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  1. #1

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    Right now I'm transcribing Clifford Brown on Sandu, and I have a challenge transcribing horn players like Clifford Brown and Hank Mobley. The main thing that gives me difficulty is finding the most comfortable fingerings. I can hum the notes, and I know what they are, but I always stumble over myself and can't play it fast enough. Everything was going fine in transcribing this solo, but a few bars in he starts playing complex 16th note lines. How do you find the right fingerings that allow you to play it up to speed?

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  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigNick21 View Post
    Right now I'm transcribing Clifford Brown on Sandu, and I have a challenge transcribing horn players like Clifford Brown and Hank Mobley. The main thing that gives me difficulty is finding the most comfortable fingerings. I can hum the notes, and I know what they are, but I always stumble over myself and can't play it fast enough. Everything was going fine in transcribing this solo, but a few bars in he starts playing complex 16th note lines. How do you find the right fingerings that allow you to play it up to speed?

    This is where fretboard knowledge makes a big difference. The better you understand the way the notes lay out on the fretboard, the more options you have.


    That being said, my first tip would be figure out the notes first for the entire phrase, then decide where it goes on the fretboard. At a certain point you can do it together, but often you’ll tweak it later.

  4. #3

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    Trial and error works for me. Thats how i find the most comfortable way to play a phrase. But it's even more important for me to understand how those notes work over the chords. If I get a clear picture on that more likely it will stick and I can reuse it in my own solos. And that the whole point of transcribing.

  5. #4

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    Learn basic piano.

    Get the phrase out, slowly--but in time, on the piano.

    Then take it to the guitar--after the sound is fully ingrained in your inner ear.

    I transcribe on the piano because I can play a two note shell in the other hand to hear how the line relates to the chord.

    I got back into writing licks to explore new harmonic ideas. I write licks on the piano to force myself out of my habits on the guitar.

    I'm not strict position player either--that helps me a lot--knowing how to shift seamlessly midline.

    But that gets you outta strict chord shape playing... that's a problem for a lot of people...

  6. #5

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    Finding a way to play a fast passage can take a lot of work. There are passages that I have tinkered with for hours to try to find the best way.

    The goal, in many cases, is to find a fingering/picking solution that feels like you could play it at any speed. That is, it just seems effortless. And, of course, that doesn't usually happen.

    So here are some thoughts, in no particular order.

    1. Shifting position can be done faster than it might seem. So, every 16th note rest can be viewed as an opportunity reposition your hand to some other fret. It can be done even without a rest, but, with a rest, you can go anywhere.

    2. Shifting position to get more consecutive notes on the same string can help solve picking problems.

    3. Don't forget small shifts. Moving back and forth by a single fret can help. And, don't overlook the possibility of shifts by playing a note with what might seem like the wrong finger. Suppose, for example, you play an Eb with the pinkie and the next note is a D. Maybe you play the D with the first finger to accomplish a shift.

    4. Now and then I can't avoid sticking in an open string note to get a passage up to speed. Usually, at breakneck pace the different in timbre and sustain is less noticeable.

    5. Oftentimes, I am surprised by how many potential solutions there are even to a short passage. Keep trying things!

    6. Some things are easier to play on a different guitar, a different setup or with a different pick. Being able to maintain a good grip on the pick is really helpful.

    7. Usually, the limitations are in the right hand, not the left. So, addressing picking problems is often important. Meanwhile, consider using even wild left hand shifts, hammers and pull-offs to facilitate picking. It is even possible to hammer onto a note on a lower string with any finger (often the 3rd when I do it) and get it to sound without picking it at all. Sometimes that gets you as close as you're going to get to playing the passage.

    8. If you're not playing the line with another instrument, consider changing it if you must. Leaving a note out of a fast passage can help. They aren't all gems.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigNick21 View Post
    Right now I'm transcribing Clifford Brown on Sandu, and I have a challenge transcribing horn players like Clifford Brown and Hank Mobley. The main thing that gives me difficulty is finding the most comfortable fingerings. I can hum the notes, and I know what they are, but I always stumble over myself and can't play it fast enough. Everything was going fine in transcribing this solo, but a few bars in he starts playing complex 16th note lines. How do you find the right fingerings that allow you to play it up to speed?
    Trial and error. I have studied and played a few solos by Bird and Clifford and was amazed at how hard some of the bars are on guitar. Totally unguitaristic (naturally). I always try to find chord shapes myself for the best fingerings.

    Transcribing Clifford or Bird is one thing. Playing his stuff is totally different, especially if you attempt it in the original tempo.

    Bars 17-23 of "Joy Spring" require complex 16th note lines on a tempo of 165 BPM. And they don't even lie that great on guitar. A total bitch. Until now I have not seen a single other guitarist playing this solo in real time on Youtube. With good reason. There is no easy way to play complex 16th note lines by Bird and Brownie. The horn is a much faster instrument than the guitar. It's a humbling experience playing shit like that and knowing these guys invent it on the spot.

    Scatting them is much easier ...

    DB


  8. #7

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    Couldn't agree more with DB. When I was younger I think I undervalued playing things that lay really well on the instrument, and I over-valued learning literal lines from horn players. The best jazz players all take advantage of things that lay well on their instruments. Charlie Christian, Wes, Peter Bernstein, all my favorite guitarists play things that lay well on the guitar and make sense.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcsanwald View Post
    Couldn't agree more with DB. When I was younger I think I undervalued playing things that lay really well on the instrument, and I over-valued learning literal lines from horn players. The best jazz players all take advantage of things that lay well on their instruments. Charlie Christian, Wes, Peter Bernstein, all my favorite guitarists play things that lay well on the guitar and make sense.
    Quite so. I think most guitarists play well ... in a guitaristic way (meaning playing what lies well on the guitar). That's why horn lines are so hard. Try a Chris Potter or Brecker solo on guitar. Sooooooo hard.

    Grasso seems to be an exception. Is he not transcending the guitar? Because he plays more pianistic than guitaristic?

    DB

  10. #9

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    most horn-players play in a horn-like way, and would have difficulty learning many guitar lines, or anything with more than one note sounded at a time. Pasquale hasn't read Kay Van Eps' question to George: "did't they already invent the piano?"!

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcsanwald View Post
    Couldn't agree more with DB. When I was younger I think I undervalued playing things that lay really well on the instrument, and I over-valued learning literal lines from horn players. The best jazz players all take advantage of things that lay well on their instruments. Charlie Christian, Wes, Peter Bernstein, all my favorite guitarists play things that lay well on the guitar and make sense.
    I love the players that you mentioned... I can't get enough of all three of them!

    That said, I don't think that they play "guitaristic" at all--other than the fact that they are all soaked DEEP in blues guitar.

    Peter plays all over the neck. So does Wes. Barry Greene, another killing player, plays "more positionally" and seems more guitaristic to me--in terms of what lays well.

    Charlie Christian tried to sound like a horn player before sounding like a horn player was cool.

    What I'm saying is--don't limit yourself. Learn another instrument, even if it's basic knowledge, and apply it to the guitar. I play a little piano (I'm working it up more) and I play a little drums (it's hard to practice without a set, but I'll drum on anything that makes a sound--to my wife's dismay). I try to apply what I play on these different instruments to the guitar. If I played the theremin, I'd bring that over to the guitar as well.

    Don't get me wrong. I LOVE the sound of the guitar (but this tuning business is driving me mad now that my ears are sensitive to all that... I found the downside to ear training as much as I do). The cats that know how to lay into a note, bend it, wiggle it, and nurse it to life--wow! I listened to Graham Dechter last night in an organ trio--shesh, he GETS it.

    Play what lays well, but seek to explore what doesn't. For me, the music has to be my guide, not my instrument. That sounds grandiose, but it's the reason why I've spend a third of my life directly and indirectly training my ears.
    Last edited by Irez87; 07-31-2019 at 02:30 AM.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Irez87 View Post
    I love the players that you mentioned... I can't get enough of all three of them!

    Peter plays all over the neck. So does Wes. Barry Greene, another killing player, plays "more positionally" and seems more guitaristic to me--in terms of what lays well.

    Charlie Christian tried to sound like a horn player before sounding like a horn player was cool.
    The common thread for me, in all 3 players, is that they use a lot of chord shapes on the guitar as a way of generating melodic choices. Charlie Christian does this the most, I analyzed a solo of his on "Rose Room", and have learned many of Charlies' solos. An example of what I mean is the F9 triplet lick in the middle of "Rose Room", to me, Charlie is pretty clearly using an F9/F13 chord shape on this. It lays well on the instrument, and makes sense guitaristically.

    When I took a lesson with Peter Bernstein many, many years ago, he went over how he thinks about voice leading and how that informs his melodic choices. Again, I think he looks at a lot at voicings that work well on the guitar and his single note lines in many ways come out of those voicings. I've transcribed and learned tons of Peter's solos, and it's very rare I've run across a line where I'm not sure what fingering/position he used, I feel it's usually pretty obvious.

    All 3 of the players I mentioned tend to use the 3 fingers and thumb hooked over the neck style.

    A counterexample to these players, for me, are Ben Monder and John Stowell, who both have unique, detailed styles which can be extremely difficult to decode and learn and if you are not Ben or John. Ben in particular pushes the limits of the instrument, and I'm not sure even he would describe what he does as "laying naturally" on the guitar. I love both of their music and think what they play absolutely makes musical sense, I just don't think of it as particularly guitaristic.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcsanwald View Post
    The common thread for me, in all 3 players, is that they use a lot of chord shapes on the guitar as a way of generating melodic choices. Charlie Christian does this the most, I analyzed a solo of his on "Rose Room", and have learned many of Charlies' solos. An example of what I mean is the F9 triplet lick in the middle of "Rose Room", to me, Charlie is pretty clearly using an F9/F13 chord shape on this. It lays well on the instrument, and makes sense guitaristically.

    When I took a lesson with Peter Bernstein many, many years ago, he went over how he thinks about voice leading and how that informs his melodic choices. Again, I think he looks at a lot at voicings that work well on the guitar and his single note lines in many ways come out of those voicings. I've transcribed and learned tons of Peter's solos, and it's very rare I've run across a line where I'm not sure what fingering/position he used, I feel it's usually pretty obvious.

    All 3 of the players I mentioned tend to use the 3 fingers and thumb hooked over the neck style.

    A counterexample to these players, for me, are Ben Monder and John Stowell, who both have unique, detailed styles which can be extremely difficult to decode and learn and if you are not Ben or John. Ben in particular pushes the limits of the instrument, and I'm not sure even he would describe what he does as "laying naturally" on the guitar. I love both of their music and think what they play absolutely makes musical sense, I just don't think of it as particularly guitaristic.
    My mentor was a longtime student of Peter B as well as many of Peter's elders. Chord shapes or not, I don't think physical shapes dictate what Peter B, Charlie C, or Wes play. The shape is a mechanism, the sound is the primary focus. Peter B can play a solo using one finger, so can my mentor, so could Henry Johnson. In the beginning we learn shapes, the fretboard is a hot mess (and I'm not the first to say that, many pro's agree) and shapes help make a method out of the madness.

    That said, there comes a point when we should explore sound as it exists and try to grab it anyway we can. On one string. Two strings. Three. Position or not. The sound is what we chase, not the shape. Watch Jimmy Raney play, that's not positional, that's not fenced in by a shape. Same with Wes.

    A shape can help us arrive at a sound, but thinking "I can't play that sound because there isn't a neat shape in position that produces that sound" is... well, that's the major problem I have with a lot of intermediate to advanced guitar instruction. Think outside the box... er, shape.

    Cue the "Irez87 believes we shouldn't play in chord shapes" responses.

    This is NOT an attempt to derail the OP. Actually, it addresses the OP completely. I transcribe my favorite sounds--piano, bass, drums, guitar, vibraphone, glockenspiel... I'm after sounds whether they "lay in position" or not. At the end, who cares? We should be concerned with playing music, not guitar.

  14. #13

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    Playing of off the chord shapes defined my approach to jazz. I'm very happy with that, because before the teachers I had were all talking about this scales or that scale, and it didn't help at all.

    It's my safe base, from which I can wander off to any fretboard adventure I feel like at times, and safely come back to. Contrary to what some might think, I believe anything we can physically play we actually hear. We can't play something that we not hear, there would be no connection between your brain and your fingers. So I wouldn't worry too much about missing out on ear training while you trying to get the transcribed lines under your fingers, on your instrument. Sorry Irez!

    That not to say ear training by itself should be ignored. Prof. Jablonsky (a reference for Irez) taught me that cold. As a performer though, you gotta have chops, you gotta be physically able to play your lines. That takes awfully long time, at least for me. So as transcribing goes, my ultimate goal is to steal and absorb the ideas I can use, that fit my style, my taste. The last thing I worry about if it's too guitaristic, or too in the box. Not at this point anyway.