The Bass Players Guide to Scales & Modes by Stuart Clayton – A Review by Rhayn Jooste
This is a review of the iPad version of a book The Bass Players Guide to Scales & Modes written by Stuart Clayton and published by Bassline Publishing in 2012. It is slick, well thought out, with a clean design, utilizing the iPad’s many innovations, such as multi gesture, indexing of pages and its ability to embed multi media within the pages. The book’s content was inspired by Clayton’s teaching for the Brighton Institute of Music in the UK, and it does exactly what it says on the tin, and more.
The production of this book is current, distinct and on the iPad ver. 3 is nothing short of breathe taking. The pictures and illustrations are crisp, the video is inspiring and the layout of the notation is clear. The pages can be pinched closed or zoomed in with the merest touch of your fingers with absolutely no latency or lag. The notation and copy is large enough to read, and Clayton has kindly tabbed out all examples. There is the ability to add notes and highlight sentences or sections. This not only aids learning but allows for a more personal interactive approach to utilising this book on the iPad. Also included is a handy flash study cards section, so you can test yourself or your students on the terminology found in the glossary.
Each chapter progresses on from the next, starting with the humble C major scale and its mode, then moving into more advanced topics such as harmonic and melodic minor, diminished and whole tone scales, as well as favourites such as the pentatonic and blues scale. He covers arpeggios, how to pattern scales, play through the cycle of fives and most importantly how to utilise all this knowledge musically. This is all not only based on Clayton’s teaching but also on how he was taught himself. If you have ever seen his playing you will instantly see that this education has paid dividends.
The book’s subject matter is well laid out, each chapter beginning with a concise introduction of the topic covered which moves swiftly into the practical aspect with examples and then into musical utilisation in the form of licks. A variety of genres and musical situations are covered. The book’s strength really starts here. Gone are the days of learning from books with either a cassette or a CD attached which had a miscellanea of tracks, examples and backing tracks to help you.
No longer will you need to search through to find the example you’re working on, hold the page open and then grab your instrument. Each example on this version, that has music, has a player embedded in the page. So you can set the iPad up, read the dots, play the main track and then jam along to the back track. All with a couple of pushes and never having left your chair. Its real strength is in the ability to add notes and highlight text as you go. This insures that what you learn is retained in the manner in which you first read and understood it. The iPad’s ability to be packed and carted around with you means all of this is available to be poured over wherever you are. A handy thing if you travel a lot.
This book has been considered in its design and its presentation of the content, from the opening video to the musical examples, each chapter advances from the next. The prose is succinct and set out clearly, with concise and relevant illustrations and examples. However it is not for beginners, and Clayton himself stresses this in the introduction. To really get the most from these “essential tools” you need the basics of music theory in place, you also really need to know your fretboard inside out, as there are no boxes or geometry in sight. However Clayton stresses that his method is a “more thorough and musical way of learning scales, modes and arpeggios”.
If you are looking to complete your knowledge of scales and modes and want a more musically based syllabus, then this iPad book is for you. It has been written as a “complete guide” to the topic and so even professionals will find something of use within its pages. Its design and ethos are the perfect tool for teaching this sometimes arcane topic and has been well grounded in musical applications. A perfect tool to add to any iBook library.