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It is worth buying. But if you are an absolute beginner then it moves very swiftly into more advanced areas.
I agree with pete. I use it a lot. It is a great book to have even if you are not 100 percent ready for it.
 

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Thanks guys, it sounds as if it's just the ticket for my ongoing needs. I'm sans teacher at the moment, and without someone to discuss theory matters with. I wouldn't call myself an absolute beginner where theory is concerned, more a post beginner/intermediate level I'd think. But I'll find out soon enough I guess.
 

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Thanks guys, it sounds as if it's just the ticket for my ongoing needs. I'm sans teacher at the moment, and without someone to discuss theory matters with. I wouldn't call myself an absolute beginner where theory is concerned, more a post beginner/intermediate level I'd think. But I'll find out soon enough I guess.
My only caveat then would be to not get bogged down in some of it. It works in parallel to the practical stuff of transcribing, learning tunes, getting to grips with licks, the blues and melodic impro. Just "playing", either with playalongs or preferably with live people at jams etc.

Blues especially can be what is lacking from players who study theory at the expense of practical advancement of their playing.
 

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I would also recommend Improvising Jazz by Jerry Coker. A totally different approach in many ways and more beginner friendly.
Excellent. I'll get this as well. At the moment I'm in a ravenous state where learning is concerned
 

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My only caveat then would be to not get bogged down in some of it. It works in parallel to the practical stuff of transcribing, learning tunes, getting to grips with licks, the blues and melodic impro. Just "playing", either with playalongs or preferably with live people at jams etc.

Blues especially can be what is lacking from players who study theory at the expense of practical advancement of their playing.
Thanks for the advice. I really need this. I find myself currently breaking the rules with my playing, but not really knowing those rules and I'm not sure that's a good thing.

Are you saying that the addition of a blues element makes one's approach to jazz a lot more betterer? That's interesting.
 

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I have it and haven't looked at it for ages.

It's useful to have as a reference I suppose and it does explain Jazz Theory very well.

However, as a tool to improve your playing, I think it's worse than useless and does more harm than good.

That's a pretty big call, so i'll explain further.

Theory, no matter how well explained is nothing more or less than an attempt to describe the music itself. Like a street directory describes the terrain of your local area. The map however is not the reality, just a representation of the reality. In the same way, jazz theory books won't help you understand the music nor play it any better. They will help you talk about it with other musicians better, but that's a different kettle of fish. They also help to academic-ize and legitimize the music which helps if you want to establish an academic program and charge students big bucks.

It's one thing to know intellectually what a ii- V7 I is, it's another thing entirely to be able to hear it and still another thing to be able to play over it.

As a student, I regret all the time and money I wasted on studying the theory. My time would have been FAR, FAR, FAR, better spent listening and transcribing and playing along with my records.

YOU CAN'T PLAY THEORY.

Some try and it sounds contrived and unmusical. All the theory in the world won't help you conceive a melody, nor execute it in the moment. All you need to know about music theory, you learned in high school maths class. If you need a refresher, there are so many free resources available online these days that you're better of saving your money and spending it on a new CD or a couple of boxes or reeds.

That's my $0.02 anyway.
 

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I have it and haven't looked at it for ages.

It's useful to have as a reference I suppose and it does explain Jazz Theory very well.

However, as a tool to improve your playing, I think it's worse than useless and does more harm than good.

That's a pretty big call, so i'll explain further.

Theory, no matter how well explained is nothing more or less than an attempt to describe the music itself. Like a street directory describes the terrain of your local area. The map however is not the reality, just a representation of the reality. In the same way, jazz theory books won't help you understand the music nor play it any better. They will help you talk about it with other musicians better, but that's a different kettle of fish. They also help to academic-ize and legitimize the music which helps if you want to establish an academic program and charge students big bucks.

It's one thing to know intellectually what a ii- V7 I is, it's another thing entirely to be able to hear it and still another thing to be able to play over it.

As a student, I regret all the time and money I wasted on studying the theory. My time would have been FAR, FAR, FAR, better spent listening and transcribing and playing along with my records.

YOU CAN'T PLAY THEORY.

Some try and it sounds contrived and unmusical. All the theory in the world won't help you conceive a melody, nor execute it in the moment. All you need to know about music theory, you learned in high school maths class. If you need a refresher, there are so many free resources available online these days that you're better of saving your money and spending it on a new CD or a couple of boxes or reeds.

That's my $0.02 anyway.
I have exactly the same experience with this book.
 

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However, as a tool to improve your playing, I think it's worse than useless and does more harm than good.
I disagree with this, but I think I can understand this take. The Levine book is an excellent reference, as Dog Pants notes, for figuring out "stuff" that's always bugged you -- what's this chord, what fits over this, how does this progression work, etc.

However: just like those pens at the bank that are chained to the counter, the Jazz Theory Book should be chained to a piano -- reading it without *constantly* playing the stuff on a keyboard is nearly as useful for understanding the theory as reading a couple of pages out of a phone book.

And what it really ain't is a method book: I had notions, when I first got it, of starting at page 1 and working through to page 14,000 (or however many pages there were; seemed to be roughly 14,000...). That doesn't work with the book.

Here's what I'd recommend, and it doesn't even involve the book -- though it depends a bit on where you're "at":

The best thing I ever did for learning theory was the summer I was in high school, straight from music camp where I'd learned the basic theory for intervals and how to construct scales and chords out of them, where I sat down at the piano with the Real Book (illegal edition, but the legit would work just fine) and played tunes out of it, root position chords in the left hand (eventually moving to other inversions as I began to suck less), and the melody in the right.

I did this methodically, and haltingly at first, for hours at a time. By the time that summer was done, I really got "how chords work" and "how tunes work." I then merely had to apply this stuff to the sax, which only took a couple of decades...
 

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Forum Contributor 2011, SOTW's pedantic pet rodent
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Hmm.. I think a bit of theory has to be ok. It can be a good shortcut eg if you know what the notes of a particular chord are from reading a symbol you'll probably get to something inside the changes quicker than if you used ear alone.

Having said that, I think listening to and playing along with recordings is ultimately much more important than understanding theory.

And having burbled to that extent I must also admit I don't know the Levine book at all but is sounds pretty weighty.
 

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I use that book more to help my writing than my playing. Great Book.
 

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Are you saying that the addition of a blues element makes one's approach to jazz a lot more betterer? That's interesting.
Oh man, maybe you're asking 'tongue in cheek,' but yes of course it will make your jazz approach better! It's more than that, though, the blues is an essential element. Now for a "Semi-Rant" alert:

All the great jazz players (and I mean ALL of them) were also great blues players. They all learned the blues, played the blues, and incorporated the blues into everything they played. Pick anyone, but I'll mention Charlie Parker (drenched in the blues), Coltrane (he started in a blues band), Gene Ammons, Dexter Gordon, and the list would go on for pages! If you can't play the blues, you can't play jazz, simple as that. Is this just my opinion? Of course it is, but I'm right.

Right here on SOTW, some of us have put together some basic blues resources. Check it out:

http://www.saxontheweb.net/Rock_n_Roll/

p.s. The Levine book is a great resource, but as some posters have pointed out, you have to take it for what it is. For learning your chords, scales, and the jazz application of theory, it's very good. It won't turn you into a player, though. What it will do is give you some valuable information on harmony/theory. I think even Mark points this out up front. If you take it all too literally and expect to find a magic bullet there, it probably could mess you up, as DP says.
 

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Thanks for the advice. I really need this. I find myself currently breaking the rules with my playing, but not really knowing those rules and I'm not sure that's a good thing.

Are you saying that the addition of a blues element makes one's approach to jazz a lot more betterer? That's interesting.
If I don't hear some blues in a jazz solo I get really turned off. That is one of the reasons I like Cannonballs solos better than Coltrane on the Milestones album.
 

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I like the book a lot. I read it three times through and refer back to it often. It will guide you for sure and give you some idea on where to look for things/sounds. But yes, you will have to work it out for yourself and determine where (sounds) your own affinities lie.

It's one of the few books I keep around.

I suspect some people are more inclined to mathematical (theoretical) thinking and some more literary (conceptual). If you're really into the numbers then you would like the Levine books. And despite what some think, all the theory in the world won't make you someone you're not artistically. It only helps find things.

Just because you are offered everything at the China King Buffet doesn't mean you eat and enjoy everything.
 

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I too used Levine's book and still refer back to it at times. For me thinking about and better understanding the tonal structure helps to me to groove the form.

Other people may learn quite differently so their experiences may be quite different. The only proviso I make is that some of the examples are different than the concept being written about. e.g. explaining dominant 7ths and using extended 9 or 13 chords in the example., Some other areas my theory prof has a different take which I find more simple flexible. Still for anyone who finds books useful IMO definitely worth having.
 

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If I don't hear some blues in a jazz solo I get really turned off. That is one of the reasons I like Cannonballs solos better than Coltrane on the Milestones album.
I have to disagree here. No matter how far Coltrane took the music the blues was always there.
 

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I have to disagree here. No matter how far Coltrane took the music the blues was always there.
I'm not saying coltrane didn't have blues in his sound but there is no way u can say coltrane used a more blues bassed style than cannonball.
 

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I talked to Billy Higgins about this and he said that there are just so many ways to play the blues and what you hear in Cannonball's blues approach may appeal to your concept of a blues sound.

But what Billy Higgins was essentially saying was all the blues concepts are equally viable.

For example listen to Coltrane play " Summertime ".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13esKUJr1hM
 
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