Welcome to Bruce Arnold Music Blog

Bruce Arnold Music Blog

Welcome to Bruce Arnold Music Blog. Here’s where I’m going to discuss my music, books and music education and my current activities. Here is also where I hope you’ll dialogue with me. The topics can be about what I’m currently working on; new books I’ve written or read, or just notes about the things that interest me. 

I have a deep interest in many of the musical ideas of the early 20th century such as 12 tone music and serial composition. Over the years I’ve developed many ideas on how to apply the techniques used in Second Viennese School to improvisation. I’ve also have a deep interest in using the program SuperCollider in live performance to create uniques sounds using my guitar as a controller. I will also explore some of these ideas in the Bruce Arnold Music Blog.

Over the years I written many books on music education to outline some of the ideas that I’ve come up with on my own or where shown to me by the great teachers that I’ve worked with along the way. I’m also very grateful to the many fantastic musicians that I’ve had the honor to play with. They have greatly affected my ability, knowledge and approach not music.

I also maintain a couple more blogs on the muse-eek.com website that deal specifically with ear training and guitar specific ideas. If you have interest in those topics please follow the links.

Hopefully you will find the Bruce Arnold Music Blog to be educational but I also hope it stimulates your intellectual curiosity about the subjects I explore.

Bruce Arnold Music Education Genealogy Chart

You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by Muse-eek.com which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!

Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Bruce Arnold Music Blog

23 Replies to “Welcome to Bruce Arnold Music Blog”

  1. Fellow USD alum here. I was looking at playing Prop me up Beside the Juke box when I die. On the chords they have two that Im not familiar with how to finger and I am at a loss while trying to find them anywhere on the internet. They are written as D/C# and D/B. Thanks for any help you may be.

  2. Hey Cory,
    We nutty musicians call those slash chords. For D/C# just play a C# on the low A or E string and a D triad on either the G, B and E string (my first choice) or the D, G and B string (which is a little muddy.) By the way the New York Guitar Method Volume One has a whole section on how to improvise over these types of chords if you are interested.

  3. excellent idea, Bruce!

    I look forward to contributing to and being inspired your blog.

    I’m possibly one of the few remaining witnesses to the days of your teaching in your bedroom in Brookline ;~)

    I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed your teaching materials….still way over my head, but I’m trying…….honest!

    Eyre McK.

  4. Hey Eyre,

    Great to hear from you after all this time. That time in Boston was really cool. Great clubs to play in every night.
    Hope your doing well and please get involved with the Blog it’s meant for all levels of musicianship. Asking questions is the way we learn.

  5. Thanks for the email alerting me of your Blog facility. Like you, am always looking for where there are misunderstandings, misinterpretations etc. to provide alternate methods to teach so that all students have the opportunity to forge ahead with confidence.

    eg. major modes…
    1. Play one scale over (in) 7 keys.
    2. Play 7 scales over (in) 1 key.

    These 2 ways of looking at it seem to be a basis of much confusion.
    Have you noticed other obstructions in teaching modes that effect the learning process?


  6. Hey Bruce –

    You might not remember me, but I took a lesson with you a few months back, focusing on technique issues, especially the right hand. I just wanted to say thanks for all the great tips you gave me, things are improving! Also, I just downloaded Contextual Ear Training Memorizing Sound Through Singing, it’s exactly the kind of thing I need!

    Jon Blanchette

  7. Hey Jon,

    Great to hear from you. I certainly remember you. If you could send me a video of your right and left hand I’d like to check your progress.

  8. Hey Ross,

    Yes, many musicians get confused about how they should approach scales.
    Let me rant a bit because this is one of my pet peeves. Just to cue everyone in on what we are talking about: If we take a C major scale its notes: are C, D, E, F, G, A B. If we look at a D Dorian Scale it contains these notes: D, E, F, G, A, B, C. Notice that these two scales have the same notes in them. Also notice:

    E Phrygian E, F, G, A, B, C, D
    F Lydian F, G, A, B, C, D, E
    G Mixolydian G, A, B, C, D, E, F
    A Aeolian A, B, C, D, E, F, G
    B Locrian B, C, D, E, F, G, A

    All these scales are using the same notes.

    What commonly happens with musicians –particularly guitarists– and unfortunately guitar teachers, is they lump all these together and tell a student “Just learn the C major scale and whenever you need any of these scales listed above just think C major in your mind and your fingers.” The problem with that is it doesn’t take into consideration the way you hear music. If you have a C major chord playing over and over you can use a C major scale because most likely you will hear this repeated chord in the key of C. But if you are hearing a D minor chord over and over you most likely will hear this chord in the key of D. If you play a C major scale and think a C major scale over this D minor chord you are completely going against what your ear is hearing and therefore most likely will not play well. But If you learn the D Dorian scale as a scale in the key of D and not relate it to C major then you will most likely play much better because you are hearing the scale in the right key center. You can find a good explanation of how this works for all the commonly used scales in the New York Guitar Method Volume One.
    For guitarists learning a C major scale in all positions on the guitar, starting over and learning the D Dorian scale is a lot more work. But this is why some musicians sound much more musical than others. Play the way your hear. They did it back in the 60s when they didn’t have 10 zillion websites with tab and it sounded great. Why? They used their ears. If you want to develop your ears to hear within a key center try these two book/CDs

    Ear Training One Note Complete
    Contextual Ear Training

    I have found that teaching students this way develops a deep understanding of how to play and hear music. If you apply this idea to everything you play your really playing by ear which is of course the most musical approach.

  9. Hello Bruce,

    What a pleasure it is to have this blog. What a blessing in fact.

    I am not only an Ear fanatic user, I am that said fanatic. And unlike the Hair Club for Men, your teaching is the real deal and no wig!! I use your manuals in my teaching practice here in Flemington. If you see little blips in amazon sales every so often, that may be me. Like you, I took the traditional college training. Although I was one of the weird ones who really loved ear training (often joked about in class as “ear straining” or “ear torture”), I always felt it wasn’t readily available on the “bandstand” like you say. I took all four years of ear training from Rebecca Scott at Juilliard. She became a close friend and mentor after school, getting me a few teaching gigs, etc. I actually bonded with her more than my composition teacher. I heard about your method through one of my students. It took me a year to get around to investigating, but it took only several minutes reading your manual (I started with One Note and then realized I needed to start with Fanatic) to become a true believer. I am still in the process of retraining with Fanatic…I’m not sure that I trust I am hearing the colors quickly or am still relying on all the identifications and dictations I studied so seriously. It’s not like one is evil and one is good, but the “bandstand” concept really captures the night and day quality of your wonderful training. I know that I sometimes dream the drills, so it’s getting in there deep.

    If music expresses this mystery of our humanity as does nothing else (my musicians bias), then your mysterious method is truly a musical event…I have had so many personal vs. just technical experiences with it, I feel it, and you, are my musical friends on the path. Anyway, I am rambling, so I’ll just thank you and hope to be able to take some private instruction at some point.


  10. Welcome, Rick!

    Thanks for writing in; your letter really goes to the heart of things and your story sounds very much like those I’ve heard and what I went through myself. It’s unfortunate that schools still exclusively teach the “interval” method. I’ve heard of many teacher meetings where they sit around and talk about how their ear training program isn’t working, but few are brave enough to initiate something new.

    The seeds of this ear training technique came through Charlie Banacos a wonderful teacher who died last year of cancer. I was privileged to study with him; he was truly a guru. I adapted his concept of “how we hear music” and expanded it to a myriad of exercises that I found worked for me and my students over a 30 year period. Being able to incorporate contemporary technology was really the key to the success of this method. Having CDs available that students could use and having email and blog interchanges with students makes all the difference in how they progress, because there are so many ways to go off track. It seems like people are always coming up with another way they think is better or just slightly misunderstanding the process, so maintaining communication is a big part of the process.

    Until I found this ear training I was like you pondering the mystery of musical expression. How was it organized and how could I gain access to its structure. This ear training really opened my eyes to so much. Like you, I am just amazed by its beauty. I hope to share that experience with others via this blog.

  11. Hello Bruce,

    What I’ve seen of your music is that it’s very avant-garde. My personal tastes are more conservative, old-fashioned. My favorite guitarist is the one who worked with Nat King Cole. I love his melodic lines and the tone of his guitar.

    Does old-fashioned playing become boring as you learn more? Picasso could draw like an old master but that is not what he is famous for.

    It seems that the more one knows the less accessible one’s music becomes.

    Your thoughts. thanks, Kim

    p.s. two months into the One note training, broken into about five sections of 10 minutes a day. Beginning to recognize more notes. Also, I find in my own playing that I’m exploring new phrasing and farther reaches on the fretboard.

  12. Hi Kim,

    Very nice to hear from you. Yes I would say that some of my stuff is very avant-garde but there is also stuff that isn’t. Especially recently I’ve recorded a Rock Trio record call Heavy Mental that I think you would not find avant-garde. I’m also in a new band called Little Red Top where I play Blues Slid Guitar. (Playing twice in NYC for anybody that’s interested. Check out the schedule on the website.) I guess what I’m trying to say is I have a lot of varied interests. The thing I need from music is freshness. It could be a blues tune but as long as it has something new in it I’m satisfied. On the other hand one reason I liked improvisational music is the challenge of always building a new structure. But then I can listen to Peter Gabriel’s “So” CD over and over again and not want to change a note. I guess I’m a man of contradictions.

  13. Hi Bruce

    Thanks for the extended replies.

    You are a rare breed, thank you for being so open minded, I will watch your web site eagerly because I know you will continue to surprise us with your creative musical and teaching innovations.

    Would you consider this structure to be a suitable layered format for teaching:
    1. Scales
    2. Double stop harmonies with inversions built from the scales
    3. Chord triads with inversions built on the double stop harmonies
    4. Extended chord structure with inversions.
    5. Linking chord inversions using notes from a scale and that scales’ double stop harmonies.

    Would your ear training technique be included in layer 1.? (were we let students know of your resource)

    It would be so nice not to see advertising on your site.
    I am old school, once advertising is fired my way, I look for another quality site. Your music, resources and considerate thoughts are the reason we visit your site.

    200% support from this end.

    Regards, Ross

  14. @Bruce, Thanks for your interpretation of teaching modes.

    I do not have a method to teach ear training.(am not keen on conventional methods but do rely on developing from formal basic concepts). Would like to take a look at your Ear Training One Note Complete technique to incorporate as a resource for my students and to identify an association with my Guitarmodes method.

    Regards, Ross

  15. Hi Ross,

    Nice to hear from you and thanks for the support. First let me say that I usually structure lesson content based on a student’s input regarding their direction in music. That said there are certain things that most students will need. For instance, learning the 22 scales found in New York Guitar Method Volume One.
    But how someone practices is just as important as what someone practices. I always have students play scales over vamps that are available to them in the member’s area of the muse-eek website once they have purchased a book. This helps them with developing their ear training skills along with the scales. You can find this in a complete package in the Total Modal DVD I did for Truefire.com I also do an extensive study of their right and left hand technique to make sure they are playing correctly. Only then do they stand a chance of becoming a world class guitar player.

    As far as ear training resources I always first test students on their ear training ability but most commonly students start with:

    Ear Training One Note Complete
    Contextual Ear Training

    I also spend a lot of time talking about how to hear scales in relationship to chord progression. Basically do you hear chord to chord or do you lump multiple chords together into one key center and think of the chords scales based on that. This is of course dependent on tempo but realizing this difference is crucial to learning and thinking about music correctly.

    I also start students with music theory work via:

    Music Theory Workbook for Guitar Volume One
    Music Theory Workbook for Guitar Volume Two

    For students that want to be professional guitarist in New York City or Los Angeles I get them started on sight reading too. Depending on their level I recommend the following:

    Total Beginner
    New York Guitar Method Primer Book One

    Student as some musical background
    New York Guitar Method Primer Ensemble Book Two

    Student is highly motivated and can read somewhat
    New York Guitar Method Ensemble Book One

    Student is advanced with good knowledge of chords and scales
    New York Guitar Method Ensemble Book Two

    Highly Advanced student focusing on Pitch Class Improvisation and advanced rhythmic concepts
    Time Transformation
    Sight Reading Solved Intermediate Level
    Comping Styles for Guitar Volume Two Funk

    So via the ensemble books I also get students started with playing chords. These chords are all root position chords on low E and A string and most importantly I include chord progressions so they can apply these chord progressions and I include downloads like:

    Complete Blues Comping both Major and Minor

    These chord progressions are played by me with a metronome (the student improvises during this time) and then a chorus is played with only a metronome where the student plays the chords. This really helps a student develop their chording ability and ingrains form.

    I also recommend students to use this download to develop their music theory skills. These files quiz a student on various intervals and give the answers.

    Music Theory Interval Recognition

    There are of course other directions I take with some students depending on their personality and musical direction but the above is the most common. I don’t do much with double stops (diads) though I do have students practice modal sequencing once they have finished playing through all the modes in all positions. The basics of modal sequencing can be found in:

    New York Guitar Method Volume One


    Essential Scales: Twenty Two Indispensable Contemporary Modes

    The whole idea behind all this material is to get a guitarist to be functional in a professional situation. Other subjects like double stops may become part of lessons at some point but I always try to get the material I feel will be necessary for them to function together first.

    I know this is a lot of stuff and usually what I recommend for teachers or students is to take an ichat lesson so we can really get things straighten out. The worse thing in the world is to teach the wrong thing or practice the wrong way.

  16. Hi Ross,

    I would recommend two ear training books to supplement your guitar modes concept.

    Ear Training One Note Complete
    Contextual Ear Training

    I’ve given you digital links because shipping to Australia would be pretty pricey. In general I recommend students get the digital downloads –it’s kinder on the wallet, and most students have computers these days. It’s best to use the ear training files with an MP3 player and the downloads are already in MP3 format so it makes the most sense. You’ll get the book as a PDF so you can read that via your computer.

    The Ear Training One Note Complete digital download comes with three folders of MP3s: (Physical book comes with 3 CDs)

    For students with absolutely no background in music.

    For students that have some background in music. The majority of students should start with this level.

    For students that are already pretty good with the intermediate level but need to speed up their recognition time.

    I of course first check the students in their lessons to see which is the best level for them.

    Many students are weak on music theory and eventually they really need to get their music theory together to use this ear training effectively. For example if they work with this ear training they could be in a situation where a band starts playing a tune and they want to hop in and play. If they play one note on their instrument –let’s say a “G” and their ear training tells them that “G” sounds like the 6th then the band is playing in Bb. But to do that, they’d need to get their music theory together enough so they’d know that “G” is the 6th of Bb. So total ear training involves knowledge of their instrument and knowledge of theory.

    If you are a guitar player I recommend:

    Music Theory Workbook for Guitar Volume One

    or if you play another instrument

    Music Theory Workbook for all instruments

    I also have music theory quiz files that test your knowledge of intervals. (example: “What is a 5th above “C?” Answer “G.”) These are only available in a download; here is the link:

    Music Theory Interval Recognition

    Of course this is a lot of stuff so you have to work a student slowly into a study like this. If I have a highly motivated student I’ll give them the full course of study in one shot. But I find students usually need to be stepped into this because it is such a different thing. As you probably know most instructors spend exactly no time on ear training, although it is extraordinarily important. If you can’t hear, you’re like a parrot just playing things that you have no understanding of –how they sound or work in a real musical situation.

    Unfortunately students and even some professionals think that others won’t notice, when they are not hearing what they are playing. But the fact is, that it affects the quality and the potential of the music they make.

  17. Hi Bruce,

    I was reading a guitar magazine recently and enjoyed an article about Allan Holdsworth. The article contained a number of quotations from other guitarists who all expressed admiration for his musicianship and vision, and puzzlement at how he did it or what it was that he “sees” harmonically.

    These were not just garage band players, but names like Larry Coryell, John McLaughlin, Steve Vai, and Joe Satriani.

    For my part, I can “follow” some of Holdsworth’s soloing into the 1980s, but his recent playing is so abstruse to me as to seem “outside of outside”.

    From what I have read and heard in interviews, he developed his own theory of harmony as a way of improvising over chords, and extended the theory backward into the notoriously “hairy” Holdsworth chords.

    So my question is: do you know what he’s up to?



  18. Hi Mike,

    Yes Allan is a wonderfully creative and interesting player, and I enjoy a lot of the musical concepts that he has used over the years. I’ll try to give you a macro look at a way to approach his music theoretically.

    All of the information I’m about to discuss comes from my Sonic Resource Guide. This book shows you:

    1. All possible scales, that is, 220 scales (yes there are only 220.)
    2. All chords derived from these scales.
    3. How all chords work over each scale in all keys.
    4. Diad possibilities for each scale.
    5. Hexachord possibilities for 6 and 7 note scales.
    6. The theory behind how chords and scales interact.

    If we are just talking scales Allan will usually take one of these 220 and do the following:

    1. Create chords by combining any group of 3 or 4 notes found in the scale.

    2. When improvising he will move between a group of scales that either fit harmonically or melodically over a chord progression.

    He will also employ approach notes (chromatic notes that resolve into other notes.) You can learn more about them and their uses in New York Guitar Method Volume Two

    Note: When you combine scales with approach notes it gets tricky trying to figure out exactly which way Allan is thinking of a particular melody line. Is it just a scale or does it also contain approach notes? But if you want to create melodies using this approach to improvising it doesn’t matter that much how Allan did it in a specific situation, just follow the guidelines I’m setting up here and you can both analyze and create similar melodies.

    Allan also makes great use of modal sequencing which most people would call patterns. There is a very logical way to work on and organize modal sequencing. I recently made 2 and 3 note sequencing books which are available for download:

    Two Note Sequencing for 22 Modes in all Keys for all instruments

    Three Note Sequencing for Major Modes in all Keys for all instruments

    The first book only deals with the 22 most used scales:

    • Modes of Major.
    • Modes of Melodic Minor Ascending.
    • Diminished.
    • Symmetrical Diminished.
    • Whole Tone.
    • Blues.
    • Major and Minor Pentatonic.

    and the 3 note only works with the major scale modes.

    These would be excellent resources for beginning to master scales– which Allan has certainly done.

    The Sonic Resource Guide is not an easy read so if you get the book you should come back here and ask some questions about getting started. We spend 3 weeks at the NYU Summer Guitar Intensive discussing this book and other subjects. You can see a full list of courses here.

    I’ve given you two links for the Sonic Resource Guide in this response. A digital download and a physical book. The book is almost 800 pages so although I recommend the physical book as a more familiar medium for study, if you are not in the USA then the digital download might be a better way to go because shipping is expensive, and of course, it’s kinder on the trees.

  19. Hi Bruce,

    Do you have any tips on learning to sight read?

    I am learning to play the piano, doing the Australian Music Examinations Board syllabus. Sight reading is not necessary to take the exams in the lower grades, but I would like to start working on it as early as possible.

  20. Hi Bruce, I am currently working through your Jazz course on True Fire. On arpeggios you refer to a book called “Mastering Arpeggios on the Guitar”, but I can find no reference to this publication on the Internet. Can you please tell me where I may source this publication. Who is the publisher and Author?

    Thank you

  21. Hi Peter, You are correct that book was never released so the info currently available for mastering 4 note arpeggios is contained in the Beginning Jazz Course from Truefire.com I do have arpeggios in the New York Guitar Method Volume Two book but these are 2 octave arpeggios that I have students use to learn approach notes exercises. Great arpeggios just not the same as working on the 4 note smaller forms. Hope that helps.


  22. Hi Paul, I have quite a bit of information on sight reading. To get an overview I would recommend the New York Guitar Method. This series of books has a compilation of quite a few of my rhythm books, single strings for guitar books and a host of other things to read. If you are completely a beginner at sight reading I’d start with the:

    New York Guitar Method Primer Ensemble Book Two

    Many incoming freshman in college work with the:

    New York Guitar Method Ensemble Book One

    and if you really want to kick some butt there is

    New York Guitar Method Ensemble Book Two

    Many of these books have downloadable MP3s and midifiles so if you get started with any of them write back and I’ll give you some info on how to get the help files.

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