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  1. #1

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    Apologies if this has been asked somewhere else on the forum. I'm sure it must have been, but a bit of searching didn't pull anything up.

    Most jazz guitar methods introduce various fingerings for major (and, later, minor etc.) scales early on in the process, usually involving several positions that cover the fretboard. I can see the utility in this for various reasons:
    • getting used to the sound of a major scale is important
    • it helps one develop an overview of the fretboard, helps with learning notes etc.
    • it's a good first step to learning about how to build voicings for triads, seventh chords, etc.
    • it is helpful when it comes to learning how to sight-read musical notation


    I am fairly early on in the process and know a few fingerings for a major scale. I can play various patterns (thirds, triads, arpeggios) through these positions. I can, as an exercise, play a related related modal scale by starting from a particular degree and (albeit a bit more slowly and with a bit more care) build triads or arpeggios from this mode. I have plenty more work to do but, again, as an aid to understanding I don't think this is wasted effort. I'm comfortable enough with the sound of a major scale that if you picked somewhere and asked me to play a major scale with that note as a root I can do it without thinking about a specific fingering or position.

    However, when I was younger as a self-taught teenaged guitarist I seem to have accidentally internalised the sound of the minor pentatonic scale and this is still what mostly comes out when I improvise. I'm not really thinking about the pentatonic scale (nor was I when I was a kid) but, nevertheless... These days, there are a lot more chromatic passing notes, a few more arpeggios played as triplets and I'm a little better at outlining the chord progression than I once was, but still...

    I appreciate that one way to remedy a situation like this is to transcribe and I freely admit that I haven't done much of that, but, this is not what I'm asking about here. What I'm interested in at the moment is to what extent more experience jazz players use these positional scale fingerings in the context of improvisation.

    That is, do you find yourself thinking something like "the next chord is a Cmaj7 and I'm currently in the vicinity of the 8th fret, so I'm going to play using such-and-such a fingering of the C major scale"? If so, what's the best way to practice this? A year or so of playing major scales in various ways doesn't seem to have done the trick (although I'm sure it has helped me in other ways).

    Here's hoping my question makes sense!

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  3. #2

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    Hi, Bob -

    First, I don't think the answer is to start transcribing stuff. Transcribing is extremely difficult and takes a long time. Not that you shouldn't do it but I don't think it'll help. It's not really applicable to the problem here.

    I suspect the issue is that running through the sort of exercises you describe is a bit of a chore. At least it would be for me. But when you were younger you found a fairly simple way of actually playing music, which is really the main issue anyway, surely?

    So the pentatonic sound is etched into your long-term memory as being familiar, easy, and musical. So when you put on a backing what you really want to do is launch into some decent improv without too much sweat. So out comes the pentatonic.

    One way out of this is to put on a simple jazz-chord progression. Get a simple tune and use that. You need to get away from the tedium of exercises. Don't make it too fast. Listen to the sounds of those chords. You'll know immediately that the pentatonic sound isn't going to work, it's a different style altogether.

    Then comes what to play over them. If the whole thing's in one key you'll probably think you could just use one major scale over it and go through all the permutations.

    You'll undoubtedly get somewhere but most people here would call that 'noodling'. You need to get into the spirit of the tune you're playing and play what you hear and feel, no matter how simple.

    There's not just scale runs, there's also arpeggios. You need a combination of both. So find how to arpeggiate the chords you need as well as using the applicable scale notes. The whole thing together should sound musical, melodic, and flow.

    So start with music, don't practice to 'eventually' play music in the future sometime. That's absolutely the best advice I can give you.

    When you play tunes you're forced to use your ear and feelings. Doing endless exercises doesn't need any of that, it's just mechanical.

    So find a tune right now that's not too difficult. Satin Doll, Fly Me To The Moon, all that sort of thing. Start slow, listen to it and play accordingly.

    That way you'll never just reach immediately for a pentatonic again :-)

    Best of luck.

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobheff
    do you find yourself thinking something like "the next chord is a Cmaj7 and I'm currently in the vicinity of the 8th fret, so I'm going to play using such-and-such a fingering of the C major scale"?
    No, never, because it depends on the tune and how it's going. The 8th fret shape will certainly give you a sense of direction and purpose because the sound you want is there but, as I said, launching into a 'scale' isn't the point at all.

    You need to continue what you were doing with the tune at the start. The arpeggio of CM7 is more important, then the other notes. But you have the next chord coming up too, and the one after that.

    Take, for instance, the ending of any tune. Let's say the chords go Dm7 - G7 - CM7. Do you take one chord at a time or do you play an ending phrase that fits the tune nicely? If you understand that, it doesn't matter what the chords are, the point is to resolve the tune.

    Try that out and you'll get the point straight away.

  5. #4

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    My modest journey with jazz improvisation suggests to me that I need to; (1) internalize the jazz language for common patterns (chord progressions) in one area of the fretboard, (2) apply that capability to tunes taken one at a time - because they go beyond the common progressions in many/most cases, and are the point of all this anyway, (3) expand to all areas of the fretboard and keys, (4) be able to improvise up and down the range of the fretboard per the above.

    A lot of methods have one start with the Blues, then Rhythm Changes, Dominant cycles, Turnaounds, then on to Coltrane Changes, etc.

    For example - learn to play a 3 chord 12-bar blues in C around the 7th and 9th positions making use of Mixolydian, Dominant Bebop, Minor Blues, a few chromatics, and 7th and 9th arpeggios. Take those one at a time if it helps and keep adding. Set your tempo to slow, and loop it. After you can improvise reasonably comfortably there, take it to the 2nd position, then the 5th. Then add 2-3 more chords for the more typical "jazz/blues" progression and repeat.

    I'm not certain if the above is helpful or not.

  6. #5

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    Although hearing the blues might kick him right back into the pentatonic ideas. He needs to get away from that right now.

    And would he know how to use the Mixolydian, Dominant Bebop, Minor Blues, a few chromatics, and 7th and 9th arpeggios? I think we're on major scales at the moment, or something similar.

  7. #6

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    No jazzer, aspiring or otherwise, ever needs to "get away from the blues".

    And "right now"? I'm not sure how long that lasts.

    So, a lesson plan approach. Relative to post #4 above:
    1. 3-chord blues, one fretboard area, mixolydian and 7th chord arpeggios - slow tempo:2-4 weeks
    2. Maintenance plus add Dominant Bebop: - 2-4 weeks
    3. Maintenance plus add a few chromatics (don't worry about target this and approach that right now - just use your ears and rhythmic sense: 2-4 weeks
    Keep going...

  8. #7

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    ragman1's advice is the way to go (and unfortunately, this is rarely provided to those early in their development), so you are lucky to be getting it now when it can make a huge difference. The long term goal is:

    Hear outside music around you - hear your music inside you - play your inside music out into the outside music

    There are two things at work here, the ears and the hands, and it is important to let them work independently and autonomously, respectively.

    You want to strive to let your ears independently lead the way, letting your ears make the musical judgement of what they want to hear played out of the instrument without regard to the hands.

    You want your hands to play what the ears call for, letting the hands make the mechanical judgement of how to play what they are asked autonomously.

    Listening to songs is how you develop your ears to hear things, and learn to hear your own things from your mind's ear. Working on songs, the hands will figure out mechanical strategies for solving the logistics of how to play; you don't have to teach them positions and fingerings, they figure these things and many other things out on their own. Trust your hands; you use them all day long to do very complex things naturally and automatically without you ever giving it a thought. Let them discover how to play so you can really lead with your ears.

  9. #8
    I appreciate the responses so far.

    While I have been learning standards and trying to improvise over them, I think one problem might be that my go-to noodling form is a (jazz) blues. That is to say, if I just pick up my guitar and play for 20 minutes (as opposed to more focused practice) I'm probably going to play the chords/head to something like Tenor Madness and then play over that form for a while. It might be an idea to avoid the blues for a bit.

    I can play reasonably well over a standard, like say "There will never be another you", once I've learned the form and the head. That is to say, my problem is not being *unable* to play anything (or even that I'm too often playing wrong notes). However, it doesn't often sound particularly like jazz to me and I am still often (accidentally) falling back on my rock-influenced habits. I think I'm more often playing in a given key rather than over a given chord, if that makes sense. I never really did learn licks and don't really think in terms of playing licks but you can get by pretty well with the pentatonic-infused reflexes I mentioned earlier.

    As to GTRMan's suggestion: would the idea here be to force myself to improvise only using notes from the mixolydian scale / 7th chord arpeggios for the first 2-4 weeks?

    Edit:
    It's worth pointing out that when I'm playing I'm never actually thinking "I'm playing Bb-minor pentatonic now". It's just that, if I pay close attention, I realise that much of what I'm playing fits with pentatonic.

  10. #9

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    This sounds like the problem everyone faces when they start tackling jazz, i.e. how do I play lines that sound like ‘proper’ jazz and reflect the chord changes, rather than just sounding like pentatonic noodling (which I learned when I played rock)?

    The answer (in my opinion) is to start learning some jazz vocabulary. Who are your favourite jazz musicians? Learn from what they do/did.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobheff
    I appreciate the responses so far.

    While I have been learning standards and trying to improvise over them, I think one problem might be that my go-to noodling form is a (jazz) blues. That is to say, if I just pick up my guitar and play for 20 minutes (as opposed to more focused practice) I'm probably going to play the chords/head to something like Tenor Madness and then play over that form for a while. It might be an idea to avoid the blues for a bit.

    I can play reasonably well over a standard, like say "There will never be another you", once I've learned the form and the head. That is to say, my problem is not being *unable* to play anything (or even that I'm too often playing wrong notes). However, it doesn't often sound particularly like jazz to me and I am still often (accidentally) falling back on my rock-influenced habits. I think I'm more often playing in a given key rather than over a given chord, if that makes sense. I never really did learn licks and don't really think in terms of playing licks but you can get by pretty well with the pentatonic-infused reflexes I mentioned earlier.

    As to GTRMan's suggestion: would the idea here be to force myself to improvise only using notes from the mixolydian scale / 7th chord arpeggios for the first 2-4 weeks?

    Edit:
    It's worth pointing out that when I'm playing I'm never actually thinking "I'm playing Bb-minor pentatonic now". It's just that, if I pay close attention, I realise that much of what I'm playing fits with pentatonic.
    The amount of time is up to you. But to answer your question - yes.

    Can you play only chord tones for 1 chorus and sound musical?
    If yes then add a few scale notes to form more of a "chord outline"
    Then add a few chromatics.

    You should be able to play steady eighth notes. Then add some triplets. Then use some rests here and there to be more motivic/melodic.

    If we can't do that over a dominant 7 chord we're not going anywhere.

    Once you have the hang of that, voice lead your ideas between the I7 and IV7 chords (play the nearest note on the new chord). Pay special attention to the transitions between bars 1-2, 2-3,4-5, 6-7 | I7 | IV7 | I7 | I7 | IV7 | IV7 | I7 | I7 | V7 | IV7 | I7 | V7 |

    Now you're cooking with grease.

    EDIT: I second Graham's point. There are many books out there too with Blues etudes made up of the jazz langauge. Joe Pass Guitar Style is one great example. Jens Larsen has materials (and mentions Joe's book). Many improv courses include the blues and some have nice etudes. Joe was a master so using him as a source is about as pure as it gets, even if it's just to start the process of learning the jazz language. IMO

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobheff
    I think one problem might be that my go-to noodling form is a (jazz) blues.
    I thought it probably was. Most people start with the blues because they come from a blues/rock background.

    it doesn't often sound particularly like jazz to me
    Oh, you are not alone :-)

    I think I'm more often playing in a given key rather than over a given chord
    Quite. It's not wrong but it can encourage bland noodling. That's why arpeggios are so useful, but keep the other notes in key. Not necessarily the key of the whole tune but the sub-key to which the chord belongs.

    In other words, for a tune in C, if you find A7-Dm in the middle, play in Dm (usually D harmonic minor) for the A7. Or at least remember the B's are Bb.

    would the idea here be to force myself
    Don't force yourself to do anything, it's counter-productive. If you practice intelligently your habits will gradually change of their own accord.

    It's worth pointing out that when I'm playing I'm never actually thinking "I'm playing Bb-minor pentatonic now". It's just that, if I pay close attention, I realise that much of what I'm playing fits with pentatonic.
    Pentatonics are still useful tools, let's not damn them! But when they dominate your style then it gives you the problem behind your posting here.

    It's just muscle-memory, that's all. As I said, it's so easy just to launch into the familiar, gutsy sound. It's partly the reason we play guitar at all, it's very visceral. Not by chance is the electric guitar so popular the world over.

    But jazz can be equally exciting in a different way but it unfortunately comes a bit later when one has got the basics under the belt.

  13. #12

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    This is pretty gutsy stuff, jazz-wise. It's got a lot to do with all those 'right notes in the wrong places'. All he's got behind him is bass and drums. Listen to how he makes the chords sound with runs. Masterful. Plus he uses the odd pentatonic too.

    Don't worry, it speeds up later :-)


  14. #13

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    If you don't have the fretboard mapped out well enough to move around and play all the straight melodies to all the songs you know, how can one begin to improvise or invent stuff??

    Learn to play the melodies you know, and find how they lay on the neck or in positions. Then you go from there. Some folks can't even play the melody to Happy Birthday and think they're gonna play jazz...

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobheff
    Apologies if this has been asked somewhere else on the forum. I'm sure it must have been, but a bit of searching didn't pull anything up.

    Most jazz guitar methods introduce various fingerings for major (and, later, minor etc.) scales early on in the process, usually involving several positions that cover the fretboard. I can see the utility in this for various reasons:
    • getting used to the sound of a major scale is important
    • it helps one develop an overview of the fretboard, helps with learning notes etc.
    • it's a good first step to learning about how to build voicings for triads, seventh chords, etc.
    • it is helpful when it comes to learning how to sight-read musical notation
    Hi Bob

    So FWIW I teach and play music for a living, including jazz guitar. I find it helpful to make some distinctions.

    When you learn to play jazz guitar you are learning
    1) to hear and play jazz
    2) to improvise
    3) to understand the guitar and map it

    And other things besides, such as technique and sight reading.

    OK, so it might seem funny that I separated 1) and 2). There's a reason for this; you can be a great improviser and not play a note of jazz... many rock players, Middle Eastern musicians, Indian musicians and so on would fit into this category.

    So jazz is a style of music, a sound, a rhythm and so on. You have to learn the music and this needs to be done with the ears because there's only so much we info can get on the page. (That's true of any music actually, even classical.) The knowledge this represents is 'tacit knowledge' meaning that we can't completely communicate it in words or musical notation even. Teaching this is actually very hard. It is best learned by the student under their own steam via listening closely to their favourite musicians, with some guidance from the teacher.

    Mapping the guitar is a separate thing. This involves, music theory, note naming and so on. People get this confused with improvisation and jazz. It overlaps of course but is something to distinct. This is obvious, quantifiable knowledge. It is a lot of work to learn but straightforward to teach and study. Learn scales, arpeggios, voicings and so on. Do these scales all positions by next lesson, that sort of thing. Very useful, but not music itself.

    Plenty of students turn up to lessons having mastered 3) and say they can't play anything. That's an important lesson.

    I hope this distinction helps you work out what needs your attention in particular.

    I think most students should focus on 1) provided they have a decent command of their instruments - not perfect or total, just decent is OK. improvisation can come later, especially if you are used to improvising in other genres... so by this I mean there's nothing wrong with regurgitating licks or composing your solos when you are starting out. Aim to make music.

    Ear learning is intimidating at first, so make small goals at first - learn a Grant Green or a Jim Hall lick, not a John Coltrane solo. Practice using it over different chords and songs, and muck around with it. Ear learning gives you phrasing, tone and swing. It's the best use of your time frankly, and you'll have to do it sooner or later, if you want to play jazz decently, so get used to it ASAP. No more than 15m at first... just trying to do it is helpful. Don't be too results oriented, your skills will improve. Just put a little time into it.

    BIG TIP for ear learning - at first keep your guitar on its stand until you can sing the phrase without the track playing. Noodling is the enemy, stop yourself from doing it even if you have to but the guitar down. It's easier to put the phrase on the guitar than you think once you really know how it goes. Noodling around will cause you to forget it.

    I am fairly early on in the process and know a few fingerings for a major scale. I can play various patterns (thirds, triads, arpeggios) through these positions. I can, as an exercise, play a related related modal scale by starting from a particular degree and (albeit a bit more slowly and with a bit more care) build triads or arpeggios from this mode. I have plenty more work to do but, again, as an aid to understanding I don't think this is wasted effort. I'm comfortable enough with the sound of a major scale that if you picked somewhere and asked me to play a major scale with that note as a root I can do it without thinking about a specific fingering or position.

    However, when I was younger as a self-taught teenaged guitarist I seem to have accidentally internalised the sound of the minor pentatonic scale and this is still what mostly comes out when I improvise. I'm not really thinking about the pentatonic scale (nor was I when I was a kid) but, nevertheless... These days, there are a lot more chromatic passing notes, a few more arpeggios played as triplets and I'm a little better at outlining the chord progression than I once was, but still...

    I appreciate that one way to remedy a situation like this is to transcribe and I freely admit that I haven't done much of that, but, this is not what I'm asking about here. What I'm interested in at the moment is to what extent more experience jazz players use these positional scale fingerings in the context of improvisation.

    That is, do you find yourself thinking something like "the next chord is a Cmaj7 and I'm currently in the vicinity of the 8th fret, so I'm going to play using such-and-such a fingering of the C major scale"? If so, what's the best way to practice this? A year or so of playing major scales in various ways doesn't seem to have done the trick (although I'm sure it has helped me in other ways).

    Here's hoping my question makes sense!
    So when preparing a tune I will try and practice scales etc it in various positions and so on. Just going 1-7 up or 1-7-1 up and down the scale is the most useful for this I find. This is not music, but is helpful preparation for it.

    When improvising I try to play melodies and lines, not think too much about scales and so on. It's possible to make lines and melodies from these resources, but if I'm thinking about scales when trying to make music, I haven't done enough preparation... I'll get through the song, but I won't really be playing.
    Last edited by christianm77; 06-14-2020 at 09:28 AM.

  16. #15

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    Very nicely laid out Christian! You must be a very good teacher.

  17. #16

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    bob..

    "...That is, do you find yourself thinking something like "the next chord is a Cmaj7 and I'm currently in the vicinity of the 8th fret, so I'm going to play using such-and-such a fingering of the C major scale"? If so, what's the best way to practice this? A year or so of playing major scales in various ways doesn't seem to have done the trick (although I'm sure it has helped me in other ways).

    Here's hoping my question makes sense!.."

    yep..makes sense...

    do you practice "melodic patterns" ?

    this is a great way to develop a melodic sense..hearing intervals of the major/ minor scales ..note placement and increase improvisational ideas

    there are lots of them (hundreds of very useful ones) check on line ..the tedgreene.com site has a great study under the lessons heading

    learn them in all positions and keys..in the course of doing so you will begin to "hear" melody fragments from tunes ..

    also what begins to happen in the course of learning them is being able to flow into different keys ..you will notice this after you are comfortable with the exercises

    example

    C Major melodic pattern...note degrees 2 3 1 5 / D E C G

    String Fret Note Degree
    A 5 D 2
    D 2 E 3
    A 3 C 1
    D 5 G 5

    play this pattern of every degree of the major scale..in as many positions as you can

    to make this kind of thing a bit more melodic skip degrees..that is play every other degree with the pattern
    so it would be C Maj E min ..GMaj..and so on

    so the Eminor pattern would be 2 3 1 5 / F G E B

    GMaj...2 3 1 5 / A B G D

    then to increase interest switch keys to Eb

    2 3 1 5 / F G Eb Bb...frets 3 5 6 3

    now of course the end result is that you will begin to mix and match this stuff with some rhythmic variations and make it sound like a solo..
    and at some point it will become a bedrock tool in your improvisation

    hope this helps..


    ..

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by ccroft
    You must be a very good teacher.
    Yeah, but you're his brother :-)

  19. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    If you don't have the fretboard mapped out well enough to move around and play all the straight melodies to all the songs you know, how can one begin to improvise or invent stuff??
    I appreciate that, but this is not my problem. If I can hum it I can (almost certainly) play it.

    My original question had to do with the connection between scale patterns / positions (e.g. the 5 or 7 or 11, depending, of these you are likely to learn from a jazz method book) and improvisation. Christian's response above makes sense to me, if I'm reading it right. Learning these things helps in understanding the guitar (number 3 in his list) are not sufficient to learn jazz or learn to improvise (1 and 2 in his list). That makes sense.

    The original impetus for my question came from watching
    , which I've seen linked elsewhere in the forum. Like many teachers, Greene begins by giving several scale fingerings that cover the fretboard and relates these to certain chords. I was left with the impression that Greene thinks in terms of these scales and fingerings when improvising. My own experience had been that, so far, playing scales has helped me a great deal in understanding the guitar and bridging the gap between music theory and the guitar but hasn't helped much when it comes to improvising.

    To be fair, I am certainly a better guitarist and better improviser than I was two years ago. These things take time! I'm sure some of it is sinking in.

    Thanks again to Ragman, Christian, Wolf and others for all the helpful responses. I once (a year ago, maybe) posted a similar question on the Jazz Guitar forum on Reddit and, while there were some helpful responses, there was much less generosity of spirit than there is here.

  20. #19

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    Bob will find his way.

    Anyway, there's these block things called Bloo that you put in the loo cistern... so here's my blues of the day. I still maintain it's nigh on impossible to play the blues without using pentatonics or pentatonic sounds.


  21. #20

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    One thing I find help me as an intermediate at best, is to learn from recorded solos of whatever song I'm working on. I've tried method books, patterns, whatnot. I maybe slow but I can't get it to stick. learning language by learning it in the context of a song/tune otoh, that seem to make sense. At least my retention and later application is far greater that way round.

    You mention Another You. Pick two-three recordings and see what you can learn from those. Take that lick and see if you can permute it through the changes, take it apart and see what notes/scale degrees/intervals/etc are used over a set of changes.

    A couple I continue to learn/steal from



  22. #21

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    There's a lot to be said from just copying people whose playing you like. Who are your favourite jazz musicians? Doesn't have to be guitarists. Sit down and listen to one of your favourite musicians with your guitar and copy/mimic phrases from their solos. OK, probably a good idea not to pick anything too fast or advanced - maybe not late-period John Coltrane or Charlie Parker at his most superhuman. But it doesn't matter if you don't play exactly what they play, just an approximation, the flavour might be enough to get you into novel ways of playing.

  23. #22

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    I like Barry Greene, great player, great teacher.

    I remember doing the major scales in various ways years and years ago and I know them at those positions, the CAGED thing and all that, but I have to say I don't think like that.

    I'm pretty sure the epiphany came in playing tunes. I did one at a time, usually, and just grabbed whatever seemed right at the time. If I was, say, at the 5th fret (ish) and had to use, say, an Eb maj sound, I could visualise where the nearest notes were. If there was hesitation I stopped, worked it out, and that stuck in the brain.

    After a while it stopped being a problem. Probably the simplest way was to use a chord shape as a guide, visually, and there were your notes. I still do that now. It might seem a crude method of finding whatever scale notes one needs but it certainly works.

    I think what I'm saying is that I'm not very good at reducing playing to pre-learned scale exercises which are then applied like a plaster. I'd rather get to a point in the playing where certain pitches are necessary and, as I say, grab them. That works better for me.

    What Average Joe said in his first paragraph, basically.

  24. #23

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    Sorry if I'm a nuisance but here's something (it's very quick). The progression for Solar is very simple, just Cm then three ii-V-Is in F, Eb and Db. It's fairly easy just to find those major scales and slot them in.

    It produces a perfectly decent sound, no one's going to query it. But it's not the same as finding different pitches over the chords and making it a lot more interesting to the ear.


  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    Bob will find his way.

    Anyway, there's these block things called Bloo that you put in the loo cistern... so here's my blues of the day. I still maintain it's nigh on impossible to play the blues without using pentatonics or pentatonic sounds.

    yesss...I hear some Monk in there....

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Hi Bob

    So FWIW I teach and play music for a living, including jazz guitar. I find it helpful to make some distinctions.
    ...
    I think Christian pretty much nailed it. One thought I might add (and I think Christian might agree) is when practicing scales, arpeggios, and harmonized scales put most of your time into playing them in various patterns rather than monotonically up and down. You can use patterns found in books and online, but it’s easy to come up with your own. If you practice scales in several different patterns, you not only internalize the scales, but you internalize a bunch of patterns that will tend to come out when you noodle instead of all those blues, rock or for some of us bluegrass clichés that can be so hard to shake.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobheff
    I appreciate that, but this is not my problem. If I can hum it I can (almost certainly) play it.
    Sorry, thought you were interested in music, but realize scales are your thing.

  28. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    Sorry, thought you were interested in music, but realize scales are your thing.
    I think you might be taking me up wrong? I'm certainly interested in music, but the specific question I asked was about scales.

  29. #28

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    To the OP, can you post a brief clip of you playing a tune? This is all extremely abstract, and I think what you're getting by way of responses is mainly people going off on tangents about what works for them to solve problems that are probably not the problem you're having. If we hear you, someone may have something more directly relevant to say. In the interim, I'll say two things:

    1. Up thread, in your post with the Barry Greene video you speculate that he thinks about the things he's saying in the video while soloing. I'd bet he rarely if ever does that. Rather, he practices and studies those things so that patterns, sounds, and solutions to common harmonic situations (e.g., ii V I's) become ingrained into his playing without him having to think much on the fly. In his actual demonstrations of scales and positions, if you pay attention you'll notice that he keeps throwing in stuff like chromaticism and triplets that are not part of the explanation. That, plus the subtle variations in swing feel and syncopation he brings to his scale playing is where the jazz lives. Note choices, scales, patterns, etc. are important but they're not jazz per se, and improvisation is not just stringing together bits of scales over chord progressions.
    2. Improvisation is creating and expanding on melodies. For that, rhythm and phrasing are more important than note choice, especially when it comes to the question of "why don't I sound like jazz?". You clearly understand a fair bit about music theory and guitar method/technique. Probably enough. Listen to/imitate phrasing for a while and experiment there. Play around with your 1/8 note feel, explicitly move between exaggerated swing and straight 1/8 feel. Do all of this over tunes (not exercises), without even thinking about the notes or caring whether you're playing right/wrong notes. Just work on rhythmic feel for a significant portion of your practice routine.

    [now you're gonna post a clip of you blowing perfect bebop phrasing, and I'm gonna feel completely hoist on my own petard, but until then ...]

    John

  30. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    To the OP, can you post a brief clip of you playing a tune?
    Here is me playing the head and one chorus of Softly as in a Morning Sunrise to a iReal backing track. I figured that this would be different enough to a blues to illustrate where I'm at. I will freely admit that this was far from my first take.



    I won't comment on my own playing but I must say that recording myself and listening back to it has been an interesting experience and is something I should do more often.

    Be gentle!

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobheff
    Here is me playing the head and one chorus of Softly as in a Morning Sunrise to a iReal backing track. I figured that this would be different enough to a blues to illustrate where I'm at. I will freely admit that this was far from my first take.



    I won't comment on my own playing but I must say that recording myself and listening back to it has been an interesting experience and is something I should do more often.

    Be gentle!
    bob...not bad...and yes you should record yourself..a very good way to really hear what your playing..as apposed to what you "think" your playing..

  32. #31

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    +1

    There's a lot that's really nice here. I really like the way you play the tune for example. Perhaps you could go deeper with this and keep varying the melody more and more.

    I would say in general - try and cop a few more phrases from recording to get a deeper feel for the rhythm and phrasing.

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobheff
    to what extent more experience jazz players use these positional scale fingerings in the context of improvisation.
    Tomato tomahto. Someone like Pat Martino or Bruce Forman is not a positional player. Other very advanced players certainly do seem to realize many of their ideas within a particular position but they also have the ability to change position freely when the musical idea calls for it.

    One way to get there is to learn all of your positional fingerings so well that you don't have to think about them. Then learn how to shift between positions. It sounds like you are working on that first goal of learning your fingerings. Good! Keep it up.

    Avoid thinking that there is "one correct way" to do anything. Right off the top, I can think of CAGED, Segovia scales, the "vertical scale" approach that metal shredders like Paul Gilbert use, and the one-finger-per-fret single-position chromatic fingering approach that stretches index or pinky out of position to reach the chromatics that don't fall under an in-position finger. None of these approaches are "best" or "wrong" but you should pick ONE approach for your initial efforts and really learn it cold. Then you have a basis on which to compare or contrast the benefits and drawbacks of other approaches.

    Quote Originally Posted by bobheff
    That is, do you find yourself thinking something like "the next chord is a Cmaj7 and I'm currently in the vicinity of the 8th fret, so I'm going to play using such-and-such a fingering of the C major scale"?
    As a beginning and intermediate player, I definitely thought that way. Once I internalized those positional fingerings the thought process was more like a visualization of dots on the fretboard, the intervallic sounds that each dot represents, and the muscle memories to navigate those dots or play those sounds. Nowadays there's really none of that - I think of harmonic or melodic ideas and just play them. The mechanics of how to play them were internalized long ago. Consider that all twelve notes of the chromatic scale are available in any position on the neck without leaving that position. Therefore you can play any key in any position, and you never have to move your fretting hand to in order to play in a certain key. If you move your fretting hand, it's because you are heading in that direction for other reasons, such as the sweep of the melody demanding it, or because you want to drop in a chord voicing that is easier to grab in a certain place, or you find a particular fingering to be more practical than other choices.


    Quote Originally Posted by bobheff
    If so, what's the best way to practice this? A year or so of playing major scales in various ways doesn't seem to have done the trick (although I'm sure it has helped me in other ways).
    Learn to hear the four main chord qualities (major, minor, aug, dim) and learn to play those arpeggios from any root note on any string. Understanding how arpeggios fit into scales will help you to impose meaningful organization on the scale tones.

    IDK about the "best" way but I did the following to master fretboard navigation. Warning: it's labor-intensive, but it worked well for me and if I had it to do again, I'd do it this way again.

    1) Draw an extra horizontal line all the way across some musical staff paper (so you have six lines that represent the six strings of the guitar). Draw vertical lines to represent frets; for each position you'll need five frets. Now write out one scale in one key in every position all the way up the neck as a dot pattern. You can buy this as a poster or find it in any number of books, especially the rock-shredder ones, but if you figure it out yourself and write it out yourself, it'll help you to remember it better. In each position, circle the root note or highlight it with a yellow highlighter so you can ID the root note easily. Here's an example of what I mean, but do NOT cheat and print this, DO write it out yourself!


    2) Now learn to play and to hear this scale in all of those positions. For example, let's say you wrote out the key of G major. Your dot-chart shows not just G major, but all of its modes. At pos II the dots are F# locrian, at pos III the dots show G Ionian, at pos V the dots show A Dorian, at pos VII you have B Phrygian, at pos VIII you have C Lydian, at pos X you have D Mixolydian, at pos XII you have E Aeolian, and at pos XIV (also at pos II) you have F# Locrian. One way to practice this is to play the chord or loop it, then play the arpeggio, then play modal scale over it. Learn to sing any of these arpeggios and scales without guitar in hand.

    3) You now know the sounds (and one set of fingerings) of all the modes of G. Repeat for the other 11 keys in Circle of Fourths or Circle of Fifths order. You should discover rather quickly that you actually know all the fingerings already; they've just shifted position. As a student, I wrote all of this down in a staff-paper spiral notebook that I have apparently lost. That's how I know that I know this :-) If I can dig it out, I'll post a page just for grins.

    4) NOW you have the raw knowledge you need to play any key in any position. For example, if you are in Pos II, in which your first finger is on the 2nd fret, you have under your fingers F# Locrian, G Ionian, A dorian, B Phrygian, etc... or by stretching index out of position to Pos I, you can play F Lydian, G Mixolydian, A Aeolian, B Locrian, C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian... basically, you can realize the fingering for ANY scale/mode in ANY position according to where the root note is in that position.

    5) As I worked through this, I discovered that there were a handful of common fingerings, such as one in which the root is under the first finger (like playing F maj in Pos II with index extended out of position to Pos I), another in which the root was under the second finger (like playing G maj in PosII) and another in which the root is under the fourth finger (like playing A Maj in Pos II) and another like playing D maj in pos II). I never actually studied CAGED but this is basically the same thing: each of these fingerings incorporates an open-position major chord grip that you already know. I thought of these fingerings as "left" "center" and "right" or as "index", "2nd finger" and "pinky" based roots. I think this is what Barry is getting at in his video but I didn't have time to watch it. So, now you need to go back over all the modal scales in all the positions and learn to play the "left" "center" and "right" fingering of each. For example, play Amaj in Pos II (aka "left-facing" fingering), then Amaj in Pos IV (aka "center or straight-across-position" fingering) and then Amaj in Pos V (aka "right-facing" fingering). Lather, rinse, repeat in all 12 keys.

    FYI: Steps 1-3 took me about three years of daily practice. Step 4 was taught to me in one hour at my first lesson with Steve Erquiaga; since I already had two years of undergrad theory and classical guitar lessons under my belt at that time, I understood the approach right away, but it took me another year of intense daily practice to be able to actually do it in semi-real time. Step 5 probably took about another year. Basically, I just worked on all of this stuff every day till I could play any scale or mode or arpeggio in any position. Years later, Jackie King showed me how to float freely between positions; again this was something fairly easy to understand that took a lot of practice time to realize.

    Getting back to your original question, you seem to be doing the right things, in that you are learning the entire fretboard. Learning arpeggios will help you to identify the strong notes and chord sounds that each mode embodies. But you also need to learn to "think like a jazz player" and the way to do that is by copying ideas that appeal to you. You don't necessarily have to write things down in standard notation so much as to learn some harmonic vocabulary and phrasing that isn't rock pentatonics. Don't wait to start doing this, do it while you work on filling in the gaps in your fretboard knowledge. To paraphrase others' advice, play musically now with what you already have, instead of waiting till later to apply a bunch of theoretical stuff. The expanded fretboard-navigation knowledge will appear in your playing when it's ready.

    One last bit of unsolicited advice: it's common to tell aspiring jazz players to copy things from instruments other than their own. While it certainly is great for you to listen to Bill Evans or Bird or Ella, - any jazz, really - in the near term, you will probably get more mileage out of stealing from other guitarists, like Joe Pass, or Wes or Charlie Christian... at least that was my experience.

    I hope this helped!
    Last edited by starjasmine; 06-16-2020 at 04:08 PM.

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobheff
    Here is me playing the head and one chorus of Softly as in a Morning Sunrise to a iReal backing track. I figured that this would be different enough to a blues to illustrate where I'm at. I will freely admit that this was far from my first take.



    I won't comment on my own playing but I must say that recording myself and listening back to it has been an interesting experience and is something I should do more often.

    Be gentle!
    You are being too hard on yourself! This is very nice. You play in tune and in time.

    Unlike vocalists, guitarists don't have to stop their phrase to take a breath. That's the small bit of practical advice I would offer: try to create phrases that have a definite beginning and ending. Leave some space between phrases. Like you are a trumpet player, sax player or vocalist who has to pause long enough to take a breath.

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobheff
    Here is me playing the head and one chorus of Softly as in a Morning Sunrise to a iReal backing track. I figured that this would be different enough to a blues to illustrate where I'm at. I will freely admit that this was far from my first take.



    I won't comment on my own playing but I must say that recording myself and listening back to it has been an interesting experience and is something I should do more often.

    Be gentle!
    OK, not bad at all, Right off the bat, I would say there are couple of simple things that would make it less pentatonic-y. On the A sections, Use B natural instead of Bb over the i and ii chords, not all the time, but a lot. 2. Work in F#/Gb a lot as well, as a blue note over i and as an altered dominant tone over V. And cause why the heck not? over ii.

    On the B section, you're not really hitting the changes. The simplest way to do that is to think of the C7b9 as Edim7 and play diminished scale runs over that chord (or just move up and down in minor 3rds from E natural). Use the same sort of device over F#dim7, and then you're back to ii V in Cmin, so use find a way to fit in notes from G altered dominant scale (i.e., find places where you can use D#, Ab, and A# in and around B and F).

    Slow iRealbook down, and just play with those tones until you find ways you like them on the changes.

    As far as rhythm goes, there are some time issues -- you come in late quite often, as though you hear the change first and then play a note. Common issue we all have. It's fine to be a little late as a deliberate effect, but try to be right on the beat more. Do also play off-beats, but play them as off-beats, not as late on-beats. Experiment with starting and phrases on different beats and with leaving different amount of space between phrases.

    Use more triplets. Try playing measures of 1/4 1/4 1/4-note-triplet 1/8 1/8. Then move the triplet to different beats, and fill the rest of the measure with 1/4's and 1/8's and rests. At least at first, you don't need to do this in time, fast, or even caring about what notes you play. Just get the feel of inserting triplets at different points in a measure and with different length tones or rests before and after.

    Hope that's helpful.

    John

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobheff
    Here is me playing the head and one chorus of Softly as in a Morning Sunrise to a iReal backing track. I figured that this would be different enough to a blues to illustrate where I'm at. I will freely admit that this was far from my first take.



    I won't comment on my own playing but I must say that recording myself and listening back to it has been an interesting experience and is something I should do more often.

    Be gentle!
    You sound like you're at a similar stage to me.
    I started off learning major scales
    Then found placing those chord tones made a huge difference.
    That meant really getting stuck into arpeggios.
    But musical phrasing is a must do so when I want to come up with a solo I ...
    Go through the song with arpeggios only many times
    Go through still arpeggios but filling in between appropriate scale tones
    Work out a nice solo phrase for each song area - fit those in bit by bit
    Takes forever but ends up sounding good - and your guitar shows you things along the way

    Loved your solo - keep it going

  37. #36

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    This is my first post here an I could be best described as a neophyte. Although I've created music for more than twenty years or so it's been with experimental electronics so all ears a less classical theory.

    I've taken to jazz guitar as a platform for understanding and learning how to access the sounds I love but my problem is I'm all ears and much less theory and dexterity.

    I have a simple question: I'm reading about Jens Larsens 7 positions of a C Major scale 3nps in trying to get an understanding of the whole fretboard. What's a best way to approach learning the positions for a layman? Do I just have to memorize each shape, if so when I change key are there a new set of shapes to memorize. How are these shapes defined, why do they start and end a those particular positions on the fretboard? (apologies that's numerous questions)

    My approach has been to memorize 2212221 and just figure it out, if I know the root I can go backwards or forwards to the next root note. Scales can be long and thin or go up and down.

    I appreciate this is really basic stuff but a helpful push in a certain direction would help me mitigate the information overload from reading and watching YT videos.

  38. #37

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    My approach has been to memorize 2212221
    A slightly easier viewpoint, looking at 2 equal tetrachords connected
    by a whole step.

    (221) 2 (221)

    Each interval has 2 viable fingerings, in this case one on the same string and one on the adjacent string. An average size hand can span up to a major 3rd on a single string. This makes it possible to accommodate all the 3 note interval sequences in the major scale (there are 3).

    22 // 21 // 12 //

    In the key of C:

    22 - CDE // FGA // GAB
    21 - DEF // ABC
    13 - EFG // BCD

    These 3 hand shapes form the basis of all 3 note per string fingerings.
    3nps fingerings tilt slightly upward which is likely why fingerings that integrate at least one 2nps move (usually on the G or B string) are more common because they all reside with 5 frets.

    Another orientation that is useful is simply to remember the half steps
    btw 3-4 and 7-8.

    Beyond using any mental constructions as an aid to finding the notes is the gradual internalization of the scale sound from different harmonic orientations.
    Over time, all the internal intervals are just sounds that will lead your
    fingers to the correct major or minor interval within the confines of
    the scale.
    Last edited by bako; 08-07-2020 at 07:18 PM.

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rmro
    This is my first post here an I could be best described as a neophyte. Although I've created music for more than twenty years or so it's been with experimental electronics so all ears a less classical theory.

    I've taken to jazz guitar as a platform for understanding and learning how to access the sounds I love but my problem is I'm all ears and much less theory and dexterity.

    I have a simple question: I'm reading about Jens Larsens 7 positions of a C Major scale 3nps in trying to get an understanding of the whole fretboard. What's a best way to approach learning the positions for a layman? Do I just have to memorize each shape, if so when I change key are there a new set of shapes to memorize. How are these shapes defined, why do they start and end a those particular positions on the fretboard? (apologies that's numerous questions)

    My approach has been to memorize 2212221 and just figure it out, if I know the root I can go backwards or forwards to the next root note. Scales can be long and thin or go up and down.

    I appreciate this is really basic stuff but a helpful push in a certain direction would help me mitigate the information overload from reading and watching YT videos.
    Welcome to posting!

    Regarding fingerings, people debate about this but just know that fingering "systems" are a matter of personal preference.

    If you want to use stretchy fingerings go ahead, but just know that they are harder on the hands - and especially the first finger - which you should preserve for the long haul. Furthermore, a stretched finger doesn't point down straight at the fretboard, so can effect tone and control. So, depending on what kind of guitar and strings you use, and whether you play clean or with lots of effects, it can matter.

    The first finger takes a greater beating from guitar playing than the other fingers. I would advise to anyone who would listen to mitigate the amount of wear and tear it takes over time.

  40. #39

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    Welcome to the World Of Diverse Opinions.

    Here's a minority view.

    If you're at the point where you're trying to learn the fretboard, do it this way.

    Learn to read.

    Get a beginner's book that shows you what the notes are on the fretboard. Start down by the nut and learn the notes in the first four frets. Get your Twinkle Twinkle Little Star sounding great.

    Then, get Colin and Bower's Complete Rhythms book and start figuring out the lines in first position. When that gets old hat, figure out how to play them an octave higher.

    A few months work and you know the fretboard and you can read all over it. If you want to pursue reading further, you'll have the foundation. It will also help, later on, with learning all kinds of useful things, like different scales, arps, chord voicings etc.

    Then, you can learn you major scales. You'll know where the notes are and you can find the fingering that fits your physiology. Personal experience: I learned 3nps first, many years ago. I never use it any more. I found more comfortable fingerings for my hand. Others love 3nps. There are terrific players with blinding speed who do it each way.

  41. #40

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    Thank you for the replies, it's a little intimidating asking these questions given the experience and knowledge on here.

    I appreciate the approach of starting right at the beginning—I actually just received a copy of 'A Modern Method for Guitar: Volumes 1' after reading the study group thread and thought it would be a good place to start in earnest.

    I think for me I have to separate my own music making from strict learning.

  42. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rmro
    Thank you for the replies, it's a little intimidating asking these questions given the experience and knowledge on here.

    I appreciate the approach of starting right at the beginning—I actually just received a copy of 'A Modern Method for Guitar: Volumes 1' after reading the study group thread and thought it would be a good place to start in earnest.

    I think for me I have to separate my own music making from strict learning.
    Excellent choice. Good luck with it!

  43. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rmro
    Thank you for the replies, it's a little intimidating asking these questions given the experience and knowledge on here.

    I appreciate the approach of starting right at the beginning—I actually just received a copy of 'A Modern Method for Guitar: Volumes 1' after reading the study group thread and thought it would be a good place to start in earnest.

    I think for me I have to separate my own music making from strict learning.
    If you are comfortable with it, you many want to skip the first half of the book (open position focus).

  44. #43

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    Ok thanks, I'm just looking at section 2. Could you explain why I'd skip section 1—is it because the open position isn't used in a jazz context?

  45. #44

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    I wouldn't skip it unless you already know the material.

    Open strings are a powerful tool, so you need to know those notes.

    Whether you employ open strings in your playing depends on what you're trying to sound like.

    You probably don't hear them so much in bop style playing, but you hear them a lot in some solo guitar styles.

    And, even in playing fast passages, sometimes judicious use of an open string can make something playable that you can't play up to speed any other way.

  46. #45

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    The rational for skipping that section is based on the fact that w/o open strings exists a versatile world of movable shapes which can help open up the rest of the fingerboard. That said, I wouldn't skip those pages.

  47. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by bako
    The rational for skipping that section is based on the fact that w/o open strings exists a versatile world of movable shapes which can help open up the rest of the fingerboard. That said, I wouldn't skip those pages.
    When I first learned how to get out of the first position, I was struck by the movable nature of everything but open strings. I also associated open strings with novice players.

    After I heard/saw Guinga up close, using the power of open strings to create amazing harmony, I changed my attitude about it. Of course, he wasn't the first, I mention him because of the impression he made on me.

    Open strings are inherently guitaristic. So, if you're trying to sound like a horn, open strings don't seem terribly relevant. If you're trying to sound like a piano, they may help a bit. If you're trying to fully exploit the possibilities of guitar, they're an important tool, even though they may not help you play a bop solo in Ab -- and there are exceptions to that rule.

  48. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rmro
    Ok thanks, I'm just looking at section 2. Could you explain why I'd skip section 1—is it because the open position isn't used in a jazz context?
    Sure, I wrote “if you’re comfortable with it” - meaning, if you already know it.

    I’m not saying “never use open strings or cowboy chords” or anything like that.

    Here's the point - William Leavitt was a brilliant guitar arranger and made the material very challenging. As a result, you may well spend more time in that section than you should, feeling the need to be a good guitar soldier.

    Here’s one way to look at it - what percentage of time does the average jazz guitar performance commit to playing in the open or first position? (Head, comp, solo). 2%?

    Now, depending on the time invested and approach taken, it can take about 4 years to get through Leavitt’s method (or for that matter, other methods and/or combinations thereof).

    So, how much time should you spend in Section One of Volume 1 (or any study devoted 100% to the open and first positions)?
    Last edited by GTRMan; 08-10-2020 at 10:25 AM.

  49. #48

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    The main motto of Leavitt's book is - "Don't skip or slight anything but also do not try to perfect everything before moving further", he says this right on the first page.

    There is a lot more in the Section 1 than just playing open strings - the book is essentially a collection of steadily advancing exercises: on reading - linear, chord and rhythm recognition, fingerings and picking patterns. Thus, it makes no sense to skip anything if one is to follow the method with a reasonable thoroughness. If you can read and play, it should not take much time to go through Section 1 to make oneself familiar with the 'flow' of the book and possibly to identify and address gaps - it will get only more challenging further.

    If one is a beginner in reading and/or technically -- skipping the 1st section, one probably also needs to skip the rest of the book. Even if one survives the first page of Section 2 with scales, the next page with a chord etude will make him put the book away. Open position is not going away completely, to be noted, in etudes, solos etc - scalar exercises are those which are strictly positional.

  50. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danil
    The main motto of Leavitt's book is - "Don't skip or slight anything but also do not try to perfect everything before moving further", he says this right on the first page.

    There is a lot more in the Section 1 than just playing open strings - the book is essentially a collection of steadily advancing exercises: on reading - linear, chord and rhythm recognition, fingerings and picking patterns. Thus, it makes no sense to skip anything if one is to follow the method with a reasonable thoroughness. If you can read and play, it should not take much time to go through Section 1 to make oneself familiar with the 'flow' of the book and possibly to identify and address gaps - it will get only more challenging further.

    If one is a beginner in reading and/or technically -- skipping the 1st section, one probably also needs to skip the rest of the book. Even if one survives the first page of Section 2 with scales, the next page with a chord etude will make him put the book away. Open position is not going away completely, to be noted, in etudes, solos etc - scalar exercises are those which are strictly positional.
    A guitar beginner will indeed be challenged if that is what we have here, but that's not what I took from the OP's note. For that mattter, a rank beginner might best be advised to work on styles apart from jazz.

    Back to non-beginners like the OP. Working Section 1 in parallel with Section 2 is another option. The thing to avoid is deferring position playing to some future rainy day.