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  1. #1

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    ...I didn't know whether to start a new thread for this. It seems a bit redundant. However, I'm not the usual beginning guitar student.

    I too am struggling with where to start learning jazz guitar and jazz theory. I'm not a beginning guitar player. I've played guitar for 6 decades. I've played in bands of one kind or another most of my life. However, I've been in only one jazz/blues group. My main musical interests now are jazz (especially swing and bop and chord melodies), blues (especially jazzy blues), and bluegrass. Yes, I said bluegrass. I'm a pretty formidable bluegrass flatpicker. I play guitar, mandolin, and Scruggs style banjo. But, I've finally decided to put my time in and learn jazz "the right way." I've managed to duck learning theory as long as I could, but now that I want to learn jazz, music theory is pretty much a prerequisite.

    I do have a really good ear. I've played some swing and I can improvise over a medium tempo 2, 5, 1, progression. But, since I play 99% by ear, I can't explain to you what I'm doing. I can hear jazz phrasing in my head and find it on my guitar. I know 17 different jazz chords and I (loosely) know the arpeggios for those chords. I've been studying Youtube videos by Rich Severson, Richie Zellon, Jens Larson, Rick Beato and others. They've been very helpful. But I need to approach this "correctly." So, where do I go from here?

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Your approach sounds like the correct one tbh. Ear is the most important thing.

    Why is naming things important? Tbh theory can be a massive rabbit hole that can stop you from playing music if approached wrong.

    So you could just learn more grips and so on the guitar and listen to solos and copy them on your guitar. Learn as many songs as possible.

    However when used right, as resources to help music, theory can be helpful.

    this may help though


    also learning to read and write music is a great skill

  4. #3

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    Theory is just explaining why what someone played sounded good. Or bad. IMO the best way to learn jazz is to listen to lots of it, and play along with the recordings. Get the phrases and licks into your head and fingers. Disclaimer: I'm just one stranger on the internet, and I'm far from a great player. That's just the way I've always done it.

  5. #4

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    First thing to do without a doubt ... is to give somebody an example of your playing over changes, and/or chord melody and/or comping.

    You may not want to give it the world to see, because there's always people who are waiting to unconstructively cut you down, but pick someone who's playing you like, or find someone who is a teacher.

    They will be able to see where your gaps are. Chances are you have a poor foundation but with all of the other stuff that you've learned over the years, you can probably plug the holes relatively quickly.

  6. #5

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    My background is similar. I play a lot of bluegrass mandolin and guitar and love flat picking. Do you know your drop 2 voicings yet? See below. Great for chord melody.
    Here is what I have learned about learning jazz. You need to keep hammering away at and eventually the concepts starts to stick.

    Jazz Chord Voicings and Drop 2.pdf

  7. #6

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    I can't give you a single recommendation for learning jazz, but having come from a similar background and interest I have to disagree with some of the other posts.

    I believe you when you say you are already a good player. I believe you already have a good ear. Learning by ear is not what you asked about.

    I get that it must be frustrating for teachers to get young people who have never listened to jazz want formulas to plug into their guitar machine so they can check that box in their school application. So frustrating, in fact, that there seems to be this knee-jerk reaction against anyone who is interested in theory. But I think it's OK to want to understand music through theory; especially if you already have advanced technique on your instrument, years of playing, and said you listen to jazz. You don't need to be told, like some teenager who says they want to play that "jazz stuff", to just listen to the music first.

    I would also suggest that learning a bunch of drop 2 chords isn't going to give you what you want. It didn't do it for me. I wanted to know what made Jazz unique, what the players were thinking and reacting to, and how those iconic sounds were built.

    The most complete "system" I'm aware of for understanding jazz, and in particular bebop, comes from the great Barry Harris. But it isn't a complete system, and especially when it comes to harmony is not how most modern musicians think. For one thing, he thinks of harmony using an octotonic scale but melody from a traditional septatonic scale (except when he embellishes with chromatic notes). I have always suspected that this contradiction is less troubling for a piano player because one hand exclusively does harmony and one exclusively melody. On the guitar, it feels like a bigger conflict. He also translates m7 chords into their enharmonic siblings the M6 chords. But you will never find a lead sheet, fake book, or even other players doing that so it adds a step in learning tunes. That said, his system is still the best IMHO at describing how to create bebop music. I can recommend Alan Kingstone's book for an intro to Barry Harris' harmonic ideas, the Howard Rees DVD's for melodic ideas, as well as Youtubers "What I've Learned from Barry Harris" and "The Labyrinth of Limitations".

    I have also gotten a lot from the late Garrison Fewell. His simplified triadic approach to making the changes sure helped me break out of the pentatonic or "what scale for this song" thinking. I found it a quick way to get into how traditional jazz lines are made vs how blues lines are made. He did not invent this approach, of course. There are plenty of others that teach a similar approach. I just found his books and method to be a really good entry for a beginner in the genre. Fellow forumite Jordan Klemons has an online school that uses some similar concepts. Just beware that his tastes run to very modern jazz and he isn't really interested in introducing beginners to the genre. He doesn't spend much time explaining how you might get traditional Wes Montgomery or Joe Pass sounds on jazz standards. Still, he has an interesting pedagogy.

    There are a near infinite number of teachers out there with near as many systems. Howard Roberts "Super Chops", Randy Vincent "Cellular Approach", and the Herb Ellis "Shapes" books seem to be very popular on this forum. You can't go wrong with any of them.

    Good luck, and have fun!

  8. #7

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    In your case, assuming you have a good ear and good technique, just transcribe and learn from the masters.
    If you want to brush up on your theory, get a book on functional harmony and a real book. Learn the basics of functional harmony and then apply it by analyzing the songs in the real book, like identifying chord functions and substitutions and be able to identify patterns accross different keys. It's not that hard. Those youtube teachers are a waste of time, imho

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by jumpnblues
    I'm a pretty formidable bluegrass flatpicker.
    jazz is just another style. if you got the bluegrass style down you should be pretty much aware of the process, right?

  10. #9

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    I am similar, except I'm coming from a rock/blues background, and I'm pretty accomplished at both styles. I have had a tough time of it, trying to become a "real" jazz player, I feel like in my case "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" LOL.

    I have one thing on my side: I was raised (literally from birth) listening to big band swing. So I have that ingrained in my memory. I have a great sense of swing in my playing, even when playing rock or blues. Some of my guitar lines/melodies are even "horn-inspired" I think. But jazz phrasing has proven difficult for me. Which leads me to my reason for this post:

    I'm also a multi-style player, all the time. I have never forsaken my other guitars/styles exclusively for jazz. Some days I want to play blues, some days I want to rock, and other days I'd like to play jazzy stuff... That, combined with my limited time to learn (I'm not a professional player, nor am I retired, so my free time is at a minimum), has made it very difficult.... because, in the end, regardless of theory/no theory, or what books/courses you may or may not have, TIME is the most important factor. TIME on the instrument, learning the new style. If I had alot of time, I'm quite sure I would be alot further down the road than I am now. But 30 minutes here-and-there just doesn't accomplish much for me.

    I did just buy a Truefire course: Tim Lerch's "Jazz Blues Pathways", in hopes of it "coming at it from a different angle" may help me pick it up faster... trying to use "jazzy blues" or perhaps "bluesy jazz" as a "gateway." My 2 favorite jazz players are at opposite ends of the spectrum from one another:

    Kenny Burrell (who uses so many pentatonics, I instantly relate and understand what he's doing, most of the time), and
    Johnny Smith (so complicated and intricate, I will never play like that.)

    I would never think bluegrass and jazz had much in common (even tho they were invented in the same country at pretty much the same time), but a quick google proved me wrong... there are both videos and websites dedicated to the fusion of the 2 styles.... maybe that's a "gateway" for you? Just a thought.

    Bluegrass and Jazz: What Do They Have in Common? | Abbeville Institute

  11. #10

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    Do you guys not agree that learning jazz comes down to just accumulating cool tricks, just like in any other style of music? No different than blues.

    The challenge is to master the initial set of tricks to bootstrap the process. That is, a set of jazz chord voicings for each chord type, a set of basic jazz comping rhythms, a set of line ideas for each chord type and basic line building concepts in the style of jazz. The initial goal is to get good at applying and connecting these core sets so you can start playing tunes and feel legit. You spend the rest of your life learning or discovering new tricks to expand your vocabulary and improve your sensibilities as a jazz musician.

    The difficulty of jazz is that mastering that initial set to bootstrap the process is more complex than in blues.

    I bet learning how to write a symphony is the same also. Learn cool tricks people before you came up with and go from there.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 03-02-2021 at 08:06 PM.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    Do you guys not agree that learning jazz comes down to just accumulating cool tricks, just like in any other style? No different than the blues.
    .
    I do not agree. I have never been a "lick player". While I certainly have certain licks I play alot, I never had a goal of "learning and accumulating a lick library so I could play in ______ style." I play what I hear, in the music that I'm playing to. I try to listen to melodies and phrasing, never thinking "I'll play this lick next."

    Not saying one COULDN'T do that. One certainly could. But in my listening experiences, over 51 years, that makes for very boring playing. I can't count the times I've watched a YouTube video of some phenom player, who knows a thousand licks, and how to use them, and has the technique to pull them all of effortlessly, and yet... is incredibly boring. No connection to the music. It's like a player piano. Actually, I'd much rather listen to a slightly out-of-tune player piano LOL.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruger9
    I do not agree. I have never been a "lick player". While I certainly have certain licks I play alot, I never had a goal of "learning and accumulating a lick library so I could play in ______ style." I play what I hear, in the music that I'm playing to. I try to listen to melodies and phrasing, never thinking "I'll play this lick next."

    Not saying one COULDN'T do that. One certainly could. But in my listening experiences, over 51 years, that makes for very boring playing. I can't count the times I've watched a YouTube video of some phenom player, who knows a thousand licks, and how to use them, and has the technique to pull them all of effortlessly, and yet... is incredibly boring. No connection to the music. It's like a player piano. Actually, I'd much rather listen to a slightly out-of-tune player piano LOL.
    I'm not a lick player either. I said "tricks", not licks. I use the word "trick" in a broad sense. For example playing 3-b9 arpeggio over a dominant is a jazz "trick", but not a lick. It's an idea that's used in jazz lines a lot but it's more like a backbone for many spontaneous licks rather than being a lick.

    Substitution of #IV diminished for the minor ii-V to iii is a reharmonization "trick", tritone substitution is a "trick" etc. etc.

    Accumulating "tricks" ideosyntactic to a style of music is what I was talking about.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    I'm not a lick player either. I said "tricks", not licks. I use the word "trick" in a broad sense. For example playing 3-b9 arpeggio over a dominant is a jazz "trick", but not a lick. It's an idea that's used in jazz lines a lot but it's more like a backbone for many spontaneous licks rather than being a lick. Substitution of #IV diminished for the minor ii-V to iii is a reharmonization "trick", tritone substitution is a "trick" etc. etc.
    Alright well I'm not going to get bogged down in definitions here... the bottom line is, if your brain doesn't THINK in jazz, you won't be able to play it, very well. Yes, you can "learn tricks" or whatever, that's like learning a language. But unless you feel it- live and breathe it to an extent- it'll just be a collection of tricks. I heard one guitarist, I forget who but it was a lifetime professional, non-jazz player, who clearly has the talent to learn jazz, say they couldn't ever really get good at jazz- because "their brain just doesn't work that way."

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruger9
    Alright well I'm not going to get bogged down in definitions here... the bottom line is, if your brain doesn't THINK in jazz, you won't be able to play it, very well. Yes, you can "learn tricks" or whatever, that's like learning a language. But unless you feel it- live and breathe it to an extent- it'll just be a collection of tricks. I heard one guitarist, I forget who but it was a lifetime professional, non-jazz player, who clearly has the talent to learn jazz, say they couldn't ever really get good at jazz- because "their brain just doesn't work that way."
    Well words have meanings, you can't just replace my words and write a response.
    Anyway, you're being too literal. The word "trick" is used in a cheeky, loose sense. I'm not talking about a mechanical method. I'm talking about the importance of being a "musician", the spirit of the process.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 03-02-2021 at 11:21 AM.

  16. #15

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    Learning a style of music is an inductive process rather than being deductive IMO. I have to remind myself that more often, lol.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    I'm talking about the importance of being a "musician", the spirit of the process.
    So am I LOL. That's why I gave the example of very technically/theory proficient players all over YouTube who can "play jazz" (or any genre), but IMO are not connecting with the music. They are simply "accurate replicators."

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    Learning a style of music is an inductive process rather than being deductive IMO. I have to remind myself that more often, lol.
    yes, yes, yes, and yes. this is so friggin important.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    I'm not a lick player either. I said "tricks", not licks. I use the word "trick" in a broad sense. For example playing 3-b9 arpeggio over a dominant is a jazz "trick", but not a lick. It's an idea that's used in jazz lines a lot but it's more like a backbone for many spontaneous licks rather than being a lick.

    Substitution of #IV diminished for the minor ii-V to iii is a reharmonization "trick", tritone substitution is a "trick" etc. etc.

    Accumulating "tricks" ideosyntactic to a style of music is what I was talking about.

    What you call “tricks” I call theory. I am sure that if you put a thousand guitarist in a room and have them play 10,000 hours someone might stumble across using the #IV dim to the iii as a cadence on their own. Or, as the OP suggested in his question, you can ask an accomplished player who already knows that trick, “hey, what’s that you just did there?”


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by rlrhett
    What you call “tricks” I call theory. I am sure that if you put a thousand guitarist in a room and have them play 10,000 hours someone might stumble across using the #IV dim to the iii as a cadence on their own. Or, as the OP suggested in his question, you can ask an accomplished player who already knows that trick, “hey, what’s that you just did there?”


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    Sure, you can call it jazz theory, or jazz language. Of course you don't learn the tricks of the style only by self discovery. "Tricks" are the elements of the language. There are many sources for these elements. You can learn them from the records, theory books, youtube videos, fellow players, teachers, self discovery, online forums etc.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    Learning a style of music is an inductive process rather than being deductive IMO. I have to remind myself that more often, lol.
    I’m having that

  22. #21

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    As it happens, I did a video just now which can of touches on what Tal175 and rlhett are discussing. If it interests:


  23. #22

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    I agree with Tal, is it a gross simplification. Yes, but I'm confident one can go through a single book and "sound jazzy" whatever that means.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    Do you guys not agree that learning jazz comes down to just accumulating cool tricks, just like in any other style? No different than the blues.

    The challenge is to master the initial set of tricks to bootstrap the process. That is, a set of jazz chord voicings for each chord type, a set of basic jazz comping rhythms, a set of line ideas for each chord type and basic line building concepts in the style of jazz. The initial goal is to get good at applying and connecting these core sets so you can start playing tunes and feel legit. You spend the rest of your life learning or discovering new tricks to expand your vocabulary and improve your sensibilities as a jazz musician.

    The difficulty of jazz is that mastering that initial set to bootstrap the process is more complex than in blues.

    I bet learning how to write a symphony is the same also. Learn cool tricks people before you came up with and go from there.
    I think there’s a lot in what you said ....
    Its like a language
    like say english
    we all use the same english words
    and phrases mostly
    but we all communicate different things

    I think my advice to the OP
    is to learn and study the standard
    jazz tunes
    really treat each tune as its own world
    and get into it

    ie
    pick a tune you dig
    learn the head
    learn the harmony
    put the sheet away ....
    work out your OWN Chord-melody arrangement of it
    (play it in a couple different keys
    I’m not good at doing this)
    get a looper or Ireal or backing track
    and play the head over it and then
    just blow on the changes , anything , just play around with it
    listen to other people’s versions
    steal their lines and ideas
    keep it fun

    rinse and repeat with another tune

  25. #24

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    Check out Jimmy Bruno.

    His method is intended to connect the ear to the fingers.

    He is not about chord-scale theory.
    Seems like you might be a good match with your ability as an ear player
    and theory-shirker.

    Bruno is quick to lead you to 'hear' the theory.
    Some theory labor may be required, though.
    He helped me learn & enjoy. Probably cheap enough for a trial.

    Good luck!

    Learn Jazz Guitar | Jimmy Bruno Guitar Workshop