The Pinnacle Production Group
Available From: www.RobertConti.com
One of the supreme joys of playing guitar is being able to sit down and play an entire song all byyourself, just you and your guitar, melody, harmony and bass line all present. It is one of the mostsatisfying sounds in all of music – solo guitar. However, many guitarists have little or no idea how to develop a solo guitar arrangement, as it often seems like only a handful of guitarists know the secret of how to do this. Robert Conti reveals all in his updated Source Code volumes of The ChordMelody Assembly Line and The Formula!
Two volumes of the Robert Conti Source Code Books, The Chord Melody Assembly Line and The Formula! have been updated. Consistent with his teaching philosophy, Robert Conti reveals all with the addition of nearly 10 hours of enhanced, personalized DVD instruction to accompany those best-selling books. Priced at only $34.95 each, these products are probably the best value in guitar education on the market.
Since the launch of his educational products in 2000, Conti has become well-known for his clear and focused instruction that PRODUCES RESULTS. His play music first, understand the mechanics second approach remains at the vanguard of successful instruction. I have used these Products since 2001 as a player and I continue recommending them to students, because they reallywork!
Robert Conti is that very rare combination of a first-rate player who can also effectively teach students what he plays. He obviously relishes passing on his experience and knowledge. His youthful joy and passion for playing and creating beautiful music is infectious. One becomes inspired by merely watching him teach and play.
The Chord Melody Assembly Line is the more rudimentary of the two volumes, and in my opinion, should be purchased first. It teaches the early intermediate level student how to develop his/her own basic functional arrangements that can become the foundation of a solo jazz guitar repertoire.
The Formula! is more advanced and instructs the student how to take basic functional harmonizations (like those developed in the Chord Melody Assembly Line) and turn them into highly personal art containing creative and embellished harmonic movement exactly like top pro guitarists and pianists. The core emphasis in both volumes is learning by doing.
PREREQUISITE: These great learning resources are not for beginners. The Chord Melody Assembly Line requires an intermediate level of playing skill. The ability to traditional notation is not required, but would come in handy. For The Formula!, a basic knowledge of diatonic harmony, intervals, and Circle of 4ths/5ths root movement is recommended.
The essence of these two excellent Source Code volumes is that one actually learns to arrange music for the guitar. The secret to good/great arranging is making good musical choices in the correct order. Conti’s teaching is masterful in this aspect. First, he presents and focuses on a few easily comprehensible concepts. Then, he applies them to a myriad of real-life musical situations that continuously produce very satisfying musical results. In both books, Conti provides very clear, step-by-step instruction. He proceeds from the simple to the “real world” (not needlessly theoretically complex, but instead ALWAYS tempered by what you would play in real world situations). Indeed, these are effective teaching materials.
The Chord Melody Assembly Line
Conti’s approach for developing solo guitar arrangements is based on an arranging technique called note-for-note harmonization. For every note of a melody, there will be an underlying chord form that supports it. The vast majority of the time, the bass note of the chord voicing is the root of the chord which provides a rich and definitive sound.
The key to his approach is learning how to quickly and easily harmonize each melody note that belongs to chords in six basic chord groups, Major, Dominant 7th, Minor 7th, Diminished 7th, Minor 7(b5), and Augmented. After becoming familiar with selected “working” chords in each of those groups, he provides numerous application “References” (his term for examples) in Lead Sheet types of workbook examples that work logically through each Chord Group. Conti’s “hands on” approach causes the student to immediately begin to memorize the forms by employing those “working” chord forms to complete each of the workbook type examples.
In the latter section of the book, I was especially impressed by the fact that Conti also provides a section of “Solutions” for each of the “References.” The “Solutions” allow the student to continuously verify the accuracy of his/her work. It is clearly an enjoyable hands-on approach where the student is making the choices and playing the music.
The Chord Reference charts and the addition of the Alternative Chord Voicings charts are worth the price of this volume alone. In the final sector of the DVD, Conti takes the student through a basic functional arrangement of Danny Boy to clearly demonstrate all of the easily applicable principles in the Chord Melody Assembly Line Book/DVD. Upon completion of the Chord Melody Assembly Line, a student will be able to harmonize melodies in a beautiful chord melody style. Conti’sapproach really works.
This volume is much more advanced than the Chord Melody Assembly Line. Here, Conti outlines his techniques for creating innovative and beautiful reharmonizations of tunes for sologuitar (or piano) chord melodies. Again, he gets right to the playing, and then clearly illuminates the easy but very effective techniques behind the chord selections. The chord voicings he utilizes are the same as those in the Chord Melody Assembly Line. Therefore, tackling the material and concepts in the Chord Melody Assembly Line before embarking on The Formula is a good idea, as Conti’s methodology allows the student to use the same forms across the spectrum from intermediate to complex playing.
In essence, the chord vocabulary developed in The Chord Melody Assembly Line is continued in TheFormula. This is an example of his thoughtful planning as it unifies everything and the student does not need to memorize a thousand chord voicings. Conti’s philosophy is that you learn the forms by playing the guitar and playing beautiful music. I don’t believe learning can be made easier.
The ideas and techniques found in The Formula are the same as the great arrangers like Nelson Riddle, Henry Mancini, and Quincy Jones have used to create their signature sounds. The foundation of the Conti approach to reharmonization is to greatly simplify what is perceived by many players
as a complex task. Quite amazingly, he teaches the student to utilize a common musical mechanism that he presents as the “Judge” since it is the guiding principle that governs his chord selections. He frequently and correctly states: “there are no accidents in harmony.” By employing his easily comprehensible principles and techniques, one can learn to start creating very sophisticated arrangements of standards in a short period of time.
To demonstrate the endless applications of The Formula, Conti presents a variety of two and three measure random notes with several groups of reharmonized chords (like his arrangements in Just Jazz Guitar). Then, he explains the nuts and bolts of each group of chord movements.
At the end of the book and on the second DVD Disc, there is what I can only describe as another Gourmet Buffet of Harmony. Conti took three simple tunes: Aura Lee, Danny Boy, and The Star Spangled Banner and turned them into absolute gems of chord melody solos to be played, savored and understood. I contacted Robert to ask about his unusual choice of tunes.
He stated: “Aura Lee has such a simple melody it would not usually warrant any serious attention from most musicians. My goal was to have the student play, see and hear the results of a what little knowledge could actually do to that simple melody. The melody to the Star Spangled Banner is wellknown and most listeners have a general anticipation of the melody in their mind. Consequently,the restructured and unanticipated harmony will quickly capture the attention of most listeners. I wanted to demonstrate that the concepts in The Formula could be applied to even the most simple tune with great results. I chose to add the Danny Boy arrangement in both volumes for two additional reasons; 1) to demonstrate the operative and easily applicable concepts presented in the Chord Melody Assembly Line 2) to demonstrate that the same palette of chord forms in the AssemblyLine were also employed in the professional reharmonizations found in The Formula!”
His concern for the student is evident as he walks the student through every step of the way, employing the concepts in The Formula!, loads of performance tips, and commentary that is clear, well-paced and enlightening. The fact that Danny Boy appears in basic form in the Chord Melody Assembly Line and again, as a piece of embellished art in The Formula! is a real learning plus. By examining both volumes, the reader gets a very broad view of the most important aspects of solo jazz guitar performance. And all of the while, the student has the guitar in his/her hands and is playing this beautiful music, which he states, is the first goal of his products.
I wanted to add one more observational comment about the new DVD additions to the original Source Code books. Robert Conti’s style of on-screen instruction is really non-intimidating. His manner is warm, supportive, friendly, and informative, as he really draws the viewer into the subject matter. It is obvious that he genuinely enjoys sharing his vast experience and love for chord melody playing. Just when you thought the Conti products couldn’t get any better, the introduction of DVD components to each of his Source Code series of books really raises the bar – again.
Reviewed For Just Jazz Guitar Magazine By:
Mike Irish, Director of Jazz Studies
Michigan Technological University