The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    I grew up on Teles, where part of the sound was really digging in to my pick attack. Since I got my 175, I've noticed that a much lighter attack gets that traditional arch top sound better and allows me to play some lines that would be difficult with a hard attack. When I listen to some players, though, Pat Martino comes to mind, it sounds like they pick pretty hard. What do you do?

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I like the more legato sound of soft picking, like Pat Metheny.

    So my default is to pick pretty lightly. But I also like to have the sound of heavy picking available to me also. When I do Freddie Green 4 to the floor comping I like to really dig in and strum hard, I turn the volume on my guitar way down sometimes all the way to zero.

    In the heat of the moment I often catch myself picking to hard for my tastes and then try to go back to picking more lightly.

  4. #3

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    I'm all over the place...I like to have options for dynamics...so I guess my regular picking is about a "6" out of "10."


    It depends on what kind of guitar I'm playing too...An acoustic archtop or a selmer style, I'm hitting it pretty hard...my lightest touch is on my tele, actually...

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    I'm all over the place...I like to have options for dynamics...so I guess my regular picking is about a "6" out of "10."


    It depends on what kind of guitar I'm playing too...An acoustic archtop or a selmer style, I'm hitting it pretty hard...my lightest touch is on my tele, actually...
    Exactly the same. Gotta use those 'namics!

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Encinitastubes View Post
    I grew up on Teles, where part of the sound was really digging in to my pick attack. Since I got my 175, I've noticed that a much lighter attack gets that traditional arch top sound better and allows me to play some lines that would be difficult with a hard attack. When I listen to some players, though, Pat Martino comes to mind, it sounds like they pick pretty hard. What do you do?
    Really interesting Topic!!! I think that the most of the so called modern jazz guys like Mike Moreno, Kurt Rosenwinkel, even Peter Bernstein use light pick attack. Pat Martino's picking on the other hand is hard.
    Some years before, I was really picking the guitar hard. My teacher was insisted that i have to change it. Now, I think that I play with a lighter attack.
    Maybe it is a matter of taste, but if you are after the modern jazz styles of the abovementioned players you have to pick softer.

  7. #6

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    I love to smash 'em! But also have learned to pick very softly (so as not to wake the wife) unamplified.... Hard attack can be very expressive if controlled. Takes a lot of strength and training in the picking hand. Why should the GJ guys have all the fun?

  8. #7

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    This just a generalization since attack can be varied on an instrument but on a gypsy guitar or strat I lay into it. On an electric archtop I try to keep it light. It just seems to bring out a better sound.

  9. #8

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    I came across this clip of George Benson, who seems to use a combination of very light picking and spanking within the same line. Pretty cool.


  10. #9

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    Ben Monder also seem to pick very light most of the time.

  11. #10

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    Light pickers (yes, many modern players) lack dynamic expression, or even passion. Some of my non guitarist jazz friends don't like jazz guitar, yet they still like Django, Christian, Wes and Benson. The dynamic guys, even Wes with his thumb was dynamic.
    Try to cop a Cannonball Adderley line on guitar with soft picking, and compare it to the average sax player's version of the same line. It will probably sound lame, compression or FX will only make it worse. No wonder players stick to more "guitaristic" ideas, that only guitarists seem to respond to....

    I sometimes think we should all go back to training ourselves to be expressive on an acoustic instrument, and only then bring the dynamic range to the electric instrument by choosing the instrument and amplifier (and settings) that accurately reflect those dynamics. Instead we tend to alter our dynamics to suit the electric instrument, letting it dictate terms...... Just being devil's advocate ...... and trying to think of ways to make Jazz guitar compelling to non guitarists......

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet View Post
    Light pickers (yes, many modern players) lack dynamic expression, or even passion. Some of my non guitarist jazz friends don't like jazz guitar, yet they still like Django, Christian, Wes and Benson. The dynamic guys, even Wes with his thumb was dynamic.
    Try to cop a Cannonball Adderley line on guitar with soft picking, and compare it to the average sax player's version of the same line. It will probably sound lame, compression or FX will only make it worse. No wonder players stick to more "guitaristic" ideas, that only guitarists seem to respond to....

    I sometimes think we should all go back to training ourselves to be expressive on an acoustic instrument, and only then bring the dynamic range to the electric instrument by choosing the instrument and amplifier (and settings) that accurately reflect those dynamics. Instead we tend to alter our dynamics to suit the electric instrument, letting it dictate terms...... Just being devil's advocate ...... and trying to think of ways to make Jazz guitar compelling to non guitarists......
    Interesting thoughts, I think you've got something there!

    / Tony

  13. #12

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    I am a light picker and pretty laid back most of the time. I use a thick pick.

    wiz

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet View Post
    Light pickers (yes, many modern players) lack dynamic expression, or even passion. Some of my non guitarist jazz friends don't like jazz guitar, yet they still like Django, Christian, Wes and Benson. The dynamic guys, even Wes with his thumb was dynamic.
    Try to cop a Cannonball Adderley line on guitar with soft picking, and compare it to the average sax player's version of the same line. It will probably sound lame, compression or FX will only make it worse. No wonder players stick to more "guitaristic" ideas, that only guitarists seem to respond to....

    I sometimes think we should all go back to training ourselves to be expressive on an acoustic instrument, and only then bring the dynamic range to the electric instrument by choosing the instrument and amplifier (and settings) that accurately reflect those dynamics. Instead we tend to alter our dynamics to suit the electric instrument, letting it dictate terms...... Just being devil's advocate ...... and trying to think of ways to make Jazz guitar compelling to non guitarists......
    That was nicely put. Although I'm not sure of the acoustic suggestion, seems to me that in order to cop those Cannonball lines, some guitarists go overly bland. Still, a guitar can mimic many instruments, including the vibes, which might no have the breath of a wind instrument. I like, though, guitarists who cut out a lot of the notes in order to milk the essential ones. It's the sound and expression of a moving string that I like to hear.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Encinitastubes View Post
    That was nicely put. Although I'm not sure of the acoustic suggestion, seems to me that in order to cop those Cannonball lines, some guitarists go overly bland. Still, a guitar can mimic many instruments, including the vibes, which might no have the breath of a wind instrument. I like, though, guitarists who cut out a lot of the notes in order to milk the essential ones. It's the sound and expression of a moving string that I like to hear.
    I practiced for a few years unplugged. It was uninspiring at first, unmusical even. But then I realized that if I can make my unplugged playing sound like music, like something compelling, then plugging in can only make it better.

    And it's true....

  16. #15

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    Start off on an acoustic or no amp. You'll develop picking technique.

    It's fairly difficult to cover old school jazz guitar on solid body with light strings and light pick... doable but like trying to cover loud rock gigs with jazz box.

    There is a difference between playing harder and playing louder. Lets say we're covering a laid back ballad like Midnight Mood or Wes's Leila,
    your going to be, (whether using pick of thumb), picking or attacking softly... and even if your improve gets to a point where your burnin... with lots of expression... your still probably picking softly, maybe a few harder attacks on blues phrases or if that's what the music calls for.

    There are still dynamics, articulations etc... all your tools for expression are still there. The range of use is different.

    Now if your covering Road Song, Well You Needn't, My Latin Brother or louder more up tunes... The range of use again changes... Soft picks, light strings and light technique is somewhat out of place. Obviously a great player can make anything work... turn up the amp or make the band come down... But those type of tunes imply heavier picking, doesn't mean you can't still have all the qualities of light picking... but there is an energy level implied by both light and heavy picking. You should be able to reflect what those are.

    My personal opinions...

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet View Post
    Light pickers (yes, many modern players) lack dynamic expression, or even passion. Some of my non guitarist jazz friends don't like jazz guitar, yet they still like Django, Christian, Wes and Benson. The dynamic guys, even Wes with his thumb was dynamic.
    Try to cop a Cannonball Adderley line on guitar with soft picking, and compare it to the average sax player's version of the same line. It will probably sound lame, compression or FX will only make it worse. No wonder players stick to more "guitaristic" ideas, that only guitarists seem to respond to....

    I sometimes think we should all go back to training ourselves to be expressive on an acoustic instrument, and only then bring the dynamic range to the electric instrument by choosing the instrument and amplifier (and settings) that accurately reflect those dynamics. Instead we tend to alter our dynamics to suit the electric instrument, letting it dictate terms...... Just being devil's advocate ...... and trying to think of ways to make Jazz guitar compelling to non guitarists......
    This is a great post. I'm a huge Pat Metheny fan, but at times I feel like even his sound can start to wear on long solos because of the lack of dynamics.

    Benson and Martino are both guys who can really get that cool range of dynamics that let them ghost notes and sound almost "saxophonic" when they double time. A lot of the more modern players have sacrificed the dynamic range for a guitar tone that is always as thick as possible.

    For me, everyone in the American jazz guitar tradition starts with the Christian tone. From there, you either get guys following Wes' interpretation, which is more acoustic with a heavy attack and even heavier strings, and guys who follow Hall's approach with light picking and light strings.

    Both approaches are wonderful and interesting, but I personally prefer the wider range of dynamics afforded by the heavy school.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet View Post
    Light pickers (yes, many modern players) lack dynamic expression, or even passion. Some of my non guitarist jazz friends don't like jazz guitar, yet they still like Django, Christian, Wes and Benson. The dynamic guys, even Wes with his thumb was dynamic.
    Try to cop a Cannonball Adderley line on guitar with soft picking, and compare it to the average sax player's version of the same line. It will probably sound lame, compression or FX will only make it worse. No wonder players stick to more "guitaristic" ideas, that only guitarists seem to respond to....

    I sometimes think we should all go back to training ourselves to be expressive on an acoustic instrument, and only then bring the dynamic range to the electric instrument by choosing the instrument and amplifier (and settings) that accurately reflect those dynamics. Instead we tend to alter our dynamics to suit the electric instrument, letting it dictate terms...... Just being devil's advocate ...... and trying to think of ways to make Jazz guitar compelling to non guitarists......
    I like those thoughts. Take Yngwie Malmsteen for example, he's no jazz guitarist alright, but he's got an extremely light picking. He also uses lots of compression. No wonder he can play fast. But that light picking would sound like crap on an archtop.

  19. #18

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    I pick pretty hard.

    I use a hard pick and fairly heavy strings (.13 to .56 I think is what on there now). I've played the purple Dunlop picks since I was in my 20s, and Fender heavy before that

    For my sound, I like heavy strings and heavy picks. The more material, the rounder the sound is what I was taught.

    I also pick through the string in a simple back and forth style, but I do angle the pick a little so it isn't a flat edge hitting the string

    this is probably an out of date way to do it, though.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nate Miller View Post
    I pick pretty hard.

    I use a hard pick and fairly heavy strings (.13 to .56 I think is what on there now). I've played the purple Dunlop picks since I was in my 20s, and Fender heavy before that

    For my sound, I like heavy strings and heavy picks. The more material, the rounder the sound is what I was taught.

    I also pick through the string in a simple back and forth style, but I do angle the pick a little so it isn't a flat edge hitting the string

    this is probably an out of date way to do it, though.
    That sounds sensible, that more material makes for a rounder sound. However, I still want a clearly defined attack, or it will sound like you're playing with an eraser. But that's mostly a matter of hand technique I guess. You can have a defined attack with a thick pick as well, as long as you use enough force. I've tried the purple (2.0 mm) Dunlops, and they are bit *too* thick for my taste, though. To each his own, of course.

  21. #20

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    what makes the attack with the heavy strings is when the pick doesn't have any give in it, which is why I always liked the heavy picks.


    but the thing is, you can use a pick with a little flex if you use a lighter string gage and do the same thing

    the lighter your string gage, the more you need your amp to keep the note from sounding thin

    so if you have a modern sound, you can definitely use lighter picks and lighter strings

    my "stuck in the 50s" sound uses as little amp as possible, so for me the heavier strings give me the round tone and full sound without using a lot of amp

    so its the 3 things: your pick your strings and your amp working together. So if you do go to a lighter string and it sounds thin, try and see if your a different amp setting can help you out before you call the experiment a failure

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet View Post
    Light pickers (yes, many modern players) lack dynamic expression, or even passion. Some of my non guitarist jazz friends don't like jazz guitar, yet they still like Django, Christian, Wes and Benson. The dynamic guys, even Wes with his thumb was dynamic.
    Try to cop a Cannonball Adderley line on guitar with soft picking, and compare it to the average sax player's version of the same line. It will probably sound lame, compression or FX will only make it worse. No wonder players stick to more "guitaristic" ideas, that only guitarists seem to respond to....

    I sometimes think we should all go back to training ourselves to be expressive on an acoustic instrument, and only then bring the dynamic range to the electric instrument by choosing the instrument and amplifier (and settings) that accurately reflect those dynamics. Instead we tend to alter our dynamics to suit the electric instrument, letting it dictate terms...... Just being devil's advocate ...... and trying to think of ways to make Jazz guitar compelling to non guitarists......
    I am going to go out on the limb with you and hope nobody saws it off (except for the part about lacking passion). You (and Mr. B) identified the exact thing that is missing for me in many modern players - dynamics.

    A section of loudly picked notes have a way of "waking me up." I can still remember a part of Grant Green's solo in "It Ain't Necessarily So" in which he plays some scalar figure really hard for a measure. It makes things memorable.

    But this is not a slight to those who like that pretty, even picking attack. The hard picking kind of "funks" things up and adds a primal aspect.

    By the way, in the past Pat Martino has mentioned is several interviews that he breaks strings.
    Last edited by AlsoRan; 02-26-2016 at 12:27 AM.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nate Miller View Post
    what makes the attack with the heavy strings is when the pick doesn't have any give in it, which is why I always liked the heavy picks.


    but the thing is, you can use a pick with a little flex if you use a lighter string gage and do the same thing

    the lighter your string gage, the more you need your amp to keep the note from sounding thin

    so if you have a modern sound, you can definitely use lighter picks and lighter strings

    my "stuck in the 50s" sound uses as little amp as possible, so for me the heavier strings give me the round tone and full sound without using a lot of amp

    so its the 3 things: your pick your strings and your amp working together. So if you do go to a lighter string and it sounds thin, try and see if your a different amp setting can help you out before you call the experiment a failure
    I get your point with using as little amp as possible, or at least limit its influence on the sound. And I also like playing a little harder because that gets more of the actual tone from the guitar itself, rather than what's generated by the magnetic field of the pickups. Currently I'm not using an archtop, I'm using a solid-body with .010 strings, and that isn't exactly heavy, but I'm trying to get a full sound in spite of that.

  24. #23

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    I pick lightly, with some snap as needed. Use a Medium pick and .011 strings. When younger, I played pretty hard and sloppy (lots of fast strumming) and developed the habit of hitting the string with part of my hand as well as the pick. The only way I could break that habit was to develop a smooth picking motion and "take it easy".

  25. #24

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    I don't think there's a need to take it easy as long as you are relaxed in your hand. Playing too lightly just makes everything sound the same in my book.

  26. #25

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    Currently I use the red Jazz III, for the record. The sharp point makes for that snappy, quick attack that I like in some way. The sound from it isn't particularly round, on the other hand. One thing I don't like with the Dunlop Delrins, apart from the initial plastic mold residue at the edges, and at least for the red/blue 1.14 mm one, is that it will sound like an eraser after some time. Very muddy. I don't know how the 2.0 mm fares, since I haven't use one for long enough time to get "worn in". Will it keep the edge better?