem to me to have had a major impact otherwise.

    Sounds to me like you have enough experience to determine for yourself whether the Emporer has any clothes, as it were, though...

    I think, actually, it is even bigger in classical circles among composers than in jazz circles. I think it is only just now beginning to catch on among rock musicians, and the reason for that is most likely that such volumes are not really made known for awhile until they catch on among jazzers.

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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by Crossroads View Post
    I never heard of that book. I assume from what you say about Coltrane using it, it must be a very old book (not that "old" means bad in any sense).

    But of course there are loads of guitar books filled with various scale patterns, and some of them describe all sorts of melodic scale exercises and sequences etc. There are also a few exceptionally good instructional DVD's like the Scott Henderson DVD (which I'm always recommending to anyone who will listen ) which are packed with all sorts of playing examples of numerous different scales and arpeggios.

    So I'm not sure in what way the Slonimiski book could really be doing anything that all those other more well known modern books and DVD's are not also doing for you.

    For more "advanced" or more masochistic players there are also books like The Advancing Guitarist (Mick Goodrick) which are not so much trying to teach clear examples in the melodic use of scales and arpeggios, but instead attempting to be more obscure in a thought provoking way of making all sorts of "left field" suggestions and "intellectual hints" for using/practicing/improvising with all sorts of scale ideas.

    Having said all that, there is a clear preference amongst some of the more experienced players here for concentrating much more on chord ideas and far less on scales anyway (eg in improvisational jazz) ... though personally I do approach my music more from a scale perspective rather than by primarily thinking in terms of chords.

    Just my 2:cents. of course .
     
    Well, I can appreciate that most of the more advanced players on here are more interested in harmonic ideas than strictly scalar ideas. However, that brings up an interesting point. I find that each scale, when delving into modes, suggests harmonic underpinnings of its own. For instance, for an obvious example, C Minor is the Parallel Minor of C Major. But, as far as strictly scalar ideas are concerned, I have read time and again, and it holds true in my personal experience, that such things as melodic patterns lend to ones composing and improvising add depth to any given melodic choice, even to the point of captivating the listener and enthralling the performer. I have implemented melodic patterns in my playing for quite some time, and, if you will, it is really cool.

    BTW, I came up with, for lack of a better term, an interpretation of a certain melodic pattern found in Slonimsky's book, and I think I kind of found an answer to my original question. It's just a matter of actually thinking about what I was looking at. It is primarily a matter of applying something found written in the book in order to understand it, and it is said, "Experience is the best teacher." Thanks guys.
    Last edited by Hypnus9; 03-27-2011 at 01:53 PM. Reason: Revision

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hypnus9 View Post
    Well, I can appreciate that most of the more advanced players on here are more interested in harmonic ideas than strictly scalar ideas. However, that brings up an interesting point. I find that each scale, when delving into modes, suggests harmonic underpinnings of its own. For instance, for an obvious example, C Minor is the Parallel Minor of C Major. But, as far as strictly scalar ideas are concerned, I have read time and again, and it holds true in my personal experience, that such things as melodic patterns lend to ones composing and improvising add depth to any given melodic choice, even to the point of captivating the listener and enthralling the performer. I have implemented melodic patterns in my playing for quite some time, and, if you will, it is really cool.

    BTW, I came up with, for lack of a better term, an interpretation of a certain melodic pattern found in Slonimsky's book, and I think I kind of found an answer to my original question. It's just a matter of actually thinking about what I was looking at. It is primarily a matter of applying something found written in the book in order to understand it, and it is said, "Experience is the best teacher." Thanks guys.
    Ha ha (smiles ), OK well I'm a simple soul so I'm never sure I understand concepts like "added depth" and "underpinnings" lol ... but anyway, just as a general comment -

    - one of the really great things about playing guitar nowadays (as opposed to when I started in the 1960's) is that there's now such a vast amount of instructional material available ... of course some of it is only fit for the bin lol ... but I've found quite a lot of stuff that has been fantastically helpful to me. So I'm really indebted to guys like Scott Henderson and Paul Gilbert (his stuff is mainly focused on quite specific areas of technique of course) for taking the time and trouble to really explain the nuts & bolts of how they play and how to practice and acquire those sort of musical skills.

    However, even without getting in Ethiopian scales or Eastern classical music/instruments (none of which appeals to me I have to say), or whatever the Slonimsky book describes, there is just such as vast and fascinatingly rich field of technical and artistic study within even quite basic western music, that not even the greatest musical genius in the universe could hope to master even a fraction of it.

    So personally, I find that's more than enough to be getting on with .
     
     

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    Incidentally, whilst we are talking about more advanced music books - on the AllAboutJazz forum, there's a well known contributor called ED Byrne who has written various books on theory and playing applications in jazz ...

    ... I'm pretty sure that I would find his book/books tough going and not entirely comprehensible (and maybe that would be partly due to his writing style too), but if anyone does have Ed Byrne's books then I'd be interested to know what they made of his stuff and what sort of material and ideas he's presenting?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crossroads View Post
    Incidentally, whilst we are talking about more advanced music books - on the AllAboutJazz forum, there's a well known contributor called ED Byrne who has written various books on theory and playing applications in jazz ...

    ... I'm pretty sure that I would find his book/books tough going and not entirely comprehensible (and maybe that would be partly due to his writing style too), but if anyone does have Ed Byrne's books then I'd be interested to know what they made of his stuff and what sort of material and ideas he's presenting?
    He used to post regulary on AAJ, up to a year or two ago. He often posted lengthy excerpts of his drafts for his linear improvisation book.
    I found them very clear and readable - and highly inspirational. I haven't read the book itself, but I feel I know his ideas from all the posts of his I read.
    You can find threads he contributed to with a search for his name on the AAJ forum - but there's a hell of a lot.

    Try just these two:
    http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/showt...ighlight=byrne
    http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/showt...t=byrne&page=2

    and here's a discussion of his methods on AAJ's Musician to Musician forum (which I don't generally read):
    http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/showthread.php?t=34839

    and this one has a brilliant demolition of George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept that practicallly had me cheering out loud:
    http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/showt...t=byrne&page=3
    (check post #41 mainly)
    Last edited by JonR; 03-28-2011 at 08:57 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    He used to post regulary on AAJ, up to a year or two ago.
    Does he not post there any more? I havenít looked at AAJ for a while now.
     
    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    He often posted lengthy excerpts of his drafts for his linear improvisation book.

    I found them very clear and readable - and highly inspirational. I haven't read the book itself, but I feel I know his ideas from all the posts of his I read.
    Oh yes, I know he's very clued up on jazz and theory. That's why I thought it might be worth mentioning his book whilst we were talking about things like the Slonimsky book.

    Personally I just thought there was something about his writing style that I found less than really clear or as helpful as it might have been. It was nothing major, but together with the fact that I would have probably found his book quite complex, it just made me decide against buying it (not that I don't already have enough books to work from lol).

    Though actually I had a similar impression about quite a few of the threads on that AAJ forum. Eg there were a dozen or so very knowledgeable guys who posted on most of the theory threads. But it often seemed to me their posts were quite assertive and rather dismissive of anyone who wasn't quite up to their standard ... in that sense a lot of the discussion seemed to be quite cliquey, as if it was mainly for an "in crowd".
     
    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    You can find threads he contributed to with a search for his name on the AAJ forum - but there's a hell of a lot.
    Try just these two:
    http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/showthread.php?t=39460&highlight=byrne
    http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/showthread.php?t=34767&highlight=byrne&page=2
    and here's a discussion of his methods on AAJ's Musician to Musician forum (which I don't generally read):
    http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/showthread.php?t=34839
    and this one has a brilliant demolition of George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept that practicallly had me cheering out loud:
    http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/showthread.php?t=26167&highlight=byrne&page=3
    (check post #41 mainly)
    Yep thanks for the links. Well I did read many of those threads at the time. But as I say, I found them rather cliquey, as if they were not really intended to help people like me. It's a shame because I would have liked to have made more use of the information there.

    Just re. the clarity of music teaching in general - I'm often left with the impression that in music books, too many authors write in a way which almost assumes the reader to understand the topic before reading the book! That is - if you don't already have a fair idea of what they are talking about, then you may struggle to understand what passes for their "explanation".

    You may never have had that impression, especially if as I think is the case you understood more than most about music theory from quite an early stage, and given that I believe you also have an exceptionally high IQ. But 99% of readers will not have that advantage, and as I say in the past when I read various music books I was often left thinking that the author should have taken more trouble to make sure that their "explanation" made clear sense and that it really was an explanation as opposed to being merely a confusing & rather opaque re-description of the topic.

    The same thing happens in a slightly different way on instructional DVD's. Some like the Scott Henderson DVD are a modal of clarity even though they are describing quite complex issues. Ditto the DVDís from Paul Gilbert, Don Mock and Danny Gill ... those are also very clear & well thought out. But many others are far less helpful than they could have been, simply because the presenter/teacher/guitarist did not bother to take the time & trouble constructing clear & thoughtful explanations.

    But Iím just chatting generally about all the above, Iím not making a major complaint about anything or anyone in particular, and certainly not about Ed Byrne ... so itís just 2:cents on my general impressions about the way people try to teach music/guitar in books and DVDís .

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hypnus9 View Post
    Is anyone else into this book? I'm a bit of a noob to it, and I was wondering how others are applying to their playing, and I'm a bit lost. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

    Cheers,


    Hypnus9
    There are some interesting things in the book. I've fiddled around with the atonal stuff myself (dodecaphics and such). What specifically is confusing you about it? All the different things in the book are just ideas to use to build on and experiment with. Everything in the book is in the key of C and written as if being played on the piano (bass and treble clef). Here's some talk about it that VidKid and myself had a while ago.

    http://www.ibreathemusic.com/forums/...ead.php?t=3849

    Interestingly enough, that thread probably has the most detail about quadratonal arpeggios on the internet according to a quick Google search. In the book you'll find them either just before or after the section on Four Mutually Exclusive Triads. They are the same thing as the triads, just played as arpeggios. Great for building tension btw.

    There are some other neat ideas in there as well talking about dividing many octaves up into different parts. Some neat stuff indeed.
    v2sw3CUhw6ln3pr6OFck3ma9u6Lw3Xm6l6Ui2Ne5t5TSFDAb8T DOen7g6RZATHCMHPa21s6MSr53Dp3hackerkey

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crossroads View Post
    Personally I just thought there was something about his writing style that I found less than really clear or as helpful as it might have been. It was nothing major, but together with the fact that I would have probably found his book quite complex, it just made me decide against buying it (not that I don't already have enough books to work from lol).

    Though actually I had a similar impression about quite a few of the threads on that AAJ forum. Eg there were a dozen or so very knowledgeable guys who posted on most of the theory threads. But it often seemed to me their posts were quite assertive and rather dismissive of anyone who wasn't quite up to their standard ... in that sense a lot of the discussion seemed to be quite cliquey, as if it was mainly for an "in crowd".
    Well, it's a bunch of jazz theory dudes talking shop, in the main. It's not an educational Q&A forum for beginners, or even (much) for intermediates. Jazz theory is pretty advanced, there's no getting away from that. I don't think I've seen anything I'd call dismissiveness (to newbies), though I guess there might be a little impatience now and then with anyone who doesn't understand replies.
    (If you want real sarcastic dismissiveness on a jazz theory forum, try this one: http://www.jazzguitar.be/forum/theory/) 
    Quote Originally Posted by Crossroads View Post
    Just re. the clarity of music teaching in general - I'm often left with the impression that in music books, too many authors write in a way which almost assumes the reader to understand the topic before reading the book! That is - if you don't already have a fair idea of what they are talking about, then you may struggle to understand what passes for their "explanation".
    Sure.
    Not every theory book can be aimed at beginners, but there's probably quite a few that don't go into enough detail at the beginning about what you need to know already to make the most of the book. (Eg Mark Levine's Jazz Theory Book is not about to teach you notation, or similar basic stuff.)
    But that's as much up to the reader, to scan the contents and decide if this one's for them or not. It may often be necessary to also buy a lower level book, with introductory concepts.
    Quote Originally Posted by Crossroads View Post
    You may never have had that impression, especially if as I think is the case you understood more than most about music theory from quite an early stage, and given that I believe you also have an exceptionally high IQ.
    I do - - but I'm not sure that's much help. Ignorance is ignorance, no matter how high one's IQ.
    I'm currently having some problems making sense of Paul Hindemith's exercise book on Traditional Theory:
    http://www.amazon.com/Concentrated-C...ref=pd_sim_b_6
    Mostly I think I'm doing OK, but there's no answers, and the explanations of the rules are very terse (not too many illustrations or examples), and - yes - one does need some knowledge of the terminology he uses, or the ability to guess what he's talking about.
    And this is dealing with basic harmony rules (I IV V triads, and just up to V7s so far) - well below the complexity of the kind of harmony I've actually been using almost all my music career! I'm sure I've got some of the exercises wrong, but I can't be sure - because I haven't properly absorbed the rules. (I understand them, but can't always see if my harmonisations break them.)

    I don't think there's any way round your general point - other than to keep looking until you find a book written in way that makes sense. No author is perfect, they all - even the good ones - have their own angles, even when aiming at a general or beginner readership. Certainly, I've never found ONE book I could recommend wholeheartedly - which is why I always advise buying 2 or 3 or more. (It's not a gap in the market, IMO - just that we all have our own ways of learning, and our own mix of basic knowledge and ignorance. There's no such thing as one book that will suit everyone.)

    And in the end, no book (or DVD) can be anything more than partial assistance in learning music. (DVDs are better because they have sound and vision - but tend to be more limited in what they cover.) Even if you think you're getting it, only a teacher can check that you are. And teachers aren't perfect either...

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Well, it's a bunch of jazz theory dudes talking shop, in the main. It's not an educational Q&A forum for beginners, or even (much) for intermediates. Jazz theory is pretty advanced, there's no getting away from that. I don't think I've seen anything I'd call dismissiveness (to newbies), though I guess there might be a little impatience now and then with anyone who doesn't understand replies.
    (If you want real sarcastic dismissiveness on a jazz theory forum, try this one: http://www.jazzguitar.be/forum/theory/) 
    Sure.
    Not every theory book can be aimed at beginners, but there's probably quite a few that don't go into enough detail at the beginning about what you need to know already to make the most of the book. (Eg Mark Levine's Jazz Theory Book is not about to teach you notation, or similar basic stuff.)
    But that's as much up to the reader, to scan the contents and decide if this one's for them or not. It may often be necessary to also buy a lower level book, with introductory concepts.
    I do - - but I'm not sure that's much help. Ignorance is ignorance, no matter how high one's IQ.
    I'm currently having some problems making sense of Paul Hindemith's exercise book on Traditional Theory:
    http://www.amazon.com/Concentrated-C...ref=pd_sim_b_6
    Mostly I think I'm doing OK, but there's no answers, and the explanations of the rules are very terse (not too many illustrations or examples), and - yes - one does need some knowledge of the terminology he uses, or the ability to guess what he's talking about.
    And this is dealing with basic harmony rules (I IV V triads, and just up to V7s so far) - well below the complexity of the kind of harmony I've actually been using almost all my music career! I'm sure I've got some of the exercises wrong, but I can't be sure - because I haven't properly absorbed the rules. (I understand them, but can't always see if my harmonisations break them.)

    I don't think there's any way round your general point - other than to keep looking until you find a book written in way that makes sense. No author is perfect, they all - even the good ones - have their own angles, even when aiming at a general or beginner readership. Certainly, I've never found ONE book I could recommend wholeheartedly - which is why I always advise buying 2 or 3 or more. (It's not a gap in the market, IMO - just that we all have our own ways of learning, and our own mix of basic knowledge and ignorance. There's no such thing as one book that will suit everyone.)

    And in the end, no book (or DVD) can be anything more than partial assistance in learning music. (DVDs are better because they have sound and vision - but tend to be more limited in what they cover.) Even if you think you're getting it, only a teacher can check that you are. And teachers aren't perfect either...

    Yes!


    ps:- slightly more detailed reply likely (but still amounting to "Yes" on all those points lol! ).

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