For me, there are three main kinds of jazz guitar books:
- The kind that teaches via a generic, almost predictable standard approach. These are the ones that give almost the same II-V-I lines & has very similar explanations on approach notes and bebop. This is also the basis for many generic and incorrect YouTube videos.
- The kind that teaches from an experienced player’s perspective. This is the kind of book that teaches stuff that works (and almost everything is worth practicing!)
- The kind that is a synthesis of a player’s unique perspective on jazz guitar playing. Examples of these kinds of book include anything by Pat Martino, Joe Diorio and Howard Robert.
When I saw Tony DeCaprio’s book, I knew it was in the third unique category.
However when I first bought it years ago, I was not ready for it. I tried it out, read it, played the examples and could not make sense of it.
Recently, I opened it up again and it finally made sense… and this is why I’m writing this review now.
The book introduces what Tony calls the “Fourth Note” Principle. At first, this seems like another approach related to target notes and guide tones… but it is not. It is something more.
What Tony shares is a way to create lines that centre around “focus notes” which can be chord tones, extensions or alterations of the chord. He also introduces four fingerings which are based around which finger you start the phrases on. The principle works on the lines being in time, in rhythm… so this is as much a rhythmic concept and not just a note choice concept.
In the beginning pages, Tony goes in-depth explaining how to approach this material. I recommend reading this section many, many times to really understand what he is teaching. He also give introductory a preparatory study to work on before going into the more “focus notes” material.
As the book progresses, you get many examples of lines using each of the fingerings and also with different focus notes. Tony is very generous with the notated examples and you get lines that go through each position step by step. I can safely say that one page is enough material for a practice session… so you get A LOT of stuff to try out.
Most of these lines are outside what most people would be used to hearing but that is the purpose of the book, this is as much to help you develop your ears, your eyes and your visualization skills seeing where the “focus notes” are in each position of the fretboard. Tony teaches the importance of how the focus notes are where you are headed in each phrase. This in combination with playing in position really opens up different melodic ideas that are not scale based or based on predictable patterns.
In that regard, it’s sort of reminds me of Wayne Krantz’s four fret exercises in his book The Improviser’s OS but not quite. Point is… this is the kind of book that needs to be studied with a lot of patience and with an open mind. If you remember that, the book can be very rewarding.
I certainly am getting a lot out of it & have been practicing the exercises. Every time I get into an unfamiliar position I get new ideas… some good, some not but it has been opening my ears!
It’s also worth to mention that in addition to all the exercises & examples that Tony gives, you also get to see how the principle is applied to various tunes and chord progressions in Part III of the book (from pages 57 to 82). This is a valuable part of the book to see how Tony applies these ideas in context.
In conclusion, if you want a unique perspective to help develop both your ears and improvisational skills, this book might be for you. Just keep in mind that this is a VERY DIFFERENT kind of book… but it can be very rewarding for the right person. That wasn’t me years ago when I first bought it, but it is now… and I am glad I revisited this book.
Thanks Tony for writing this book! I’ll be shedding this.
Pros: Unique material and take on single note jazz guitar improvisation study.
TLDR: If you’re a serious jazz guitarist looking for a different way of approaching improvisation, you might enjoy the challenge that Tony DeCaprio has in store for you in this book.
[Where to buy the book]
You can try to find a copy of the book on Amazon or eBay!
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