Chord-Scale Theory and Linear Harmony for Guitar:
Creative Tools for Improvisation and Composition
in Contemporary Music
Book By Jonathan Pac Cantin
Guitarist - Bassist - Educator
Chord-Scale Theory and Linear Harmony for Guitar: Creative Tools for Improvisation and Composition in Contemporary Music is a guide to modern music theory as it relates directly to the guitar fretboard. It covers basic harmony as well as the complex harmonies used in jazz in a friendly easy-to-follow format. It contains examples in standard notation, guitar TAB, fretboard diagrams, and charts. It is a great resource for intermediate and advanced guitarists with various backgrounds looking to expand their musical horizons and creativity.
Included in this Book:
(Prerequisite: Basic Music Theory)
From the Author
I first released what I now call the "beta version" of Chord-Scale Theory and Linear Harmony for Guitar in late 2010. It was based on over a decade of private study and self-education. I created and compiled many diagrams and charts for myself and my students that illustrated various ways of thinking about the fretboard that allow for both a deep understanding of the underlying elements, and some useful tips for quick thinking on the fly in improvisation-based situations.
I found that the central concepts of "chord-scale theory" are not only applicable to jazz, but most current genres (rock, pop, indie, folk, country, etc). Therefore, I consider chord-scale theory to be as much of a "rock theory" or "country theory" as it is a "jazz theory" (from which it was originally based). Chord-scale theory has no particular "sound" of its own, yet it can be employed to create (or recreate) the characteristic sounds of any modern genre. As a compositional tool, it can be a very inspiring approach with which one can create progressions, arrangements, and complete songs in functional or modal frameworks. As an improvisational tool, it allows for one to think of "pools of notes" (and subsequent tonal hierarchies) from which one can readily choose the "right" notes and voicings in real-time.
Chord-scale theory often takes a big picture view, seeing chords (especially large extended ones) and scales (subsets) as two forms of the same thing. Though this view is valid enough, it tends to leave a lack of explanation regarding some of the gritty details evident in all styles of music. Many of these details are better explained via "linear harmony"- the study of harmony and melody in motion (both elements hugely affected by rhythm and phrasing). This view is an improvement on the static, "vertical" analysis of melodies against their corresponding chords. By integrating the pools of notes signature of chord-scale theory with the voice-leading, melodic devices, and phrasing addressed in "linear harmony", I am confident that musicians can feel empowered by an understanding that can guide their intuitions to a high level of creative self-expression.
After the initial release of the book, I received a lot of very positive feedback on my work, and enjoyed corresponding with the readers who felt inclined to write. Around the same time, I also began to run into some veteran CST haters, who heatedly discussed the oversights and pitfalls of the certain prominent educators in the field of chord-scale theory (not so much me, personally, mind you). At first, I was taken aback, but soon learned to see it as an opportunity to refine my own understanding for the better. I began to read countless online articles, blogs, and threads, and studied the works of Bert Ligon, Hal Galper, Robert Rawlins, Matthew Warnock, Keith Waters, and many other contemporary educator/authors who are highly regarded. After a year of reevaluating the "Levine" school of thought (which I originally subscribed to back in the year 2000) and some of my own homegrown ideas, I feel like I gained a clearer overview of the current jazz theory zeitgeist (especially as it relates to the guitar community). With this mindset, I fully revised the book.
The book is designed primarily for the layman interested in self-study. It is written in a friendly manner, made for practical application. There are combinations of fretboard diagrams, charts, guitar TAB, and notation on almost every page. It is also set up well for use as a quick reference book for those already savvy with the material.
Readers are free to contact me if they have any customer-service needs or other questions.
Thanks, and best wishes!
~Jonathan Pac Cantin (JonnyPac), Author, Guitarist/Composer
"A wealth of guitar knowledge in a compact package" -Richard Amster
I've looked at a lot of guitar books in my fifty years as a player and teacher. This one is exceptional.
If you're a serious jazz guitarist or teacher, this book will keep you busy for a long, long, time. Its coverage is broad and deep, and there are plenty of clear diagrams to explain things. One feature I found very useful is the compact fretboard diagrams which show how a whole scale or chord system lies across the first twelve frets.
I would point out that this is not a beginner's book, as the author makes clear in the introduction. It would be most useful for a teacher or an intermediate to advanced player."
- Richard Amster, author:
The Versatile Jazz Guitarist
_"If you don't know chord-scale theory, or if you sorta do, sorta don't, I can tell you now: this is what we've needed all along."
_"Chord-Scale Theory and Linear Harmony for Guitar is crammed with extremely usable info and techniques, and if you do your part, it can't help but make you a noticeably better player than you are now. Noticeable to you, and noticeable to those who hear you play. This book provides you a little goldmine of "play-better-NOW" ways of thinking about, and actually creating, music on your guitar. You'll need to work a bit for some of it (or I've had to), but the stuff here is SO valuable that learning it and knowing it will pay you back ten-thousand times.
Cantin's book is just 90 pages, but this is exactly enough. I don't know how he did it - at times the elements seemed almost disparate; and I found myself wondering what this had to do with that ... yet bingo! - by the end, it all comes together in a way I can't begin to explain (it took him 90 pages), but there's that gigantic Aha! thing, and you realize you now have the *parts* under your belt, AND the sum of all the parts, which is absolutely priceless. The book has filled so many gaps in how I think about guitar playing - and it continues to fill gaps and put me on new roads, altogether, regarding my knowledge of the neck and how to bring all this cool stuff to the music when I'm actually playing, improvising, making up tunes, learning new tunes - everything.
If you don't know chord-scale theory, or if you sorta do, sorta don't, I can tell you now: this is what we've needed all along. Piles of fretboard diagrams, illustrations, pictures; and it's a snazzy-looking book, too. Very, very cool."
-Loren "Kojo" Whitaker, guitarist, writer