Scales and All That Jazz

A few months ago, I announced that I was writing a sequel to my book, Beyond Chord Melody; work is progressing nicely, and I hope to have it done in time for the next banjo convention season. One of the time obstacles I must overcome is how my overactive mind keeps taking me off on tangents (called blogs)! Some are related to the book, but most are not; I thought it might help keep me focused and on schedule if I gave an occasional book update.

The most important book update to give right now is that I have added a separate page on The Banjo Snob, just for related blogs. I have found that it is too easy for me to just blather on and on (blah, blah, blah); I’m sure you’ve never noticed this about me! My hope is that by giving supporting commentary in a blog, separate from the actual book, I can keep the book from becoming this huge monster that gets put on the shelf after two pages of reading (before getting to the actual work).

The first thing I want to discuss is that favorite subject of mine; music theory. I want to give fair warning; there is a lot of it in this book! If you plan to buy it, you might want to get started (or get back to) working on your scales and arpeggios now so you are ready! I have no interest in writing a “play-in-a-day” book that tells you lies about the “easy way.” For the type of music I’m talking about (jazz improvisation), there are no shortcuts! Now, I do search for ways to make a difficult subject as easy as possible, but there are limits.  

The whole idea of writing a book is to give you something that will actually make a difference! “Wanting to improve” means that you are willing to dive into the deep end of the pool, and to realize how much there is to learn—to be humbled and awakened by the sheer magnitude of music. The true reward is in learning and mastering something that you have never done before—not in simply improving on what you already do!

I’m not in this for the money; I’m in it for the future good of the plectrum banjo, and admittedly, for my own legacy. 100 years from now, my book will be discovered on Great-grandpa’s book shelf, and my name will live on. I know I will sell a few of them based on “hey, a new plectrum book! I must have it for my collection.” My hope is that most sales will be based on “okay, I’m going to work this and see if I can improve.” Collecting dust on the shelf is not conducive to improvement!

I have to admit that the actual use of this stuff is beyond me at the moment! Oh, I can demonstrate and explain everything in there (or it wouldn’t be there!), but applying it to actual improvisation will be the next phase of my development (which will spawn another volume in a couple of years). If I’m destined to be only a teacher—and not also a doer—then so be it; I like to think my own continuing improvement qualifies me to do this.

This material is for the young, or at least the young at heart, and requires a receptive, open mind—not a skeptical one that is set in its ways. I am almost 60 years old, and not sure how much development/improvement time I have left; I am now determined to make the most of that time, and break through to my lifelong dream of improvising jazz on the banjo. This is in part my own “stay young, keep the dementia away as long as possible” project. The moral of this story? It’s never too late to try.   

I hold no allusions that I will be the one to make the difference; I am simply the messenger for stuff that most jazz musicians already know and do. In the final analysis, only you can make the difference. So, I hope you’re on board with me on this; if so, get to work!

1 comment on “Scales and All That JazzAdd yours →

  1. 1189/5000
    Hi Ron and thank you for this article.

    Of course, I understand that a book that is a real tutor for the plectrum banjo should not stay on a dusty shelf.
    For my part, I work conscientiously your excellent method “Beyond Chord Melody”, which is not only a method but also a deep reflection on the real motivations that bring about such a learning, especially when one can not be satisfied to play the banjo in “Chord Melody” which is not an end in itself.
    The banjo is a real instrument that deserves a thorough and serious study, and the musical theory is very important.
    It is really time to return to safer values ​​for banjo music, our era is oversaturated with “noise emissions” of all kinds and our ear is tired.
    I think that a second part following your book will be very well accepted by serious musicians who are like you, preoccupied by the evolution and correct practice of this wonderful music.
    So I put myself on the waiting list for the publication of your future book.
    Thank you again for your very helpful work!
    From France!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

I agree to these terms.