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  1. #1

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    I thought beginners could benefit from a thread where everyone contributes several tips or general advice for beginners. That way when the thread gets large enough, people can just browse through everyones advice in one place to get ideas on where to start and how to improve. I'll start with mine as an example:

    Disclaimer: None of the products and sites below are being "endorsed" haha, I just really find them helpful!

    1) www.jguitar.com use this website to find chords and calculate the modes and scales and see them on the fretboard with letters and scale degrees
    2) Band in a Box try the demo, plug in chords and have an instant band to jam with. Start with a 1-6-2-5 progression on loop...4 chords, endless jamming while you learn more.
    3) learn licks from your favorite jazz guitar players and rather than copy licks, see what each lick is doing and make your own lick perhaps (based off the lick in front of you). Good way to build jazz vocabulary and technique. I am currently using tab, but I am learning to sight read by learning the letter names for each fret position(more on sight reading suggested below)
    4) Practice humming and trying to play what you hum
    5) Think of improvisation as language. Builds words, then phrases, then sentences and connect to build a story
    6) For creating or downloading tabs/notation, use the program Guitar Pro or Tuxguitar is free(I am having problems getting this program working, but try it out and see if it works for you, totally free program!)...then all you do is google say, "Wes Montgomery Guitar Pro Tab" and files will pop up that include both staff notation and tab.

    I am pretty much starting out in the world of jazz guitar myself, but I have found the things above to really help me out and are general enough that many could benefit from such practices. FEEL FREE TO MAKE SUGGESTIONS/CORRECTIONS FOR MY LIST ABOVE!! PM me or add your own ideas, don't be shy! :-) I want this thread to be very interactive and helpful for anybody.
    Last edited by heavyblues; 08-11-2009 at 11:02 PM.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I think what I'm about to write is good for guitarists at any level and any style...

    Set long term aspirations... Dream of where you want to be a year or years down the road. An example of an aspiration, 'I want to form/join a jazz trio and be able to play 4 hour gigs at a professional level'. Write these aspirations down.

    Set mid term goals that you believe will move you in the direction of achieving your aspirations. These goals should be more concrete; these goals are tasks you have control over. For instance, 'my goal is to learn at least one new jazz tune a week', or 'I'm going to spend 15 minutes a day practicing jazz licks with a metronome or BIAB as a technical exercise to develop more speed'. Write these goals down.

    Last create daily to-do lists. Check them off as you complete them.

    ------------------

    By doing this you are forced to think out and formalize your practice routines; for me this creates more focus and better practice.

  4. #3

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    A couple things I've picked up:

    1. practice for an hour, then take a break before resuming practice. Otherwise you end up noodling.

    2. if you are a tablature reader, practice playing simple lines in standard notation. For even better results, try to practice playing all the notes in the 7th to 9th fret area. It's pretty amazing how many different ways to play the same thing become accessible once you practice this for a few weeks.

    3. tab is fine for quick reference, but standard notation let you see the notes, as opposed to the numbers.

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by gravyTrain
    A couple things I've picked up:

    1. practice for an hour, then take a break before resuming practice. Otherwise you end up noodling.

    2. if you are a tablature reader, practice playing simple lines in standard notation. For even better results, try to practice playing all the notes in the 7th to 9th fret area. It's pretty amazing how many different ways to play the same thing become accessible once you practice this for a few weeks.

    3. tab is fine for quick reference, but standard notation let you see the notes, as opposed to the numbers.
    I agree. Tab is not the language of musicians, but of guitarists only. If one wants to be a jazz musician, moving away from dependence on tab is an important move. Learning to speak, read and write the language of musicians is vital. Tab is for players who are used to playing in guitar based settings like rock and blues bands.

    Nothing inherently wrong with tab, heck I use it all the time for checking positioning.

  6. #5

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    If you are a TAB reader, just do everyone a favor and learn standard notation. It's been said here I echo it.

    In a world of Jazz Guitarists who cannot read well, let alone sight read those few out there that are good readers are in much higher demand. Now, I recognize that many here are hobbiests and not professional/do not desire to be professional. But having the ability to read and understand notation will improve every aspect of your music from playing other people's music to having other people play yours.

    If you have good notation skills then it is easier to...

    1 - create lead sheets of standards/originals of yours or transcribed tunes for your band to play on gigs or in jam sessions
    2 - makes the transition from reading text about theory to actually being able to understand it.

    There are countless other advantages to having reading skills. it is not easy at the start but working it into your day to day practice is something you nigh will regret

    Some other things....


    While Play-alongs and BIAB are fine tools they are by no means anything close to playing with real people weither they be your level, below your level or astronomically above you. It is in the actual functional playing of this music that we learn the most. Many people's egos get in the way, the fear of sounding bad is a powerful emotion but one you must squash. Many of the the absolute greatest musicians of all time were never satisfied with their playing. Coltrane would play on stage for 20 minutes on a blues and then when the piano solo started he'd go backstage and practice, he was always searching. Imagine if he was unwilling to play until he arrived at the level he thought acceptable... no none of us are Trane, the point is that if you don't think you're ready, you are ready. If you think you're ready you were ready 6 months ago.

    You must play as soon as possible. What is as soon as possible? When you can play without getting lost just a handful of tunes, preferably memorized but relaly who cares. Get together with friends and play, find people to play with. Ask for help, find the pros and ask if you can come by for a lesson. Most people will accept in any circumstance.

    That

    And

    Learn your arpeggios

  7. #6

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    Don't neglect the ear-training and aural memory development!! Whatever approach you prefer or find effective: transcribing, traditional sight-singing type exercises, contextual ear training, singing and playing what you sing. In any case, do some of this sort of thing ASAP and make it a daily habit to work on your "musicality".

    Learn tunes (memorize as much as possible) and how to play over them (start with basic arpeggios or patterns that make you hear the tune)...

    Definitely, play with other people as much as possible, as Jake says. If not though, play with CDs and not JUST the play-alongs. And have fun, I suppose, right folks ?

  8. #7

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    Learn what musical intervals are and how to construct chords with them.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jake Hanlon

    You must play as soon as possible. What is as soon as possible? When you can play without getting lost just a handful of tunes, preferably memorized but relaly who cares. Get together with friends and play, find people to play with. Ask for help, find the pros and ask if you can come by for a lesson. Most people will accept in any circumstance.
    yes, yes and YES!

    play with people better than you. that's the best way to get better. find jam buddies on craigslist, the local music store, wherever, but DO IT. The beautiful thing about this is, you will never run out of people better than you...in fact, the better i get, it seems more folks who can kick my ass keep showing up!

    learn from other instuments, not just the guitar. listen to piano players...the guitar is a polyphonic instrument! why do so many people forget that?

    being a better rhythm player will make you a better lead player. know your chords. not just shapes, know how to make 'em. everywhere. being a better rhythm player will also make people want to play with you more.

    make sure for every hour you do exercises and scales and arpeggios you spend an hour learning tunes.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    yes, yes and YES!

    play with people better than you. that's the best way to get better. find jam buddies on craigslist, the local music store, wherever, but DO IT. The beautiful thing about this is, you will never run out of people better than you...in fact, the better i get, it seems more folks who can kick my ass keep showing up!

    learn from other instuments, not just the guitar. listen to piano players...the guitar is a polyphonic instrument! why do so many people forget that?

    being a better rhythm player will make you a better lead player. know your chords. not just shapes, know how to make 'em. everywhere. being a better rhythm player will also make people want to play with you more.

    make sure for every hour you do exercises and scales and arpeggios you spend an hour learning tunes.
    Man I had this experience last week of July at camp. Mornings were a couple of hours of concepts with Jody Fisher, then 2 hours of playing. Jeff Seigle (drums) and Tim Ferguson (upright), both active players on the NYC scene, came into class to provide the rhythm section.

    We were handed a tune, told to come up with an intro, communicate it quickly to the band, count it in, play the head, take 3 choruses with 1st being an opening statement, 2nd a body, 3rd, an ending statement, comp one chorus for Jody, head out and have an outro. Ready, go.

    Problem is, I had never heard of any of these tunes. Boy did I get embarrassed. After a few days of struggling with this each morning I certainly found what my holes were. After each performance, you got feedback from all three. Was VERY interesting to hear a drummer and then a bassist give feedback to a guitarist. So basically I paid to have my ass kicked daily for the week. Was a great experience.

  11. #10

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    Wow, that sounds like a heck of a learning experience!

    I'm very much a beginner when it comes to jazz guitar. But, I have a few things working in my favor that I would definitely suggest to anyone.

    First, I'll echo the "learn more instruments" statement. Nothing solidifies music theory quite like seeing it from a new instrument's stand point.

    Second, listen. Listen to every type of music (not just jazz) you can get your hands on. Once you listen to it once, listen again and again. Try to listen to just the guitar or just the bass or just one instrument or two instruments at a time. Think while you listen about how that instrument blends with the rest of the ensemble.

    Third, I'll echo again the importance of music notation. You can't call yourself a musician if you can't read music. That's like being an illiterate English teacher. Something just won't add up for you. Notate solos by ear to help develop your ears; write out chords to solos on the staff with the solo to see where it is on the scales; and for God's sake, learn those intervals! Remember, music is a 12 half step program!

    ~Danny Boy

  12. #11
    I am currently working on a very simple excercise which I am sure has been suggested in different places for getting more fretboard practice...

    Take one 'box' on the guitar and play from top down and bottom up chromatically with 16th notes at different tempos...so 28 notes in total. I am realizing my picking and fingering weakness by doing this. I am hoping this exercise will help me play more fluid runs without tripping. I use it as a warmup for now.

    I am noticing that by doing this am introducing more chromatics into my playing a lot more comfortably, try it out!

  13. #12

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    thanks for this thread, I could really use it..

  14. #13
    From the suggestions in this thread, I have begun to learn sight reading. I noticed two additional benefits from learning sight reading...you can easily copy licks from say Charlie Parker or Herbie Hancock, whose music doesn't usually come in Tab form(although I have a Charlie Parker guitar tab book). Another benefit is that tab limits you to numbers on the fretboard which don't give you an understanding of the music. However, with sight reading, you learn the letter names of each fret position which helps keep you connected to theory and the such. You can also associate each fret position with a scale degree so you can 'feel' how you are resolving 7ths to 3rds etc(if you want, but I don't know if both approaches should be learned, especially at first).

    Here is the exercise I am currently using because learning every letter for every fret position is overwhelming. Just like the chromatic exercise I am practicing, take a 4 note by 6 string box (24 notes, typical box) and memorize every letter for every fret position. This is easy since its only 24 notes. That way you can start transcriving sight read tunes easily to this position. Once you get it down, do this with another position, until you have mastered the entire fretboard. I am on my way, and making good progress! Hope this helps!

  15. #14

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    Don't worry so much about gear.

    Certainly an aspiring jazz player should have a decent quality instrument that's well set up, and an amp capable of a producing a reasonably clean sound at volume levels appropriate to their playing situation. However, worrying about having just the right pickup, or the same strings as player X or solidbody versus archtop is something you should probably worry about AFTER you get your chops together.

    If your gear is interfering with your technique, get it fixed. If it's not, get back to practicing.

    As for amps - do yourself and your loved ones/relatives/neighbours a favour. Get a pocket pod or some other headphone amp setup. I practice more often, and more productively when it's for my ears only. I can also practice late into the night (advantage: solidbody!) without disrupting anyone's sleep other than my own.

  16. #15

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    Transcribe solos, learn tunes "...and play, play, play" as Joe Pass would say.

  17. #16

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    I think that is good advice. The emphasis should really be in the playing and not in learning theory. Learning theory will certainly make you a better player, but you don't practice for a gig by learning scales...

  18. #17
    This is just my 2nd post. I'm a middle aged, graying, overweight middle income kind of guy, who has found himself put out to pasture early by his employer due to chronic health problems (wah, wah).

    Anyways, have always wanted to learn jazz, both as a bass player (I play electric and have a NS CRM5-a really nice animal) and as a guitarist.

    While I could have afforded a really fine Gibson, I decided to go the low end and bought an Ibanez Artcore off of (gasp!) EBAY.

    This, despite my older brother's stern protestations. He supports his wife and family working in a tool and die shop for his day job. However, he regularly takes time off of work to play as a studio session guitarist in Nashville and has played with many of the best players around the country).

    Given that I play bass and GTR, I use bass amps as my amplification (too many to write here) and I have found they work GREAT for getting that Joe Pass, mellow, "neck pickup only" sound.

    As far as learning and practicing goes, I was fortunate in that my Dad was a professional jazz/pop singer for the largest AM radio station in Detroit (WJR) at the time (1945-50).

    He later became an elementary school teacher and sadly, gave up on the singing gig (he had a beautiful Irish tenor voice, but the pressure of performing live in front of a radio microphone eventually proved to put too much tension in his head so he retired from being an active, professional singer).

    The bottom line was that he became an elementary teacher and dealt with his stress by coming home; and playing/singing all the old jazz standards of his day and before (Tin Pan Alley stuff, as well as the classics written by Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern and many of the songs from the famous musicals of his day).

    I came to learn Cole Porter tunes better than i did Led Zeppelin or the other "Classic Rock" era bands of MY day.

    Well, this little diatribe is really just another introduction to this forum I guess. The bottom line is that I really want to learn all those old classics, particularly the ones ol' blue eyes belted out with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. For me, that is how I am getting my butt in gear and gently nudging myself to learn. It's frustrating but yet wonderful to stretch my mind and fingers to play all those relatively (compared to old blood and guts, blues based rock and roll chords and riffs that I learned as a kid) complicated song patterns.

    Jazz: It's such a wonderful myriad of expansive chords and riffs. Put together, I'm finding and exploring new treasure troves within my psyche.

    If find myself almost in a state of bliss; when I can smoothly, even lovingly, make my Ibanez clearly vocalize a dance; a dance and weave of notes expressing moods out of the collective unconscious.

    It is only Jazz, not any other modality, where I can brew up a set of lines, riffs and chords into a wonderful, aromatic breeze that makes come me come away more alive, more refreshed and somehow just a damned bit happier and hopeful that I would have been without taking the time to practice and push myself and stretch my mind and hands.

    For me, my desire to learn to play jazz bass and jazz guitar is something akin to the mythological journeys Joseph Campbell wrote and talked about so often.

    And now, I've spent far too much time on this blasted computer, and it's time to "jam" and find a few gleeful moments in learning some of the great ballads as sung by ol' "Blue Eyes" or that played and sung by my father.

    So I guess, JAZZ is a form of spirituality, a sort of musical meditation, in which both the player\ and listener embark on the archetypal "father quest" such as that told by Plato in "Odysseus" .


    All that "high brow" stuff aside, I'm really glad this forum exists. I find many of the other guitar and bass forums dominated by young men, who "act out" in silly and insulting ways;

    However, like me, as they age, they'll find playing the latest music or death metal or what not, will inevitably leave them tired, bored, unchallenged. And there will be JAZZ, waiting quietly in the shadows, for its opportunity to be engaged...

    p.s. I promise never to write anything so brooding as this again. But every so often, the "spirit" moves me ...it's a good sign that I'm back on track with my "center," something I haven't done in a long time.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by thepowerofmyth
    The bottom line is that I really want to learn all those old classics, particularly the ones ol' blue eyes belted out with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. For me, that is how I am getting my butt in gear and gently nudging myself to learn. It's frustrating but yet wonderful to stretch my mind and fingers to play all those relatively (compared to old blood and guts, blues based rock and roll chords and riffs that I learned as a kid) complicated song patterns.
    Welcome thepowerofmyth

    I enjoyed your post and foundit quite motivating. I think you are approaching the challenge with the right perspective and motivation - to learn the tunes of the great songwriters and to experience the jazz tradition.

    Quote Originally Posted by thepowerofmyth
    However, like me, as they age, they'll find playing the latest music or death metal or what not, will inevitably leave them tired, bored, unchallenged. And there will be JAZZ, waiting quietly in the shadows, for its opportunity to be engaged...
    Could this be the destiny of Jazz...a creative oasis for maturing musicians seeking respite from the current state of popular music?

  20. #19

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    Hey there! Wow! Love your letter! There's a beautiful song in there somewhere. Stay 'centre'd best you can and the spirit will not only move you...it will play and sing through you. If it can create an evolving universe... surely it can do that!

  21. #20

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    Thanks so much for this thread, the link to jguitar.com will really help me!

  22. #21

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    thepowerofmyth, really enjoyed your post!!

  23. #22

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    1) listen to everything critically
    2) hang out with other musicians and play with them when ever you can
    3) when you practice.. practice something specific, don't jump from one thing to another. Set an amount of time for each task and stick to it... even 10 minutes is fine so long as your consistent in your approach.
    4) sing what you hear in your head all the time (there is no shame in scatting some blues phrases while your in the shopping centre ) If people look at you funny.. Its because they are jealous, not that you're strange!
    5) enjoy yourself!!!!

  24. #23

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    I guess some of the mistakes I see in beginners without teachers are the following.

    Rhythm guitar is played in a non-stop movement (later that may change but not at first) Up down up down constant, most only swing when they want to hit the strings.

    A bend is not just bending a string, it is bending a string into an exact note. Now bending a little over or under can add a little more voice to it, but only a very little, otherwise it's just an ugly note.

    I don't think really theory is something to begin with, sooner or later you should want to understand how music works, but start out just playing other songs and doing it well.

  25. #24

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    thepowerofmyth, your post was great and you don't need to apologise for it; there's enough room on this board for everyone and all their thoughts. Especially when as well presented as yours was.

  26. #25

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    Right on to the PowerodMyth. Great post...hope to see you here often.

    Love the Wah-Wah....me too!!!!!