Guitar Sam interview with Edly from 1991
Guitar Sam: Ed
Roseman wrote the best music theory book this planet has ever seen.
"Edly's Music Theory for Practical People" is a must-read for all
musicians. As a writer, teacher, and musician, Edly recognizes the
language of music and painlessly translates it into English. Edly's
newest book is "Edly Paints the Ivories Blue," a blues piano
instruction book that also is rainbows above the norm.
caught up with Ed Roseman, and asked him a few curious questions about
some interesting stuff. He generously spent some time theorizing, and
this interview is the result of the outrageous things he told us.
Guitar Sam: Out of all
the musical topics to choose from, you definitely took on the biggest
job of all, teaching the mechanics of music in what we call music
theory. How did "Edly's Music Theory for Practical People" come to be?
I've always included theory as an integral part of my instruction,
because it's an integral part of music. Back in the ol' days, I used to
write chord construction out by hand for students. Then I got really
sophisticated and copied my handwritten sheet. Then, in my postmodern
period, I did it up on my word processor and printed it out on a bad
dot matrix printer. Wow, high tech! I decided to add the horse to the
cart and add major scales. One thing led to another, and soon I had a
whopping 18 page manual. At that point, it was pretty terse-just
examples and a bit of text to flesh out my in-lesson presentations,
like some of Berklee's course books. It reincarnated itself and did the
cellular division thing, and grew and grew to 48 pages.
things marked the book turning into its 164 page self. The first was
the decision to make it stand on its own without my being present. So I
gave it legs. This meant fleshing out the explanations to include what
I would tell students during the lesson. The second was the realization
during an actual lesson that the book didn't reflect my teaching style
or voice. It was too stiff. So I went back, let my hair down, and
started having fun rewriting. Then, I grabbed pictures drawn by my old
friend Peter Reynolds from my collection of his stuff, and asked him to
draw some more. He gave me some great new stuff, but was busy with his
own affairs, so I did a lot of cutting and pasting and created new pix
based on his originals. That completed the book, because Pete's drawing
style complements my writing style so well. Plus, he's a great artist,
period. I'm honored and lucky to have his visuals. The third was the
second edition, where I fixed things that had bugged me--and
readers--for a while. It was a great leap.
Guitar Sam: How widely is your book distributed?
Between 200-300 book & music stores in 42ish states, as well as the
on- and off-line biggies, except Borders, who only special order it. I
know there are copies floating around some 45ish countries, too. Guitar
Sam keeps a steady flow. (Hi,Sam!)
Guitar Sam: What did it take to write Edly's Music Theory for Practical People?
Four years, tremendous eye strain, a handful of file corruptions,
hundreds of crashes, a restructuring of the content, and about six
megabytes. It's funny to think back on it now, but most of the writing
was done on a Mac 040 processor with a 14 inch screen. A six meg file
isn't much for a PageMaker or Quark document nowadays, but poor
MacWrite and my poor old Mac! It took two minutes just to SAVE the darn
thing! And I had to save often, because there was an initially
apparently unfixable corruption in the transposition chapter that would
randomly move all the graphics around so they overlapped text when I
would make changes elsewhere in the book. Yechhh! The moving around of
the graphics tied up the computer for even longer--up to five or ten
minutes. I'd have to wait for it to finish its evil doings, then "Save
As" a new file number, and then hope I could fix the corruption, which
I got better at in the later stages. Believe me, I was glad when the
book was done.
Guitar Sam: And now you've published a blues piano instruction book. How did that project turn up?
I think it's similar to what I've heard some second-time mothers
say--with the passage of time, you forget just how difficult and
painful the pregnancy and birth is, and you go and get pregnant again.
Well, I went and got pregnant, and conceived a book that teaches piano
using blues-based music.
see, I'd written a number of instructional twelve-bar blues for piano
students over the years. They were usually very well received. (To hear
a Real Audio version of one of the more difficult ones—albeit not a
twelve-bar one, click here.)
Blues has a lot about it that makes it a perfect teaching vehicle.
Repetition, standardized form and chords, etc. Additionally, even easy
stuff still can sound low-down and bluesy, so there's early reward for
the budding player.
I wanted the book to be there for people who knew at the beginning that
they wanted to play blues, jazz, rock, or whatever, rather than
classical style. There's not a lot out there for that.
so many instruction books make me want to gag--the dorkiness factor is
so high. Maybe they skipped the hair-down rewrite phase; I dunno. Edly
Paints the Ivories Blues is even more relaxed than the theory book in
doesn't sell as well as the theory book, but I don't think that's a
reflection of the quality of the book. Rather, I think it's a refection
of the more limited market for the subject matter. Maybe the next one
will be a sex/murder/romance/big star exposť book. But probably not.
Guitar Sam: You've recently published a second edition of each book, what was the inspiration to do that?
The reasons were different for each book. Edly's Music Theory for
Practical People had had its third birthday, and had proven itself, so
it was time to go from my little runs (250 books at a time on a Xerox
Docutech) to a industrial strength run (5000ish books, offset printing
with a brand new color cover). That brought my per-book production cost
down, although I had to take out a loan to pay for the big printing.
This also, and importantly, gave me the ability to have printing on the
spine for the first time. Despite the old adage, the color cover and
spine were important in getting the book into Barnes & Noble, and
book stores in general, since they mostly display books spine-out.
I was going through all the work of changing the cover, I decided to
roll up my sleeves and get my hands good and dirty and fix some things
that had been bugging me for a while. So I entirely rewrote Chapter 3,
and made a bunch of other improvements, enough that I felt comfortable
and justified in calling it a second edition.
the case of Edly Paints the Ivories Blue, I did a major rewrite and
re-layout, tightening up the explanations and creating more white space
on the page to make it easier on the eye. I also added more of Pete's
pictures. I also changed the body font to give it a more formal look
and less blackness on the page, and also because the body font I'd
originally used, Comic Sans, had shown itself to be the most overused
font of the late nineties by hack self-publishers. So I nuked it.
Guitar Sam: Do you offer any theory workshops or seminars?
I'm just starting to this year. I'll be giving one right in your
neighborhood, right in Montpelier, VT in September; the 22nd, I
believe. I've had other requests, but have put them into the "To Do
Guitar Sam: Are either of your publications used as textbooks in any schools?
The theory book is used in high schools, colleges, and community theory
courses. That came as a pleasant surprise to me, since it, to me,
reflects my private (as opposed to classroom) teacher orientation. I
never intended it for classroom use. I thought that classroom teachers
would want a more traditional book: lesson, exercises, quiz, test, new
chapter, lesson, exercises, quiz, test, new chapter, etc. But the
classroom teachers (and students) using the book are thrilled with it,
so I'm happy.
Guitar Sam: Can you tell us about any new books on the horizon? And what other musical projects are you working on?
Book 2 of "Edly Paints the Ivories Blue" has been postponed, since the
birth of our son Bowen, just a month after the first edition was
published. In fact, I can't promise any books for a while, so as not to
miss a moment of his infancy! Instead, I'm doing smaller projects. I
just finished four pieces for 1st-3rd year school band. They'll be
published by Northeastern Music. Scores and audio samples will be
posted this summer. Tell all yer middle school band director friends!
I'm really pleased with the pieces. They're much more interesting
sounding than most stuff at that level. My approach to writing them was
this: Make them easy to play, but sound sophisticated. One sounds like
darkly compelling film music, another is heavy metal for band, and the
other two are arrangements of -- and my takes on -- traditional
On your website, you offer an archive of theory-related questions and
answers. Inviting readers to send you questions must leave you open to
a variety of topics.
So true. I've gotten questions ranging from mandolin scale fingerings
to chord scale choices to carpal tunnel syndrome to when to start
children with music lessons. I answer what I can, and refer elsewhere
when necessary. It's a gas. The URL for the complete "Ask Edly" pages
Guitar Sam: As a successful self-publisher, do you have any advice for other potential self-publishers?
Sure do: Desktop publishing, with all its pros, brings some cons as
well: There's a lot of self-published crap out there that your (and my)
book(s) will be competing with. (Therefore, expect some reluctance on
the part of dealers when you tell them you're a self-publisher). Your
book mustn't LOOK self-published. Bad graphic design is a dead
give-away, even if it's only perceived unconsciously. Buy or borrow
books about desktop publishing, layout, and graphic design. (Robin
Williams' books are excellent, and fun to read.) Read them. Look at
professionally designed books, magazines, and brochures. Then look at
posters, flyers, and booklets designed by amateurs who haven't done
their homework. Your eye will quickly become attuned to fine points you
wouldn't have noticed before.
that, the book must be written as well as a book that has gone through
a professional publishing house with its editors. Nuke typos,
misspellings, bad grammar, etc., in addition to bad typography and
graphic design. Don't be your own editor. Pay someone, or enlist
know that self-publishing is a LOT of work. Self-publishing a
book,whether it's "Fishing for the Enthusiast" or "Esoteric Uses of
Exotic Scales In General Business Cello Playing," will leave you a lot
less time for fishing or esoteric uses of exotic scales in general
business cello playing. If you're to be successful, you'll be busy with
business. If you want to have time for fishing or your exotic cello,
hope that your book is so successful that you can hire help. Otherwise,
hope that it's picked up by a publisher, and accept the trade-offs.
first year that "Edly's Music Theory for Practical People" was
published, my right ear grew a new appendage: the phone. My phone bills
were bigger than ten teenage girls' added together. As I mentioned
above, expect some downright hostile responses from dealers (Early on,
one guy literally yelled at me for calling him, then hung up on me).
Get your ego out of the picture, and know that some of your most
initially reluctant contacts will become your biggest proponents (and
sellers!) in the future if, indeed, your book is quality, AND needed by
said all that, self-publishing is rewarding on many levels. A typical
publishing contract will yield you 10ish% of the sale price, as opposed
to the 60%-100% (100% for direct-to-customer sales) you can get
self-publishing. As important, though, if you really care about your
work, is that as a self-publisher, you retain control. With a
traditional publishing contract, the publisher owns the product. They
make the decisions. An analogy is this: You provide the baby. The baby
belongs to the adopting parents. You are out of the picture. As a
self-publisher, you can make changes as, and when, you want. I
continuously improved Edly's Music Theory for Practical People, as well
as Edly Paints the Ivories Blue in the months and years after they were
initially published. Small printing runs, as well as my being the
publisher, allowed this. The book, the readers, and my dealers
benefited, and I did too. A traditional publishing contract wouldn't
have afforded me this flexibility.
Guitar Sam: OK, Ed . . . where did the name Edly come from?
Awww, shucks, G-Sam! Would you believe that this is the first time
anyone has asked this question? I was born Edward Bentley Roseman. My
friend Shira, word-player supreme, recombined Edward Bentley into Edly
Bentward, which I like a lot better. There. Now you know. Don't tell,
Guitar Sam: Thank you, Ed Roseman, for filling us in on the Edly-est facts and theories!