Bruce Arnold knows how to deliver a serious educational product. This course is the most in-depth exploration of approach notes within a bebop & jazz context that I’ve ever seen in my life. Personally, I’ve studied via different eBooks and courses on the topic from the Approach Note Velocity eBook series by Steve Neff to the recent A Guide to Developing a Chromatic Approach to Improvisation by Tony Greaves all the way back to the classic book, Technique of the Saxophone – Volume 2: Chord Studies by Joseph Viola.
Approach notes was also a major topic of discussion of many of the classes I took in Berklee. So, when I saw Bruce announcing this course, I was excited to check out what he had to offer.
By all standards (pun intended), he exceeded all my expectations. This is extremely comprehensive and covers (as Bruce explains in the Foreword of the book), “This is pretty much everything you will ever need to know about approach notes. “
He is not kidding.
The download of this course includes:
- The 97-page book which explains the main concepts
- A massive 12 gigabyte (yes, 12 GB!) download with thousands of exercises, études and 35 minutes of videos.
The core of the course is the eBook which Bruce has generously included both Concert & Bass Clef versions in the download. Most other publishers would have sold the two versions separately but Bruce decided to make this the one-stop download for you.
The eBook is divided into 20 chapters that range from approach note basics, diatonic approach notes & application to chord tones, scales, tensions, modal and intervallic structures. The topics go far and beyond what most books cover (which usually includes very typical approach notes exercises into triad, 7th chords and then onto standard jazz chord progressions).
The best part of the course is that Bruce prescribes the exact practice process to master the material (with realistic time expectations to gain control of the subject, many months to years). Bruce does not lie to you about any of this, he tells it as it is.
This isn’t for musical tourists. This is a course for the hardcore musicians who want to master their instrument systematically & who are willing to face their personal weaknesses in the eye.
In the first chapter, Bruce introduces the rabbit hole stating that the course covers 12 chromatic and diatonic approach note patterns & 24 applications of approach note patterns. I particularly love how Bruce prepares you by giving 13 chord types to master as the ‘pre-approach note exercise’. He also suggests working on the first 9 chord types to ‘reduce the size of the exercise which usually takes about a year to complete.’
If you’re still here and not scared of what’s ahead, Bruce continues to give specific practice strategies which include writing your own solos using the concepts and tips on composing jazz lines.
One of the best things about working with Bruce’s book is that he responds VERY QUICKLY to e-mails from students who have invested in his materials. If you got this book, he is just an e-mail away! With every purchase on muse-eek.com you get free email support if you have questions.
The later chapters go into approaches as applied to scales, modes and even approaches into approaches (which as Bruce explains ‘could be thought of as the manual of playing chromatically.’
Chapter sixteen gets even deeper with a discussion of pitch class sets as a way of organising intervallic structure that have been assigned to a chord.
The 35-minute video is also a valuable part of the course with Bruce giving important guitar technique suggestions and examples of how to practice the material in a musical context. The double time lines in the videos are great to hear. For players who are new to the approach note concept, starting with the videos can really give more context of how the topics work within a real music setting. It’s really great to see how passionate Bruce’s teaching style is via the videos. Bruce’s tone is really friendly and encouraging. This is very helpful considering how challenging & deep the material is.
In conclusion, the course basically gives the tools, the methods and the systems to organise your practice sessions for this topic. Once you know the kind of player you are (another big topic of discussion for another day), you can choose the chapters and materials that are most relevant to develop your technique, ears and command of chords.
Recommended for intermediate & advanced students of jazz improvisation, this course is definitely something you can work on for your entire life. Although Bruce gives a lot of guitar centric instruction within the course, the material is suitable for improvising musicians of any instrument. You’re getting extreme value for money in this course. So, if you’re curious about mastering approach notes, I strongly recommend getting this fine work by Bruce Arnold.
Pros: Very detailed, extremely well organised course on this topic. You are unlikely to find anything coming even close to what Bruce has done in this course.
Cons: Prepare to lose sleep.
TLDR: If you’re a music geek who gushes at knowing there’s a book just about Approach Notes, get this course and practice this now so you can get some of this stuff together in your lifetime.
Get your copy of this course here: https://muse-eek.com/approach-notes-the-study-of-bebop-and-jazz-melodic-patterns/
I wrote a lot of other book, course and video reviews too.
Check out the rest here:
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