Thursday, May 28

Alumnus Jon MacLennan's iBook 'Melodic Expressions' advances guitar instruction

Alumnus Jon MacLennan has created an iBook that uses interactive audio samples to teach guitar

UCLA alumnus Jon MacLennan recently created an instructional guitar iBook for use on the iPad, titled "Melodic Expressions."

Courtesy of Jon MacLennan

Abhay Malik / Daily Bruin

The days of turning pages to read sheet music are coming to an end as digital books are rising in popularity.

UCLA alumnus Jon MacLennan has recently finished creating an instructional guitar iBook made for the iPad.

The book, titled “Melodic Expressions,” features a wide variety of guitar licks from jazz to country for experienced guitar players.

MacLennan, who played the guitar professionally before graduating from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in ethnomusicology with a jazz studies concentration, has worked with some of the biggest names in the business.

According to MacLennan, the iBook also has interactive audio samples that will allow the reader to play along at different speeds.

He published “Melodic Expressions” just more than two weeks ago, and Apple released his work on iTunes on Thursday.

“The iBook is going to redefine education completely. … It’s so much more advanced than just a piece of paper. There’s so much more you can do with it,” MacLennan said.

MacLennan said he wants to show guitar players a different way to approach the instrument.

“There (are) no exercises in the book. It’s all melody. Forget all your scales, forget everything. It’s based on what I call the “˜language of the music,'” MacLennan said. “So, if it’s a blues lick, there’s certain things that make it blues. And so I focus on those core elements.”

According to MacLennan, he has drawn on what he has learned under the tutelage of Wolf Marshall, a renowned guitar player and lecturer in the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

Marshall’s guitar books and instructional material have been published by the well-known music book publisher Hal Leonard since the mid-1980s.

“(MacLennan) was one of my most promising students and did things far beyond the call of duty. His material tends to reflect that,” Marshall said. “As far as I’ve seen, he’s the first one who’s done this successfully.”

Marshall said he was optimistic about MacLennan’s project.

“It’s like having the book come to life,” Marshall said. “As a guitar player and as a guitar instructor, it’s like having a dream come true.”

According to MacLennan, nothing on the iTunes store right now has the extensive audio interactivity included in his book.

“Nothing has all the audio where you can hear it sped up and slowed down, (or) with the part that you’re practicing in one side and the rhythm track in the other side so you can just hear one,” MacLennan said.

MacLennan is also embracing technology in other ways.

He teaches guitar to students all over the country via Skype. In addition to that, he also has a YouTube channel where he posts instructional videos and jams.

Heather Youmans, an “American Idol” contestant and freelance journalist, helped edit the iBook and has expressed excitement over the finished product as well.

“I’m all for it. I think it’s great what he’s doing,” Youmans said.

As for his future plans, MacLennan said he is already working on a second book.

“I’m just so happy creating art and music and intertwining it all and finding ways to use the new technology, the new mediums, to define the path,” MacLennan said.

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