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  1. #1

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    ... or Bertie teaches Del to play jazz.

    As mentioned over in the improvisation section on the "Frustrated" thread, I'm another of those players coming from other styles struggling to play jazz (by this, I mean, improvise over the standards to a basic, but competent, level). I've tried many times, but to no avail.

    So anyway, I thought it was time for another go, before it's too late.

    And I've decided on a new approach based on Bertie's efforts to learn a language - in his case, not jazz, but English. Bertie is 16 months old and isn't worried about making a fool of himself. He's not worried about grammar or building a coherent story. He's not even worried about sentences. Just the occasional word that is (allegedly) recognisable, is enough for him to giggle in delight and dribble a bit. Much like me with jazz, to be honest.

    So I've set myself a real simple "Step One" - just learn ten tunes. No hip changes, just the simplest vanilla stuff I can find. No worries about playing things in all keys. Just learn some tunes. Allied to this I'm trying to learn a few licks - not to memorise them, just to get a bit of a jazz feel into my playing.

    It's going okay - kind of like Bertie's English on a good day. Although I'm still a long way short of ten songs, thus far. But one that I have learned in a simple manner is After You've Gone. And here is a composed solo in which I've used a couple of licks from Matt Warnock's "Easy Licks Book" which I play over and over in an effort to get them under my fingers. There's also a (fluffed) lick from Dirk's easy licks lesson on this very site, too.

    Anyway, really early days, and I'll hopefully add to this thread as I progress.


    Cheers
    Derek

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I like that song and I enjoyed that :-)

  4. #3

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    I think you are off to a great start. Just keep at it.

  5. #4

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    The chords shown on much sheet music can be overly complicated. Ralph Patt's Vanilla Book is a great resource, with the basic vanilla chords for many jazz tunes. There are also backing tracks if you're interested in that.

    http://www.ralphpatt.com/Song.html

    Backing Tracks

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    I think you are off to a great start. Just keep at it.
    Agreed. And a nice guitar tone as well!

  7. #6

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    Good work. Kudos!

  8. #7
    Thanks for the comments and the encouragement, folks :-) Much appreciated!

    Step one, is on-going...

    Derek

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    The chords shown on much sheet music can be overly complicated. Ralph Patt's Vanilla Book is a great resource, with the basic vanilla chords for many jazz tunes. There are also backing tracks if you're interested in that.

    http://www.ralphpatt.com/Song.html

    Backing Tracks
    I was going to mention Patt's Vanilla Book. It's easy to see basic changes to hundreds of standards, and in so doing, you learn to see patterns of chords / changes. It makes it all seem less complicated.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by digger View Post
    ... or Bertie teaches Del to play jazz....
    Nice! That's the way to do it. Sounds good.

  11. #10

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    Sounds good to me as well. You're off to a good start for sure!

  12. #11
    This is a re-post - I was about to post Del's Tiny Steps # 3 - but when I looked back I found that Post # 2 has gone. No idea where. I was starting to doubt I ever posted it, but a quick Google does point to it, except there's nothing comes up when I follow the Google link.

    So here's # 2 again, which is a composed solo over Satin Doll - one of the ten songs I set out to learn. The intention isn't (wasn't) to solo at this stage, just to get some chords and melodies under my fingers. But I got tempted to rustle up a line or two. Meanwhile Bertie, the inspiration for this new approach to jazz, has now got a fair few words under his very young lips. More words than I have jazz phrases....

    So here's video # 2 again, before I get onto # 3.



    Cheers
    Derek

  13. #12

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    Nice job! Great sounding and looking guitar. Where did you get your background tracks?

  14. #13
    Thanks jumpnblues. Re. the backing tracks, I recorded them myself. Part of the plan (the main part really) is to learn a bunch of songs - rhythm and melody - so the backing tracks are me. It's just not very exciting to post a few minutes of rhythm playing!

    Cheers
    Derek

  15. #14
    Update # 3

    Well little Bertie, now at about 20 months, is rabbiting on and, now, quite frequently says something intelligible. His vocabulary is growing, albeit still limited, and it's rare he puts two words together (usually just "Oh dear"). Of course, his pronunciation is poor, but the kid's only been at this talking lark a few months.

    About the same time, actually, since I started this blog / thread...

    So how do I compare?

    Well, I have the advantage that I know that I'm learning something and I can thus apply all sorts of learning strategies (good and bad), whereas Bertie has the advantage that he's got nothing else to do all day but learn this language, and he's at the age where stuff sticks. I'm at the age where nothing sticks, and I only have an hour or so after work.

    So evens, so far, and my attempts at jazz are about the equivalent of Bertie's attempts at speaking. I think he will pull ahead soon, and he'll be saying sentences and holding conversations long before I can do the same with a jazz guitar.

    I think the key thing for me to remember, is unless Bertie is a genius, it'll be 15 or 16 more years, maybe (probably) a lot longer, before he is able, or in a position, to make proper / valid / relevant / learned / original speeches. I need to remember this when my basic jazz playing seems extremely slow, poorly articulated, and derivative.

    Anyway, there it is. The next post will be all about distractions and tangents, which are the bane of my jazz journey at the moment.

    Meanwhile, here's a version of Coquette I did on the gypsy jazzer. Only this week I snapped the neck so my gypsy jazz (one of those aforementioned tangents) is now being practiced on a dreadnaught...



    EDIT: Oh, and here's the current state of that guitar:

    Del's Tiny Steps...-broken-jpg

    I'm told, by a professional luthier, that it's easily fixable. Just have to wait six months(*) for the lock-down to be over.

    (*) My estimate. I'm not "in the know".

    Cheers
    Derek

  16. #15

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    That's some mighty fine playing there, Derek!

    As for the headstock break: as far as I know it's really not a big deal to fix that but you should take provisions that the crack stays clean and dry with no humidity seeping into the bare wood in the crack. Maybe ask your luthier what you should do about that.

  17. #16
    In my last post I said that in this one I'd talk about tangents and diversions. I was thinking about these being negative things that have pulled me away from my original, simple, aim to learn some songs. But this specific tangent has been, and is continuing to be, a positive diversion. Plus I learned a song!

    It's a bit of gypsy swing (in a fashion) with a local chap. We've never played together - we had plans but those plans were thwarted by the Cornovirus lock-down. Maybe one day. Meanwhile, through the wonders of digi-cams and Dropbox we did this:

    Cheers
    Derek

  18. #17

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    Very nice - you two sound good together!

  19. #18
    Well, I've no real idea how little Bertie is getting on learning his language now, because of the lockdown, but I know mine is slow-going. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It's a very faint light but there are moments - rare and fleeting - when I think I get it. These are nothing more than brief glimpses through a crack in the door, but when they come I think songs / arpeggios / chords / licks and I have a moment when all these things overlay each other and... then the door slams shut. But it's enough to make me believe that if I can keep the momentum and focus I might yet be able to drive a wedge in that door.

    Anyway, in the meantime, here's another of our lock-down remote tunes. I've never met Andy, and have never played at the same time or in the same room as Chris. But this is proving fun to do and it's adding to the learning.



    Cheers
    Derek

  20. #19
    My "learning jazz" note book has "November 2019" written at the top of the first page - so that's six months. Time for reflection maybe?

    Well, it's certainly hard work, this learning jazz lark, and most of the stuff in that notebook I've already forgotten. This is my major issue with this journey at the moment - I need to get away from it being a memory game. That aside, I think it's going okay. I set out to learn ten songs, which I did. I even worked up composed solos for several of them. I learned a half dozen or so "standard licks" and a couple of ii-V-Is.

    Alas, all of that's gone. I mean it really is - just gone as if I never learned it in the first place. I guess I need to keep going over and over this stuff - but time is tight. Time is always tight.

    I then spent some time - a lot of time, comparatively speaking - in the Garrison Fewell study group and that went well, but it's all forgotten, too.

    I've worked through the first chapter of Randy Vincent's "The Guitarist's Introduction to Jazz" about three times, and am on my fourth go through. The chord shapes are sticking. The progressions not so.

    Then there's been the Django stuff - this is probably the reason all the above has been forgotten as I've been really focused on this. But then this is also at a really early stage. I'm learning songs and new chord shapes, transcribing bits of Django (even the slow stuff is hard to get right) and trying to get a handle on gypsy picking (alas, as soon as I get above about 100 bpm the gypsy picking just vanishes and 40 years of rock'n'roll picking takes over!). I've worked up solos for Sweet Georgia Brown, I Can't Give You Anything But Love, and now Avalon (see below) but not really happy with any of them. Yet, on the bright side, I'm playing jazz with other people and I never imagined that would happen, let alone within six months.

    So, although I've genuinely forgotten 90% of what I've learned, and although I struggle to improvise at true in-life tempos, and although my playing is stilted and far too reliant on arpeggios, I'm going to declare myself happy with these first six months (snapping my gypsy jazzer's neck in the middle of lock-down, aside), and hopefully will start to see some better playing in the next six.


  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by digger View Post
    ... or Bertie teaches Del to play jazz.

    As mentioned over in the improvisation section on the "Frustrated" thread, I'm another of those players coming from other styles struggling to play jazz (by this, I mean, improvise over the standards to a basic, but competent, level). I've tried many times, but to no avail.

    So anyway, I thought it was time for another go, before it's too late.

    And I've decided on a new approach based on Bertie's efforts to learn a language - in his case, not jazz, but English. Bertie is 16 months old and isn't worried about making a fool of himself. He's not worried about grammar or building a coherent story. He's not even worried about sentences. Just the occasional word that is (allegedly) recognisable, is enough for him to giggle in delight and dribble a bit. Much like me with jazz, to be honest.

    So I've set myself a real simple "Step One" - just learn ten tunes. No hip changes, just the simplest vanilla stuff I can find. No worries about playing things in all keys. Just learn some tunes. Allied to this I'm trying to learn a few licks - not to memorise them, just to get a bit of a jazz feel into my playing.

    It's going okay - kind of like Bertie's English on a good day. Although I'm still a long way short of ten songs, thus far. But one that I have learned in a simple manner is After You've Gone. And here is a composed solo in which I've used a couple of licks from Matt Warnock's "Easy Licks Book" which I play over and over in an effort to get them under my fingers. There's also a (fluffed) lick from Dirk's easy licks lesson on this very site, too.

    Anyway, really early days, and I'll hopefully add to this thread as I progress.


    Cheers
    Derek
    Thanks for sharing...

    I listened to this one and Satin Doll..

    To be completely honest, I haven't posted here too often or listened to too many players, but I get the impression that what passes for, as you put it, a 'competent jazz solo' is either a really high standard or really subjective.

    Like I thought it sounded good man. Like pretty darn good. Sounded like you were getting the target notes, were swinging and had some nice themes going. You weren't just going through scales.

    It definitely sounded like jazz to me, and I'm a middle aged guy who's been listening to (and also trying to play) jazz for ~15 years. Especially if you just started, I think it's really good.

  22. #21
    A few weeks on, I'm taking some time to review what I've learned (and forgotten) these last six months. Going back over some of my composed solos I'm already finding a (very) few things where I think I could do that better now. Which is nice.

    Nevertheless, it seems to me that I'm very stuck in what I shall call plug'n'play mode. At this stage in proceedings I'm not sure this is a bad thing, and certainly there are a number of educational videos where experts are at pains to stress it's better to know a few things really well, and use those things a lot, than to know a lot of things poorly and to use them rarely.

    I've kept that in mind over the last few months and have learned a small number of lines over the main chord types, then when improvising I can plug'n'play these lines to my hearts content. It sounds easy, but there's still this long delay in the thinking process: "Next chord is an E7. Okay, what are my dominant lines? Yep, found them. Okay I'll use this one. Damn we're already onto the A minor. Okay, what are my minor lines?"

    But I'm getting quicker. Albeit slowly.

    The results however, are very regimented. Everything is on the chord, rather than crossing over chords (although I have learned a couple of ii-V-i lines, and these do sound way better than the single chord lines. Other common sequences, too, are just starting to come into my consciousness) and everything tends to be straight eights. I need to work on rhythmic interest, starting lines early or late, and so on.

    The other challenges are (a) linking these different lines in a logical and musical manner in real time, and (b) not always starting on the root.

    But at least I' recognizing this stuff.

    Chord/Rhythm-wise, progress is also occurring, but again slowly. I've gone through the first chapter of Randy Vincent's book about six times now. I stand by criticism that it suffers from lack of real-world examples, but I'm starting to pencil examples in myself and it's coming together. Only the other day I found a very complex (for me) looking chord sequence but within seconds I realised it was using some of the moving voices that Vincent had used in his book, and a few of the passing chords. It started to make good sense, all of a sudden.

    That's it. Back to some transcribing now. Hopefully have another video, soon.

  23. #22
    Addendum to the previous post. Here's the latest video. Can't say any of my parts were improvised in the moment, more composed/improvised before hand. Good fun, nonetheless.


  24. #23

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    Very very nice!

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by digger View Post

    I've kept that in mind over the last few months and have learned a small number of lines over the main chord types, then when improvising I can plug'n'play these lines to my hearts content. It sounds easy, but there's still this long delay in the thinking process: "Next chord is an E7. Okay, what are my dominant lines? Yep, found them. Okay I'll use this one. Damn we're already onto the A minor. Okay, what are my minor lines?"

    .
    i'd love some input on how to improve at this. I feel exactly the same and have been stuck here for some time. I think the answer must lie in hearing the line in your head first, rather than doing the process you described. Ie rather than heres an E7, i can play a dmaj7 over it, oh crap its gone.. I think you have to know that a dmajor sound will fit whats coming up. sort of sound forecasting.

    i guess that your lines or whatever have got to be recalled as quick as you know your times tables. I know 6 x 6 is 36, and its instant, its not like im working it out each time. Im just not sure how you get sounds in your brain. I think the answer is probably start as simple as possible and move on slowly rather than biting off more than you can chew, which is what im guilty of

    have enjoyed and will be following your thread as i feel we are at a similar stage

  26. #25
    What freed me from plug-n-play, the "thinking process" and my difficulty with memorizing new licks, shapes and various modes of the melodic minor, was two fold: First, treat ii-Vs as just Vs and ii-V-I as V-I. Second, play 3-to-9 arpeggios over all those dominant chords and link them via chromatics, enclosures and patterns.
    This forced me away from starting/ending phrases on the root and gave me four target notes that are easy to locate all over the neck. All i had to think about was what route i'd take to get to my next destination, which freed me to play bebop tunes at fast tempos. A secondary benefit was that all the altered tones revealed themselves as sounds in context rather than as dry concepts accessed via MM scale.
    Of course, this approach has its limits and doesn't work in every situation. But I was seeking that forward motion that Hal Galper talks about and this is how I got there. Your mileage may vary.

  27. #26
    Haven't really progressed much in the last month. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I've regressed. It's the memory thing - I just keep forgetting what I've learned. Really not sure what to do about this, to make stuff stick. I'm guessing it's an age thing, but it's still frustrating. Elsewhere, what I have been doing is listening to a lot, and (so far) transcribing a little Louis Armstrong. I figure if I start off at the beginning things might fall into place at some point. I must confess it's no chore to listen to the Hot Fives and Sevens, it's wonderful stuff.

    So far as a video is concerned, here's the latest lock-down piece. Again, not really improvised.


  28. #27
    Earlier in this thread I posted about the unfortunate incident with the gypsy jazz guitar. The good news is that after a long delay caused by lock-down I now have it back and all fixed. Now I can get back on track...


  29. #28
    And following on from the previous post, here's the fixed guitar in action. I was reasonably pleased with my two solos here - although both are composed rather than improvised. That is to say, they were improvised, but very slowly. Both are still very much "plug and play" solos, using lines and arpeggios and ideas from various sources. My rhythm guitar playing is totally non-gypsy jazz so far as chord shapes are concerned. I'm using three finger voicings taken from Randy Vincent's Introduction to Jazz and Charlton Johnson's Swing and Big Band Guitar book. But I love these voicings and they fit well with the other rhythm guitar, and anyway, I'm too old to worry that the gypsy jazz police might come knocking (and if they do come, they'll be knocking about my right hand rather than my chord shape choices, anyway).


  30. #29
    No new video - although we have done a version of Swing 42 which came out very nice. But nothing of note in it to warrant uploading it. I think what these lock-down videos have taught me is that I'm no improviser. More and more, as I read about improvisation and what goes on in the brain when people improvise, I realise I don't have this mysterious ability to simply turn off the conscious brain and let the unconscious take over. I'm still way too focussed on what chord is coming up, what can I play over this chord, how can I connect it to the next one, etc etc. And of course, that simply doesn't work on a conscious level at tempo.

    But in a way that realisation is great and has freed me to concentrate on rhythm guitar - which I'm increasingly enjoying - and on composing my improvisations, and - here's the key thing - not feeling guilty about it!

    The other thing that's happened, almost naturally, is that I've found myself listening to older and older styles of jazz. Maybe the inability to improvise has led me back to a time where playing around the melody was the done thing, and maybe, just maybe, I might be able to do this on the fly. We shall see.

    That's it for now!

  31. #30
    Variations on the melody is certainly a valid approach to improvisation advocated by many, many great players. Lee Konitz has a 10-step process for this, which you can find for free via the google machine.
    Re turning off the conscious brain and letting the unconscious take over: I cannot even imagine doing this. Between listening to the other players and trying to comp in an effective way and trying to construct a non-rambling solo, I'm working my brain all the time.
    I'm not a pro and I play with people at many different skill levels and I can spot the amateurs who try to play by intuition. They often play noodling solos, get lost in the form or turned around on the beat. Then, when I try to signal the return to the head/outro, they invariably have their eyes closed in deep effort or if it's not their turn to solo they're looking off in the distance with no clue where we are in the song. Often think a shock collar would be helpful at that point, rather than furiously tapping the top of my skull.
    If anything I am more "in the moment" when playing jazz than I am during most of my day (don't tell my boss.) Of course, with songs I know really well the roadmap is familiar and the process is easier. But then the challenge is to find more interesting routes to the same destination(s) and that requires focus and conscious effort on my part.
    Keep at it. It's not a simple endeavor. Like professional sports, it only seems easy because the pros are just so good at it.

  32. #31

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    Suggestion. Invest time listening to some of your favorite artists. IF you want to discover ways out of simply playing arpeggios. Listen, listen, and then listen some more. It’s a suggestion.

  33. #32

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    I think listening to recordings is the best way to learn. At least that's how I do it. I listen to music as much as I possibly can, and even if I'm not actively listening I think I still absorb things. I can't imagine trying to learn to play and improvise without having listened extensively to the type of music I want to play. That's probably why I couldn't begin to play rock - I've never listened to much of it.

  34. #33
    I listen a lot, apologies if I've given the impression otherwise. The last six months I've been spending most of my listening time with early jazz - Django (and a few other gypsy jazzers) and Louis mostly. Although Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Kenny Davern have all been on the iPad and in the car a lot too. As has Tony Bennett, Chris Flory, Lester Young and also Kay Starr! Rarely listen to anything other than jazz these days. I do a bit of transcribing, too - but tend to forget all the lead lines I learn. I think early on in this thread I remarked on my poor memory for such things. This year I've learned and forgotten so much. Partly because of this lack of ability to remember single note lines, and partly because I've really been enjoying it is why I'm focussing more and more on rhythm guitar. Also been working hard on my reading.

  35. #34
    This thread really was just a note-book to myself, and it's been interesting to reread it.

    Anyway, it's been a while, but the direction I mentioned in the last few posts is certainly where I've gone - playing melodies and not (really) worrying about improvisation per se, and lots of rhythm guitar.

    The melodies are fun, even things as simple as When The Saints or Battle Hymn of the Republic. I often imagine I'm doing a gig and I get called to play a solo and I have 12 or 16 bars and that's it, and I play the melody, maybe with a few little twists and turns. I've decided that there's nothing wrong with that, and in fact the general public at all the gigs I've ever done (admittedly, non-jazz gigs) would be as happy with such as a solo as they would be with an impressive flight of fancy. In fact, playing the melody when I haven't been able to think of anything else has always gone down surprisingly well.

    And from that starting point, I'm finding that my solos are getting a tiny bit more improvised - i.e. properly improvised, not figured out in advance, even if it's only a bar or two when I deviate from the melody.

    At any rate, it's a start. Or rather, another new start.

    And it'll do me for a little while whilst I stick to these simple old songs.

    Derek

  36. #35
    Been a bit of a turnaround this week, in a good way. Been thinking about this improvising malarky and what I'm doing wrong, and I've concluded a few things:

    1) I have too big a fear of playing a bad solo, wrong notes, poor time, etc
    2) I'm comparing myself with folks here, who are really good at this stuff, and folks on record who are really good at this stuff
    3) I'm trying to run before I can stand up

    As a result, I think I've ended up composing solos rather than improvising. Playing safe, essentially, and in the process learning nothing.

    So this week, I've taken a whole new approach, and it's been great fun, and actually I've come up with a few solos I've been really pleased with.

    This is the new plan:

    1) Learn songs - melody and chords.

    And here, I'm being easy on myself - no clever reharmonisation, only one key, no chord melody, just simple vanilla melody and chords.

    2) Playing the melody with a few rhythmic and melodic variations, and - where there's a gap, and if I can put in a lick or an arpeggio then I do. If I can't, no worries.

    3) I must not "compose" - but play on the fly.

    4) No-one but me needs hear any of this.

    And it's actually working. I'm having fun with no pressure, the melodies as written are nice, and as I play them over and over so I get a little more comfortable "improvising". Already finding a few sequences where I can reuse/quote other melodies.

    I think if I do this for enough tunes and for enough years, it might- just might - click. And, if not, well those melodies and chords are great fun to play anyway.

    Derek