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Getting Music: The Basics for Rock, Jazz, R&B, Hip Hop & Country.

* Getting Music: The Basics for Rock, Jazz, R&B, Hip Hop & Country, by Vincent Giannini and Dennis Wells Benjamin. It's Possible Music Publishing & Grill, 2014.; 152 pp., $29.95.

This book brings a fresh perspective to theory basics, primarily for adults and high school students studying contemporary music styles, but it is also applicable for the traditional adult music student. The authors have an extensive background in music, as an amateur musician and as a music professional. Their premise was to write a "book for people who want to learn the basic language of music needed for understanding and playing contemporary styles."

It is best to approach this book from a novice point of view--it is very readable with large clear illustrations of the concept being presented. You feel like you are having a conversation with the authors. They anticipate all the questions the inquisitive beginning adult music student might have. It also has a unique feature called "Music Speak," which defines various terms and words used in the music language, especially popular music.

The chapters cover the basic elements of music: notes and scales, how a music style gets its sound, music notation, intervals, chords, keys, harmony, pop music styles structure, modes and alternatives to standard staff notation. The text also provides historical perspectives about how music developed, and why it is written the way it is. The organization generally is excellent, although I would have placed the chapter on "How a Music Style gets its Sound," after the chapter on "The Basic Elements of Music."

Getting Music is a very comprehensive text. It explains the concept, shows how it is used and explains why. For example, under notation, it not only presents sharps and flats, but also immediately introduces double sharps and flats. In the Interval chapter all intervals including diminished and augmented are introduced immediately. So much information could be overwhelming, even for a beginning adult student. For the serious student, however, it is indispensable!

The explanation of chords is a very valuable part of the book for anyone who is not familiar with popular chords, popular chord symbols and various other symbols commonly used in these styles. Included under triads, for example, are suspended triads such as sus4 and sus2, common sounds in the popular world. The authors use the broader term, "quadrads," for all 4-note chords-- that is seventh chords and sixth chords. Alternate notation for popular music is also given clear explanations. This alone makes it an important reference material for the teacher as well.

Although popular music often does not involve as much traditional music notation (using lead sheets and chord charts instead), a workbook, or even better, online exercises with available answers, would be an definite asset for this book. Reminders in the text for the reader to complete certain exercises, such as to play all triads and/or write out all triads, for example, would also be helpful. Sharing the written work and keyboard exercises with the music teacher would be useful in fully understanding the music language and being able to work with the language effectively. All in all this is an important new book for the study of the contemporary music language and styles. --Reviewed by Phyllis Pieffer, NCTM, Evergreen, Colorado

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Author:Pieffer, Phyllis
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2014
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