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Tonal Harmony - Kostka text

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Lo-E, Apr 2, 2014.

  1. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Hey TB'ers-

    My next-door neighbor, a guitar teacher, loaned me an old copy of Kostka's Tonal Harmony text; a 2nd edition from the early eighties. It's an excellent text and I've had it for months, but I started to get embarrassed having it so long and decided to look into buying a copy of my own and the accompanying workbook so I could give his back and, after doing so, really dig in to the lessons rather than just use it as a reference as I have been doing.

    The text is now up to the 7th edition and, with the workbook, costs close to $200! I am not enrolled in any sort of classes that would require me being up-to-date with the latest edition and used, earlier editions are available for much, much cheaper. My use for this book will simply be self-guided study to firm up my knowledge of harmony which, currently, is not horrible, but could always stand improvement.

    Can any of you who has experience either studying or teaching from this text tell me if I am missing out on anything important if I cheap out and get an older version of this book? I know that harmony hasn't changed significantly since 1984, but has the book improved?

    I don't mind ponying up the full price if I'm getting something for it, but I know college texts are often "updated" simply to sell more texts and I can find the text and workbook for the 4th edition, for example, for more than $100 less.

    What do you think? Shell out or cheap out?

    Thanks- Lo-E
  2. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    The 4th edition is not very good. 5th edition is much, much better, and the 6th edition has fewer errata and more examples than the 5th. I'm not familiar with the 7th. Miguel Roig-Francoli's Harmony In Context had a good first edition, if you can find it for cheaper than the Kostka/Payne texts. I haven't seen the second edition. Aldwell & Schacter's harmony book is too obtuse for me, but some seem to like it. Walter Piston's Harmony is old school, but good.

    I'm reading through Arnold Schoenberg's texts right now. They're extremely interesting, extremely informative, but extremely dense and terminologically strange. If you feel comfortable with the late Romantic chromatic harmony at the end of Kostka & Payne's book, I suggest you look at Schoenberg's Structural Functions of Harmony afterward.

    Edit: Another good read is Kent Kennan's Counterpoint. The third edition is superior to the fourth, in my observation.
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  4. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Thanks, Bainbridge! It sounds to me like it might be worth my while to spring for the more recent edition. If the experience is less aggravating, it will be money well-spent!

    Cool, I'll keep an eye out for these.

    A bit of a standard, it seems. It's been on my list for a while. There's a copy at the Lincoln Center music library and I work right nearby so I just need to drag my butt over and have a look at it.

    This is probably going much, much farther than I'll ever need to go with this stuff. I find it interesting, but I mostly play pop music, y'know? Never say never, though... maybe after reading the other stuff I'll be hungry for more! ;)

    I have a suspicion that if you find this book obtuse it would probably give me a nosebleed.

    Thanks so much for your insight and your suggestions!
  5. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    I used Piston/DeVoto as my classical theory text in college in '81/'82. Unless you're looking to compose a symphony, I would think that the basics in Piston (which are accessible and of course, useful) are covered in similar fashion elsewhere; perhaps in a text that also has more of a jazz theory angle, which is far more applicable to most modern music, IMO.

    But, if you work right near the library, it couldn't hurt to take a look.
  6. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Couldn't hurt, indeed!

    ...and yes, you're right; this is just to expand my knowledge. There won't be any symphonic work going on around here any time soon.
  7. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    I'm all for expanding knowledge, but when's the next time you're going to associate your theory training with practical use of a Neapolitan chord or a 6/4 chord or a Picardy third? There are only so many hours in a day, and I'd suggest learning jazz theory - chord substitution, scale substitution, and harmonic analysis, etc. over not yet, but getting there esoteric (yet still important - I played double bass in a symphony orchestra for four years, but that required no theory skills whatsoever; only strong reading skills) construction in the classical idiom.

    But hey, you want to expand your knowledge. I can't cast any dispersion on that! I'd send you my Piston, but it got rain water damage about 20 years ago and there's mold in there that makes my beard itchy just looking at it. I can't bear to part with it though; it is my oldest link to this fascinating field.
  8. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Thanks anyway, FM, but if I decide I need a copy of Piston, used copies are plentiful. I'd hate to see you part with an old friend - even one that makes your beard itch.

    Jazz theory, subs, reading, etc... all things I work on as time allows. ...and all things I'll continue to work on, probably forever. My interest in reading up on harmony is simply adjunct to the rest, as I find it interesting. The way my brain is wired, and the fact that I never studied music through any organized, formal training (private teachers notwithstanding), has led me to always lean on a scalar approach to how I think about music theory. Recently, it occurred to me that my harmonic grasp was not as strong and that led me to want to look more closely at the whole harmony picture. This is not intended to replace the bread-and-butter practicing I've always done... when I've had enough time to do any at all!
  9. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    The implications of your rhetoric are ridiculous. My bandmate (who can scarcely name the chords he plays) uses all three of those all the time. I hear these all the time as well.

    Muse - Soldier's Poem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMYAATQDOEQ

    1:45 is N6, proceeding to V (which is the textbook resolution).

    Another. The very second I heard this theme in the theatre, I could identify what was going on thanks to my study of harmony. From Star Trek 2009: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfQmXdfYJoc

    i iv N6 V, laid out as a bare series of arpeggios. I hate this theme because it is so plain and melodramatic, and would take about four seconds to write. It's hardly a melody: just a handful of chords. But Michael Giacchino landed multiple gigs off of those four chords, so he doesn't care what I think.

    Neapolitan is a substitute for subdominant functions. Really basic, and it works well for when IV and ii (or their minor mode equivalents) don't quite cut it.

    Picardy thirds are also incredibly common. End a minor song on a major tonic chord? All the time. I use major/minor comparison to break in my ear training students as well, because it's easy to hear and they can feel the change of mood easier than change of root.


    This song uses a Picardy third to transition to the B section, and it ends with a Picardy third as well. The Beatles - If I Fell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4HLKoFum-4

    They're playing off the duality of minor and major. Creative, huh? We're artists - we're supposed to be creative. Don't limit your creativity.

    As for 6/4 chords, I don't even know how to respond to that. After the root, the most common chord member we bassists play is the fifth.

    I have to give my caution here. I'm not a fan of the current incarnation of jazz pedagogy - too much of it is chord-scale stuff. I've never used a chord-scale in my life, and to me it seems counterproductive to musicianship and compositional & harmonic understanding. It teaches that after the head, the tune dissolves into a series of changes. If you haven't seen this video yet, see it now:


    Hal Galper is spot on. Thelonious Monk was spot on as well, and he was of a rare breed of improvisors. How is that? They're contrapuntal thinkers. Yes, doing counterpoint will help your jazz composition and improvisation. Here is a tune in which Monk reveals his method:

    Thelonious Monk - Misterioso: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7te1syRAYO0

    You hear the head first. It sounds incredibly disjunct. F D G E♭ A F G E♭, B♭ G C A♭ D♭ B♭ C A♭... It's nothing incredible, but what's going on here? The second iteration of this head shows in rather explicit terms that it is a compound line: Monk is playing F G A G, B♭ C D C, the band is playing, in syncopation, D E♭ F E♭, G A♭ B♭ A♭. It's consecutive sixths. Did you hear a compound line in consecutive sixths? Because that's what Monk heard. Furthermore, this is a 12 bar blues:

    F7 B♭7 F7 F7
    B♭7 B♭7 F7 F7
    G7 G7 F7 C7

    Monk isn't thinking "Oh, F7, that's F mixolydian. Oh, B♭7, that's B♭ mixolydian. Oh, F7 again. That's F mixolydian." And he's not going "Uh! F blues scale!" either, because that wouldn't work with about half of this progression. He's thinking "I'll go from the root to the third of the chord with a passing tone and harmonize the entire thing with sixths," which is more of a chord tone approach. Listen to Monk's improv here - it's somewhere around 80% chord tones. Charles Rouse is the saxophonist, and I hear him as more of an inside player and a fairly literal melodist. He's a good player and nobody to scoff at, but Monk is the more harmonically inventive improvisor here. His roots are in chord tones, not scales. He grew up before chord-scales were a thing.

    Now try to find a jazz teacher who will give you a method free of chord-scales. Try to find a jazz book that is free of chord-scales. It's tough, huh? This is the problem: the teaching of jazz improvisation (at least on the mainstream level) is so embroiled in the relationship of a G7alt chord to its scalar equivalent that this is all people ever talk about. It's hard to get past, because this is all you hear about. You don't need a million scales to go with a handful of chords, you need to learn the chords and say "as long as I hit the chord tones, I'm good and the rest is just filler so I can get on with my life". To me, Monk is more about being weird than going through the changes. How often is he doing something that sounds idiosyncratic or kooky in that piece? Pretty much every time he plays. And check again - it's a blues, the most basic jazz form there is. Musicians have played the 12-bar blues as normally as you can get a zillion times before. It sounds different when Monk plays it because Monk is playing with moods, expectations, emotion. Charles Rouse, who is a good improvisor and a very melodic guy, is not nearly as kooky as Thelonious Monk. Kooky isn't in the notes, it's in the mannerism.

    Another one, and it swings so damn hard. Before you listen to the beginning of this one, pause it and drop yourself in at 1:50 and stop at 3:54. Eric Dolphy - Mandrake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDnXKNH87Ic

    Woody Shaw is on trumpet and plays a "licks and changes" solo. Bobby Hutcherson is on vibes and plays in a similar fashion. I could hear both of these solos being played for free on a makeshift stage at the local museum on a Friday night. Okay, you stopped at 3:54? Now go back to the beginning and listen all the way through. Eric Dolphy's solo is at 0:44. Compare that solo to the trumpet and vibes solos. What the hell do the second and third solo have to do with the head? Why is it that Eric Dolphy is the only one that gets "go bonkers, it's bebop"? The drummer is the only other guy in the lineup that tries to remain weird throughout. I get it, improvisation is about being an individual, but somehow it's alright to chastise a player for being "out" when the head is "inside" (there is an amusing anecdote about that at the bottom of this article), but you can get away with being "inside" when a head is "out". Whatever happened to playing the mood of the music?
  10. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
  11. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Wow, Bainbridge, that's a lot to digest....

    In Fretlessmainly's defense, I don't think he meant what he wrote quite as literally as you interpreted it. I got where he was coming from.

    Hal Galper's quote: "The ear loves logic and rejects chaos and nonsense." was worth the cost of admission as far as that youtube video is concerned. I'm going to go back and watch the rest of that series. I haven't had the chance to view the others yet, but I'm familiar with Monk and Dolphy's styles and know what you're talking about here.

    Thanks for the links to yet more books. Soon my head will explode. I'll proceed slowly.
  12. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    Maybe I interpreted it harder than was intended, but I took it more as an opportunity to stand on a soapbox than to make a personal attack. I'm vocal about my opinion on music education. Please take no offense.
  13. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY

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