Guitar Teaching Books for Theory and Ear Training

Guitar Teaching Books for Theory and Ear Training

Guitar Teaching Books for Theory and Ear Training

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Guitar Teaching Books for Theory and Ear Training

Q: I need your advice on which books/CDs to purchase for me personally & for teaching purposes.

My background is blues/rock (self-taught – by ear) and, much later, I studied classical guitar technique.

I also studied functional harmony for one year at the Toronto conservatory (not on guitar) & one year in musicianship skills & composition in first year university. I’ve since taught myself to analyze scores & compose (contemporary classical) with the use of pitch-class set theory. Influences: modern classical (Leo Brouwer, ToruTakemitsu, Hosokawa & some Elliott Carter) – guitar: (Hendrix, Clapton, Santana, John Mclaughlin).

Though I don’t know what modes I’m playing, I can improvise to most of the Jam Tracks Volume 3 (excerpts) except to the Lydian, Lydian #5, Mixolydian b2 and b6, and whole-tone tracks. I could compose a solo for the above mentioned tracks.  Despite this, I could not improvise one.

Personal Goals

I would like to learn sight-singing (towards singing tone-rows, pantonal melodies, etc…) jazz guitar theory &, eventually, how to improvise over complex chord progressions (I like to learn how to play further & further out). I would like to learn enough chord theory so I could buy/understand John Stowell’s Modern Chord Theory and to use the correct enharmonic spelling in the music I write – my music tends to weave in & out of tonality.

Teaching Preparation

I’ve decided that I would like to teach guitar at this point in my life. I plan on teaching guitar varying from beginners to advanced students, hopefully, mostly Blues based music & some classical guitar. However, I need to improve on theory, sight reading & repertoire before I start guitar teaching.

This may be more information then you need but could you help in recommending books/CDs in both regards?

A: Nice to hear from you. Well that is a lot of stuff you want to learn! One of the problems with recommending some books is I’m not exactly sure where you are with your musical ability in your mind and in your hands on the instrument. So let me just run down a few books for you and if after you purchase some of them you end up with a problem we can fill it in with some other books if you have missing information.

I think overall you are best to go with the New York Guitar Method because that will cover: Scales, Approach Notes, Chords, Chordal Superimposition, and Sight Reading.
I would get these books all as digital downloads unless I recommend a physical copy. These books are all useful for guitar teaching in the future.

I would also consider starting the Scale Analysis book so that you begin to understand how all this ear training applies to hearing chord progressions. The files in this course will also be excellent for giving to your students to help them learn chord/scale relationships and see how important ear training is to their development. First I would work on one chord progression a week where you spend 10 minutes a day writing out which scales would work for the chord. You can check your answers in the back of the book. As you understand this better I would also start singing through the scales which will not only help your key retention but also help your understanding of how all this ear training that you are currently doing applies to real music.

For pitch class theory applied to jazz improvisation I’d get Tools for Modern Improvisation (Good for getting an overview of using pitch class theory with Jazz). Also get Time Transformation (Excellent for sight reading and sight singing pitch class related melodies in and out of key center ( Get Physical Copy).

Sonic Resource Guide (this is a reference book to really understand what you can do with any group of notes. It’s a big book so some people prefer physical copy. For searching for things the digital copy is nice. I use both myself not sure which to offer)

For Ear Training I’d start with Ear Training One Note Complete and Contextual Ear Training and MetroDrone.  This is step one in the ear training which will be closely connected to how your understand everything you do in music.  Therefore, these are all extremely important to getting and downloading.

For notation I’d get the two bibles:

  • Norton Manual of Music Notation
  • Real Book for repertoire.

That might take a few years :)

Once you get some or all of the books I can set up a practice schedule with you.  This is so you can work through the books. I would also recommend you get the Guitar Physiology DVD from and watch it and send me a video of you playing a C major scale starting on a low “F” on the “E” string to a high “B” on the high “E” string three notes per string. You can find the fingering in the back of the first chapter of New York Guitar Method Volume One Book.  You can either post it to Youtube or send it to me in email if it’s not to large a file. I want to make sure you are playing correctly because all the books in the world aren’t going to help if you are playing wrong. And if you are playing wrong then it will translate into your guitar teaching as well.

It is also recommended that you read Bruce Arnold’s Blog at his artist site. It contains more discussion of the musical topics found in these FAQs as well as other subjects of interest. You will also find the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located here which shows you the historic significance of the music education products found on the Muse Eek Publishing Company Website.

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