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  1. #1

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    I remember feeling this same helpless feeling I now have when I was trying to learn bluegrass flatpicking. I'd listen to any number of top notch flatpickers and have this overwhelming (I'll never learn to do this!) lost feeling. Now I have players asking me....."How do you play like that?".....after 10 years of pretty intensive woodshedding.

    As I mentioned above, now I have that same overwhelmed and lost feeling I had when I was just a beginning bluegrass flatpicker. Add to that, I play pretty much entirely by ear. I have very little knowledge of music theory. Almost none except for what I've learned recently. I can slowly figure out tab. However, I do have a great ear. I can copy solos and licks and I do have some jazz phrasing down. I can hear jazz phrases in my head and find them on my guitar.

    About 15 years ago I was in a swing jazz/jump blues band and I could play pretty believable jazz inflected solos and a few jazz chords. But, like today, I had almost no idea what I was doing, even though it sounded "right".

    So, here I am, starting to learn a whole different genre. Perhaps the most challenging genre of all to learn. But I want to do it right. Starting with basic theory to intermediate and advanced playing and theory. But I'm not sure where to start and I need a road map to tell me where to go next?

    So far I've learned 17 jazz chords and positions (Grips?). I've started to learn a couple jazz chord melody songs. I was even able to come up with a jazz chord melody version of "How Great Thou Art" totally on my own. I'm in the process of learning "Fly Me To The Moon" from Sandra Sherman on Youtube. I've also been working my way through some of Rick Beato's and Rich Severson's Youtube videos on jazz and music theory. I've almost completed the Chord Theory chapter on JGO.

    That's about how far I've gotten. Kind of a "shotgun approach" to learning jazz guitar and jazz theory. The most difficult thing for me is learning the theory. It's just a totally different language, very foreign to me. And a lot of other people too I'm sure. But I'm willing to put in the time and effort. I think that's half the battle. It's been a lifetime goal of mine to learn jazz but I've always been intimidated by jazz and theory. However, I've accomplished all I described above in about a two to three week span. Good thing I'm retired. But I just turned 70 so I'd better get it in gear. I'd like to become an accomplished jazz player before I go to that great jazz band in the sky. I just need to know where to go from here???

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Best way to get well informed advice would be to post up a sample example of your playing. A lot of nice people and excellent players and teachers around here - I'm sure they would be glad to listen, evaluate, and provide invaluable observations and recommendations.

  4. #3

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    You can learn to play by listening and playing what you hear? Most folks on this forum will tell you that's much much better than to start from the theory end of it.
    If you want to learn theory take it bit by bit (not more than you can chew) but learn it in the context of actual music, tunes that is. Lots of material out there from basic to advanced.

    This is from someone who considers himself still a beginner and who cared a little too much about theory (because I always wanted to know how music works) and should've spend some of that time just playing.

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by TOMMO
    You can learn to play by listening and playing what you hear? Most folks on this forum will tell you that's much much better than to start from the theory end of it.
    If you want to learn theory take it bit by bit (not more than you can chew) but learn it in the context of actual music, tunes that is. Lots of material out there from basic to advanced.

    This is from someone who considers himself still a beginner and who cared a little too much about theory (because I always wanted to know how music works) and should've spend some of that time just playing.
    Yeah, I know what you mean by spending more time just playing guitar. I've found myself a bit frustrated since I started learning jazz guitar and theory in earnest. I just got two new guitars and an amp to learn on but I've put in so much time trying to learn theory I haven't been able to just play my guitars much. And when I do, I'm not able to play much jazz. I fall back on what I know which is more of a jump blues style of playing where I throw some jazz phrases in along with some "2, 5" progressions which maybe strays into swing territory a bit. But that's not good enough for me. I want to do it right and learn bona fide jazz. And that means having a working knowledge of theory.

    I'm still at the stage where I'm trying to figure out how theory relates to the guitar neck and the playing of an actual song. So far, as I mentioned above, I'm just using a shotgun approach and piecing things together. It's a VERY slow process. Heck, I can't even immediately tell what note you're playing on the neck without stopping to figure it out. Fortunately, I know the names of the strings and can immediately tell you the names of the notes on the neck of both "E" strings. I can figure the other notes out but I don't have them memorized. I'm trying to learn theory because I've always thought that playing jazz competently and having a working knowledge of theory was pretty much a requirement.

    But I feel like I'm at the base of Mt. Everest looking up at the summit. I just have sooooooo far to go. But I like your idea of taking it slowly and in small bites. In my enthusiasm to learn I've been taking it in fairly large bites, practicing 3 to 4 hours a day mostly learning theory and little guitar playing. I'm open to any recommendations on how to proceed.

    I also need some encouragement. I get a little down on myself because I feel like I'm not progressing very fast. And with all the practicing I've done I'm still not seeing how learning theory directly relates to playing jazz on a guitar. I've learned some chord theory. I'm starting on arpeggios. I've learned about 1 1/2 chord melody songs. I just want to do the learning process the right way, if there is a right way. Anyway, like I said, I'm open to recommendations.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by jumpnblues

    I get a little down on myself because I feel like I'm not progressing very fast.
    Has happened to me all the time and still does. Do you know basic diatonic theory? Like a major and a minor scale and the corresponding chords in those scales. That's your building blocks.
    Learn some easier tunes like "Autumn Leaves" (almost entirely diatonic chord progression). "Tune Up" is another one for its series of major II-V-Is. If you tackle a tune where you don't understand the progression then that's the time to study some theory.
    When I started to delve deeper into theory I bought "The Berkeley Book of Jazz Harmony" to study some theory and as a reference.

    Good luck with your journey and one thing I have experienced in my own journey through jazz is: be patient with yourself.
    You play jump blues? Great starting point - quite a few of the early jazz greats did come from that style.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by pauln
    Best way to get well informed advice would be to post up a sample example of your playing. A lot of nice people and excellent players and teachers around here - I'm sure they would be glad to listen, evaluate, and provide invaluable observations and recommendations.
    Good advice!

  8. #7

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    No better theoretical advice than Tommo gives as to learning your diatonic major and minor scales and then building the diatonic harmonized chords from each degree of the scale. Build up in 3rds; c-e-g-b=Cmaj7, d-f-a-c=Dmi7, etc. It's sometimes a little easier to visualize on a piano keyboard, and certainly easier to play. Soon you'll begin to grasp the relationships, such as the "tonic" sounds of Cma7, Emi7 and Ami7 all being somewhat interchangeable, and the dominant sounds of G7 and Bm7b5, leaving the sub-dominant sounds of Dmi7 and Fma7. Also, explore the magic of the tritone, the interval of a flat 5 that is in dominant chords, dominating the harmony because that interval MUST resolve (in either direction, i.e. B-F to C-E or B-F to Bb-Gb). I call the tritone the keystone of harmony, and much of jazz harmony involves revolving the other notes of a chord around the tritone to create substitions. As a simple guitar example, play the top two notes or a basic C chord (C-E), then the top 2 notes of a basic cowboy G7 (B-F), then back, and you will clearly hear the importance. Likewise, move the 2nd-string B to Bb on the 3rd string and the 1st-string F to Gb. Find tritones around the fingerboard and resolve them in both directions, that's a good start to jazz accompaniment.

  9. #8

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    I would suggest NOT going with theory and chord scales to start.

    Pick out a solo that you like by a player you like on a standard or a tune that you have access to the changes. Learn the solo, maybe write it out. For the phrases that really sound good to you, compare the notes to the chord(s) of the moment, and maybe the ones just before or after. Say you notice that the phrase is a descending Abmaj7 arpeggio G-Eb-C-Ab while the chord is Bb7. If this is a sound you really like, try playing it in other contexts, in other keys, tunes and meters, mixing up the rhythm and order of notes.

    Maybe the phrase makes "no sense" in your typical chord scale theoretical relationship. Say you have an F7 chord in the moment and the notes in the phrase consists of C#-E-G#-A. The E natural (and C# and G#) may not make sense if you relate it to the F7, but perhaps the next chord is Bbmaj6, and you think it sounds great (it does!). There may be a perfectly good theoretical reason for it, but who cares? Why not just try it on every V7-I in every tune you play for a week, and vary the note order, rhythms, etc.?

    You will probably be implicitly learning some "theory" along the way, but you will be learning vocabulary YOU like and is already proven by one of your favorite players.

    Most chord scale approaches are probably going to tell you that the Bb7 "gets" a Bb mixolydian or Eb major scale and the F7 "gets" the scale F-G-A-Bb-C-D-Eb and the arpeggio F-A-C-Eb, at least to start. This information on its own is almost useless. I would guess that of all the possible combinations and ordering and rhythms you could play with those notes, at least 98% of it is crap that nobody would think sounds good. And there is a whole universe of things that don't fit the "rules" that sound fantastic in context.

    So instead of starting with the theory and trying to work your way to the good stuff, start with the good stuff and maybe you'll notice some theory along the way - that works for the way YOU want to sound.

    Have fun!

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by jumpnblues
    ...I've put in so much time trying to learn theory I haven't been able to just play my guitars much.
    uh-oh...


  11. #10

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    The ear approach for jazz guitar pretty much starts with Charlie Christian solos and moves on from there. Wes, Kessell, Ellis, and so many players started there. The logic of the theory will reveal itself in the solos.

    Theory is very useful, but...waaaaay too many guys have the jazz theory in their head, but aren't even close to having it in their ears, so they KNOW it, but can't sound like it. That was not a very practical use of time for them.

  12. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    The ear approach for jazz guitar pretty much starts with Charlie Christian solos and moves on from there. Wes, Kessell, Ellis, and so many players started there. The logic of the theory will reveal itself in the solos.

    Theory is very useful, but...waaaaay too many guys have the jazz theory in their head, but aren't even close to having it in their ears, so they KNOW it, but can't sound like it. That was not a very practical use of time for them.

    I just started streaming, from Qobuz, on my home audio system a Milt Jackson with Barney Kessel CD..."Blues And Ballads". It's a gold mine of great 2,1 progression playing. At least that's what I call it. When I start to tire while studying theory I've been playing along with this album. Makes me feel like maybe I do know something. I can play single note swing leads and sound "fairly believable". And I can play over some of the chords. I've already picked some things up by ear from Barney on this album. If I can play along with most of the songs on this album I'll be on my way to being a bona fide jazz player.

    Most of my single note playing is along the lines of swing with an occasional nod to bop. I can pick stuff up pretty well by ear but I have a bad habit of slipping back into stuff I know and am confident of. I need to learn to stay on task a little more, especially when I get more into bop. Picking bop up by ear is a little more challenging. But I can do it if I stay focused on it and take it slowly. I've learned the following G and D position chords (5th and 6th strings)...G dom, G7, Gm7, Gm7b5, Gdim, Gmdim, G13, G7#5. I think there are three more I can't remember the names at the moment. I just learned these last weekend, so I'm still practicing being able to grab them instantly. I've also been studying chord theory from the free digital book on this website.

    As I said in another post, I'm doing this all kind of piece meal. I can only hope I'm doing it right as I don't have a teacher. I'd like to post an example of me practicing and just noodling but I'm afraid I'm not very tech-y. I'm also not sure how to make a recording and post it. I do have a recording "studio" at home running Reaper but I'm not sure how to get a recording to a forum. Maybe it's just easier to play along with a recording and record it on my phone then post it somehow on the JGO forum? I've never posted a recording before. Maybe it's not necessary but someone was recommending I do that so they could assess just how far along I am.

    Anyway, I feel if I can continue to make substantial gains with 1. improvising, 2. chord melody playing, and 3. comping, I'll be much more comfortable with my jazz playing. Oh yeah, almost forgot to add, 4. theory. Sure is easy to talk about it, LOL!! Now I need to get to the "doing" part. See ya later. Heading downstairs to practice. Thank you for your help and advice.

  13. #12

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    It sounds like you're doing well, Jump. I'm on the first few steps of this journey, too. Sometimes the door opens a crack and I get a glimpse of what I should be doing. Most of the time it's shut tight and I'm banging my head on it!

    At the moment I'm trying to memorise a few melodies, the changes (hopefully using some appropriate chord shapes - albeit simple ones), and a few lines that fit on top of those chords (note: my lines tend not to cross the chord changes yet). Then it's a simple case of slowing down to a relaxed enough tempo in order that I have time to dredge the melody, the changes, and an appropriate line from my memory, and play them before the chords move on. This for me, means a very slow tempo - and, of course, at a slow tempo this stuff doesn't always sound like jazz. But hey-ho. A toddler doesn't make great speeches when they first start talking...

    The slowest method of all for doing this stuff is to compose solos on paper. This I'm doing, too.

    I guess, at the moment, it's all a memory thing for me at the moment - melodies, chords, lines, etc. Alas, I'm forgetting more than I'm retaining, and the retrieval process is pretty slow. But I'll get there.

    Lastly, there's a whole world of physical work needed, too. By the sound of it you may have the chops already. I'm needing to work a lot on technique as well as everything else.

    Regards
    Derek