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Books on more advanced harmony?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by jamisonsalamand, May 18, 2011.

  1. jamisonsalamand


    Aug 15, 2008
    I was looking up how certain harmonies work, like Teen Town and Havona, and someone suggested the book Beyond Functional Harmony by Wayne Naus. I want to look into harmony that's a bit more unique sounding and non-diatonic than what I've studied so far, which has mostly been I IV V and II V II V II V I type stuff.

    Basically I'm just looking for advice on where to go from here with understanding more complex harmony, that I'll likely put to use with a jazz quintet and/or a progressive group. I read that the progressions in those Weather Report songs are similar to classical harmonic techniques, so books related to that style would probably be cool too.
  2. fmoore200


    Mar 22, 2011
    I used to have a book by Arnold Schoenberg that picked up in the julliard bookstore when I took lessons for compositions there. I can't remember the name but it was a good read.
  3. dtiii


    Apr 22, 2009
    The Jazz Theory Book - Mark Levine
    A Chromatic Approcah to Jazz Harmony and Melody - David Liebman

    Tonal Harmony - Kostka/ Payne
    Harmony and Voice Leading - Aldwell/ Schachter
  4. superfunk47


    Sep 9, 2007
    Tchaikovsky is a good place to start, and Schoenburg later on. Tchaikovsky will get you going on the basics, and he's fairly gentle and patient (sure helped me).
  5. devine


    Aug 22, 2006
    Owner: Scott's Bass Lessons
  6. Hoover

    Hoover Banned

    Nov 2, 2007
    New York City
    George Russell's The Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization was the book that finally allowed me to break free of traps or plateaus in my understanding & execution of jazz harmony.

    But the stuff that really rocked my world and took my composing/arranging to a whole new level was learning the integer model of pitch classification and applying that to non-classical (sic) musics. Check out
    - Introduction to Post-Tonal Theory by Joseph N. Straus
    - Basic Atonal Theory by John Rahn
    - Simple Composition by Charles Wuorinen
    - Serial Composition by Reginald Smith Brindle
  7. HaVIC5


    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
    Harmony/composition are near and dear to my heart, probably more so than bass playing (gasp!) so I pretty much HAVE to respond, ha.

    To the best of my knowledge, there's never really been a book written as a method for fusion composition the same way that there can be a method or functional analysis for more traditional II-Vy kinds of tunes. There has been article after article written in music theory journals analyzing them, however, and if you yourself put in the listening time you can figure out what's going on and what can be done. The Wayne Naus book is and OK start, since it gives you some basic compositional idea to work with...but compared to other books on harmony it is extremely light on content.

    The biggest misstep when you're first trying to learn how to compose in the "fusiony" or more modern sort of jazz style is to assume that there's a correct way of doing it or that there is some sort of functional rubric to follow the same way that tonal harmony does in jazz and the common practice. It's a purely aesthetic judgement, which means that the way you learn to do it is simply by listening at what other people are doing, looking at the scores, and then trying it out for yourself. A chord doesn't necessarily have any relationship to any others in a sequence besides the chord before and after it. Instead of III-7 to bIIImaj7, the ear hears "minor 7 chord descending a half step to a major 7 chord."

    There are a couple of aesthetic and compositional ideas important to the style that are worth mentioning. You could easily have a whole course on this stuff (Berklee has like 10 of them), so look into each one on your own.

    I. Constant structures - Consistent use of the same chord quality regarless of key or root (Cmaj Bmaj7 Ebmaj7 Emaj7 etc)
    II. Cycles - Cycling constant structures or roots either in tonic systems (dividing the octave into 2, 3, 4, 6 parts by way of tritones, major thirds, minor thirds and major seconds respectively) or in other schemes (alternating major and minor thirds, etc)
    III. Avoiding "progressive root motion" - The long and short of this one is avoiding root motion down a 5th.
    IV. Odd harmonic rhythm - Chords don't necessarily have to fall on the beat (see intro to Havona).
    V. Use of 4th Voicings - "Sus" sounds are big, and any degree of ambiguity as to the exact quality of the chord helps with the aesthetic.
    VI. Use of compositional elements beyond "blowing changes" - This is a big one, you see a lot of fusion composers messing with ideas that they never intend to solo over. You didn't get this a whole lot in the hard bop and free bop eras that came before.

    Hopefully that gave you at least a jump start. Again, nobody has written a "method," so you're on your own in a lot of ways. Anyway, on to the book suggestions for general composition and harmony knowledge...

    First, if you aren't completely solid on your common practice "classical" theory, I would suggest getting the Kostka/Payne book Tonal Harmony. This is optional, but the really advanced texts on harmony assume this basic knowledge of classical theory, so it's a good thing to know. Plus, it'll get you out of two semesters of general music theory credits if you intend to go to school for music.

    Mark Levine's Jazz Theory Book isn't where I'd go if you're looking for the more advanced stuff. It's great as a jazz method, but not so much as a theory book (his theoretical explanations of chord scale theory are super iffy...) Besides, it doesn't really get into the heavier stuff.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, I can almost guarantee you that Dave Liebman's Chromatic Approach to Jazz Harmony is going to be above your head, and the heads of most musicians really. Hell, I'm lost half the time, and I'm taking a 2-year class with Liebman himself right now solely on the concepts discussed in the book. It's way heavier than people realize, so tread lightly. It's not a book that you can just read straight through, you could spend (and in class, we did!) months on just a couple pages.

    One book I would recommend above all others is Vincent Persichetti's 20th Century Harmony. This book really is the granddady of them all when it comes to introducing and explaining advanced concepts from the composer's viewpoint rather than the theorist's. More importantly, it gets you in the composer's mindset of having a basic idea implanted in your head and then forcing you to think of all the many thousands of possibilities that could come from that. As my teacher says, "A composer's job isn't to as May I? it's to ask "What If?" Persichetti's book really comes at it from that mindset. Entire chapters in Wayne Naus' book come from a sentence in the Persichetti. The entire course "Advanced Modal Harmony" taught at Berklee is basically just fragments of a couple chapters from 20th Century Harmony. It's a great book, if you're ready for it. Fused mirror harmony anyone?

    And if you're ready to just call it quits and become a twelve tone guy, Reginald Smith Brindle's Serial Composition is the benchmark for that. Lord help you if you go down that road....
  8. Hoover

    Hoover Banned

    Nov 2, 2007
    New York City
    LOL! Arguably, George Perle's Serial Composition and Atonality: An Introduction to the Music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern is "the benchmark" ...but I mentioned Reginald Smith Brindle's book specifically because it was slightly less math-intense & hence more comprehendable to mere musicians!

    And fwiw I find serialism & dodecaphony incredibly rewarding & fertle roads for jazz musicians to pursue.
  9. Intenzity


    Oct 15, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    Someone appears to have taken notes on the Persichetti book and posted a summarized pdf.

    I think the intro kinda sets the stage for what you are in for:

    "Any tone can succeed any other tone, and any tone can sound simultaneously with any other tone or tones, and any group of tones can be followed by any other group of tones"​

    I think that just about covers it.

  10. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    I would also recommend any of the books by Ron Miller published by Advance Music
    Ron was the head of the Jazz Composition Program at The University of Miami while I was a student there (he's now retired) and his teaching influenced my writing as well as Mark Egan's, Pat Metheny's and Bruce Hornsby among too many others to list.
  11. N.F.A.


    Jun 25, 2009
    In a blue funk
    Mr. Vogt, which one of the Ron Miller books would be best to start with?
  12. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    I'd either go one of two ways:
    His keyboard method will get you familiar with the sounds of polychords, upper structure harmony, etc. if you're starting from square one and have some rudimentary keyboard skills.
    Then his Jazz Composition books can really be used to their best advantage.
  13. HaVIC5


    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
    Ha, that's true, my copy of the book is annotated with a lot of comments including "do whatever the f*** you want" whenever Persichetti says something along those lines. There's a lot of those comments.
  14. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    Check out Jerry Coker's "hearin' the changes".
  15. miltslackford


    Oct 14, 2009
    I really recommend '20th Century Harmony' by vincent persicetti.

    It's the most interesting and useful book I've read on advanced harmony. It has exercises and is written from a creative perspective.

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