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  1. #1

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    I've recently changed how I practice improvisation by integrating soloing, comping, bass lines and chord melody when I work on tunes. The way I do it is I alternate these as I play the tune unaccompanied (except for metronome) chorus after chorus. I often come up with a plan first. 2 bars of comping, 2 bars of solo, 2 bars of bass lines, 2 bars of harmonized head etc. Of course I work on new ideas in any of these areas in isolation first but I apply them to the integrated practice as soon as possible.

    Some of the benefits of this is (aside from preparation for certain gigging situations where the guitar must wear multiple hats):
    Integrated practice helps you:
    - Internalize the form of a tune more effectively than working on each aspect separately. It prevents you from repeating well worn paths.
    - See the whole fretboard as one familiar field. You get away from limiting yourself to positions and chord grips as soloing, chording, horizontal and vertical playing all become one.
    - Improve your time feel as you aren't playing repeated rhythmic patterns as one might subtly rely on when soloing or comping separately to keep track of where you are. In other words you aren't just repeating same comping figures or playing mostly 8th note line solos throughout the tune.

    Of course you want to deliberately create variations in how you do this, different alternating patterns, starting and ending in different parts of the beat etc. Also use "lighter" chord voicings that are assembled on the fly.
    What are your thoughts about this approach? If you use it, how do you use it? What other benefits do you get from it?

    Youtube's recommendation algorithm must have read my mind as yesterday it suggested to me an excellent video by Christian on this very subject. (I hope he doesn't mind me posting it here)
    Last edited by Tal_175; 10-15-2019 at 05:42 PM.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Not at all, really glad you found it useful!

    I think this is another one of those things which seems completely obvious on piano, but because of the way the guitar is it’s a bit less easy to see.

  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I think this is another one of those things which seems completely obvious on piano, but because of the way the guitar is it’s a bit less easy to see.
    Yeah, I was thinking about that too. When piano players hear guitarist discuss integrating solos, comping, bass lines etc, they must get really confused. Like how else you gonna play that thing.

  5. #4

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    I’ve been working a lot on solo jazz guitar (i.e. improvised, not just ‘chord-melody’ arrangements, I was already reasonably competent at coming up with those) over the last few months, and I have noticed a lot of the benefits you mention. Seems to get my head around the structure of the tune much faster, as you also noted. Also it makes me much more aware of where I am in the form of the tune at any moment. Another thing I noticed recently was I can transpose tunes (including the chords) to another key without as much thought as it took before.

    I guess this is not surprising, because my process for practising solo guitar is very similar to your method of integrating the various elements of playing.

    I guess it’s not until you force yourself to do this kind of stuff that you realise how useful it is. The guitar is hard enough as it is, so it is often easier to practise these elements separately, then you kind of get stuck in that mindset if you’re not careful.

  6. #5

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    Well, fairly obvious point..... I don't think you should try and play a chord melody until you can play ...uh... the chords... and the melody.... but yeah, understanding how the melody notes relate to the chord... important thing to know. And then you can reharmonise it of course.Being able to improvise chords with melody is important I think, shouldn't be too cut and dried...

  7. #6
    There is one other way of integrating these elements. The counterpoint approach. Instead of alternating, they can be played together by picking different moving voices at the same time. Different types of motion (contrary, parallel, oblique) can be explored by using one bass voice, one melody voice and one middle voice.
    This is the more classical approach I guess. I haven't really explored this very much as it's more it's own thing and doesn't translate well into many actual jazz playing situations. I could be wrong about this so if you have a different opinion, please share.

  8. #7

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    Guitar not good at counterpoint even when it’s written. Two part prob manageable. Three parts ok if it’s written, maybe really good people can do it?

    Jazz doesn’t follow the conventions of counterpoint anyway, so it will always be somewhat ‘free’ - so I would think for counterpoint you’d have voices trading in effect? Certainly possible. Very good idea in fact....

    Imitation between parts - now that would be cool. Not easy at first I would think.

    The other thing - jazz harmony is based on cyclic chord progressions. Counterpoint is based on melodies creating harmony together. That’s harder to fit with the jazz chord prog concept. But you don’t have to think that way.

  9. #8

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    This sounds similar to another solo guitar approach which I have been trying out, based on Andy Brown’s video lessons. I think he learned it from Kenny Poole who (I believe) was influenced by George Van Eps.

    Essentially you play fingerstyle, you play the bass note on beats 1 and 3, you play melody lines typically on the top 2 strings, and you play (now and then) one or two inner notes to provide some harmony. It sounds complicated, but it gets easier if you use barre chords. Since I started on classical guitar originally, this wasn’t quite so hard for me to do as I expected. But it is still quite difficult!

    It does get you thinking about the bass, harmony and melody as separate voices, which is possibly beneficial.

  10. #9
    I would assume that a lot of contrapuntal jazz sounds are more smoke and mirrors approximations, simply breaking up block chords finger style. Modern harmony evolved out of counterpoint . If you break things up and separate voices mechanically ....and have a decent ear , you're gonna end up with that sort of effect.

    Spent a couple of years doing the Triad thing, (not even bass lines involved), with my church gig. I'm always fascinatedby the effect of simply mechanically breaking voices up rhythmically, finger style. It always ends up sounding more complex to my ears, even though I know what I'm actually doing.

    I know that there are jazz guitar beasts out there who actually do a lot of the intervallic work and probably REAL counterpoint, but classical and romantic harmony didn't spring out of the ground as a separate entity. If you break up the voices you get a lot of that effect by default. Of course, the harmonic movement has to actually be there as well though. Can't be just static chords for each beat.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    This sounds similar to another solo guitar approach which I have been trying out, based on Andy Brown’s video lessons. I think he learned it from Kenny Poole who (I believe) was influenced by George Van Eps.

    Essentially you play fingerstyle, you play the bass note on beats 1 and 3, you play melody lines typically on the top 2 strings, and you play (now and then) one or two inner notes to provide some harmony. It sounds complicated, but it gets easier if you use barre chords. Since I started on classical guitar originally, this wasn’t quite so hard for me to do as I expected. But it is still quite difficult!

    It does get you thinking about the bass, harmony and melody as separate voices, which is possibly beneficial.
    This would come easily to a three-handed pianist. One role for each hand, each one easy to visualize. Two hand pianists can manage, because they can visualize the bass and the melody and cobble something together in between, while still visualizing the voice leading.

    But, on guitar, visualization becomes much harder. At times, it's as easy as moving one finger by one fret. But, a lot of the time, things have to be completely reorganized. Different string sets, different use of open strings and complete refingering. Maybe that was too obvious to bother writing, but it's much harder on guitar.

  12. #11
    The "separate instruments" thought process sounds very difficult, probably because it IS, but I mostly don't think that pianists think that way. I think we're maybe imagining a way of thinking that isn't really happening for pianists. I don't know how many of you guys play piano, but I think that's the template for us as guitarists , since they're both polyphonic/homophonic instruments.

    I'm a choral music guy. I've done the contrapuntal thing for years with groups.... and playing in basic ways for myself on keyboard,... and I have to say that from a PLAYING perspective, the thought process mostly isn't separate voices simultaneously. Not in terms of PLAYING. It's much easier to think and play in terms of vertical , even when reading/playing polyphonic music on the keyboard. That's really the benefit of the instrument as a tool. Mostly the piano itself is the tool by which you learn to HEAR the voices as separate entities, but it's almost 3rd person , experientially, even if you're the one playing.

    I don't think it's particularly helpful to purposefully try to separate mentally so much while playing a homophobic instrument. It's definitely more helpful to think about PHYSICALLY separating things, in terms of time and arpeggiating things etc. It's about CONVEYING the illusion of horizontal with music which may be conceived of as somewhat vertical to start.

    When it comes to hearing and thinking this way, it might be really helpful to study a couple of years piano. I hear guitarists talk about left and right hand as working independently on piano and separately or something, in a way that doesn't really feel like what it is to actually play the instrument.

    Both hands are really one unit mentally and physically. High level pianists can play more complicated things with each individual hand than most other instruments, but it's BECAUSE of the other hand - to play off of and think off of. The "separate" rhythms of right and left hand in piano are much easier to play while thinking of them as one entity, and I would assume that most pianists view it that way. I think that for guitarists to imagine that it's something different than that is reinventing the wheel and actually making it much much more difficult than the piano , which is already much EASIER to play by default.

    Now, something like Bach inventions or fugues are a completely different animal, but that level of true separation and polyphony on the piano makes up but a tiny mouse fart of what you actually PLAY on the instrument in modern applications. The real reason why pianists are so good at conveying two or three things happening at once is simply the literature. All forms of popular and classical piano utilizes a fuller accompaniment style throughout. They learn very early on to separate block chords rhythmically into component parts. Really broad and diverse use of varying textures which convey dynamic levels by default etc. etc.

    If you want to express things in separate voices, the starting point is to express vertical harmony as rhythmically separate voices. Bach's prelude in C major and Scott Joplin rags could be thought of as the same thing rhythmically. The notes are simply in a different order. it's all 8th notes, and every pianist - playing either one of those - is going to be aware of the vertical structures, even though they are expressed in a more horizontal rhythmic framework. Joplin's left and right hands are heard by the LISTENER as being much more "separate" simply because they are physically and rhythmically more separate. As a PLAYER, it's more helpful to think about how they're CONNECTED. Somewhat smoke and mirrors.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 10-16-2019 at 09:10 AM.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher View Post
    I don't think it's particularly helpful to purposefully try to separate mentally so much while playing a homophobic instrument.
    I'm sorry to pick it out, but I have to say that is a vintage autocorrect typo.

  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I'm sorry to pick it out, but I have to say that is a vintage autocorrect typo. My guitar fully supports LGBTQ+ rights, by the way.
    That's funny. I guess now I shouldn't change it. Ha. I must've said something about it a couple of times times. I thought I fixed them all.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher View Post
    The "separate instruments" thought process sounds very difficult, probably because it IS, but I mostly don't think that pianists think that way. I think we're maybe imagining a way of thinking that isn't really happening for pianists. I don't know how many of you guys play piano, but I think that's the template for us as guitarists , since they're both polyphonic/homophonic instruments. I'm a choral music guy. I've done the contrapuntal thing for years with groups.... and playing in basic ways for myself on keyboard,... and I have to say that from a PLAYING perspective, the thought process mostly isn't separate voices simultaneously. Not in terms of PLAYING. It's much easier to think and play in terms of vertical , even when reading/playing polyphonic music on the keyboard. That's really the benefit of the instrument as a tool. Mostly the piano itself is the tool by which you learn to HEAR the voices as separate entities, but it's almost 3rd person , experientially, even if you're the one playing.
    Me too, actually...
    I don't think it's particularly helpful to purposefully try to separate mentally so much while playing a homophobic instrument. It's definitely more helpful to think about PHYSICALLY separating things, in terms of time and arpeggiating things etc. It's about CONVEYING the illusion of horizontal with music which may be conceived of as somewhat vertical to start.
    Yes I think that's very true. Im thinking of Jimmy Wyble. Breaking up chord forms rhythmically can give the impression of different voices.
    When it comes to hearing and thinking this way, it might be really helpful to study a couple of years piano. I hear guitarists talk about left and right hand as working independently on piano and separately or something, in a way that doesn't really feel like what it is to actually play the instrument.Both hands are really one unit mentally and physically. High level pianists can play more complicated things with each individual hand than most other instruments, but it's BECAUSE of the other hand - to play off of and think off of. The "separate" rhythms of right and left hand in piano are much easier to play while thinking of them as one entity, and I would assume that most pianists view it that way. I think that for guitarists to imagine that it's something different than that is reinventing the wheel and actually making it much much more difficult than the piano , which is already much EASIER to play by default. Now, something like Bach inventions or fugues are a completely different animal, but that level of true separation and polyphony on the piano makes up but a tiny mouse fart of what you actually PLAY on the instrument in modern applications. The real reason why pianists are so good at conveying two or three things happening at once is simply the literature. All forms of popular and classical piano utilizes a fuller accompaniment style throughout. They learn very early on to separate block chords rhythmically into component parts. Really broad and diverse use of varying textures which convey dynamic levels by default etc. etc.If you want to express things in separate voices, the starting point is to express vertical harmony as rhythmically separate voices. Bach's prelude in C major and Scott Joplin rags could be thought of as the same thing rhythmically. The notes are simply in a different order. it's all 8th notes, and every pianist - playing either one of those - is going to be aware of the vertical structures, even though they are expressed in a more horizontal rhythmic framework. Joplin's left and right hands are heard by the LISTENER as being much more "separate" simply because they are physically and rhythmically more separate. As a PLAYER, it's more helpful to think about how they're CONNECTED. Somewhat smoke and mirrors.
    That's probably true. It may also depend on the pianist. It's a bit like drums I suspect. Sometimes you have to understand rhythm as linking up, and sometimes it helps to think of them totally independent. Both are helpful. But yes, the impression of independent timing might be a illusion too. But here's an interesting thing:

  16. #15

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    That also reminds me of Errol Garner's famous difference in timing before the right and left hand. OK, now listen to Kurt Rosenwinkel play on Minor Blues, beginning of the solo. He does the same thing for the upper and lower voices.... This is a 'contrapuntal solo' for the first few bars, around 1:34. Kurt also plays piano:

  17. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Me too, actually... Yes I think that's very true. Im thinking of Jimmy Wyble. Breaking up chord forms rhythmically can give the impression of different voices. That's probably true. It may also depend on the pianist. It's a bit like drums I suspect. Sometimes you have to understand rhythm as linking up, and sometimes it helps to think of them totally independent. Both are helpful. But yes, the impression of independent timing might be a illusion too. But here's an interesting thing:
    Very cool. Watched most of it. The thing I'm most struck by in listening to this is that I think I hear a lot more organization in what he is calling "freer" timing (or something like that). A lot of them are very specific rhythms. I guess I'm ruined now from all this jazz stuff.

    Honestly, the older recordings sound a lot more jazz to me, in terms of phrasing. I don't see them as looser in the way that I would have four or five years ago probably. In some senses they're tighter , in the same way that I now hear Billie holiday or Errol Garner has basically being "tighter" rhythmically than someone who is simply playing things straight.

    Too much jazz I guess. I almost feel like I don't know what to think of terms like : tighter, looser, freer etc.

    It's basically the difference to me between modern music which locks tighter for having some syncopation ....but which is described as being less "straight". I like the use of "straight" in that context, but it's basically the opposite of "looser". I don't think we have language for this stuff.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher View Post
    Very cool. Watched most of it. The thing I'm most struck by in listening to this is that I think I hear a lot more organization in what he is calling "freer" timing (or something like that). A lot of them are very specific rhythms. I guess I'm ruined now from all this jazz stuff. Honestly, the older recordings sound a lot more jazz to me, in terms of phrasing. I don't see them as looser in the way that I would have four or five years ago probably. In some senses they're tighter , in the same way that I now hear Billie holiday or Errol Garner has basically being "tighter" rhythmically than someone who is simply playing things straight.Too much jazz I guess. I almost feel like I don't know what to think of terms like : tighter, looser, freer etc. It's basically the difference to me between modern music which locks tighter for having some syncopation ....but which is described as being less "straight". I like the use of "straight" in that context, but it's basically the opposite of "looser". I don't think we have language for this stuff.
    Yes, I though that too...

  19. #18
    When I said counterpoint I wasn't necessarily referring only to baroque style independent melodies. Maybe I'm using the term in a too general way. What Matt said about breaking up vertical chord forms and finding different textures is also an example of what I mean. The way a ragtime pianist would play a solo piece or the way chords played by guitar in the song Dust In The Wind.
    I guess technically that's not counterpoint. It's textural alternation of simultaneously played voices as opposed to finding separate continuous lines per each voice. A better description is calling it "pianistic" playing perhaps.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    When I said counterpoint I wasn't necessarily referring only to baroque style independent melodies. Maybe I'm using the term in a too general way. What Matt said about breaking up vertical chord forms and finding different textures is also an example of what I mean. The way a ragtime pianist would play a solo piece or the way chords played by guitar in the song Dust In The Wind.I guess technically that's not counterpoint. It's textural alternation of simultaneously played voices as opposed to finding separate continuous lines per each voice. A better description is calling it "pianistic" playing perhaps.
    Well I'm in process of moving and I found an old book (short one) by Mike Longo I'd not seen for a while. He advocates writing a bassline to a mleody then harmonising, so that might be more what you had in mind. The three types of motion, contrary, similar and oblique. I think the last two are very natural to the guitar, the first needs some looking at.

  21. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Well I'm in process of moving and I found an old book (short one) by Mike Longo I'd not seen for a while. He advocates writing a bassline to a mleody then harmonising, so that might be more what you had in mind. The three types of motion, contrary, similar and oblique. I think the last two are very natural to the guitar, the first needs some looking at.
    Yeah that's probably a very good technique to explore. My description of this approach is vague because it's based on some classical pieces I learned on the guitar many moons ago, long before I started studying jazz. I didn't understand harmony back then and didn't know what I was doing (like any good classical player). It's in my to do list to revisit and analyze some of them and learn some new pieces with more open eyes. People who arrange classical pieces to guitar probably use variety of techniques like the one mentioned in Longo's book.

    Although, I still think these techniques may not be as readily usable in jazz contexts. The approach I mentioned in the main thread post and what you described in your video are more relevant to jazz most likely.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    When I said counterpoint I wasn't necessarily referring only to baroque style independent melodies. Maybe I'm using the term in a too general way. What Matt said about breaking up vertical chord forms and finding different textures is also an example of what I mean. The way a ragtime pianist would play a solo piece or the way chords played by guitar in the song Dust In The Wind.
    I guess technically that's not counterpoint. It's textural alternation of simultaneously played voices as opposed to finding separate continuous lines per each voice. A better description is calling it "pianistic" playing perhaps.
    Like James Taylor:



    Jump ahead to 3:00 for an example of how he does that. A unique voice with more jazz influences than is usually mentioned.
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  23. #22
    Yes it's a possible simplified example of the kind of thing I'm talking about. I don't want to offend any James Taylor fans, but his explanation was a bit too grandiose for what he was doing I think. He is basically holding down cowboy chords (with occasional extensions) and arpeggiating the form. Interesting things are the bass pattern (pretty standard), and melody on top (again standard). Middle voices are just played ascending as the chords change. I mean yes, it's the guitar counterpart of textured piano chords (one example of it). What a lot of people do when they are noodling around with pop chords.

    Here is a more elaborate example of what I was thinking. When this video came out, I emailed the Per-Olov Kindgren, he sent me the arrangement. I was learning to read music on the guitar at the time, so it was a lot of fun to learn the piece from the staff.
    Note this tune is full of ii V I's and vi ii V I's. Except some of the ii's are IV's (not all).

    Also please observe all the moving voices. Middle, bass and melody:
    Last edited by Tal_175; 10-18-2019 at 11:41 AM.

  24. #23
    It's funny some jazz players tend to play down their understanding music as if to say:
    "What I do may seem very intellectual but I am actually just operating by instinct like a true artist".

    On the other hand some big names of simpler music (pop, rock etc) feel the need to justify their musical status as if by saying:
    "My music may seem very simple but a lot of deep musical understanding goes into what I do".

    I truly don't mean this about James Taylor. I don't know the first thing about him.
    OK I probably pissed off a lot of people.

  25. #24
    This separate moving voices stuff is actually not the main topic of the thread. It's more like an interesting segue. I'm happy to go back to the discussion of the more conventional (from jazz point of view) ways of integrating elements of jazz guitar if there is interest.

  26. #25

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    If you play solo gigs... you'll end up using everything. I do and open up some big name artist at larger venues sometimes. I work with a few agents and get a lot of last minute calls. Part of the gig is to help set up the artist, get the audiences warmed up BS.

    I generally use that old pick and finger style... or just pick depending on what the style of music. Personally part of having different parts... melody, changes or arranging and orchestration BS is being able to set up and having different aspects... implied. You play something so that it become already heard. Somewhat like hitting chords and then soloing off them while the sound still feels as though it's going on. I mean if you use, Form or at least create the perception of repetition, add dynamics, effects etc.. as part of your contrapuntal approach, you'll have more choices of how to fake having a written out sound.