The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #51

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    I recently asked a friend of mine who was a long time student of Tal Farlow's, and he said that Tal had no system of picking; he just did whatever he had to do to get his ideas out.
    Although he never practiced scales, some of his best lines were scales, because he knew how to use scales the way Bud Powell used them, but he seemed to pick most of them, unlike Grasso, who loses the accents with that Chuck Wayne technique he uses, yet can play anything.

    The trick is to find the thing to practice that enables you to be able to burn on a playing situation, no matter how basic it is.

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  3. #52

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller
    Doesn’t Metheny do something a bit like that bending the picks?
    Metheny uses a thin pick. I've read that he holds the pick in a bent position. It springs back to its original shape when he releases it. I know this because I once picked up one of his discarded picks after a show. I don't know exactly how he held them.

    Warren permanently shaped his picks to fit the pad of his thumb.

    Pat Metheny, Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery are all major figures in jazz guitar history who didn't pick in a way that anybody would teach. Others?

  4. #53

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    The info age can be daunting.

    I started playing in a kind of musical vacuum, though I was coming from cello. As a fifteen year old I wouldn't know how to find a jazz guitarist, or if there even was one in my little town. Bought about 20 records from a jazz collection at a garage sale. Kind of Blue, Smokin' at the Half Note, Hombre, Blue Train, some Thelonius, Django, Art Blakey and on. A solid sampling.

    I spent about 3 years trying to play along with Wes, Django and Martino before I found out Wes played with his thumb, Django played with 2 fingers and Pat....I didn't really have a clue what he was doing. I knew from the cover he had some kind of giant guitar, the likes of which could not be seen in my part of the world.

    I just kept trying to find a way. I guess you end up with something that jibes with how your body is 'enervated'... or something.

    Today? Well you know. A lot of daunting choices to make right from the get go. If you can't find a teacher I guess you decide who you want to sound like and then watch a bunch of YouTubes. At least you can see what they're playing, how they hold it, how they pick and so on. And then there's these here forums. Confusing newbs is something we do :-)

    Glad to hear the OP is having some success!

  5. #54

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    Quote Originally Posted by ccroft
    Glad to hear the OP is having some success!
    Thanks!

    Re: Metheny, see this - Pat Metheny Picking (jazzguitar.be)

  6. #55

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    Metheny uses a thin pick. I've read that he holds the pick in a bent position. It springs back to its original shape when he releases it. I know this because I once picked up one of his discarded picks after a show. I don't know exactly how he held them.

    Warren permanently shaped his picks to fit the pad of his thumb.

    Pat Metheny, Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery are all major figures in jazz guitar history who didn't pick in a way that anybody would teach. Others?
    Well Benson for a bit, until people worked out what he was doing and taught it. Now it’s a school.

    I don’t actually think I really know what mechanics Charlie used other than that he did a lot of downstrokes in the sense there’s no footage to work out the quality of motion for example. His lines fit gypsy picking pretty well and I am certainly comfortable teaching that. (In fact it’s the only style of picking I feel 100% comfortable teaching.)

    No idea what’s going on with Pat.

    Wes was basically a gypsy picker without a pick if that makes any sense. So I think that’s teachable. I actually often teach students to start off with the thumb in this way actually, the assumption is they’ll move to pick. The thumb makes downward rest strokes into the body of the guitar so quite different from classical. Upstrokes come outwards from the guitar. There’s some great footage showing how this mechanic operated in detail, I can scarcely believe it exists.

    Kurts technique is peculiar, but I actually used to play like that.

    Peter Bernsteins technique is quite unsual; heavily anchored upward pickslanting

    i really love listening to Bruce Forman but hate watching him; to me it looks like his whole forearm goes into spasm exactly like how Tuck Andress says it shouldn’t. No idea how he keeps it so swinging and relaxed sounding. Works for him!

    The thing is a lot of received wisdom about picking pedagogy is I think quite counterproductive, because there’s an endless stream of formally schooled guitar players who moan endlessly about their picking and struggle a bit tbh. In fact it’s striking that some of the most able guitarists of all time use highly unconventional stances and approaches and a sure sign that plectrum guitar technique is still in its infancy.
    Last edited by Christian Miller; 03-12-2022 at 07:08 PM.

  7. #56

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgcim
    I recently asked a friend of mine who was a long time student of Tal Farlow's, and he said that Tal had no system of picking; he just did whatever he had to do to get his ideas out.
    Although he never practiced scales, some of his best lines were scales, because he knew how to use scales the way Bud Powell used them, but he seemed to pick most of them, unlike Grasso, who loses the accents with that Chuck Wayne technique he uses, yet can play anything.

    The trick is to find the thing to practice that enables you to be able to burn on a playing situation, no matter how basic it is.
    According to Troy Grady Tal was a downward pickslanter. I don’t know where he got this from, but I would say that the motions of Tal’s right hand- swipe downward, alternate up seem consistent with that style of picking.

    with the Chuck Wayne style there is a definite trade off against accentuation and dynamics

    The player who’s articulation I’ve most been admiring recently is Adam Rogers. Tbh I think he’s better than anyone in this area. His range of nuance is incredible.

  8. #57

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    I've read that CC used almost all downstrokes. Anybody teaching that?

    I've never heard of a teacher who has students play with the thumb, like Wes. And, I read someplace that Wes' thumb physiology was unusual.

    I've never heard of anybody playing, or teaching, bent pick under tension like Pat.

    For that matter, who else but Warren and his students ever taught or used his technique?

    One takeaway is the usual thing -- however you do anything on guitar, there's a great player who did it that way and another great player who did it completely differently.

  9. #58

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    After 47 years of trying to play the guitar, during which I have seen and tried all manner of picking; alternate, economy, circular, slanted, hybrid etc . . .

    I have used a fat, rigid pick, a thin, flexible pick, a fat pick tapered to a thin point, wooden picks, picks made from old piano keys, made from horn, from seashell. I tried a coin like Brian May. I tried a little piece of a pick like Joe Pass.

    I have picks with pictures of my family, picks with pictures of guitar heroes, with images of Jesus . . . wood (many varieties), plastic, nylon, steel - hammered, cut, filed, sanded, polished.

    You might say I have had my pick of picks.

    The single reason for this mad affair with all things plectrum is that from an early age I learned that the speed at which I could play a single note melody line was governed by my picking hand.
    If I could sound every note without the need of input from my right hand I would be blindingly fast.
    As it is I am nothing of the sort. I am actually something of a slouch.

    There is the physical side of things to consider. I will never run the 100 in under 10 seconds either - or maybe that depends on who is chasing me.

    Some people are naturally fast. Something to do with short muscle fibers or some business I don't begin to understand.

    I would add for the benefit of the guitarist who just cannot overcome a sluggish right hand that this has not prevented me from having a professional career (which is curiously slowing down now).

    This thread has been extremely interesting for me and has almost inspired me to dust off the metronome and dig up those speed picking exercises (yes, I have a lot of these also). But not quite,

    Thank you for and enjoyable thread.
    Cheers

  10. #59

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    I've read that CC used almost all downstrokes. Anybody teaching that?
    Billy Bauer was a good example. It’s reasonably common in old school jazz circles - players who started on acoustic archtops often. gypsy jazz players are heavily downstroke oriented - like 75-80% down.

    I've never heard of a teacher who has students play with the thumb, like Wes. And, I read someplace that Wes' thumb physiology was unusual.
    poeple say a lot of stuff about Wes. I think a quite lot of it is folklore. I might be totally wrong of course, but it looks like a downward rest stroke on the thumb, upward free stroke. It works fine with my thumb. Maybe I have unsual physiology too haha. I’m not saying it’s trivial to play like Wes this way but I can see how it works.


    I've never heard of anybody playing, or teaching, bent pick under tension like Pat.

    For that matter, who else but Warren and his students ever taught or used his technique?

    One takeaway is the usual thing -- however you do anything on guitar, there's a great player who did it that way and another great player who did it completely differently.
    Yeah. I’m in two minds about it. On one hand I really like the eclectic nature of guitar - so many individual solutions - on the other hand sad that so many players struggle with technique and that there is a mystique about when in fact it should be the most straightforward and least interesting thing about playing an instrument.

    in practice I think the rest stroke is a great foundation for building right hand stability and precision.

  11. #60

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller
    Yeah. I’m in two minds about it. On one hand I really like the eclectic nature of guitar - so many individual solutions - on the other hand sad that so many players struggle with technique and that there is a mystique about when in fact it should be the most straightforward and least interesting thing about playing an instrument.

    in practice I think the rest stroke is a great foundation for building right hand stability and precision.
    I think issues like picking technique start to become thorny when people try to do extraordinary things.

    So, if you're just trying to play eighth notes at sane tempi, you might not have to think about advanced picking technique.

    If you are trying to play blazingly fast and/or with a jackhammer feel, or your music involves difficult string skips or lines that don't lay well with your current picking approach, etc, then, you're more likely to be thinking about this stuff.

    So, there's a vision of the goal that many, but not all, share. Which is that you should aspire to be in command of all these picking techniques and then pull out the one that's best for the music you're trying to play at that moment.

    I don't have a problem with that. Good luck in this life and the next few to get it all down ... but some do.

    I've been fortunate enough to study or hang with some world class players. At least one of them was that guy who seemed to have mastered everything. But, more often, it was somebody like Warren, who was not the modern vision of a well-rounded player. There was stuff he couldn't do (eg read music, spout theory) -- but I don't think there was much he wanted to do that he couldn't do.

    I've met a famous singer/guitarist who couldn't play a Beatles song, but was on the radio all over with her own stuff.

    The point I'm circling around is that it all depends on your musical vision. My son, for example will only learn what he needs to execute music he has already composed in his mind. He has no interest in technique which, theoretically, might become useful later. OTOH, he's learned what he's needed on guitar, piano, bass, drums and percussion.

    Others learn all the techniques and then find the applications.

    Both ways work.

    Hard choices for a student using the Internet for advice. Chances are if you were in the room with a teacher it would be simpler.

  12. #61

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    I think issues like picking technique start to become thorny when people try to do extraordinary things.

    So, if you're just trying to play eighth notes at sane tempi, you might not have to think about advanced picking technique.

    If you are trying to play blazingly fast and/or with a jackhammer feel, or your music involves difficult string skips or lines that don't lay well with your current picking approach, etc, then, you're more likely to be thinking about this stuff.

    So, there's a vision of the goal that many, but not all, share. Which is that you should aspire to be in command of all these picking techniques and then pull out the one that's best for the music you're trying to play at that moment.
    I think the thing is, what you might consider 'extraordinary' is part of a guitaristic mindset - actually not strictly speaking 'guitaristic', but rather plectrum-using guitar... Wide skips and fast scales and arpeggios are all things taught as part of classical pedagogy for piano, clarinet and violin, for example, and are not considered 'extraordinary' things to do. I am reminded of a part of Troy Grady's 'Cracking the Code' where he discusses fast scale segments that appear in TV music themes and muses how such a thing can be managed by common-or-garden studio orchestra violinists whereas hardly any plectrum-using guitarist could play such a thing. Fortunately, that no longer has to be the case!

    It's true that plectrum technique is in its infancy - it's also something that has a bewildering range of right ways of doing something. I still can't get my head around Pasquale Grasso's way of using a pick, for example...

  13. #62

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    Quote Originally Posted by James W
    I think the thing is, what you might consider 'extraordinary' is part of a guitaristic mindset - actually not strictly speaking 'guitaristic', but rather plectrum-using guitar... Wide skips and fast scales and arpeggios are all things taught as part of classical pedagogy for piano, clarinet and violin, for example, and are not considered 'extraordinary' things to do. I am reminded of a part of Troy Grady's 'Cracking the Code' where he discusses fast scale segments that appear in TV music themes and muses how such a thing can be managed by common-or-garden studio orchestra violinists whereas hardly any plectrum-using guitarist could play such a thing. Fortunately, that no longer has to be the case!

    It's true that plectrum technique is in its infancy - it's also something that has a bewildering range of right ways of doing something. I still can't get my head around Pasquale Grasso's way of using a pick, for example...
    TBH Troy’s background as a rock player colours some of what he says.

    So i said guitar plectrum pedagogy is it’s infancy, I really meant electric guitar…. in fact people have been plucking strings with picks for thousands of years, and there are standardised schools of technique on other instruments.

    there’s some evidence to suggest that what we call Gypsy Picking is in fact the 19th/early 20th century standard/classical plectrum technique on plucked strings. Note that Django played plectrum banjo before guitar. Some have said he was taught this technique by a banjo teacher but again separating folklore from fact is tricky.

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    Theres no doubt though that plectrum guitar got off to a flying start in terms of technique - Eddie Lang could shred even before Django - but the main technical Holy Grail then was volume and projection both from instruments and technique as it was for most of the history of plucked instruments. There is a bit of a trade off between flexibility and acoustic tone.

    Beyond that this technique is also very similar to Arabian Oud technique (which goes back to the Middle Ages) and iirc Sarod technique.

    There’s a lot convergent evolution

    Otoh I think medieval lutenists were probably Benson stance alternate pickers going from paintings and Renaissance technique. The great lutenist Dai Miller’s plectrum technique is not like this, but hopefully you can see what I mean from the thumb-in fingerstyle technique he demonstrates


    (Beato was going on about lute shred just the other week haha. The music of this era featured lots of blazing fast scalar runs.)

    Incidentally this hybrid oud/fingerstyle technique is fun to watch - the use of a long risha style pick frees up the fingers beautifully


    As early lutes were very similar to Ouds it’s a little odd that there was a separate school of technique ; in fact many of todays medieval ensembles use oud players.

    So, it’s not like it’s all new. I think there are complicating factors on electric - muting, lightness of touch and so on - which mean the old approaches are not always the best and acoustic projection is vastly less important for todays amplified players. Economy/sweep picking/Chuck Wayne for instance is the great example of a technique that is only suited to amplified performance.

    But for these reasons I would probably say the nearest thing to an established ‘classical’ acoustic plectrum guitar technique we have is Rest Stroke/‘Gypsy’ picking.

    Alternate picking on the other hand has a long history too, but I would argue it’s much harder to do well for music which has a lot cross string stuff as the mechanics are quite poorly understood; Troy is helping with this.
    Last edited by Christian Miller; 03-13-2022 at 05:44 AM.

  14. #63

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    There's a fusion guy called Pebber Brown who teaches sarod and 'scalpel' picking:



    I tried sarod for a while but just couldn't get my wrist to relax sufficiently. Besides, at the time I was playing rock so needed to have the ability to mute with my palm.

    I'm curious what people think is a decent speed goal for picking every note on passages using more than a single string in jazz? 16th notes at 120bpm was about the fastest I ever got to reliably, with occasional forays into 130-140. Nowhere near the speed of the shredders I was trying to emulate at the time.

  15. #64

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    Quote Originally Posted by CliffR
    There's a fusion guy called Pebber Brown who teaches sarod and 'scalpel' picking:



    I tried sarod for a while but just couldn't get my wrist to relax sufficiently. Besides, at the time I was playing rock so needed to have the ability to mute with my palm.

    I'm curious what people think is a decent speed goal for picking every note on passages using more than a single string in jazz? 16th notes at 120bpm was about the fastest I ever got to reliably, with occasional forays into 130-140. Nowhere near the speed of the shredders I was trying to emulate at the time.
    Playing Donna Lee at 240 is not unusual.

  16. #65

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    Nice history lesson Christian. Thankyou for that. Now we see pencil grip in action. I knew oud players used a quill, but I never quite understood how it was held.

    I became interested in doing 'extraordinary' things when I was asked to play guitar as part of the horn section. And again as part of a fusion quartet with keys. And even more so when I wanted to play some modern classical that a friend wrote for electric guitar.

    Also, most bop heads require extraordinary and un-guitaristic abilities when played on guitar.

    Just as RP says: it all starts with your musical vision.

  17. #66

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    Dang! Watched the Pebber vid. Now we have scalpel and sarod picking!? I get why it's called 'sarod'. Not so sure why 'scalpel'.

    Even 'alternate' picking is a bit confusing. On one string everything is alternate picking. So some of these distinctions can only be about how we change or skip strings. Right? Are alternate pickers always wrist pickers? Can a scalpel picker be an alternate picker? I don't see why not.

    And is this true: scalpel = circular = Chuck Wayne?

    I'm starting to think I may be an upward escape scalpel picker with a little sarod thrown in from time to time, using a combination of economy and alternate, with sweeping for some passages. Good to know!!

    Don't even get me started about cross-picking...

  18. #67

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    Quote Originally Posted by CliffR
    There's a fusion guy called Pebber Brown who teaches sarod and 'scalpel' picking:



    I tried sarod for a while but just couldn't get my wrist to relax sufficiently. Besides, at the time I was playing rock so needed to have the ability to mute with my palm.

    I'm curious what people think is a decent speed goal for picking every note on passages using more than a single string in jazz? 16th notes at 120bpm was about the fastest I ever got to reliably, with occasional forays into 130-140. Nowhere near the speed of the shredders I was trying to emulate at the time.
    How many 16ths at 120 bpm in a row?

    Parker played Donna Lee around 220.

    I doubt that Wes, Jim Hall, Charlie Christian, Django, Barney Kessel or Kenny Burrell could play Donna Lee at 240. In fact, I wonder if Warren Nunes could. He was a speed demon, but on his own stuff. I can't recall hearing him play a bop head. Maybe he could.

    OTOH, Tal Farlow might have been able to do it. Jimmy Bruno comes to mind as a guy with that level of chops. And, presumably, some of the younger monster players.

    Of course, if you can play it at 240, you probably have enough chops for just about anything in single notes. Maybe it would make Out of Nowhere at 145 more relaxed.

  19. #68

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    I doubt that Wes, Jim Hall, Charlie Christian, Django, Barney Kessel or Kenny Burrell could play Donna Lee at 240.
    Wes could definitely manage the higher tempos


  20. #69

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    I presume when we're talking about Donna Lee we're talking about 8th notes at 240, which is the same as 16ths at 120? Pretty straightforward for linear scalar lines, less so for the kind of interval skips in bebop . (Not that I can do linear lines at this speed anymore, because I stopped trying to do it for hours every evening.)

    As I understand it, scalpel picking comes mostly from moving the thumb and forefinger, so definitely related to circle picking, if not another name for the same thing. Sarod is the motion of turning a key in a door. As such, I think the pick probably escapes the string on both up and downstrokes, which may help with crossing strings. Although I seem to remember that kind of motion is something Troy Grady advises against. I *think* this may be what Eddie Van Halen used to do when he did the fast tremolo picking at the end of his solos. You see he bends at the wrist to make a swan shape, which makes it easier to get the sort of controlled shaking that is needed for sarod. It's interesting that he only used this as a bit of flash on a single string - it's not an integral part of his technique.

    Here's another Pebber video where he demonstrates sarod speed, although he doesn't start playing across strings until right at the very end:


  21. #70

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    Quote Originally Posted by CliffR
    As such, I think the pick probably escapes the string on both up and downstrokes, which may help with crossing strings. Although I seem to remember that kind of motion is something Troy Grady advises against.
    No - actually, it's what Grady calls a double-escape motion. This is different from string-hopping, which is also double-escape but inefficient and bad and difficult if not impossible past certain tempos. Watch this:




  22. #71

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    Cool video - thanks for clarifying

  23. #72
    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller
    yeah this is what I found; although I am able to do it standing up I do prefer to play sitting.
    Yeah, it wouldn't really be possible to get the same mechanics while standing. Gypsy players lean forward from the waist at such an acute angle. They're almost folded over sometimes, hunkered down over the guitar. (Note the raised supporting leg too.)

    A few examples. Gwen Cahue:


    Sébastien Giniaux:



    Joscho Stephan:

  24. #73
    Quote Originally Posted by ArnoldSchoenberg
    Using gypsy-type movement I can tremolo pick for minutes non-stop, whereas I seize up after thirty seconds of the same using radial/ulnar at the wrist, when everything locks up and the elbow takes over.
    I said "minutes" but I'd not actually done a stopwatch test. Over the past week I've worked non-stop tremolo picking exercises into my practicing, timer running. I'd play 16ths with the metronome at 160-180 depending on the day. First attempt was three minutes non-stop, next day was four, then six, then twelve (at which point I stopped out of sheer boredom). Basically with gypsy picking (conscious emphasis on forearm supination/pronation) I can tremolo indefinitely long. You'd almost call it a mindfulness exercise ... heightened body awareness, concentrating on relaxation, not engaging the elbow ... except that I was watching Peaky Blinders in the background to pass the time.

  25. #74
    Another factor here re gypsy picking is the sui-generis Selmer-Mac bridge position. If you look at where on the guitar gypsy players are picking much of the time, it's farther to the tailpiece end of the instrument than would be possible on most every other guitar type. A Selmer-Mac bridge is an inch or two farther in that direction than it would be on an archtop or flattop. Surely that's factor too, body-mechanics-wise.


    Relative to where the leg scoop/rest is and therefore where the guitar is positioned resting on the leg seated, the difference can be substantial and form-changing. Were a gypsy player to sit with the Super 400 below and set their picking hand in its normal position, they'd be playing in between the bridge and tailpiece.



    ... Now that I think of it, I guess some classical/flamenco guitars have the bridge similarly away to the tail end also.

  26. #75

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    Quote Originally Posted by James W
    Wes could definitely manage the higher tempos

    That's about 270 or so. And he plays 8ths. But, on his own lines in relatively short bursts. It's different to try to play somebody else's lines, especially if they are streams of notes with no let up. But, maybe he could. Remarkable that he was this fast with his thumb.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 03-14-2022 at 03:08 PM.