Today, there are endless ways to learn about the guitar. From traditional teachers, to YouTube, to books, to good old fashioned trial and error, there are so many ways to go about your journey towards guitar mastery and musical nirvana. But what if there was a new medium that combined the best of all these methods?
My good friend, fellow UCLA alumni, and passionate guitar player Jon Maclennan has just released an iBook titled, “Melodic Expressions: The Art of the Line,” designed specifically for the iPad. What is an iBook? It’s a “multi-touch textbook,” an interactive electronic book that integrates audio, video, photos, graphics and more, bringing content to life in ways previously unimaginable. It’s everything you’d get from a book, and then some. Plus, it’s digital, so you can store thousands of iBooks in a single iPad, while saving the trees!
Like me, Jon is an avid fan of guitar great Carl Verheyen, and Carl’s approach to improvisation. In short, this school of playing is based on “lines,” instead of scales and arpeggios. So often guitarists become trapped by scale shapes and boxes that ultimately inhibit their melodic creativity. With this new alternative approach, the player practices “lines,” or melodic phrases, that can be used in improvisation. In the same way a player would use a scale shape or an arpeggio when improvising, they can use these “lines” to create far more interesting and creative phrases, and ultimately more personalized expression.
Jon’s book is divided into three sections – Major, Minor and Dominant expressions. Each section is filled with various licks, corresponding to the given harmony, that range from Rock to Blues to Jazz and even Country. With the interactive iBook medium, each lick has multiple audio samples, and the option for you to plug into your own iPad and play along! There’s also a “general tips” section, where Jon will teach you how to create your own melodic expression and cultivate your own personal harmonic vocabulary. Very cool!
Ultimately, I find this approach to improvisation and general music making to be the most fun and effective. Although it’s important to familiarize oneself with scales and arpeggios in order to understand music in a theoretical way, these tools should not become crutches in developing your melodic voice and improvisational style. It’s much more fun to create exciting lines and phrases that express your personal style and sound like you. Although at first it may be difficult to write your own licks, books like Jon’s are a great place to learn the craft and gather inspiration. So check out “Melodic Expressions: The Art of the Line” today on iTunes and take the first step on your journey towards developing your own personal melodic sound!
Check out this promo video on “Melodic Expression: The Art of the Line” for more info, and be sure to check out Jon Maclennan’s website for more about him and his music.