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  1. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ged

    Finally, a question: can anyone recommend to me a small battery driven amplifier, 15 watts absolute max, probably less, which at least has reverb and is suitable for jazz, Wes-type sound?

    The Roland micro-cube; it runs on AC or batteries, is really small, and for a tiny amp really does sound surprisingly good.

    Buy Roland Micro Cube Combo Amp online at Musician's Friend


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #27

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    That's a lot of good advice Ged, and a hell of a story. I wish you well. I couldn't agree more about combining the styles. When I practice either of these styles, I'm a better player in the other because of it.

  4. #28

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    Great post Ged, best of luck! I'm also a long time classical player and I'm having a heck of a time with jazz; although I think I enjoy it more. Wish I had done BOTH all along.

    Still play nylon for jazz, with nails, but why is jazz so hard for us classical guitarists??


  5. #29

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    This is such an interesting discussion. Everybody's input is fantastic. I enjoy reading what everybody has written.

    Classical and jazz are two seperate idioms. Classical is apart of the European tradition. Many Westerners here in the States that play classical, especially the ones I've met can't improvise on a 12-bar blues. This has to do with the training that is instilled in them through years of studying the classical repertoire, practicing, and discipline.

    Jazz, on the other hand, originated here in the States. It is a very complex music that owes as much to the blues as it does anything else. Most of the jazz musicians that I know can play classical, but their knowledge of is very limited to a few pieces. The thing that makes a jazz musician great is his ability to improvise. This is something that classical musicians struggle with or at least in my experience they have. Learn how to hear the music by your ear and gut feeling.

    The thing that is key to learning jazz is harmony. Jazz has it's own unique approach harmony through chords like dominant, major/minor 7th, major/minor 9th, augmented, etc. Learn all you can about chord voicings, which are crucial to accompanying a soloist. As far as scales and modes are concerned, learn all of them, but probably the most frequently used modes in jazz are Dorian, Lydian, Locrian, Whole Tone, and Mixolydian. Learn how to apply these modes to jazz harmony.

    These are a few things that divide classical and jazz. Don't EVER give up playing classical, which I'm sure you won't, because classical has a lot of vital information in terms of technique, sight-reading, and overall theory. I wish I studied classical first before diving head-first into jazz. Unfortunately, the damage is already done! I can't go back now!

    Best of luck to you in your discovery of jazz. Hope this in some small way sheds some light in your direction.

  6. #30

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    friselfan - I'll bet if you studied classical first you'd be in the same predicament as the rest of us late-comers to jazz. I think we want to understand it before we can play it!

    Your post was great, excellent insight!


  7. #31

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    This is a nice apropos thread to come in on. (2nd post here.) In midlife I crossed the divide and learned my fingerboard harmony so I could take the gigs that were coming my way. Then hanging out with some jazz-educated musicians - they began to enlighten me about the improv / composition continuum in useful, practical ways that allowed me to transform myself into - well, not a jazz guitarist, probably never will be, but a successful working commercial musician with no shortage of work. Trying to play classical guitar music for a living has this continual subtext of willing listeners asking for all kinds of music -- like, a great game of "stump the classical guitarist" - nope, can't play that, sure you wouldn't like to hear "recuerdos" again? After my shall we say conversion? I still sit in a chair with a footstool & look like a nerd but have a broad repertory of things to make tourists, brides, & other paying clients happy

  8. #32

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    I'm a long time classical player that has come to jazz later in life too. I did have a bit of experience playing CAGED system based pentatonics over blues and rock'n roll changes, but little beyond that. First, the chops that I've learned playing the music and scales in classical study has been invaluable in learning jazz. (Note to students: Listen to these guys that write on here and learn your scales! Really, Really WELL!) That and analyzing classical pieces. As far as I can seen there's little difference in analyzing a piece be it classical or jazz (although I don't look for the French 6th vs the German 6th in jazz lol).

    I also learned how chords are built in this study and that has made a huge difference in learning jazz. When I started to gig, I found myself in the same position that Jack writes about above. I'd often hear "That Bach is nice man, but don't you know any Skynard?" or somesuch. This lead me to start writing chord melody arrangements of jazz and pop tunes. That was a great learning experience too and I've become fairly adept at it. Hugely, it gave me music to practice that I could "swing". A drawback though is that when I did make a jazz chord-melody arrangement, I still did it with a classical guitar player's mentality — I learned my arrangement, and I played it that way. My ability to play them with a pretty good swing feel, would give the impression to the listener that I was improvising, when actually I wasn't.

    Someone mentioned above that many classical (only) players seem "stiff". I couldn't agree more. These jazz-style chord melody arrangements not only helped me to get the stick out of my ass, but also gave me better insight into how I wanted my classical playing to sound. I hesitate to say I make them "swing" but I am very aware of giving them the sense of momentum and movement that gives jazz (or pop music for that matter) such appeal. This mental approach to movement has been invaluable to me and I take this approach with every new classical piece I learn. Remember, I remind myself, you're playing a piece of music here, not just fingering around a fretboard.

    All that said, when I've had the most success in improvising over jazz tunes at this point in my learning, I've done it the way FrisellFan describes it so well above. I forget about all the daunting lessons, shut my eyes and listened. I forget about "where I am on the fretboard" and just go for it. It comes from the heart. The only thing I can add to that is it is most helpful to pick the tune you want to play and just learn the melody straight-up at first with little or no improv — and learn to do this everywhere on the neck that it can be done. Build your muscle memory around that melody and then let go. The players I enjoy listening to the most are the ones that stick to the tune as opposed to running through their bag of licks, no matter the tune. In my mind this is how Bach or Mozart would do it — arguably the greatest improvisers of all.
    Last edited by Herby; 09-10-2008 at 01:16 PM.

  9. #33

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    I went through a very long period (back 25 years) of cheerfully doing free solo improvisation as part of my schtick in restaurants. I would free associate tunes in 15 or 30 second chunks because that appeared to be the attention span of the folks around me, or alternatively just do 20 minute fantasias and go into my own zone if that seemed appropriate. (These mixed with playing my regular arrangements & pieces.) Playing with other people and particularly playing guitar duets full time for the last few years has imposed a necessary discipline on my improvisation habits, meaning constraining me to stick to the form of the tune OR write out a chart for a different form, and this having an effect in turn on my arranging and composing.

    I've mostly abandoned classical repertory for public performance except for the absolute grade-A classical-hit-parade material: Spanish Romance, Fur Elise (complete version possible on 2 guitars easily), Recuerdos, Schubert's Ave Maria & Pachelbel's Canon (necessary wedding material), etc.

    We keep a running list of requested songs... when the requests get to something resembling critical mass for a given tune, I break down and start working on an arrangement ... guess I've got a 3 year or so backlog! It takes a lot longer to work up a real duet arrangement of a new tune than it does to hack an arrangement from a lead sheet (which we do often enough) or to work up a solo arrangement, because of the necessary individual and collective practice time and because of my frequent trial versions and revisions. A solo arrangement I can play while it's still in process, to some degree, covering faults with improv, but a "beta" performance of an arranged duet has proven to be likely to be embarrassing.

  10. #34

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    I love this thread! My only comment this time refers to classical players seeming a little stiff. There were historical periods of western music where "restraint " was a stylistic form.( age of reason, classical restraint, reaction to baroque ornamentation, etc.......) You definitely wouldn't want to "swing" Haydn! I get the intent of some of these comments and I now personally prefer jazz, especially standards, to a lot of my old classical repertoire; But it's worth remembering diversity in music style is everything. I like stiff, swing, and everything in between.


  11. #35

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    I love this thread too. Sailor makes some great points here. Since I'm one of the ones that said some classical players can seem "stiff" it got me to thinking. I feel like I may be trying to define the indefinable here, but when I see, or better put, hear someone I think of as stiff, I'm not getting that feeling of movement and momentum I was trying to explain. Maybe I should say "forward motion". Regardless of the viable stylistic forms Sailor insightfully mentions, I think the music still has to "move". It's all about keeping time. When I'm playing Bach for instance, I'm not really thinking "swing", but I AM trying to keep just as good time as a good jazz player does on a swing tune, although the "feel" is different. I also want to feel the ease of physical movement (in my hands) between chords/notes that jazz players present. If I get someone's toe tapping, it makes me happy. Even impressionistic pieces, say Debussy or Ravel, where there is so much emotion built through the mixture of straight time and rubato, there is that ebb and flow of forward motion I'm trying to describe.

    You read in the forum all the time about listening to jazz musicians other then guitar players — Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, et al. The same can be true of studying classical guitar. Listen to Vladimir Horowitz and hear how it can sound.

    Let's not forget it's September 11th.

  12. #36

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    Herby, love your responses! I too like the flow and rubato of the impressionists and composers like Manuel Ponce and Villa-Lobos. I think the strict, almost mechanical time of Haydn and Mozart is delightful in it's rigidity too!

    Right now I'm just enjoying playing old jazz standards and wish I had come to this decades ago!


  13. #37

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    Thank you Sailor! LOL. You're obviously a man of extremely high standards and very refined taste! : )

  14. #38

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    A complete diverision of the current direction of this topic.

    A lot of what has been said before has been the comparison of classical vs. Jazz piano. (i.e. Oscar Peterson). Having studied piano for quite sometime before I picked up a guitar (lets face it, guitars are way cooler). Piano technique is pretty much universal. Whether you are playing classical, jazz, popular music, whatever, the basic techniques are the same. Scale fingerings. Chord structures. Ect.

    I would even go so far as saying that classical pianists who have played Listz, DeBussy, and even as far as late Beethoven have some sort of idea of modern jazz harmonic structure. As such, studying classical piano and jazz piano are pretty much the same thing. I am sure that someone like Martha Aggerich (crazy classical piano lady, her Rach 3 is the bar at which most are compared against.), could improvise a jazz solo that would blow your mind. This is why its not strange to see some one like Kieth Jarret release a stunning verisions of the Bach pieces such as the Preludes and Fugues and astounding trio music in the same year. A Canadian pianist, David Braid assimilates the two styles in is improvizations all the time.

    Comparing the same for guitar on the other hand, as some one has said already, is like comparing apples vs. oranges. The techinques are completly different. The fact the guitar has two equally important purposes in jazz might be one of the most significant differences. Enough for me to say that the crossover between styles (classical vs. Jazz) is not so much the difference, it has more to do with instrument.

  15. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by One Up,One Down
    I've been playing classical guitar for a couple years now and am currently studying it in college.

    I was wondering about everyone's opinion on how the knowledge of classical might translate into jazz.

    I'm debating transferring into a jazz program; but I see so many people who have learned jazz on their own. (All my jazz progress has been on my own so far)

    Has anyone here studied jazz in college?

    I can't decide whether to continue my classical studies and keep jazz on my own or to study jazz and have a classical background.

    Any experiences?
    I never played a classical piece of music, but I can play chord melody for 'dont know why' by norah jones. I also had a chord melody arrangement for 'desafinado' from antonio carlos jobim, wich I mutated to a accompainment rithm to have someone singing. But I read sheet music very slowly and I dont know much about classical music and never played stuff like that. only when I was like 17 I was grabbing malmsteen stuff but I was such a noob back then... until the 18 I only listened to metal XD now after 3years, I take more or less 2days to make an arrangement, play it and memorize it, of an averange jazz song in 'fingerstile guitar' or 'chord melody' but doesnt matter how hard I try I cant learn any classical piece, because I dont like them that much I like jazz :P if you realy like something, it will be a lot easier for you m8

  16. #40

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    I just thought of a couple more points.

    1. There is quite a difference between "classical" music for the guitar and playing in classic technique. We refer to classical guitar to encompass everything from Rennaisance lute music to modern "serious" music. I don't believe anyone can say they don't like classical music unless they're referring to music between approximately 1750- 18?? There is almost no similarity between Robert de Visee and Paul Hindemith EXCEPT that we play them both on a nylon string guitar w/fingernails!

    2. I was also trained first on nylon w/classical teacher and standard repertoire. The advantage for me was lots of sight reading and good right and left hand technique. Now that I am into jazz I have a lot of STYLE to learn but have good TECHNIQUE and reading ability.


  17. #41

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    hey fep,
    i got to disagree with you about tatum in one respect. although largely self taught, he did study classical and was well known for his interpretation of mozart. my source for this is the great dr billy taylor who i was fortunate to get to study with. taylor was a protege of tatum who took him under his wing when taylor moved to ny. being a detroiter i've spent a lot of time in toledo (tatum's home town) and have spent alot of time with musicians that knew tatum. my wife's family (also from toledo) had a scrap iron business there which did a lot of business with tatum's family. i'm saying all these things so hopefully it will show i'm not just talking out my A$$. understandably there has been alot of myths spred about tatum and i always did my best to find out the truth whenever i had the opportunity. having said all that, i feel tatum was probably the most phenomenal musician of all time if ever there was one. probably a reincarnation of liszt if you believe in such things. also, a great deal of the early jazz pioneers were also strong classical musicians (j.p. johnson, fats waller, willie the lion). bebop cats too like bud powell, barry harris, and hank jones besides the obvious oscar peterson. all were well known for improvising on classical pieces. anyway, myth or truth, it's great to see other cats appreciate him too. as far as the classical versus jazz thing i don't see a difference between them as far as discipline goes. jazz is classical music. all the elements be it harmony or counterpoint and all the rules concerning chromaticism etc,etc exist in both worlds ( you'll find bebop scales in mozart and chopin to name 2). i think the problem will occur when your in school and you just can't find time to do what you really want to because you have to take b#%ls--t classes. sorry college guys but i learned and grew way more once i got away from academia.
    peace, tj
    Last edited by tom jobim; 09-26-2008 at 10:55 PM.

  18. #42
    This is a a very insightful, intelligent discussion and thanks for this forum. You all sound like awesome, serious players! Lately I've been thinking about the relationship between these two styles and the impact studying both has on the developing guitarist (and I say this after 20 years of playing).
    I recently turned my attention to classical guitar (intermediate RCM 5)after becoming a little bored with jazz and improvisation and feeling a bit aimless. My experience with the cross-over has been nothing short of profound; practicing classical has given many insights into MUSIC which jazz has not.
    1. Time: I pratice classical with a metronome which greatly increases my awareness of both meter and time signatures. Most jazz is 4/4- ever play in 7/16 time? Or 5/8? A lot of classical pieces really "swing" in that they have strong, rhythmic propulsion. Some may say these pieces are stuffy or quaint; when they were written, however, they were meant to move people and be majestic, powerful, and inspiring.
    2. Melody: Classical pieces are all highly melodic. This awareness of melody- how melody is constructed, melodic feel, melodic devices- can only improve one's note choices in constructing memorable, fresh improvisations.
    3. Harmony and counterpoint: Most classical pieces contain a bass line and a melody line moving in tandem which spells out the harmony. This is the basis for chord-melody in jazz. It also greatly improves your ability to hear mulitple parts at once.
    4. Technique- If you want to play fingerstyle jazz (and really, who needs a pick?), there is no substitute for praticing classical technique- even if you don't employ it the same way in the jazz context. I use my thumb and index/middle for single note jazz lines.
    5. Form- Classical largely adheres to the 32 bar song form structure. (even in longer pieces, 8 bars is a musical paragraph). It's no coincidence that most jazz tunes are 32 bar forms. An awareness of form - indeed, being constrained by form - is essential in creating concise, memorable compositions.
    6. Ear training- Practing sight-reading has already greatly improved my ear. I'm beginning to be able to hear the notes just by looking at the page. Practicing jazz involves little sight reading beyond the fake book, which is a cinch after reading classical.

    That said, playing jazz involves studying jazz which I think must revolve around listening to and transcribing jazz records as opposed to reading. It's really the only way to develop insight into how a jazz player sees the fingerboard and uses scales and arpeggios to improvise.

    Happy playing!
    Last edited by ShiffronLandren; 10-29-2008 at 03:10 PM.

  19. #43

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    I like your input Shiffron, another classical guitarist lately turned to jazz.

    My only problem is that I find it much easier to read Bach and Ponce than to read the easiest Jazz head. It seems like jazz notation is at best an approximation. I need to hear jazz tunes before I can play them but I don't have this problem with classical pieces!!


  20. #44
    Hey Sailor,
    Thanks for the response.

    For what it's worth, it's actually the other way around: I'm a jazz player who's been turned on to classical. Whereas classical players may crave the freedom of jazz, I’ve lately been craving the structure of classical. I’m tired of improvising and want to focus on playing solo pieces.

    Funny what you say about reading jazz heads because, come to think of it, that’s been my experience. It certainly looks easier but, like you, I need to hear it before I can play it because, as you say, it is only an approximation. Plus, the majority of heads aren’t written on guitar and thus the fingerings can be very awkward (eg. Any Charlie Parker tune) if not played in the most optimal position.

    Since you’re mainly a classical guy, perhaps I’ll ask you a few questions. What do you think of the RCM books? Can you recommend any other resources? Flesh or nails? Is it even possible to play tremolo with flesh? Ever play classical on a steel string? (I’ve got a Martin J-40 that sounds righteous for anything).


  21. #45

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    Wow, this could be helplful talking to someone in the opposite situation. I guess I got it backwards!

    Classical; Definitely nails, definitely nylon. It's worth getting the true experience. You can buy decent nylons, (yamaha, etc...), cheap! Unfortunately steel string guitars just don't work for this type of music.

    I think the best approach to the music itself is to start with the Fernando Sor studies, and the Matteo Caracassi studies. They have some very pretty pieces but more importantly the technique is "idiomatic"; it teaches you how the style is actually played without boring etudes, it's real music. Then if you want to go play Bach you can, but lot's of classical guitar music was not written by or for guitarists!

    I can read Bach but jazz has me stumped;the rhtythms are so, I guess, syncopated that I find myself counting like a first year student and I've been playing difficult clasical pieces for years.

    I have been practicing a lot of standards, melodies, lot's of new chords, subs, alts, Arps, etc... I get this stuff pretty well but when it comes to improvising I'm still quite lost;not jazzy.

    Hope we can help each other, this forum has been great to me so far!!


  22. #46

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    There are a lot of little intricacies in jazz music that make it extremely difficult for me to read. I'm not a very good sight reader but I've been working at it a lot. I have a book of Carcassi and Sor studies and I can sight read many of them but jazz tunes are tough. I think a big part of what makes it difficult are the anticipation and delay and (in music written for horns) the trills. They're more interpretive than an actual part of the melody but seeing little eighth note ties and sixteenth note trills that don't really need to be there really muddy the waters a lot for me. I've found it's a lot more effective to rely on feel quite a bit when reading jazz tunes. Obviously this isn't a substitute for the actual reading but most of the tough parts are those little intricacies that are really just a result of the original composer just feeling where he wanted the melody to go.

  23. #47

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    Aaaahh!! Great response DM! I always thought I was a great sight-reader until I started playing Jazz. I find, too, that the written trills, (ornamentation), etc... make it hard to get the basic melody, (muddy).

    I think, I could be wrong, that a lot of jazz tunes were written down after the fact; It's hard to transcribe actual "played" tunes. Classical pieces are quite often written in a very coherent and mathematically precise way; interptretation comes with performance. I wonder how hard it would be to read bach tunes if the expression and ornaments were written in??; probably impossible!

    I would like to see jazz solos written in a more germinal way, and then performers could interpret the "feel" later.


  24. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sailor
    I have been practicing a lot of standards, melodies, lot's of new chords, subs, alts, Arps, etc... I get this stuff pretty well but when it comes to improvising I'm still quite lost;not jazzy.
    Hey Sailor,

    Have you tried blues? I think blues is a good bridge towards jazz improvising. Easier I think when you don't have such harmonic complexity. First get comfortable over the blues and then go for more complicated jazz tunes.

    Larry can say it better than me

  25. #49

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    Whoops, late to the thread but I'll chime in.

    I learned classical music on another instrument first - I had given up the guitar for four years or so to play the bass. I play(ed) jazz of course but my teacher outside school was classical. I think learning classical bass helped transition to playing classical on the guitar. I can't really imagine learning classical on guitar without knowing the bass, so I imagine that Sailor you have an advantage being a classical player learning jazz in some ways. Of course there would be advantages in the opposite too...I think both ways have their difficulties.

    I think learning the neck by playing violin music such as Wohlfahrt and Bach sonatas and partitas (much more fun than the Wohlfahrt, but that definitely has it's use) with a pick can help when crossing over. It might not be jazz but it does teach a bit of classical vocabulary, so to speak, for the jazz musician wanting to learn classical and it helps a classical player get out of the lower positions and learn the neck where you will need to play for jazz. And there is some cool stuff happening harmonically in the Bach...I think that is partially my bias towards Bach but he really gels well with jazz in my opinion.

  26. #50

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    Never too late to chime in! Bach is the greatest; Dirk even included a transcription on this site. Bach is more popular now than he was three hundred years ago, how many musicians will be able to say that!

    Bach was a tremendous improviser, in those days off of a figured bass only sometimes. Maybe he was the predecessor to jazz???