(formerly “Reference Manual for the Blues Idiom”)

Published 1990, Lyndon Publishing, now Evomer Publishing



Social music, the people’s music, whatever you may wish to call it, is still music and a keystone of all cultures.  No matter where you go, you will find people socializing and grooving to the music.  It is all made of the same thing.  The “theory," no matter what form or rhythm it may take, has the same base or core structure. 


Originally these manuals were published as the “Reference Manual for the Blues Idiom.”  How­ever, to people looking for reference manuals for music, the word “blues” connotes a specific style or method, and this is not a reference manual just for the blues.  For example, what does a Japanese “yo” scale have to do with a pentatonic (or blues) scale?  They are exactly alike.  Look at any western form of music – rock and roll, pop, jazz, rhythm and blues, even the new forms of music that are popular among today’s young people (rap and hip hop).  Look at blue­grass, that old 1-4-5 that B.B. King always talks about.  The style is different, but the foundation is in the blues.  Note Tchaikovsky’s observation that the future of western music would be based on the Negro melodies.  Again, the style and rhythm may be different, but the foundation is the same.  Look at polka music in most cultures.  No matter where you go, the mechanics, the tools of the trade (scales and chord progressions) that the majority playing music are using, are made up in the form we take for granted:  the blues.  Look at a transcript of a Led Zeppelin song, "Slow Blues".


You Johnny Cash people and musicians will probably object that this is not blues, but country.  Yes, it is used in country, but it is a blues progression. Bugs Bower, a jazz musician and text writer of music methods, referred to it as the “We Want Cantor” theme.  When I hear Mexican popular music, it’s there, too, and look at the bass, a root-to-four, like bluegrass bass. We are all working with the same tools.



 What’s in a Title?


Occupational Music.  The title comes from an English class I had in high school called “Occupa­tional English,” a name I’ve chuckled over all my adult life.  Yes, they would teach us how to speak on the job, certainly a lot more useful than learning Shakespeare, which I recall the teacher did not like anyway.  Then it dawned on me:  “Occupational Music,” what a great name it would be for the manual.  I laughed when it first occurred to me, just as I laughed at the name of the

English class I took.  Then I laughed again until it made sense to change the title.  I could hear the reaction to the original title:  Here we come to the blues thing. Oh, it’s the blues.  Most musicians would outright reject it, especially the denizens of the covers crowd.  They will be shocked to find they have been working with the music that is made of those blues per se. 


The Book


What can you do with this?  Well it’s all left up to your imagination.  To the hard line jazz/meat-and-potatoes musicians, it’s the blues, and if you want to get technical, what chord shape could be used for a 13th chord or lead?  Move up the fret.  For example, C13th.  If you substituted a diminished, you would move up to the substitute.  A more simple explanation would be what would you play for a lead?  If you look at the way the fret board has been presented (i.e., all the frets closed/fingered), you would see you could play the diminished as an arpeggio, or any com­bination of the 13th. 


The Blues and Where They Came From.

 The blues did not come from the people we think of as blues artists, but in fact, in the mid-1800s, through a composer pianist named Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869).  Gottschalk grew up in New Orleans, where he was fascinated by the songs the black slaves sang as they worked, as well as the music of the Creoles and the blacks from the Caribbean.  I reiterate the statement Tchaikovsky made about the future of western music. 


Working Music-Occupational.

 Look at the origins of jazz.  That all came with the people, the work melodies incorporated in their cultural music.  The great African American guitarists all grew up with that, and they incorporated the sound into what they were doing, hence the blues. 


Simple Approach

 This manual series is written in the simplest format and is geared to any level.  IT IS NOT A METHOD BOOK.  It is a simplified approach for the working musician and the working composer and anyone interested, such as an engineer and a producer, etc., etc., or a songwriter who is looking for a certain lick or a chord shape.  In the 21st century the working professional musician or composer has to deal not only with his instrument, but also must wear numerous hats related to his field of expertise. 

Theory reduction is basically what it’s all about.  Look at the universities which have excellent programs but require tedious time.  Many people don’t have the time or desire to attend music college full time in a four-year program. One should note, at least in the U.S., most artists-musicians live a split existence:  the art vs. the reality of the job and the family and life in general. 

 The need for simplification or procedural reduction is required.  It reminds me of that English class, because that was what it was all about.  In the real world of making music, the pace is very rapid.  Look at your music capitols, such as Nashville, New York, L.A.  You’re a session musi­cian and you go into the studio, and the producer wants you to comp a 1-4-5 or 1-6-4-1.  It’s rapid and efficient, and in today’s costly productions, taking the time to write notes and charts is not feasible.  Also consider the free music issue.


Reading Music vs. Non-Reading

 You do not have to be literate to use this manual, and in fact, in the 21st century the literacy in the industry is low.  It is always best to know how, but music is also a social thing.  The presen­tation has been done in notation and tablature.  As a formally trained trumpet player and as an advanced jazz composition major at the School of Contemporary Music in Boston, I find it can be daunting dealing with musicians who have not had any training other than the songs they know, and their ears are not always reliable.  This manual can help bridge that gap.  I have also taught guitar, piano, bass, and theory in both class and private lessons, which proved quite challenging with non-reading students.  In the 21st century, the student is very tempted by the available software, but tech can’t create for you and it is very misleading.  It still requires talent and skill.  Look at the requirement level for today’s musicians wanting to enter the field -- no, you don’t know have to know how to read; no, you don’t need to attend a university. You just need to know your 40-60 covers, and in actuality, this is often the case.  To cite an example, I was at a rehearsal and the music director/band leader, who was teaching a young student a piano piece, came over to me and asked me why this song she was teaching the student did not sound right.  Well, in the key of A major, the C is sharp. It’s not that the teacher was ignorant; however, the ear was off and is not always reliable. It is always better if your teacher knows how to read music.



 In conclusion I borrow from Bugs Bower, who noted in the forward to his theory method written around 1950 that “the material presented here is the accumulated knowledge from the lifetime of today’s musicians.”  That was written over 50 years ago.