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altMW: As well as being an editor at Hal Leonard you have also published several books of your own. In regards to the chord melody books you have written, did you find it difficult to write musically interesting arrangements that appealed to guitarists of varied experience levels?

JA: We have many chord melody books in the catalog, but most of them are quite advanced. We saw the need for a chord melody series designed to fit a guitarist who’s just getting into that style of playing. The goal was to have professional sounding arrangements that used most of the standard chord voicings players first learn.

We were going to hire this out, but the company decided to have me to do it instead. It was challenging, and gave me a chance to use my jazz training. It’s not policy to give arranging credits to in-house editors. I was surprised that they allowed it.


MW: In your opinion how has technology, especially the internet, changed the landscape of music publishing in recent years, and where do you see it headed in the future?

JA: When I was first trying to copy licks from recordings, I’d use a turntable that went down to 16 rpm which allowed you to take a vinyl 33 and drop it an octave. You were lucky not to ruin an album after numerous times of dropping the needle trying to figure something out. I was in heaven when ½ speed tape decks hit the market! Transcribers now use programs that allow you to do about anything to a CD.

The most common program is Transcribe. All the editors have it on their office systems. I use it every time when editing with a recording. YouTube is also a valuable tool as you can often view guitarist’s hand positions on videos. Lyric sites can be helpful if there’s a question involving lyrics. All of these advances result in better and more accurate books.

With the internet you have sites such as Guitar Instructor which allows a person to purchase single song transcriptions. It’s like the iTunes of guitar music. Sheet Music Direct is another site that functions the same way.

There are, of course, many guitar tab sites on line. The issue here is that Hal Leonard, and other publishers, have paid for the legal rights to publish certain songs and these are sites are a violation of copyright law.

Engravers and arrangers also use the internet to send files back and forth which saves both time and money. As long as there’s music, there will be a need to write it out. How that’s done and access to it may change, but the need still exists.

MW: In your opinion, what role does a company like Hal Leonard play in the landscape of music education?

JA: There’s a whole section in the catalog devoted to instructional books. Hal Leonard publishes all the Berklee Press as well as the Musician’s Institute books. The Hal Leonard Guitar method, which has been around forever, was recently given a facelift with input from Greg Koch.

On top of that, there are the band and choral departments that supply music to school systems worldwide. Just like any other series, there’s a book for everything.

MW: What advice do you have for people who are interested in pursuing a career in music publishing?

JA: Publishing is the written part of music. As an editor, being able to read and write music, along with a strong foundation in theory and ear training is a must. Understanding musical presentation, such as routing and page layout also matter.

Being familiar with what’s out there is a good idea. When interviewing a new editor, the question always comes up: “Are you familiar with Hal Leonard books?” Engraving skills are helpful. Many of our outside arrangers engrave in the same format as we do and are often paid for both arranging and engraving.

Send a resume to a publisher listing your training and experience. We often receive sample transcriptions from people wanting to get in to transcribing. Hal Leonard uses freelancers in all areas: arranging/transcribing, editing, proof reading, and engraving.

If contacted, take the time to send in your best work as first impressions do matter.

MW: Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today.

JA: Anytime.

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