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  1. #1
    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?

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I can't speak to the educational part, since I haven't formally "studied" classical in school, but I do play classical and Flamenco pieces frequently and I can tell you that the finger dexterity and technique that teaches translates very, very well to fingerstyle jazz for solo guitar. If I hadn't played classical stuff, I'd have been utterly lost with things like chord melody when I started trying my hand at jazz arrangements.

  4. #3

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    I took classical for a couple of years to develop my right hand for country blues stuff. Wound up falling in love with the music. Worked up enough peices and modern stuff in classical style to play a lunch gig at a local hippy eatery.

    Moved to another town, and never went back to it. However, I have never stopped benefiting from the right hand technique or the reading skills I learned from it. After a few years of moving, I wanted to study again, but chose jazz instead, as I believe jazz players are the best all around players on the planet.

    Classical teaches reading and the instrument very well, but it is a pretty defined box. Jazz covers everything, which is part of the problem. You need 2-3 lifetimes to master jazz imo. Either way, hard to go wrong. Just depends on what kind of music you want to play, and whether you want to play out or not.

  5. #4
    I'll keep those things in mind. Classical has definitely helped chord-melody-it has the potential to be very confusing without the right hand coordination.

    I'm going to keep playing jazz and classical, but I believe the classical is going to stay in the background. Jazz has a lot more to it; I think I'm going to need as much time as I can get.

  6. #5

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    Have you ever listened to Charlie Byrd. One of the most remarkable musicians I've ever heard. He's classical to the core but can still swing. Check this out.



    he's the man.

  7. #6
    I enjoyed that. Thanks a lot.

  8. #7

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    I have some experience of the classical vs jazz issue. I began playing rock and anything else anyone would pay me for in the 1960s, got totally bored, started an interest in jazz only then to focus entirely on classical guitar for thirty years. This entailed college and all the rest of it.

    The big problem for someone not starting on classical is a technical one; position of the left hand, appropriate use of the correct fingers etc, not to mention the different guitar neck sizes between one style and the other. The other problem was a lot of 'stuffed shirts' thinking that jazz was beneath them.

    My solution to the fact that I didn't think I could utilise both techniques was to go in the classical direction and to simply appreciate my love of jazz by continuing to listen to others. I now think I was wrong. I should have gone for both even with the abovementioned problems.

    Musically, the scales are slightly different and jazz uses some fingerings that would never be accepted in the classical world. Similarly, jazz chords won't crop up either, least of all the positions that one tends to get one's fingers into.

    So in answer to the question on "how the knowledge of classical might translate into jazz", it was for me minimal, although my knowldge of musical form learned through classical playing was very valuable. Therefore, my advice, for what it's worth, is not to get into the either/or situation, but to carry on doing both...and don't let anyone tell you that one form is more 'serious' than the other.
    Last edited by Ged; 03-26-2008 at 08:50 AM. Reason: Error

  9. #8

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    Fastest way to "unstuff" a classical shirt is to remove the sheet music from their stand.

    Not saying that classical players can't improvise, of course, but from my experience with classical it is not really oriented toward that. If I could improvise my way to sounding like Bach (while not just playing it from memory, mind you), I wouldn't be chatting here, I'd be making history. Sweeeeet!!!

  10. #9

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    Indeed, although decent players learn the dots which allows you to focus more on expression and sound quality. But I've yet to meet anyone from the classical guitar tradition that could improvise, and I've known a few. Yet they should be able to to some extent. In Bach's time it was considered particularly boring to play the repeats exactly the same way without some embellishment. And after all, Mozart was probably the prime exponent of improvisation. I believe that all that has got lost over time due to the 'elevated' position that classical music has given itself. All we're really left with on the improvisation front is cadenzas, and you have to be a genius like Barenboim to excel on those.

    And finally, completely off the discussion, I saw Jim Mullen over the weekend (not for the first time either). He is possibly Britain's finest jazz guitarist; not just technically, but musically as well. I'd also recommend Gary Potter, another great player who hails partly from the 'Django' school. If anyone gets a chance to see these guys you'll see why.

    See Mullen at
    . I was there on both occasions.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Goofsus4
    Fastest way to "unstuff" a classical shirt is to remove the sheet music from their stand.
    As a classical player, too, as well as jazz, I'll give my "Amen". But, can I at least have my jazz "charts" and my "Real Book" handy?

    I've found that studying different styles has improved all of them, to one degree or another. An interesting fact: when you study/play different styles, many times, you're also playing on different instruments. This can also be beneficial, in that you will have less tendency to rely on "muscle-memory", and will have to "learn" the fretboard, scales, chords, and so on. A classical neck just ain't the same as my Les Paul 50's neck, which is different than my es-335, which is not the same as a Fender neck....you get the idea. You'll have to mentally "slow-down" enough to adjust to your instrument, music style, and playing style (pick or fingers).
    All that being said, adding other styles to your study will help you a lot.
    Last edited by neilio; 03-27-2008 at 01:40 PM.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by neilio
    I've found that studying different styles has improved all of them, to one degree or another. All that being said, adding other styles to your study will help you a lot.
    I will give a strong second to that! I will also say that at least some study/playing of classical is important if for no other reason than to get some of the finest music ever created under your fingers. Classical music is music with a capital "M." I mean, I can play something from Satie, and just sit there and think, "How is it possible to imagine such beauty?" Jazz is hip and cool and fun, and sometimes beautiful (many of the standards are), but I'm not going to get moved to tears listening to jazz, but am proud to say I've had that pleasure many times listening to classical.

  13. #12

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    Hello, everyone!
    I recommend you to visit the youtube and watch a few videos of Paco de Lucía, the most famous flamenco guitar player in Spain, and take a look at his right hand.
    I warn you! He always plays with his fingers but he has a lot of right hand playing techniques and I think that some of you will like it.

    Bye bye!

  14. #13

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    a similar aproach to those used by Paco de Lucia or Charlie Byrd would be Baden Powell, amazing brazilian guitarist (please excuse my english, is it aproach or approach?)

  15. #14

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    I agree with all of you, I think keeping your mind open to different styles and techniques is a great way of improving yourself as a musician and a person in general. As long as you have enough time, I would keep practicing both. (Actually, I practice 4 instruments regularly!) One day, you may have to choose one or the other for a while (probably not for the rest of your life thought), but you will always benefit from your knowledge of both instruments.

  16. #15

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    Thank-you for the recommendation of Ken Hatfield's book, "Jazz and the Classical Guitar". I just ordered it. I've always been a classical guitarist never playing Jazz before and have been searching for something to help me make the transfer from the classical way of playing to playing jazz. I'm anxious for it to arrive!

  17. #16

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    I have played classical for a very long time, and when I was in school and did small ensemble (jazz), I really didn't like it. I felt people were just playing scales and arpeggios over a set of chords, and it seemed to lack any real direction. What I didn't understand, was that was the first step to 'letting go' of firmly structured music - a sort of transition if you will.

    Since classical guitar music is played/memorized literally from sheet music, and jazz is at the opposite end of the spectrum; the approach to the music has to change as well, which I find is difficult to do.

    Although I have been trying to play jazz for about a year now, I still find it very difficult to improvise without falling back on licks, and passages I've played before -- which is frustrating to say the least.

    As far as the technical skills I learned while playing classical (and banjo), they do transfer very nicely. As such, I find finger picking preferable and haven't used a guitar pick to play jazz in about 4 or 5 months now.

    In a nutshell, the lesson I have learned is that while classical music is wonderful and truly fun to play, it does not actually require much thought once you've learned the songs. Jazz on the other hand, requires the player to think a couple steps ahead and be prepared for the song to change dynamically.

  18. #17

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    Hi, everyone!
    I agree with GravyTrain. Classical music is not intended for improvisation (unless you want to do what Yngwie Malmsteen does with a classical guitar).
    The only thing I believe jazz and classical music have in common is most of the theory but the purpose is opposite. Classical music is for interpretation and jazz for improvising.
    One can improvise classical music but...

  19. #18

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    Well I would say that classical music is not intended for improvisation today, but we have to remember that all of these great composers were amazing improvisers.

    Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Liszt etc were all known in there day as great improvisers. A lot of their solo piano pieces were written down on performances based on their improvisations. Bach's "A Musical Offering" was wrtitten after he was asked to improvise several fugue's on a them given to him by the king(or some royalty). He was not happy with his performance so he went home that night and began writing the book that is now one of the most legendary collections of classical music around.

    In fact, one of the only reasons why classical musicians started writing music down back in the day was to sell it to the masses. It was their version of a CD, they considered scores to be a "snapshot" of a performance that could be left open for interpretation by the performer.

    Unfortunately most classical musicians have forgotten about this great heritage and do not improvise at all these days, unless they are into really modern post tonal music.

    On a brighter side, a lot of heavy classical conservatories and college programs are requiring classical majors to study a few semesters of improvisation. I think this is great, maybe it will bring the jazzers and classical cats closer together.

    And if we think blowing on a few tonal changes is hard, just imagine the level of musicianship it took Bach and others to improvise a fugue!!!

    MW

  20. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by One Up,One Down

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

    My teacher told me that I can use the melody lines from classical music into our jazz improvisation. For instance, you find this descending arpeggio very memorable in one of Bach's pieces, so you can copy it down and use it as you improvise over some lines on your jazz pieces.

    I find classical training very rigid however, instead, I realize that jazz knowledge helps me a lot in classical. I am going through proper lessons in classical guitar and I find that most of the time, I am playing all the pieces blindly. Yes, my classical teacher is always teaching me on how to express the classical pieces using a variety of tone changes and dynamics, however, what is truly lacking is the understanding of the music. Most of my friends may not even know what chord they are playing in a classical piece. They can play for me Prelude no.1 by Heitor Villa Lobos but they do not know what chords are being used. However, having some knowledge in jazz, i could appreciate better the diminished and half-diminished chords used by Villa-Lobos. It also helps me to recognize what I am doing and remembering the piece.

  21. #20

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    I dabble in both classical and jazz (along with other styles). It's all fun. Classical is sure specific about right hand positioning/technique and tone. This is beneficial to other styles.

    Check this jazz guy playing classical in a jazzy way (warning this may cause some to give up music all together) - this guy was self taught and played by ear

    Last edited by fep; 08-15-2008 at 10:49 AM.

  22. #21

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    Thank you for the Art Tatum's video!

    If you will, check also this famous classical pianist playing something which, for lack of a better word, I'd call "beethovenian jazz":


  23. #22

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    Here's Oscar Peterson taking the opposite route and classicaling up a jazz piece:


  24. #23

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    I bought a biography of Oscar Peterson and apparently he and Art Tatum were good friends. The last time Oscar saw Tatum, Tatum knew he was gonna die so he said to him: "You're it now, man, you're the next guy." Oscar said no, but that's how it turned out

  25. #24

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    The preciseness required in classical playing often sounds stiff to me when applied to jazz. The freedom jazz playing allows often sounds sloppy when applied to classical.

    For example, playing out of time and out of key in jazz can be a good thing. Playing out of time and out of key in classical is usually a bad thing.

    Not to say that jazz is not precise and classical is not free, but each seems to require a different kind of preciseness and freedom. It generally appears really tough for most players to get to where the desireable characteristics for each style is second nature.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrbeantheconqueror
    My teacher told me that I can use the melody lines from classical music into our jazz improvisation. For instance, you find this descending arpeggio very memorable in one of Bach's pieces, so you can copy it down and use it as you improvise over some lines on your jazz pieces.

    I find classical training very rigid however, instead, I realize that jazz knowledge helps me a lot in classical. I am going through proper lessons in classical guitar and I find that most of the time, I am playing all the pieces blindly. Yes, my classical teacher is always teaching me on how to express the classical pieces using a variety of tone changes and dynamics, however, what is truly lacking is the understanding of the music. Most of my friends may not even know what chord they are playing in a classical piece. They can play for me Prelude no.1 by Heitor Villa Lobos but they do not know what chords are being used. However, having some knowledge in jazz, i could appreciate better the diminished and half-diminished chords used by Villa-Lobos. It also helps me to recognize what I am doing and remembering the piece.
    Having played classical guitar for over thirty years I became a damned good sight-reader and could play any Bach fugue you cared to throw at me. But I certainly agree with the contention that classical players don't really understand the nature of the chords they are playing even though I studied figured harmony at college. It's all about interpretation, tone, and of course technique without which you might as well not bother. The problem with many classical teachers is unless you do it like them, it's all wrong! We've all got our favourite players (mine is Julian Bream), but because of the wide range of styles even within jazz, this doesn't apply to that genre. However, my advice to anyone wondering whether to play jazz or classical is don't do what I did and simply go for the latter; do both, enjoy practising in both styles, and see which one comes out on top. In this way you also avoid becoming a prejudiced and closed-minded individual where classical becomes the only 'proper' way of playing. I also used to play the lute and you wouldn't believe the arguments that went on between those who played with nails and those who thought that doing so was a criminal offence worthy of execution!

    I was lucky (in a way) because having had a minor stroke in 2004 and losing the power in my left hand (I could hardly move it for months), my long love of jazz meant that I have now gone in that direction due to poor nails. (Apparently, illness can show itself in the nails). All is now fine, the technique is back and the only thing missing is the ability to come up with my own ideas instead of something written on a stave. But, I'll get there, and if death gets me first, well, it was fun along the way!

    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?

    Thanks.