Guy Capuzzo - Theory for the Contemporary Guitarist

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by Mr. Big Noodles, Feb 21, 2017.

  1. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    May 29, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    A little preliminary review for y'all. I haven't used this book with a student yet, but I think my initial impressions could be useful to someone.

    I'm always on the lookout for good teaching resources and thought I'd share a recent find. Guy Capuzzo is a real-ass doctor of music theory who has written on topics ranging from geometric harmonic analysis in jazz thought to atonal transformational networks, sectional tonality in rock (lol @ monotonal dogmatism), and meter in Meshuggah. I figured that his method book, Theory for the Contemporary Guitarist (Alfred, 1996), would offer more depth and accuracy than most books/videos that are aimed at guitarists. I was not disappointed: modes are not even mentioned until page 57, well after such foundational material as rhythm, intervals, chord construction, and scale harmonization. Here we have a guitar-based theory book that has some semblance of pedagogic progression. I like that when he does discuss modes he offers both the derivative (relative) and parallel construction of the scales, that C♭ major is acknowledged, and that every topic is reasonably complete without dragging on for too long. There are no example compositions aside from the 12-bar blues (not exactly a specific composition), but that's a strength in a book like this where the choice is between driving up the cost to license IPs or to compose knock-offs that inflate page count without any real benefit to the student. I prefer the concision of a strictly theoretical approach. Is it complete? Not at all, but it outpaces other books in its genre in fewer than 100 pages. The book contains 17 worksheets. Answers are upside down on the same page. I'd rather see them in an appendix at the back of the book, but it's a nice feature nonetheless.

    For all the positive aspects of this book, it is not perfect. Chord progression is delayed until page 79, well after advanced (and arguably obscure) concepts such as symmetrical scales and polychords. If this was my book, I would have started talking about chord progressions right after introducing the diatonic triads. That way, the student gets a chance to apply this stuff early on before they are weighed down with too many materials. Organization and prioritization of topics is a problem. Secondary/applied chords are relegated to a subheading under "Adding Spice to the Major Blues," which is in turn a subsection of the chapter titled, "The Twelve-Bar Blues Progression." This is all wrong. There should be an entire chapter devoted to chromatic chords with a big section header titled "Secondary Dominants" or something. Information such as the "Altered Blues Scale" section could be cut out entirely since it doesn't go anywhere and reinforces a chord-scale view that is antithetical to identification of functional musical features. Two more complaints are that the layout and graphics could use some improvement, and the decision to exclude tab serves to alienate this book's intended market.

    Guy, if you happen to be reading this and have any desire to do a second edition (after 20+ years, I know...), please do take my comments into consideration.

    TL;DR - For $10, Theory for the Contemporary Guitarist a good buy, but you will need to do a lot of close reading of the first few chapters if you are not already familiar with staff notation and basic theoretical concepts. I cannot speak to how much somebody new at music theory would get out of this book, but I approve of the majority of its content despite my criticism of its organization.
  2. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Aug 17, 2004
    Somerville, MA
    Cool, I'll check it out. :yesway:

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