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  1. #1

    Trouble With Bill Leavitt's Chord Etudes

    Hi All. My first post on this site. Been reading for a while.

    Anyway, I'm about 25% of the way through William Leavitt's "Modern Method For Guitar vol. 2." I began on page 1 of the first volume about 9 months ago. I was wondering if anyone else who's gone through these books had particular trouble with the chord etudes...in particular 4 and 5 of volume one. Although I can play everything else in volume one reasonably cleanly and at a good pace, these etudes still challenge me, I think mostly due to the finger stretches and string skipping involved. I can certainly play them, its just that I always make mistakes and play some flubby notes, even at tempos around 60 bpm ( I play it free and rubato though). Without a doubt these 2 exercises are the most technically difficult aspects of either volume one or the portions of volume 2 I've so far made it through. I go back and work on them every 2 days or so for maybe 15 minutes, but don't want to get too hung up on them. And I am improving, but it feels quite slow to me, considering my progress with other aspects of the method. Also in terms of speed, and clean accuracy, I'm a descent single not soloist. Is it sort of a well known thing that these sort of close note chord etudes are a particularly difficult part of playing guitar in general or is it a particular weakness of mine? Thanks For Any Feedback!
    Last edited by EdBickertOnPCP; 02-19-2019 at 10:39 AM. Reason: bad phrasing, double typed words

  2. #2
    You're correct. They are tough, and are not necessarily representative of jazz guitar chord melody playing. Jazz guitar chord melody playing can very very tough or it can be relatively straightforward - and still sound good.


    I would recommend that you keep after the Leavitt studies but also investigate other sources - if solo jazz guitar or so-called chord melody is one of your goals.

    There are lots of 7th chords and chords with tensions and altered tensions that are relatively easy to "grip". One technique that you can try is to take a ballad and learn the melody (in the proper octave, where a singer would sing it). Then circle some notes that you want to throw a chord under - and don't overdo it. You choose the voicings. Make sure to play in time and let the melody sing. Ensure that you play effective intros and endings. Apply this to more tunes after you learn one.

    You are now a jazz guitar arranger.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Location
    Beaufort, S.C.
    Posts
    792
    Here's a report that I wrote on visualization / mental imagery that will help you "see" your fingerings more clearly with everything you play:

    The "mental imagery / visualization" techniques you are about to learn are very time efficient because you will be using your brain to it's fullest extent. Remember, your fingers only do what your brain tells them to do. Clear things up in your head and you will stop making mistakes when you play guitar! The "mental imagery / visualization" procedure you will use consists of 5 steps. All 5 steps must be completed for each measure of the piece of music before going on to the next measure. The first 4 steps must be done with your guitar in its' case. This is very important! Keep your guitar in its' case for the first 4 steps!!

    Step #1 - Count and clap the rhythmic structure of the measure. For example in 4/4 time you would count quarter notes as 1-2-3-4. eighth notes as 1+2+3+4+, sixteenth notes as 1a+ah, 2a+ah, 3a+ah, 4a+ah. etc. You would clap the side of your leg with your right hand whenever you would strike a string or groups of strings. This will let you determine and hear the rhythmic structure of the measure - which is the most basic part of music.

    Step #2 - Determine the left hand fingering for the measure. Using the palm of your left hand as the fretboard, actually press down the finger or fingers you will use to play the notes and chords in the measure while at the same time picturing or seeing the strings and the guitar neck in your mind's eye as if you were physically playing it.

    Step #3 - Determine the right hand fingering for the measure. If playing with a pick, you would have to decide whether you are picking up or down for each note. If playing fingerstyle you would have to decide which fingering sequences you would use. At this point your right hand fingers or your pick would actually be picking the air while in your mind's eye you are picturing or seeing the string or strings that you are playing.

    Step #4 - Do steps 2 and 3 at the same time, really striving to see the strings and frets in your mind's eye as you are playing them in the air, while at the same time counting out loud.

    Step #5 - Take you guitar out of the case and actually play the measure you were working on. If you can play it 3 times in a row with no mistakes, then you understand and know that measure. Now you can proceed to the next measure and use the same 5-step process for it. After you have completed the new measure, be sure to actually perform the new measure with the old measure. This way you are building the piece of music by attaching each measure to the one before it - much like you would build a chain by attaching each new link to the one before it. This "mental imagery / visualization" procedure works so well because it allows you to focus clearly on each hand separately. If you understand the fingerings for each hand separately, combining them together isn't that difficult. The problem for us guitarists has always been trying to do too many things at the same time!

    Hope this helps!
    Steven Herron
    Learn To Play Mainstream Jazz Guitar

  4. #4
    Keep chipping away at it. As a beginner I think it's too early to skip material and focus only on strengths. No tricks to it (unless you post a video, maybe you're doing something wrong), just practice practice practice.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    5,274
    I just went back and listened to my videos of my attempts at Etude 4 & 5. Etude 4 is one of my favorites in the book. I had a few flubs, I usually recorded on the 1st or second session... i.e practiced the tune several times and then recorded. I didn't get to the point where I could take my eyes off the page, I wasn't trying to memorize. I think the book is great for developing reading skills and expecially for picking skills. I really had to develop my rest strokes when playing chords to play that book.

    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  6. #6
    Now that Fep showed how nice of a little etude this is, there's even more reason to stick with it.

  7. #7
    Those are two gorgeous William Levitt "logic puzzles" in left hand fingering. Make sure that you're catching all of the places where there are common fingers between pairs of chords. I had to mark a couple of them working through a few years ago. Once you see and execute these properly, the hardest parts of the étude become pretty simple.

    I marked two of the most important for me at the time, but there are several other ones as well. This piece is riddled with them . I think it's actually the primary purpose of this étude in the first place.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher View Post
    Once you see and execute these properly, the hardest parts of the étude become pretty simple.

    I marked two of the most important for me at the time, but there are several other ones as well. This piece is riddled with them . I think it's actually the primary purpose of this étude in the first place.
    Thanks for this advice! I did notice recently a couple places I'd been using more difficult fingerings than needed. In particular that first semi-arpeggiated D chord in Etude #4, I'd been playing as a bar chord when its actually easier to execute without the bar.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzstdnt View Post
    There are lots of 7th chords and chords with tensions and altered tensions that are relatively easy to "grip". One technique that you can try is to take a ballad and learn the melody (in the proper octave, where a singer would sing it). Then circle some notes that you want to throw a chord under - and don't overdo it. You choose the voicings. Make sure to play in time and let the melody sing. Ensure that you play effective intros and endings. Apply this to more tunes after you learn one.
    This is a great practice idea, thanks. I am working with other sources besides Leavitt. One book in I've added to my practice routine is Van Eps "Guitar Method" which focuses heavily on exercises with triads, triad arpeggios, and ultimately triad-based chord melodies. Because, yes, one of my long term goals is to get good at solo chord solos. In addition to having some trouble with Leavitt's chord etudes, I also happen to like them very much. If you or anyone else can recommend places to find chord etudes of similar difficulty, please let me know. I came across Joe Pass's Chord Solo book recently and checked it out. But it seems pretty advanced for my current level and I was planning to revisit in maybe 6 months of so.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Mystic CT
    Posts
    1,629
    There is a book of Van Eps solos, hard but not impossible, and very musical, it may be very hard to find, though. There are Johnny Smith and Barry Galbraith chord solos on standard tunes available via the internet, but naturally you'll want to study those to create your own. Leavitt was a great fan of Van Eps and Smith, and you'll find in his studies lots of their techniques. I studied with him, and he sketched out an arrangement for me of a Gershwin tune that was really beautiful, taught me a lot about creating arrangements.

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