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  1. #1

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    With the current Robert Conti discussions, I went back and looked at the Conti books I own. I was thinking a "Formula" study group might be interesting. I am not a great talent so I would probably want to spend more than one week on each lesson. I have regular lessons and I would be adding this to my practice routine. I thought it might be interesting to compare notes with other folks and eventually pick some tunes and each come up with chord sub arrangements for the first 8 bars or so. Anyway, just tossin' it out there.
    "Talent is a pursued interest; anything that you're willing to practice, you can do." - Bob Ross

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    In principle I could be interested but I just ordered the previous course, the "Assembly Line" and think I need to work on that for a few months before graduating to the "Formula"...

  4. #3

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    Just a recommmendation...

    The majority of the chord forms that Conti uses in both The Formula and in his chord melody arrangements are the same forms you learn in Assembly Line. My suggestion is that you get those forms so well in hand that you can easiy arrange any tune you open a Real Book (or whatever fakebook) to "on the fly", regardless of what key it is in. If you have to fumble around to find chord forms, you will not be able to fully focus on what you are trying to learn in The Formula. You really need that vocabulary of chord forms to be able to experiment with the sounds Conti is providing you in The Formula. Also, it would be a good idea to play through some of his chord melody arrangements to get a sense of what the results from The Formula are, so you have a sense of what you are trying to achieve.

    In fact, Conti has several books of nothing but chord melody arrangements. These make really good references because when you are working with The Formula, if you are working on a tune that is also in one of Conti's arrangement books, you can look at it in his arrangement to see what he would do with the same tune and the same set of "rules" for generating new and interesting harmony. In his arrangements, he often gives you several measure with two or three sets of chords from which to choose. These arrangement books can serve as the "answers in the back of the book", so to speak, when you select the same tunes in fakebooks to arrange according to the guidelines presented in The Formula.

    When I say "you" I mean that in general, rather than a specific poster in this thread.

    Some people have commented that Assembly Line is "paint by numbers". But, really, everybody has their "favorite grips" as Joe Pass himself referred to them. Conti has his, and he shows them to you, but in such a way as to facilitate learning to harmonize ANY melody note in any musical situation. These forms are worth learning because they sound good together and because all of Conti's teaching materials for chord melody use them. Once yuo get into The Formula, any complaint about "paint by numbers" goes away immmediately, and that is really where thinigs get interesting - not that Assembly Line is boring, far from it. But with The Formula, you never have to play the same song the same way twice. That is ultimately where we want to be, especilly if memorizing some arrangement is as difficult for you as it is for me. Conti's approach is much more personally fulfilling and enjoyable.

    Also, though Conti hrmonizes every melody note in his arrangements, he does that only to show you the possibilities. He tells you to do what you want with the arrangement, play it as written, play chord fragements or no chords at all in places, or whatever you want. However, while working through Assembly Line (and using what you learn there to arrange fakebook tunes on the fly), I would suggest harmonizing every melody note to get these forms really deep into your hands so they become second nature. It will take months of playing song after song after song. Conti makes his approach easy to understand, but it still takes a lot of sustained effort to really get it into your hands. There are no shortcuts, and Conti doesn't promise any. What he does do is make the effort enjoyable because all the while, you are playing songs rather than exercises. The exercise is simply matching up the correct chord with the given melody note. Do it in the keys the tunes are written in, over and over until it comes easily without much thought or effort. When you get to The Formula, the exercise is applying various aspects of his concepts to hear what they sound like, figuring out what sounds good to you, and developing your wn chord melody style. All through the entire proocess, yuo are playing songs, rather than exercises and theory that you then have to figure out how to make music with. Conti isall about playing first and then learning to understand what you are doing, so he definitely says to learn your theory, but in the context of what you are already playing intuitively.

    So if you do want a study group, I would say that rather than trying to figure out if Conti is telling you to play this chord as borrowed from this parallel scale or why it works, focus instead on how you are using what he teaches to ceate sounds you like.

    Tony

  5. #4
    Tony, thoughtful reply, thanks. I've been working out CM in my regular lessons, I just found Conti's cycle approach in "The Formula" to be a bit of an "ah-hah" for me. I know my teacher has been moving me in that direction, but for some reason reading through "The Formula" pulled it together for me. I understand how folks who only know "Assembly Line" would find it to be "Paint by Number" or "Cookie Cutter", but "The Formula" seems to open it all up. Agreed that having inversions down is required before starting out with re-harmonization (or knowing the fingerboard and chord spellings cold). I had suggested a study group with the idea of folks working out something simple like harmonizing each note in the first 8 bars of a standard - I thought there might be some interesting things come out of it. I played through the first Reference tonight, and added some of my own reharms to it. I have to admit that at this time, I'm leaning more toward diatonic chords than to the chords Conti says "heat things up", but that is a personal thing, some of his chord choices don't resonate with me, but that is the beauty of "The Formula" - to me it's more a way of harmonizing a melody line than an actual formula; it's a set of guidelines that seem to be a starting point and you can go wherever you want to go.

    Anyway, maybe it's not good study group material. Perhaps I'll just keep working along with it on my own and with my teacher, and when I'm feeling more fluid I'll give it a go in the Practical Standards group. As I said, I don't have a lot of talent, I just have to grind it out until I get were I want to be. Pierre's "Time on the instrument .." line always makes me smile; I mentally append "for such little progress! Why do I do it?". Love of the music and wanting to make it, not just listen to it, I guess.
    "Talent is a pursued interest; anything that you're willing to practice, you can do." - Bob Ross

  6. #5

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    ah.clem:

    A study/discussion group is a god idea. You mentioned having a teacher in addition to using the Conti books. For those of us who don't have a teacher other than the Conti books, I now believe that being very focused is a good way to stay motivated and on track. It has often been suggested when teaching creativity exercises in general, that one approach is to limit one's choices. The reason is that it can become overwhelming to have too many choices. Many of us have far too many resources in the form of books, DVDs, using the internet, etc. for input to our learning process. In addition, there are so many directions to take the guitar that one can get to the point of doing nothing at all due to indecision. I have seen the same questions over and over in various guitar forums as to what to do to get started or how to get motivated after lengthy time not playing, and have experienced these personally as well. It seems to me as if asking a centipede which foot goes first. In that kind of situation, David Sudnow, with his self-study piano course, provided the answer that made the most sense to me. Keep it simple, here are guidelines for voicing tunes, just do that for at least 15 or 20 tunes until you get it into your hands. After you become fluent in these basics, you can pretty much learn to play whatever you want from there.

    Apply that to Conti, and you have Assembly Line and then The Formula. One solution to the issue of not liking some of Conti's chords is to apply an idea I once got from a Joe Beck chord workut video. Start with a chord form you know and then just modify it by moving various fingers around to get a sound you like. But for me, I would want to stick with Conti's forms to get the whole process well in hand before starting to add other stuff in. Think of it like a juggler, adding one ball at a time, making sure not to add too many to the point where the juggler starts dropping them. A step at a time.

    Having a teacher to divide the work and pace you is a good thing. What I am suggesting is really for the self-teaching people such as myself who have to self-pace. Conti's books are great for that. Just his two books and a stack of Real Books and you are good for a few years of an enjoyable journey into the world of "song play" on the guitar. I don't consider that pursuit necessarily having to be "jazz", but instead it can be considered an enjoyable and fulfilling means of playing songs on the guitar. That way, we can enjoy the pursuit without having to justify it as real jazz or whatever some might choose to argue about. Clear all the semantics away and you just have people who want to play tunes on the guitar without the need for outside intervention in the form of having a band, a teacher, or whatever, since many peple have other obligations that preclude being able to schedule that kind of activity with any consistency, or deal with the various people issues that always come up in those situations. It can be a completely self-contained pursuit, perfect for the working adult with other bligations who doesn't have the time and/or money to schedule regular lessons but wants that daily quiet time to enjoy making music. I honestly can't think of a better, more cost effective solution to that problem expressed by so many adults who wish they could play an instrument. I am thinking of starting a blog just focused on that aspect of it because I have been in conversation with so many adults expressing that wish as well as reading so many in forums searching for that "secret sauce" that would alllow them t just play tunes on the guitar as a hobby. I really think Conti's chord melody mateial constitutes the best approach for adults in the situation I described that I have yet found, and I have shelves full of this kind of stuff.

    Tony

  7. #6

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    Well said Tony, yeah, I would think that many adults out here would benifit from the Conti approach....But again, his cords are standard drop2/3...with minor variations....get those down first, then take a shot at the Formula.....

  8. #7

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    and those same adults will find a much easier go of "making music" on a decent digital piano at the cost of $1k...which is about the price of a decent entry level archtop...but that won't get one playing guitar if that's their goal.

  9. #8

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    I would be into the study group. It might be fun for a few of us to fool around on the same tune and exchange ideas/problems while trying to apply the lessons

  10. #9

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    what is your point 2bornot2bop?.......

  11. #10

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    Yes, songs can be played on a digital piano too. David Sudnow created a piano self-teaching method that was similar to what Conti does in Assembly Line, except that you voice each chord following relatively simple guidelines. The results sound quite good, providing the incentive to continue learning. I think The Formula would be a great add-on for the Sudnow piano method. I don't see that learning to play tunes from a fakebook on the piano or guitar using either method needs to be "jazz". These approaches really can be used by anybody to learn to play tunes as solo instrumentals in a satisfying manner. That was part of my point in my last post. There seems to be a certain amount of ego, or at least elitism, associated with jazz, and most people find that attitude to be a real turn-off, especially since for many people, "jazz" often seems quite unapproachable as listener or potential player. I really appreciate people such as David Sudnow (now deceased, though others have kept his site and method up and running) and Robert Conti taking elements from the jazz realm and making them accessible to those who just want to play tunes in a satisfying manner. Both are (were, in Sudnow's case) quite accomplished, but could still relate to the general population. Not everybody wants to spend their time plumbing the depths of jazz (or classical, or whatever), however rewarding that may be for those who wish to do so. These people are not necessarily lazy. In fact, many that I have met are very accomplished in their specialties and music for them would simply be a relaxing pasttime. Nothing wrong with that.

    Tony

  12. #11
    I used the Sudnow method tapes to get back into playing piano, and ended up studying solo jazz piano for a couple of years with a teacher. I was a bass and sax/flute player many years ago, always wanted to play solo jazz piano and CM guitar. I found the piano pretty straightforward but difficult, but CM guitar is really intimidating to me (who knows, my own neurosis). I study hard and I have a good teacher, but if I hadn't started way back with the Sudnow stuff (agreed, very similar to "Assembly Line") I never would have stepped up to wanting more from piano and taking lessons and in turn, getting the courage up to buy an archtop, spend a year learning chords and then walking into my first guitar lesson in 35 years and saying my goal was to play CM. Fortunately, I have a teacher that didn't laugh out loud or explain why I wasn't ready to do CM, or anything like that. He asked me what the first tune I wanted to learn was, whipped up an arrangement for me on the spot, and I spent a couple of months learning the simple chart by rote. I have also learned to analyse what he had done (and does) and started to write my own simple attempts at arrangements. I came into the lessons well grounded in theory, knew my scale and chord spellings, chord subs, ability to read both clefs (but not on guitar, still working on my guitar reading), and the willingness to work hard to learn CM. I am just now slowly seeing how to tie all these things together.

    I'm saying all this because, if I hadn't started with Sudnow years ago, I'd probably still just be playing bass and wishing I could play solo piano and CM guitar. No offense meant, 2B, but I can't see disparaging any method that gets someone playing music, whatever the instrument; we all have different goals and abilities.
    "Talent is a pursued interest; anything that you're willing to practice, you can do." - Bob Ross

  13. #12

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    When discussing solo guitar, or cord melody playing, is it or is it not jazz question always comes up at some point..For some players it is jazz, with added improv...and cord changes on the fly...Guys like Martin, Greene...for many ( maybe most of us) I would go with what another jazz guitarist called it and that would be playing in a jazz style.....We use jazz harmony, but limited or little improv...mostly arrangements....Utube is full of this, and many are very nice....there is room for the jazzers and the arrangement players....Both are good....( in my opinion).....

  14. #13

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    For a casual listener though it definitely is jazz since it has the types of sounds that they associate with jazz. And you can definitely get "jazz" gigs playing canned CM arrangements verbatim.

    I think that regardless of our ambitions most of us will always be more towards the end of the spectrum where we are mostly playing memorised arrangements if we want to play solo guitar, since the jump in skill required to play an arrangement and improvise an arrangement on the fly is so huge.

  15. #14

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    The one aspect of "jazz" that I find difficult to grasp is that it seems to cover such a wide musical territory that if soebody says "I enjoy listening to jazz", everybody who hears that comment will hear in their own heads what they consider jazz to be, or at least filter that statement with their own definition of jazz, and then react to that statement accordingly. I tend to think of "jazz" as being highly improvisational - a conversation between the musicians involved, even if the head is clearly stated at the outset. Again,that is my own definition, and does not impact the "rightness or wrongness" of anybody else's definition. I d think that the harmonic sensiibility of jazz can be aplied to fixed arrangements, as others here have said. I don't disagree with anything said here.

    My own interest in Conti's The Formula is that I don't have to memorize an arrangement, but can instead freely explore various ways of harmonizing the melody. My memory is a seive, s0 I have real incentive to take this route.

    To me, however a person chooses to approach enjoying music is fine. It isn't my place to judge whether another person's approach is real jazz or not, and especially whether another's approach is a valid means of approaching music. It seems to me that music is just something humans enjoy making, and I am quite interested i the ways some people, such as Sudnow and Conti have made it possible for anyone who cares to, to do so to whatever level each individual chooses. I detected absolutely no elitist or exclusionary attitude from either of these individuals in direct conversation. Both were truly interested in seeing people play the msic they wanted to play, regardless of what anyone chose to call it. Both were (are) into "jazz" as an improvisional skill, but seem to make no judgement about what others choose to do with their own efforts. That makes sense to me, where anything exclusionary does not.

    Tony

  16. #15

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    Those are all good posts Tony.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by artcore View Post
    what is your point 2bornot2bop?.......
    the point was made about adults having a passion to make music. I made the point emphasizing making music for a beginner is easier on a piano, if making music was a beginners goal. that's all.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by tbeltrans View Post
    Yes, songs can be played on a digital piano too. David Sudnow created a piano self-teaching method that was similar to what Conti does in Assembly Line, except that you voice each chord following relatively simple guidelines. The results sound quite good, providing the incentive to continue learning. I think The Formula would be a great add-on for the Sudnow piano method. I don't see that learning to play tunes from a fakebook on the piano or guitar using either method needs to be "jazz". These approaches really can be used by anybody to learn to play tunes as solo instrumentals in a satisfying manner. That was part of my point in my last post. There seems to be a certain amount of ego, or at least elitism, associated with jazz, and most people find that attitude to be a real turn-off, especially since for many people, "jazz" often seems quite unapproachable as listener or potential player. I really appreciate people such as David Sudnow (now deceased, though others have kept his site and method up and running) and Robert Conti taking elements from the jazz realm and making them accessible to those who just want to play tunes in a satisfying manner. Both are (were, in Sudnow's case) quite accomplished, but could still relate to the general population. Not everybody wants to spend their time plumbing the depths of jazz (or classical, or whatever), however rewarding that may be for those who wish to do so. These people are not necessarily lazy. In fact, many that I have met are very accomplished in their specialties and music for them would simply be a relaxing pasttime. Nothing wrong with that.

    Tony
    David's novel 'Write a Book' has some interesting insights into the mind of a self taught musician.

    It's free and in pdf but it's too large to upload here:

    http://www.sudnow.com/index.php?page...ial&cat_id=242

    David was very inventive, and even went so far to devise a tab style notation to assist towards getting a total non reader to play. How kewl!

    I like his philosophy on practicing with the goal of not making mistakes.

    Last edited by 2bornot2bop; 01-25-2013 at 04:41 PM.

  19. #18

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    I just ordered the assembly line last night and would be willing to be part of a study group. I've played guitar for a long time but I'm just trying to add some jazz flavoring to my playing. I've always wanted to build up a repertoire of solo pieces and this sounds like it might have the potential to guide me in that direction. Honestly, a paint by numbers or assembly line approach sounds good to me! I figure if I can get the basics down I can always improvise from there.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2bornot2bop View Post
    David's novel 'Write a Book' has some interesting insights into the mind of a self taught musician.

    It's free and in pdf but it's too large to upload here:

    The Sudnow Method ≅ Student Club ≅ Miscellaneous Info From David

    David was very inventive, and even went so far to devise a tab style notation to assist towards getting a total non reader to play. How kewl!

    I like his philosophy on practicing with the goal of not making mistakes.

    Yes, that (partial) book is an interestig read, as is his "Ways of the Hand", in which he documents his process of learning play. I had many opportunities back in the 90s, to talk to him in person. The video you linked was a recording straight out of hs tapes. He had two inventive "tab" styles. One was his "dot system", in which he made pictures of the keyboard with dots where your fingers go for each stop of a song to play. The second was a "fraction notation" that was a very quick shorthand to notate how you voiced a chord under a melody note right in your fakebook as you were voicing your own tunes, so you could remember what you did.

    However, what was unique with both of these notational systems was that his ultimate goal for the student was to use these as training wheels and drop them both as sooon as possible. He was not at all about written music, preferring an improvisational approach to playing. However, he also said to do whatever was most comfortable. If you always want to play from a fakebook, as long as you are voicing your own chords and always experimenting with new harmonies, go for it. If you want to learn to play completely without music, he described in detail how to start by picking out simple melodies and progressing to being able to pick out the melody to the tunes you wanted to play by ear and then supplying the chords on the spot, so to speak, avoiding books and sheet music altogether. He talked at length about how we should have a "hero", such as Bill Evans, whom we would listen to over and over again very carefully (just listening and not doing anything else at the same time), getting each tune into our ears and absorbing the sounds, always about the sounds rather than the theory and all the talk and thinking about playing.

    Sudnow said that having to rely on music books to play was like going to a museum and forgetting your glasses so you couldn't see anything. A real musician should, in his opinion, not need to turn down requests as long as s/he could hum the tune - have the skills to play it - then you are a "musician". I never heard him even consider memorizing somebody else's arrangement so you could recite it back verbatim - except as a means of taking somebody else's style, and then making it your own. He was defnitely "old school" like Conti. They both are all about playing tunes, rather than having to go to school and studying all manner of theory learning about how music should work, rather than just doing it.

    He recommended initially two possible fakebooks to work with. One was the Hal Leonard "Ultimate Jazz Fakebook" (C Edition), or better yet, the Real Book Fifth Edition (if you could find it). Later on, Dick Hyman's two books came out and he recommended them too. I have all three original Real Books plus Jazz LTD and now all four Hal Leonard Real Books, with volume 5 coming out next month, finally. In addition, I have several other real books from the original era, such as "The Book" and "The Musician's Club Date Book" and a few others, equaly obscure but in a similar style to the well known Fith Edition. I just open one of these and play from it. I like all of these much better than anything else.

    Sudnow was a smart guy and I am glad to have known him. So is Conti, and I have had the priviledge to talk to him on the phone a few times. Both were/are very generous and interested in giving everybody a chance to approach music on their own terms with guidance as needed.

    Tony
    Last edited by tbeltrans; 01-25-2013 at 09:04 PM.

  21. #20

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    Forgive my lack of understanding, I have looked at the Conti site and do not understand which books are being addressed, please advise. This looks interesting, but I must orient myself.

  22. #21

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    This is the link to the page "Source Code DVDs". The books being discussed are the "Chord Melody Assembly Line" and "The Formula". These are books that come with DVDs in which Conti explains the book's material to you in detail, much like a "live" teacher might. Another useful book for chord melody is in the same series "Intros, Endings, and Turnarounds", thought we have not been discussing it specifically here.

    Jazz Guitar Instruction by a verifiable professional - Robert Conti - No Modes No Scales® Jazz Guitar

    Tony
    Last edited by tbeltrans; 01-27-2013 at 03:27 PM.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2bornot2bop View Post

    I like his philosophy on practicing with the goal of not making mistakes.
    Wow. I enjoyed hearing David Sudnow talk about practicing without making mistakes. I downloaded the pdf and will give it a look. I think he's right about how we can learn too fast and learn things wrong. The older I get, the more I realize I spend for too much time trying to untangle lines that I KNOW but still get wrong because, well, I learned 'em wrong. I'm going to look for more stuff by him. Thanks for posting this!
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  24. #23

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    Will have to put the intro's, endings and turnarounds on my buy list.....I had the book Ron Eschete put out on this topic and damn if I didn't loose it when moving to Florida....It was a good one....

  25. #24

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    I'm working on Conti's "Precision Technique" now and it is a breakthrough book for me. I wish I had discovered it decades ago. (Well, it may not have been around that long ago....) This has done more for my technique in less than a month than every other technique book I've ever worked in. (And I got a couple cardboard boxes full of 'em!) I think it helps to play long lines that aren't scales. The Mickey Baker book, by way of contrast, has lots of short patterns that one plays up and down the neck, which is of some value, but it's nothing like playing a 20-30 measure piece over and over!

    I'm sold on Conti's approach and will get to the "Assembly Line", though I may work through "Jazz Lines" first.

    Glad to see so much interest in Conti here!
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  26. #25

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    Mark, could you elaborate as to how Conti helped with your technique? Also what book are you referring to? Is the name of the book Precision Technique?

    thanks

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reckhart54 View Post
    I just ordered the assembly line last night and would be willing to be part of a study group. I've played guitar for a long time but I'm just trying to add some jazz flavoring to my playing. I've always wanted to build up a repertoire of solo pieces and this sounds like it might have the potential to guide me in that direction. Honestly, a paint by numbers or assembly line approach sounds good to me! I figure if I can get the basics down I can always improvise from there.
    Conti has a real gift for being a "long distance" teacher. The "paint by numbers" approach is really the first step in a long jouney through the art of chord melody that continues with his chord melody DVDs, where he takes one tune per DVD and walks you step by step through the tune, showing you embellishments while getting a solid grasp on how to interpret his arrangements. Then, he has the series of books of chord melody arrangements. If you learn some of the DVDs and play through some of the arrangements in the books, you will get a real sense of his harmonic vocabulary. Then, you can dive into "The Formula", where he shows you how to come up with your own arrangements. Then, while working out of the Real Books applying these ideas, you can refer back to his arrangements to see how he handled certain musical situations.

    The beauty of it all is that he is able to get his ideas across so that you really can do it by following his books and DVDs. It all traslates directly to actually making music all the time. He has great arrangements, and he has materials to show you exactly how he does it. There are no gaps. So many materials I have worked with seem to teach some aspect of knowledge, leaving you to struggle with trying to apply it to actually playing chord melody. Conti, in each book or DVD, focuses on one thing, making sure you get it and then apply it to real music. So there really is a lot more than "paint by number" to this. The "paint by number" aspect is, in my opinion, a brilliat means of getting you to actuallly create and play chord melody arrangemets right away, so you can get a sense of how it is done without having to know all the information needed to be proficient first. It is in the process of doing it that you get context so you can understand the other materials that really get into it. So Conti's way of getting you going right away in "Assembly Line" really pays off as you progress. He isn't giving you some kind of shortcut, but instead getting you into context so that the whole process makes more sense. It is a fun ride. Good luck finding a local teacher who ca do as well.

    When you have completed "Assembly Line", you will have a very useful and complete vocabulary of chords that enables you to harmonize ANY melody note in ANY key. You will be able to open a fake book to any tune and create an arrangement as you play. It willtake a long time to become proficient at using all this information, but you will be able to do it, slowly from the time yoou get through the book. It is fun to do, so you wil be doing it a lot, and by doing it a lot, you get better at it over time. You will be assimilating a lot of information, so give yourself time and be patient with your progress. When you are comfortable with the process taught in "Assembly Line", you can go on to "The Formula", though I would recommend at least becoming familiar with some of hisarrangements to get a feelfor what you will learning in "The Formula".

    Tony
    Last edited by tbeltrans; 03-22-2013 at 10:37 PM.

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by edh View Post
    Mark, could you elaborate as to how Conti helped with your technique? Also what book are you referring to? Is the name of the book Precision Technique?

    thanks
    Yes, I'm referring to Conti's "Precision Technique," a volume in his Source Code series. I will probably want to add to this later, but the big, obvious changes I see / hear so far relate to three things:

    1) I use the thin pick Conti recommends, a Jim Dunlop nylon .38. (I had to use a .46 first, as the .38 felt just too thin, but now I'm at home with it.) Conti knows many people play fast with a thick pick; his concern is that a thick pick will "catch" on strings when a player digs in too deep. This may not happen to everyone but it certainly did to me. I often felt like the pick got in my way. But with a .38, it can't because it's too thin to catch! (The pick "snaps"--Conti's word--across the string more than it drives through them.)
    2) The exercises are long and varied, ranging from 20-something measures to over 40. Uninterrupted eighth notes. They aren't scales and they aren't arpeggios, though they incorporate some scalar runs and triad "sweeps" (-though Conti recommends they be picked down-up-down-up, like everything else, at least in the beginning.) Also, several exercises require fingering notes on consecutive strings with the same finger, sometimes requiring a position shift, so you can't barre the line, you have to move your finger back and forth while moving to a different string. It feels awkward at first but it really develops that finger. (Using the index finger and the pinky as pivots for playing along the neck is central to Conti's approach and he chose exercises that require a good bit of that.) Conti adds several exercises of his own after some of the Wohlfahrt exercises; they focus on double stops and moving horizontally up and down the neck with ease.) So instead of taking a short figure--such as is done in Mel Bay's "Technic" and Mickey Baker's book--and playing it up and down the neck, one plays exercises that require many skills to be used in sequence, which is much more like playing music than conventional guitar technique exercises
    3) The exercises are melodic, making them fun to play, yet they are a real challenge to play fast on the guitar, so you won't wear 'em out in month or so!
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  29. #28

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    The Conti Books-the Chord Melody Assembly Line and the Formula are simply excellent for the solitary learner. These days I have little time to gig, but still wish to maintain my interest in playing guitar which is something I have done for over fifiy years.
    The subject of chord melody and how to self-arrange for the guitar has always fascinated me and of all the method books I have seen (which is probably most of them by now) these are in my view by far the best.
    Learned arrangements can be helpful in many performing situations and most players I have met default to using favourite phrases or harmonic moves. There is nothing at all wrong with that approach. However, the ability to use the tools that Conti introduces us to in a guitar context helps move playing away from an over-reliance on the musical ideas of others towards creating something much more personal and possibly original.

    gstarfire

  30. #29

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    Man, I'm going to have to get this material. I'm working on "Precision Technique" and the first volume of "Ticket To Improv" now. I thought I would go next to "Jazz Lines," as that would build on my improved technique and present new challenges. I'm thinking that this material might make a nice contrast to that. Chord melody is a weak area for me, mainly because I want to sing any tune I would wish to play in CM style, so I haven't stressed this. But it would be great to play a chord melody AND sing a chorus (-"for a guitar player, he's not such a bad singer")....

    Has anyone here used Conti's "Intros, Endings, and Turnarounds"? (The title may be slightly off but it's another volume in the Source Code series.)
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by gstarfire View Post
    The Conti Books-the Chord Melody Assembly Line and the Formula are simply excellent for the solitary learner. These days I have little time to gig, but still wish to maintain my interest in playing guitar which is something I have done for over fifiy years.
    The subject of chord melody and how to self-arrange for the guitar has always fascinated me and of all the method books I have seen (which is probably most of them by now) these are in my view by far the best.
    Learned arrangements can be helpful in many performing situations and most players I have met default to using favourite phrases or harmonic moves. There is nothing at all wrong with that approach. However, the ability to use the tools that Conti introduces us to in a guitar context helps move playing away from an over-reliance on the musical ideas of others towards creating something much more personal and possibly original.

    gstarfire
    This. I have never been satisfied with my own arranging efforts until getting into Conti's chord melody books. He gets to the point and everything you learn is in the context of playing tunes, rather than exercises preparing to someday play tunes IF you can figure out how to connect the content of all those exercises to actual tunes. If there are any shrtcuts to the learning process, it is to focus on playing tunes. The only reason that is a shortcut is that the end reslt is to play tunes. The process, no matter how you approach it, takes years to mature as a player. We are all in that process somewhere, and that is what we have in common regardless of what method or path we choose.

    Tony

  32. #31

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    I ordered "Assembly Line" yesterday and look forward to getting to work on the material.

    So what was the consensus about a study group on "The Formula"? I saw much interest but nothing further.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  33. #32

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    We could certainly follow through with that it proposed by the OP. I think the best way to do that would be for somebody (OP?) to post about The Formula and follow-on posts about it will happen, and there is our study group.

    Tony

  34. #33

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    Study groups are tricky things. Fep is to my mind the go-to guy for info on study groups. I think the group he started, on Ellliott's "Intro to Jazz Guitar Soloing" (-or something close to that) is the most active and effective group going. I asked him for advice before starting a group and he thought (-as I recall) the key was the material you were working with. (Just because a book is great doesn't mean an active study group will form around it.)

    I think Conti provides a good possibility for an effective group. One problem with many groups is that someone starts it and is then expected to keep it going by himself. The most effective groups give many players reason to offer input. This is why "The Formula" might be good---people could show what they are doing with the material, or ask questions about how to handle an unusual progression / turnaround. (I haven't seen "The Formula" yet, so I'm flying blind here.) I think the best groups are started but not really led---or, a few different people make substantial contributions, field questions, keep the conversation going, etc.

    With Conti material, Conti is the teacher and his lessons tend to be clear and specific. ("Do this here.") Since several people seem to be working on his material, it seems a natural that a group could form. It might inspire some people to 'take the plunge' and try some of Conti's stuff, and inspire others to take something they've had for years down off the shelf and re-fresh their memory of the material.

    I'm keenly interested in this and hope something happens, but as I don't even have "The Formula" yet, I'm certainly not the person to start such a group!
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  35. #34

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    You have the Ted greene forum, I don't know if you would call it a study group but its close I guess....People try and dissect what ted did, how he did it....some post videos.....A conti forum would be good...I went through the Formula, like I said before. I'm just a rank amature...and I enjoyed it...Its not info you never heard before....but watching him explain it in his Dvds is excellent...He doesn't ramble on like some of these guys with PHD's in music that try to teach a person how to arrange a simple tune....

  36. #35

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    Well, he does ramble on, but its digestible...

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by artcore View Post
    Well, he does ramble on, but its digestible...
    Ha! I know what you mean. I like him a lot---most of my practice now is devoted to his material--but for someone whose creed seems to be, 'less talk, more playing,' he does talk a lot.

    But I think the main difference he is drawing is between learning theory and learning to play. (He's not against theory but he is adamant---and correct---in insisting that if you want to play well you have to play a lot. Understanding theory is another pursuit. Further---and I think he's on solid ground here too---it is easier to digest the theory one needs in light of things one has learned to play than it is to turn theory lessons into tunes or improvisation. Playing comes first.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by artcore View Post
    You have the Ted greene forum, I don't know if you would call it a study group but its close I guess....People try and dissect what ted did, how he did it....some post videos.....A conti forum would be good...I went through the Formula, like I said before. I'm just a rank amature...and I enjoyed it...Its not info you never heard before....but watching him explain it in his Dvds is excellent...He doesn't ramble on like some of these guys with PHD's in music that try to teach a person how to arrange a simple tune....
    I'm unfamiliar with the Ted Greene forum.
    As for a Conti study group, do you think it should be built around "The Formula" or about all his material / method? As I mentioned before, I don't have "The Formula" yet; I just ordered "Assembly Line." I would join a "Formula" study group in order to support it and also expecting to get to that material ASAP and contribute to the group.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  39. #38

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    We seem to be discussing several facets of Conti's materials in this thread, so why not continue to do so? Sounds like a good idea to me. That way, we all get exposed to the various books and DVDs he has to offer and get a sense of what they are and how they work.

    Tony

  40. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by tbeltrans View Post
    We seem to be discussing several facets of Conti's materials in this thread, so why not continue to do so? Sounds like a good idea to me. That way, we all get exposed to the various books and DVDs he has to offer and get a sense of what they are and how they work.

    Tony
    That suits me, though I think the conversation has largely wound down. On another front, I'm tracking my recent order from Conti (-Jazz Lines and Assembly Line) and should receive them today. Hoorah!
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  41. #40

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    Hi Mark -- I just received Conti's Assembly Line but won't start it until I finish with Mickey Baker's book (I just finished chapter 16. Thanks to Michael Joyce, Rob MacKillop, and FEP for helping me get this far). I look forward to your comments about your progress through the Conti material. Thx, Joe

  42. #41
    Yeah, I had originally started the thread, but as it kinda languished I just went off on my own. I haven't done a lot of the "Formula" stuff as I've been working on other stuff with my teacher. I agree with your comments regarding study groups in general, and I'm not certain how to go about making a study group out of the Formula book as everyone will be going at a different pace. I guess we could use this thread to post updates on working through the book as well as typos (the chord diagram for the (IIRC) BbMaj7 in the first scenario is wrong - easy to catch if you know your chords but it might confuse a new player).

    I've been listening to a lot of Conti lately, and he's a clean, smokin' player. In some ways I see his method books like Hemingway or Joyce saying, "Here's how you use the alphabet to spell words, now go write a novel.".
    "Talent is a pursued interest; anything that you're willing to practice, you can do." - Bob Ross

  43. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by losaltosjoe View Post
    Hi Mark -- I just received Conti's Assembly Line but won't start it until I finish with Mickey Baker's book (I just finished chapter 16. Thanks to Michael Joyce, Rob MacKillop, and FEP for helping me get this far). I look forward to your comments about your progress through the Conti material. Thx, Joe
    It just arrived in the mail! Still in the cellophane though out of the envelope. Received "Jazz Lines" too. I've been working on the "Precision Technique" material for a month now (and also the first volume in the "Ticket to Improv" series, which contains one-chorus solos for "Satin Doll," "Green Dolphin Street", "Autumn Leaves," as well as a bonus, a solo made up of lines from the previous solos but over a different chord progression), so "Jazz Lines" seemed the logical choice. While I was at it, I opted for "Assembly Line" because I'm water-weak at chord melody. Steep learning curve ahead! Stay tuned....
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  44. #43

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    Mark, when you get a chance to look through Assembly Line I'd be interested in what you think. Right now I have Assembly Line and The Formula at the top of my list of potential purchases. Recently I've started to get into the idea of creating chord melodies, and it seems like Conti's books might be a good start.

  45. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by ah.clem View Post
    I've been listening to a lot of Conti lately, and he's a clean, smokin' player. In some ways I see his method books like Hemingway or Joyce saying, "Here's how you use the alphabet to spell words, now go write a novel.".
    If you ONLY look at "Assembly Line" or "The Formula", you might reach that conclusion, and rightly so. However, Conti also has 5 chord melody DVDs, each one entirely focused on playing one tune, making sure you learn it as well as examples along the way of how to interpret it to bring it to life. From my perspective, these DVDs show you how to work with the arrangements in his "Signature" series of chord melody arrangements. Then, as you get those sounds into your hands and ears, you go to "The Formula" and he shows you how he put those arrangements together. You can then refer back to the "Signature" series as you work on your own arrangements of these tunes, to see what Conti did. It is sort of like looking at the answers at the back of a book, except that there is no one right answer. The "Signature" series provides countless real life examples of how to apply "The Formula". It all ties together like nobody else's products. I wish Conti would present them that way so that people could see that. Unfortunately, the only way to really see it from that perspective is to have them in hand and realize these relationships between one product and another by working with them. But I am telling you about it here as I see it. His products, when put together, are like "On the Job Training", where he shows you what to do and how to do it. Every other chord melody product I have seen, leaves a big gap between presenting the building blocks and how to use them to make music.

    So, really, the whole package, if you want to dig into chord melody, consists of "Assembly Line", "The Formula", the "Signature" series of chord melody arrangement books, the series of 5 chord melody DVDs, and "The Formula". With that, you have what you need to learn to arrange your own chord melody versions of tunes and sound good doing it (not to mention a ton of decent arrangements form Conti himself). When you consider how well all this fits together (though it may not be apparent just looking at the site and trying to figure out what to get), it is a complete package and still far less than spending serious money on a quality teacher (if you can find and afford one that really understands and can teach this stuff as well as Conti does) for the next several years on a weekly basis.

    In addition to all that, I would also strongly recommend the two volume Barry Galbraith series of chord melody arrangements from Mel Bay. These are great sounding tunes that will provide a lot more ideas on how to make arrangements come alive, and are directly analyzeable (is that a real word?) using the ideas in "The Formula". As far as I am concerned, the only other thing to add to this mix is figuring out solo chord melody by ear from recordings such as Johnny Smith's "Man With A Blue Guitar", Joe Pass' "Songs For Ellen", "Unforgettable", and the Virtuoso series, and other players you might like.

    Tony
    Last edited by tbeltrans; 04-03-2013 at 07:45 PM.

  46. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by tbeltrans View Post
    If you ONLY look at "Assembly Line" or "The Formula", you might reach that conclusion, and rightly so. However, Conti also has 5 chord melody DVDs, each one entirely focused on playing one tune, making sure you learn it as well as examples along the way of how to interpret it to bring it to life. ....
    Tonyy, I'm glad you explained that. I wasn't sure how all those items worked together. I'm starting with "Assembly Line." Tonight I'm working on the first thing, the series of C chord voicings. Most were familiar to me but a few are new, and I never played a long sequence of them up and back that way---good stuff. I can see it'll take me awhile to work through this material!
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  47. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    Tonyy, I'm glad you explained that. I wasn't sure how all those items worked together. I'm starting with "Assembly Line." Tonight I'm working on the first thing, the series of C chord voicings. Most were familiar to me but a few are new, and I never played a long sequence of them up and back that way---good stuff. I can see it'll take me awhile to work through this material!
    Mark:

    What you are doing in "Assembly" is learning in what I found to be the most efficient way possible, a complete set of "grips" (as Joe Pass called them) for harmonizing ANY melody note in any key. You learn them in the key of C and then slide them into whatever key you need. These are from the harmonized C major scale (C maj, F maj, G7, Dmin, A min), plus the diminished and augmented scales. Each is taken through all the melody notes you would need to harmonize. These chords yu are learning now will be used again and again through all the other materials I mentioned previously. Nothing you learn in Conti's method is wasted or later abandoned for something else. Conti is very practical and focused on playing.

    One thing to keep in mind as you work through "Assembly"...this is a "hardy skill". You will be spending months and months getting better at opening a fakebook to tunes on the fly and putting chords under each melody note. I would suggest you do that with EVERY melody note for quite a while until it starts getting easier and at least somewhat automatic because this is the foundational skill that everything yet to come is built on. It takes lots of time and focus to get all of this into your hands. You are learning a lot of chords at once, and it takes time to absorb and "own" them. Conti tells us in his "Signature" series to play these as we want to and we don't have to harmonize every melody note. But for learning pruposes as you get these chords well in hand, I found it to be good to do for the first few months at least.

    Also, when you start working with the fakebooks, pick tunes in all manner of keys so you get really good at this in all keys. You will be counting up from your chords in C over and over,but that helps you learn these chords inside and out. Conti does not suggest you run these long chord sequences presented in "Assembly" in all keys. Instead, he has you "counting up" from the chords in the sequence to where you need it on the fretboard. In fact, in "Assembly" he walks you through the process. It really is the best way to do this. It will be slow going for quite some time, but it does get better, and then you have it for life. Since everything else Conti has in his chord melody materials uses essentially these same chord forms, you are really preparing for the really fun stuff yet to come. If you just skim through "Assembly", you will be struggling later on instead of being able to focus on that material. It is sort of like it was in college, don't skim the algebra because you will be "dead meat" in the calc class. But this is way more fun than college was.

    Tony

  48. #47
    Tony. I didn't mean that in a critical way, I just meant that these guys are giants and I was trying to express... hell, I don't know, I guess it needed a smiley. Thanks to a forum member here, I found my teacher, who graduated from Berklee and then studied and ended up playing 7 string with Bucky and John Pizzarelli, Robert Conti and the whole New York crowd for a lot of years. He plays more Gypsy now than anything (his group just released a sweet gypsy CD) but he is in that class. I see him play out on the 7 string and it's like hearing and watching magic, but that's what happens with 30+ years of playing/gigging experience. My weekly lessons are like drinking from a firehose, as I imagine studying with Conti in person would be. What I said about Conti applies to Jerry, too. He makes me want to quit my job and just practice. And, as I've said here before, he makes me believe that I can learn to play CM. Hell, I wish I was 40 years younger, I would quit my job and study full-time with him.
    "Talent is a pursued interest; anything that you're willing to practice, you can do." - Bob Ross

  49. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by ah.clem View Post
    Tony. I didn't mean that in a critical way, I just meant that these guys are giants and I was trying to express... hell, I don't know, I guess it needed a smiley. Thanks to a forum member here, I found my teacher, who graduated from Berklee and then studied and ended up playing 7 string with Bucky and John Pizzarelli, Robert Conti and the whole New York crowd for a lot of years. He plays more Gypsy now than anything (his group just released a sweet gypsy CD) but he is in that class. I see him play out on the 7 string and it's like hearing and watching magic, but that's what happens with 30+ years of playing/gigging experience. My weekly lessons are like drinking from a firehose, as I imagine studying with Conti in person would be. What I said about Conti applies to Jerry, too. He makes me want to quit my job and just practice. And, as I've said here before, he makes me believe that I can learn to play CM. Hell, I wish I was 40 years younger, I would quit my job and study full-time with him.
    I did not read anything criticizing Conti at all. In fact, I suppose I criticized his site in a way, because I said I wish he would present his chord melody products as the complete integrated resource that they are. My response was just intended to make clear some things I discovered about his products that may not otherwise be apparent. I think it is great though that you find a "live" teacher who can provide the guidance you need. So far, I have had relatively little experience with a teacher (i.e. a few months here and there), but they have either been far too advanced for me, focused only on learning their own arrangements without looking at how they are put together, or focused only on the building blocks and not how to get from these to a finished arrangement. You could say that I did not stay with one teacher long enough, but in fact, I could get a pretty good idea where we were going by asking them about their overall approach. None seemed to really have that "end to end" process mindset. I really think Conti has a particular gift for teaching as well as playing, and think it is a rare thing. Conti covers the whole process in a way that makes it doable for the average guy. That is the reason I talk his stuff up so much. To me, if people are looking for a way to learn to play chord melody, this is one way that really does work well. I don't want to come across as one who must defend Conti, or worse, make people feel as if I am doing that against something they may have said. I do want to make sure that people do understand what he has to offer though because otherwise, they may miss out on the very thing that could help them on their own musical journey.

    One other thing I did want to comment on that Conti talks about in his DVDs...he talks about "leaning on the melody" when playing for a non-jazz crowd. He says that most people want to hear the melody clearly and when we take off on lengthy improvs, we lose the audience. He says that a big part of being a musician is knowing and playing to your audience. So he says he prefers to improvise with the harmony under the melody, rather than with the melody itself. That is his approach to chord melody.

    Tony
    Last edited by tbeltrans; 04-04-2013 at 08:11 AM.

  50. #49
    Tony. Understood. I found your advice quite helpful and will probably integrate the Conti sequence into my other studies. I wasn't aware of the 5 DVD set and how it relates to Assembly line and Formula (both great books, IMO). I agree with the melody concept and so does my teacher. At times, in lessons, he goes way out on harmonic limbs to demonstrate a concept to me; on a gig, he keeps the melody foregrounded while integrating runs, fills and chord solos. He always seems to be booked months in advance as a solo or duo with a singer. He's found that sweet spot.

    Now, if only I had more time and talent...
    "Talent is a pursued interest; anything that you're willing to practice, you can do." - Bob Ross

  51. #50

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    Quote Originally Posted by tbeltrans View Post
    Mark:

    What you are doing in "Assembly" is learning in what I found to be the most efficient way possible, a complete set of "grips" (as Joe Pass called them) for harmonizing ANY melody note in any key....Tony
    That's good to know. At 54, I have less time for blind alleys and other wrong turns. ) It's good to be on the right road.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola