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  1. #1

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    Dear all,

    I'm a bit confused. I've been playing guitar on and off for 25 years (sometimes nothing for years and then every day at least an hour). I'm involved in a Beatles tribute band where I play the parts of George, which is a role that suits me well. George wasn't a shredder, but a melodic interesting musician.

    Anyway, I started playing jazz roughly a year ago and soon joined a jazz course combo, which I quit after a few lessons, because it was way too much and I felt like I was keeping the other up. This summer I continued and did a full week summer school course where I learned quite a bit (the prepping for it was the most useful though).
    After a few busy months with The Beatles band I found time for jazz again and I enrolled in Chuck Loebs online course. I may have rushed quite a few important elements, so I'm starting 'all over' again with Chuck. I also have a lot of ebooks from Matt that I use.

    In two weeks I could enroll in a different jazz combo course, which is aimed at 'beginners', however some of the standards they play feel like they're above my level.

    Long story short, my question is: should I wait with playing in a combo and work on a firm base of jazz, or should I join, maybe skip a few steps every now and then, or maybe only play on songs that I understand? When I join, I'm 'forced' to study a lot and I will learn a lot too. However, I don't want to learn jazz by playing tricks. I'd like to know what I'm doing. Your advice is much appreciated...

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Joeontheguitar
    Dear all,

    I'm a bit confused. I've been playing guitar on and off for 25 years (sometimes nothing for years and then every day at least an hour). I'm involved in a Beatles tribute band where I play the parts of George, which is a role that suits me well. George wasn't a shredder, but a melodic interesting musician.

    Anyway, I started playing jazz roughly a year ago and soon joined a jazz course combo, which I quit after a few lessons, because it was way too much and I felt like I was keeping the other up. This summer I continued and did a full week summer school course where I learned quite a bit (the prepping for it was the most useful though).
    After a few busy months with The Beatles band I found time for jazz again and I enrolled in Chuck Loebs online course. I may have rushed quite a few important elements, so I'm starting 'all over' again with Chuck. I also have a lot of ebooks from Matt that I use.

    In two weeks I could enroll in a different jazz combo course, which is aimed at 'beginners', however some of the standards they play feel like they're above my level.

    Long story short, my question is: should I wait with playing in a combo and work on a firm base of jazz, or should I join, maybe skip a few steps every now and then, or maybe only play on songs that I understand? When I join, I'm 'forced' to study a lot and I will learn a lot too. However, I don't want to learn jazz by playing tricks. I'd like to know what I'm doing. Your advice is much appreciated...
    Sounds like you're doing great stuff. I think you should play as much as possible with people above your level. Second best thing is to play with people AT your level, and then, there are also great lessons to be learned with playing with people just below your level, because teaching is one of the fastest way to internalize a lot of things honestly.

    I don't think that any one single thing is the answer. Most of the greats learned the most on the bandstand, but that was at a time where there's plenty of opportunity to do so. If you have the opportunities now, get after it. And congrats.

  4. #3

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    Hey Joe,
    Welcome to the Forum!

    [The Beatles tribute band sounds like a blast!]

    Nothing against Chuck or his program -- he's amazing! -- but for a beginner jazz player, I'd recommend one-on-one lessons with someone. Not sure where you live, but find someone local, or find a good teacher for "skype" lessons, that way you are getting personal attention on what you need to learn!

    Re: combo playing -- IMO, the more, and more often, we play with others, the more we will progress, so go for it! If the combo "forces" you to study, well ... good!!

    And have fun!!

    Marc

  5. #4
    Thanks guys. I already had the intention to find a teacher. There are plenty where I live, so that shouldn't be a problem. I could take the standards that I might play in the combo to the teacher and work with him on my parts. It's just that I don't want to rush into something with the risk that I learn bits and parts, but don't get the grand underlying concept. Or will that concept also come with learning bits and parts (plus working on the basis meanwhile)?

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joeontheguitar
    I could take the standards that I might play in the combo to the teacher and work with him on my parts.
    This would be an excellent approach.

    +1 on the idea of playing with everyone you can, especially any of the more experienced players who will have you. When I was a university music major, I enrolled in a combo class without knowing that most of the combos had already signed up together as pre-formed ensembles; I was new to the school, didn't know anyone, and expected that we would form combos at the first meeting of the class. So I get there and find out that pretty much everyone is grouped up. I was a freshman with very little jazz experience and the teacher stuck me into a combo with literally the BEST players in the department, all seniors with super-strong jazz chops.They happened to be a piano/bass/drums trio and were very kind to allow this total noob guitarist into the fold. They were GREAT players, all WAY above my level, and they kicked my a-- (in a nice way) at every rehearsal. They could have dumped me after that first semester but we kept playing together and gigged a lot, too, for decades afterward.

    SJ

  7. #6

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    It's just that I don't want to rush into something with the risk that I learn bits and parts, but don't get the grand underlying concept.
    There is no grand underlying concept tbh . Take what knowledge and skills you have and try to use them to make the ensemble sound good - that's pretty much what everyone does .
    This is a collective music , you will learn more from playing with real live musicians than from all the books and courses on earth . Jump right in and enjoy yourself !

  8. #7

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    Playing as much as possible with the best players who will have you is the fastest way to improve.

    That's true for jazz players at every level.

    Here's one Grand Concept. You're at a jam. Somebody calls a tune. You don't know it and you stumble through it, or worse.

    You go home and find some recordings and a chart. Or, better yet, make your own chart. Then you strum the chords and scat sing. When you sing something you like, put it on the guitar. Keep that up until you can play a couple of non-embarrassing choruses. Or, copy a line you like from the recording.

    Next combo session, call the tune and do your best.

    Keep doing that until you can play the usual 50 most played standards. You can find lists of those tunes all over the Internet. I think there's a huge file someplace that contains all the major recordings for oft-played tunes. So, you can get a jump on it.

    At some point in this process, you will likely find that knowing some theory and having some pre-practiced material helps. Most people do. But, there are great players who do not know any theory whatsoever (check Andres Varady's GP interview, for example). And, of course, there are great players who are encyclopedic in their knowledge and employ it in their music.

    The main point is that a developing player should get started with combo jazz as soon as possible. If you can handle the blows to your self-esteem, you will improve at the maximal rate.

    For practice, IRealPro (alternatives: Band In a Box or the Aebersold music minus one recordings) is invaluable. Pick a tune, a tempo you can handle and start playing.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 12-28-2019 at 08:06 PM.

  9. #8
    Thanks guys, that really helps a lot. I hope they can put up with my clumsiness, but there's always a volume knob at the guitar...

  10. #9

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    Pat Metheny recommends always being the worst player in any band. It forces you to learn and progress.

  11. #10

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    Play with whoever you can, whenever and wherever you can. A hour on the bandstand is worth a month of practice. Also, playing for a variety of audiences desensitizes you to performance nervousness.

  12. #11

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    I've posted this before, but not lately.

    To get started with combo playing, if you can't find a group, it can be pretty easy to create one.

    All a guitarist needs to get started is a bassist and a place to play.

    I can trace back most of what I do now to answering an ad many years ago -- a pianist organized a weekly jam and advertised for players.

    If you have a bassist, you can play duo and accomplish something.

    Once you've got guitar and bass, well, there are a lot of people around (here, at least) who play drums. Even more horn players. And quite a few pianists. It may be a rare amateur or semi-pro musician who is playing as much as he wants to play. Everybody knows somebody and this sort of thing can often come together pretty easily. The only tip I'd offer is to make sure the bassist and drummer respect each other. Otherwise, you'll quickly lose one or both.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 12-29-2019 at 06:40 PM.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cunamara
    Pat Metheny recommends always being the worst player in any band. It forces you to learn and progress.
    I got that part down cold.

    John

  14. #13

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    Playing in a combo gives a context and purpose to everything you practice on your own. If you feel people in the combo are above your level, focus on having good time feel and keep everything really simple. They'll probably like it and you'll learn without getting in the way of the more experienced players.

  15. #14

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    A combo can take a lot of time, especially if it's above your level. Other players should not be counted on to advise you as to what to do on the guitar unless it's fine points/style choices - and ones that you can accomodate quickly. I know that I wasn't ready to play in the college jazz ensemble my first year, so had to get myself ready. Even then the director of the ensemble (a UNT educated guy) told me that I needed to learn more about chords. I had no idea of what to do with his advice - and he couldn't elaborate either (he was a sax player if I recall).


    So, even if you will never take a solo and even if it's "just" a student ensemble - a short checklist of things that you should have a modest handle on:


    1. Melody and counter melody line reading,
    2. Jazz rhythms and phrasing,
    3. Comping and different approaches for it - including laying out,
    4. Voicings and different approaches for them.


    Even if you can't sight read well you should be able to take your charts home and practice them before rehearsals - if this is a student ensemble. If you can work out what to do in the practice room you may be just fine. It worked for me.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joeontheguitar
    I'd like to know what I'm doing. Your advice is much appreciated...
    Don't wait; develop the habit of doing it first and coming to know what you were doing after.

    It might seem that the natural order is to first know what you are doing in order to then do it. However, virtually everything I know of what I'm doing came from having done it first. Sometimes doing it first came from practicing, experimenting, and exploring, but these days almost all of what I learn comes from doing it first during performance.

    Sounds a little crazy, but:

    Think of performance as preparing you for practice, not the other way around!

  17. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzstdnt
    A combo can take a lot of time, especially if it's above your level. Other players should not be counted on to advise you as to what to do on the guitar unless it's fine points/style choices - and ones that you can accomodate quickly. I know that I wasn't ready to play in the college jazz ensemble my first year, so had to get myself ready. Even then the director of the ensemble (a UNT educated guy) told me that I needed to learn more about chords. I had no idea of what to do with his advice - and he couldn't elaborate either (he was a sax player if I recall).


    So, even if you will never take a solo and even if it's "just" a student ensemble - a short checklist of things that you should have a modest handle on:


    1. Melody and counter melody line reading,
    2. Jazz rhythms and phrasing,
    3. Comping and different approaches for it - including laying out,
    4. Voicings and different approaches for them.


    Even if you can't sight read well you should be able to take your charts home and practice them before rehearsals - if this is a student ensemble. If you can work out what to do in the practice room you may be just fine. It worked for me.
    I prepare the melody and generally these aren't too difficult. Good idea to prepare a counter melody as well. I have a study guide from Matt for 3 of the 6 songs, which makes it a lot easier to prepare. There are scales, triads and comping ideas in it. There are two ballads that I find little information for: Wonder why (which is harder for me as I'm completely new to this genre) and Polka Dots and Moonbeams. The last one I found a Wes Montgomery performance, which I might try to use as inspiration.

    I can't really read on sight and I also find it hard to work out a jazz rhythm from paper, but when I hear it, I can copy it (if it's not too hard).

  18. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by pauln
    Don't wait; develop the habit of doing it first and coming to know what you were doing after.

    It might seem that the natural order is to first know what you are doing in order to then do it. However, virtually everything I know of what I'm doing came from having done it first. Sometimes doing it first came from practicing, experimenting, and exploring, but these days almost all of what I learn comes from doing it first during performance.

    Sounds a little crazy, but:

    Think of performance as preparing you for practice, not the other way around!
    That's a good one!

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joeontheguitar
    I prepare the melody and generally these aren't too difficult. Good idea to prepare a counter melody as well. I have a study guide from Matt for 3 of the 6 songs, which makes it a lot easier to prepare. There are scales, triads and comping ideas in it. There are two ballads that I find little information for: Wonder why (which is harder for me as I'm completely new to this genre) and Polka Dots and Moonbeams. The last one I found a Wes Montgomery performance, which I might try to use as inspiration.

    I can't really read on sight and I also find it hard to work out a jazz rhythm from paper, but when I hear it, I can copy it (if it's not too hard).
    Well I just really meant that sometimes an arrangement might assign a counter melody to the guitar, much like a horn part.

  20. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzstdnt
    Well I just really meant that sometimes an arrangement might assign a counter melody to the guitar, much like a horn part.
    I probably can't play that on the spot, but I could take the idea home and prepare it for the next session.

  21. #20

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    Why don't you just record yourself playing along with your favorite records or YT play-alongs? Be honest with yourself. Can you improvise and sound good?

  22. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by eh6794-2.0
    Why don't you just record yourself playing along with your favorite records or YT play-alongs? Be honest with yourself. Can you improvise and sound good?
    You mean instead of playing with a combo? Or as a sort of audition for myself?

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joeontheguitar
    You mean instead of playing with a combo? Or as a sort of audition for myself?
    Yes. Audition yourself. If you can play through most progressions and sound decent, then go for it. However, if you click on a random playalong and you struggle to comp and solo, you need more practice. Having said that, it wouldn't hurt to play with people who are a little bit better than you.

  24. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by eh6794-2.0
    Yes. Audition yourself. If you can play through most progressions and sound decent, then go for it. However, if you click on a random playalong and you struggle to comp and solo, you need more practice. Having said that, it wouldn't hurt to play with people who are a little bit better than you.
    I can't do that, but if I have a bit of time to prepare I can -sort of- play along. I know which standards we're going to play, so there won't be any surprises.

  25. #24
    Just wanted to share that the first combo session was great. My fellow players told me one of my solo's was pretty cool and could play along with all songs, of course in a very simple way. Just chords and a few simple solo's. The band coach said that I did well and that I'm welcome to continue.

    I'm in the process of finding a teacher that matches best with me.

    Thanks all for commenting!

  26. #25

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    Congrats! Now keep going!!

  27. #26
    I thought I'd give an update. It seems like more than a year has past, since I posted this thread.

    I tried three guitar teachers. The first laughed about what I did, which I didn't like. The second one buried me in information and was so chaotic it made me nervous. The third seemed a match, but to be honest, it all didn't seem to work out how I wanted. When the pandemic came, it stopped of course.

    The combo is a lot of fun, even though we haven't played in almost three months, but we're starting soon again.

    Where I really learned a lot, and I mean a lot, was at Artistworks with Dave Stryker and even better at Truefire. I think I practiced at least 1,5 hour per day since the beginning of this year and I'm starting to notice the improvement.

    I have even joined a jazztrio with a base player and a drummer, where I play chord melody, some solo's and comp for the base player when he's soloing. It's completely new and it takes lots of hard work to even play one song at a very modest level, but it's so much fun.

    I'm following a few of Frank Vignola's courses and I try to use everything that I learned in a song that I know. By doing that, it has a bigger chance of being remembered. I'm also doing the Trio Comping course by Mimi Fox and even though it's above my level, I do learn great voicings and nice rhythm things.

    A few months ago I just played 'the chords' when I was 'comping'. Now I'm thinking of different voicings, different rhythms, etc.

    I know it can take years to become even a mediocre player, but the process in itself is very rewarding.

  28. #27

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    Sounds like you are on the right track. Enjoy your journey!

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joeontheguitar
    I thought I'd give an update. It seems like more than a year has past, since I posted this thread.

    I tried three guitar teachers. The first laughed about what I did, which I didn't like. The second one buried me in information and was so chaotic it made me nervous. The third seemed a match, but to be honest, it all didn't seem to work out how I wanted. When the pandemic came, it stopped of course.

    The combo is a lot of fun, even though we haven't played in almost three months, but we're starting soon again.

    Where I really learned a lot, and I mean a lot, was at Artistworks with Dave Stryker and even better at Truefire. I think I practiced at least 1,5 hour per day since the beginning of this year and I'm starting to notice the improvement.

    I have even joined a jazztrio with a base player and a drummer, where I play chord melody, some solo's and comp for the base player when he's soloing. It's completely new and it takes lots of hard work to even play one song at a very modest level, but it's so much fun.

    I'm following a few of Frank Vignola's courses and I try to use everything that I learned in a song that I know. By doing that, it has a bigger chance of being remembered. I'm also doing the Trio Comping course by Mimi Fox and even though it's above my level, I do learn great voicings and nice rhythm things.

    A few months ago I just played 'the chords' when I was 'comping'. Now I'm thinking of different voicings, different rhythms, etc.

    I know it can take years to become even a mediocre player, but the process in itself is very rewarding.
    Wow, where do you live that you have all of these jazz resources at your disposal?

    I think if you have fun playing with the combo, and they want to play with you, you keep playing.

    This is just an opinion, but sometimes I think the jazz pedagogy is a little crazy. I think if you have 25 years of playing and play George in a Beatles cover band, you must have something to say, even in a straight jazz context. Have fun with it.

    I get wanting to play jazz the 'right' way, but sometimes I think it gets a little nutty, especially if you're an amateur. If you're a pro, different story.

  30. #29
    Thanks guys. I live in the west part of The Netherlands. There's enough to do music wise, that's true.
    Well, that 25 years is on and off. There have been years where I didn't play at all. Fact is, I'm enjoying it at least as much as when I was a teenager.

  31. #30

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    If you want to be a combo musician, the time to join a combo is as soon as you can.

    The fastest way to improve is to be the worst player in the group. If the group is willing to have you, you will find a way to improve.

    It can be helpful to organize combo lessons with a teacher. I have done this many times. Top pros are open to doing it. Everybody chips in to pay for the lesson.

    If you're missing an instrument, you can hire a teacher who plays that instrument and see what it feels like to play with a musician of that caliber.

    I'd suggest that you tell them that the group desires blunt feedback, if the group can handle that.

    It might be worth pointing out that it's possible to play decent jazz with surprisingly few tools. It can be done with a limited number of "grips" that are easy to reach - it does help to know how to use each grip in different ways (against different harmony, that is).

    You do need to be able to play with a good rhythmic feel. That's a topic for another day, but I'll say this much here. It's important to play things that you can execute without sacrificing time feel. This is an easy mistake to make. So the rule I suggest is, never sacrifice time-feel in pursuit of attempting something you can't really play. Those things are for the practice room, alone, not for the band.

    A good solo doesn't have to have a lot of notes or complex harmony - a simpler melodic statement can work. In fact, simply embellishing the tune's melody is unlikely to get you thrown out of the band. It's also a good way to develop an ability to solo.

    Good luck!

  32. #31
    Thanks RP, these are all very good ideas.

  33. #32

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    If you feel you are not good enough to play with others, just do it, that is the best way to learn.

  34. #33

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    When is it time to join a combo?

    Well, I wouldn't do it till the lockdown's over :-)