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After opening the shipping package, I found that this book is in a format of 8.5 inches (wide) x 11 inches (high) x 5/8 inches (thick) with a glossy double-fold paper cover. As I fanned the 256 pages of the book across my face to glance at it, I saw lots and lots of pictures. Roughly, I saw about three or four paragraphs of text on the left pages and mostly diagrams on the right pages. I saw NO ["en", "oh"] musical staff with traditional musical notes though! A 90-track CD is included and well protected in a plastic pocket on the inside back cover. The book comes with a 1-page preface, 5-page introduction, 12 sections of mostly chord progressions, and a 14-page appendix which includes technique page references, chord diagrams, chord formulas, and a glossary of terms and concepts.
Each of the 12 sections begins with its title and a famous quote printed on the left (even) page with a black background which helps to segregate itself from other sections visually. On the facing (odd) page, there is a discussion of a new concept or a special notation, followed by a series of techniques which are numbered the same way as their corresponding CD tracks.
MY SUBJECTIVE OPINION:
If you are like me (taking a year or so of piano lessons during your elementary years, being overwhelmed and bored with music theory in high school, forming a garage band, being able to read *some* music but mainly lyrics with chord tabs, attempting to expand your artistic traits by writing a song of your own, and being a VISUAL learner), this book is for you.
If you are looking for a book on how to play keyboards, this book is NOT it. Go on with something else! If you expect a traditional way of learning music, beginning with music history, musical notations, concepts, techniques, examples, and exercises, this book is NOT for you, either. As mentioned above, you will NOT find a single musical staff with traditional musical notes in this book. None! Nada! You can stop reading this review and move on with another book!
As Rikky Rooksby emphasizes his intentions in the Preface, he begins with "The simplest way to write a song is to put some chords together and then sing some words on top." He later continues, "You don't need to read music. Everything is laid out in easy-to-read diagrams..." The book is exactly it! The book has 256 pages and contains a total of 90 chord progressions, and you start finding the first diagram on page 15 and the last diagram on page 215. So, the chord progressions alone take 201 out of 256 pages which are 78.5% of the book. Good or bad is subjective!
Each progression has a bar layout of a series of chords to be played (the song structure) and their corresponding keyboard diagrams of the chords. In these bar layouts, the author uses non-traditional but easy-to-understand notations for counting beats and measures, indicating intros, choruses, verses, bridges, repeats and ending, and representing chords or chord inversions. The chord diagrams intuitively show how you place your fingers on a keyboard to form the needed chords. Also, each progression is accompanied by a sound clip and is labeled clearly with a 3/4-inch-tall number corresponding to the track number on the included CD.
So, the way I use this book to write a song is first to have some ideas or messages that I want to convey. Second, I turn to page 244 (Easy Page-Reference Table of Techniques) and look for a few techniques of expressing my mood. Some examples of such techniques are "how to make a blues bluesier", "how to make chords more romantic", "how to make minor chords threatening", "how to make progressions sound sophisticated", and so on. Third, I play the selected progressions while listening to the sample sound tracks. Fourth, I modify the chord sequence to fit my own mood while I am humming along for melody and rhythm. Fifth, I replace my humming with words and phrases while searching for extra syllables or using slurs if I'm short of syllables. Finally, I come up with a good title for the song. Voila! It's pretty much it! (Well, I use a MIDI keyboard hooked up to my PC with a MIDI software package to capture my music, and I play it back via the same keyboard or a MIDI-controlled sound module. The software helps me to print out the music sheets.)
You must read the Preface, the Introduction, Section 1, the discussions of the remaining sections, and Section 10 in their entireties, or you will miss the point and get lost!
PROS AND CONS:
* Pros: This book helps me to "express my feelings" through chord progressions when I am writing music for a song. There are a lot of sample chord progressions for me to start with. The sound clips on the CD have a lot more going on in the music, much more than what are written in the book.
* Cons: This book needs to expand more in the areas of creating melody, rhythm, lyrics, and rhymes to be qualified as a book of "how to write songs." Its focus is only on one aspect of writing songs--accompaniment--although it is an important one. Also, it would be nice if Rikky included the "traditional" musical notations of the progressions in the appendix to attract a larger musically inclined audience. In addition, if he included the MIDI files of the progressions on a data CD or posted them on the web, his readers would be able to import them into their computers to play them at different speeds, to print them out in the traditional musical notations themselves, or to use them as their springboards to write their own songs.
Although some chord progressions may not be new to you, the work of collecting all those techniques in one place as a reference book is worth the money! If you have reached this line in my review, I strongly recommend you to buy this book. This book is for you! Otherwise, you would have been long gone since my fourth paragraph! :D