Book Review: Principles of Music by Bryan Baker

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will have noticed Bryan Baker’s name popping up a few times in recent months. Bryan is am immensely talented guitarist with a  background in jazz, but also with classical training, and has just recently released his first original, classical-style album, The Lacuna Variations –   Or for iTunes download head here:

Not only is Bryan a whizz with the six string, he’s not bad with a pen (or keyboard I suppose) and has also committed to the page (or the screen, rather) a few of his pearls of wisdom on music and the creative process for us mere mortals.

In Principles of Music Baker leads us on a stimulating journey through his musical world, by way of sound, phrasing, melody, space, energy, unity and personal voice. He does this by firstly laying out his thoughts on each particular topic and then following up with examples for you to try, to play around with and a number of exercises or pointers to take away and practice.  

I don’t want to give too much away, but to give you a taste for the book here are some of my favourite quotes for you:

“…sound is, by far, the most important and most overlooked aspect of music for the overwhelming majority of musicians, regardless of level and ability.”

“If you consider music to be a language, then phrasing is essentially the accent by which you speak the language of music, and is something that each individual musician should become well acquainted with in regard to their personal approach.”

“Often times, in my experience space creates more tension or breath within music than any harmonic or melodic device could ever come close to attaining.”

This is not just an instructive book, in the sense of “do this, and then do that, and you’ll end up with X”. No, this is much more about principles and concepts of musicianship with actively applied exercises following on from that. Much more useful I feel. Techniques, stand-alone methods and so on can be found in numerous other (exceedingly more dry) texts. This is a book to whet your appetite, to inspire you in the creative process, be it in composing, improvising or bringing your own unique sound to existing music. For if you can truly understand and get to grips with principles and concepts, I believe, the methods will follow as a matter of course.

As such, the book is ideal for the upper intermediate to advanced musician. It’s ideal for someone who has a good grasp already on the rudiments of musical theory, but is looking for something to help take them to the next level, combining that theory with greater musicianship.

Principles of Music is available in both print and ebook formats, and so the latter would make an ideal little (virtual) stocking filler for someone this Christmas. Head along here to help make sure Santa Claus gets your order in time –

And Classical Guitar n Stuff isn’t finished yet for 2013. Don’t forget to check back in later in the week for a run down on my favourite guitar (and other music) tracks from 2013. Then on the 30th we’ll have a bit of a review and wrap of the year that was on Classical Guitar n Stuff including a run down of your favourite posts and a sneak peak at what’s coming up on in the blog in 2014.

Merry Christmas!


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