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"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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October 2, 2008 | In "Crease."

The first day of school in a junior high class can be a wild and crazy ride. New outfits, new friends, new classes, and sometimes, brand new thick textbooks. Middle School teachers can tell you the horrors of watching adolescents struggle with a brand new book (we as adults often do too!). At best, the books slam uncomfortably shut struggling to keep open; at worst, the binding can be cracked if not broken in properly.

We see this in the music publishing industry, where both hands are on an instrument, and we depend on an open face layout of two pages at a time, let alone capacity for rapid page turns in some difficult literature. From the publisher's perspective variations of three common ways of binding a book bear a set of distinct advantages and disadvantages. The wire spiral bound is the ultimate for durability and quick page turns, but they are bulky and cumbersome when stacked with other books. Sometimes, they can get caught in each other, and they are impossible to read on the shelves of a library. Comb binding (plastic) is lower profile, lighter weight, and a pretty good compromise in staying open, but the same problem exists in the inability to read the contents from a spine side view.

Ultimately, you'll see publishers favor the glued binding, but Mel Bay has adopted a great compromise in what it calls "Perfect Binding," used on its larger books. It features a square binding edge and printed spine. This is a strong binding which lies open when creased. We opted for this with our "Getting Into Jazz Mandolin" book first and foremost because we wanted to be part of the best-selling "Getting Into..." series, and also, this kind of binding is the only one accepted in most public libraries.

This may seem elementary (let alone blatantly self-indulgent), but we thought it would be good to go back to Junior High and talk about the proper way to prepare or "break in" a new book. These steps will insure a much more satisfying reading session.

'Perfect' Binding

First thing you want to do is unfold the book in half, gently pressing on the inside near the spine. Make it lay as flat as you can, working the tightness out of it slowly, from center out to edge, top to bottom of the page.

Press gently from the center to outside of the book.

Second, you want to start "halving" the rest of the book by going to the back 1/4 of the book, repeating the break-in with the last half of the half.

Repeat the process with the back 1/4 of the book.

Next go to the front quarter and gently break this in the same way. After you've done this successfully, you can divide the rest of the book into 1/8ths (you're a musician--you can subdivide!) if you want to continue to unlock the binding, being careful never to stress the spine too much at a time. If you do this gradually enough, next time you use the book, it should lie flat on the music stand.

Similarly break in the front 1/4 of the book.

Of course, for proper posture we recommend a good music stand, something that can position the music where you can hold the instrument comfortably and turn pages effectively. We should note that we tried to write this book in a way that critical page turns would not be obstructed, but because of other compromises, we weren't able to get the 'ii V7' pages divided in a way that got around page turns. (Our apologies!)

Of course you can always take a book to a copy center for finishing services like FedEx/Kinkos, and have your book rebound with a plastic comb for a modest fee. If you're spending a lot of time in the book, this can be a worthwhile investment.

Blatant Self Promotion: Purchase Getting Into Jazz Mandolin

Now shipping!

Posted by Ted at October 2, 2008 1:11 PM

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