Book Review: Beyond Chord Melody by Martin Taylor MBE

This book written by Martin Taylor MBE with Joseph Alexander is published by Fundamental Changes. It contains two parts with a total of 13 chapters. In addition to being an amazing insightful book with systematically arranged musical examples, it also comes with 130 audio examples and 2 bonus online videos featuring Martin demonstrating key techniques. There’s an immense amount of info in the book!

The book is divided into two parts, firstly introducing Martin’s view of the fretboard. Then, the second half covers Martin’s 7 step approach to arranging for solo guitar.

The first part has a very logical progression, beginning with one string scales in the lower strings. As we move on, Martin adds guide tones and creates movement in the the voices. As the book progresses, Martin introduces how we can add melodies to these structures to decorate them. Some parts appear to be deceptively simple and some other parts are challenging (to play and to visualise at times, depending on your level). After examining major scale harmony, he goes into minor scale harmony and then dips into the CAGED System.

The second part of the book uses a contrafact of Autumn Leaves entitled Autumn Breeze to teach Martin’s arranging technique. Via step by step examples, it became clear to me that this entire book has distilled Martin Taylor’s genius into a a very compact usable package. This is extremely valuable material that can be applied again and again over different jazz standards. Along with Martin’s existing DVDs or transcriptions, this book could possibly be valuable to reverse engineer Martin’s arrangements.

As I played the notated musical examples, I realised that this book would be easier to digest or read if you played a guitar that has easier access to the higher register. There’s a huge melodic/harmonic range covered and therefore if you’re an acoustic guitar player with a guitar without a cutaway, you may need to transpose some examples to make them playable.

I read through the entire book in several sessions to have an overview of the material. Now, as I revisit the book to add more thoughts in this review, I definitely would see this as a valuable textbook for guitar instructors who intend to help their more ambitious students to learn beyond standard chord melody technique. The book delivers on the title! For those intending to use this as a self teaching method, I would recommend taking it slowly maybe only 1 to 3 examples per practice session so that you can really understand Martin’s concepts.

I personally see myself working on the first part to really visualise the fretboard in a more intuitive manner. Even though I’ve been playing and arranging solo guitar for many years (and opening for Martin’s Kuala Lumpur concert some years ago), I found this book to be something that I’d like to keep on my music stand as a part of my practice routine. Once you start transposing the examples into different keys, the whole book become an even bigger work to dig into!

So yes, if you’re into chord melody – or beyond chord melody – get this book and start woodshedding.

Pros: Great systematic method, lots of written examples and food for thought.
Cons: You may have to surrender your social life. Joking not joking :p
TLDR: If you’re interested in developing chord melody playing beyond standard ‘harmonise the melody note with a block chord approach’, this is a good investment. Recommended for fans of Martin Taylor and Joe Pass as well as anyone who is bored of the typical chord melody playing.

Thank you to Joseph Alexander and Fundamental Changes for the complimentary review copy. Thanks to James Taylor for connecting us!

How to buy:
You can get the book here:
https://www.fundamental-changes.com/book/martin-taylor-beyond-chord-melody-jazz-guitar/

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