This book by Berklee College of Music professor Bruce Saunders is one that I’ve wanted to check out for awhile. Released back in 2005, this book actually came out when I just begin my studies at Berklee back in the day.
Although I never studied with Bruce during my time at Berklee, I’ve worked on material from his books over the years. That being said, I only recently checked out this book.
The thing about jazz improvisation is that there are so many different approaches to study this vast topic. For this book, Bruce decided to focus on different ways to develop strong voice-led melodic improvising skills.
The method here is sound (pun intended) by giving the reader systematic exercises that help you navigate through various chord types (and their corresponding chord scales) through different intervallic movements.
What that means is that you begin to take one specific chord quality (major 7th, dominant 7th, minor 7th) and develop facility to improvise on the same chord quality through different root motions. An example from the earlier part of the book were alternating Cmajor7 and Ebmajor7.
The thing is that you DO NOT move out of position (fingering-wise) but instead play around the same area of the guitar neck as this happens.
Some of these kinds of exercises remind me of things I’ve seen guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel demonstrate at his guitar clinics before. However, seeing Bruce systematically take all these concepts one by one gives us more structure.
As the book goes on, Bruce takes the concept further by expanding the exercises using intervals, patterns and triads. All of these make the exercises even more challenging and help you really get these changes down.
In conclusion, you will get what you put into this material. It’s music college level material that could be treated like a college course or you can take it part by part as an ongoing practice routine. This is amazing stuff.
The only thing is that it might seem “dry” or “academic”. However, as soon as you listen to Bruce playing the etudes & exercises on the accompanying recording, you can get more of the eventual fluidity that we’re aiming for with this material. Having your musical goals in mind can really help to keep working on the stuff in the book.
Pros: Great book, good exercises, systematic.
Cons: Requires a lot of patience & extensive listening to get the musical ideas & motives needed to make this into music
TLDR: This is a serious text for intermediate & more advanced improvising guitarists who want to eliminate and technical gap for melodic improvising.
You can get the book or eBook from MelBay here: https://www.melbay.com/Products/20216BCDEB/melodic-improvising-for-guitar.aspx
… or from Amazon here.
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