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  1. #1

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    I've woodshedded so many devices over the years that when I look back at my notes, from say 5 years ago, I realise I no longer have under my fingers certain things that I spent months acquiring. In fact, from one year to the next it appears certain things rise to the top of my "bag" while other things slowly sink to the bottom, become neglected, or plain forgotten. I have tried to find ways to make all the past hard won ideas I've mastered available on tap, certain practice routines as well as etudes have helped. But because I work things through all positions, it just takes so damn long to practice what I know, just to maintain it.

    I think it's important to spend time just blowing, against tunes as well as time working up new material, but that unfortunately means I will forget older stuff. So I'm thinking chops maintenance must be a problem for us all, even the greats. If you listen to Bird's bag from year to year, it changes, Dexter, Coltrane, Rollins, McClean etc, they were a work in progress. Some things from the past stuck around, some devices didn't...

    Did they unintentionally forget lots of cool stuff because they couldn't fit it all into their ever expanding bag? Did they go into a gig or a recording with recently practiced material at the expense of material not maintained? (think Coltrane here). How about you guys, is this a problem for you as well? Or are you happy to lose access to some stuff as you replace the old with the new?
    Last edited by princeplanet; 11-15-2019 at 12:06 PM.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I can!

    Because my bag is very small.

    I'm a shapes/melodic embellishments/ear player. I have a very basic, old school approach, chords are everything to me. At any given moment I see the meat and potatoes of a chord and then possible extensions and tensions. When I play melodically, I hear basic touchstones and fill in between with enclosures and chromatics.

    A long time ago, somebody told me it was better to really KNOW 5 things than to know of 500. Like the Bruce Lee quote about the guy who's practiced one punch a thousand times...it sounded accessible to me, so I rolled with it. I'm generally lazy when it comes to practicing--I'd rather play songs, and my life doesn't allow for serious woodshed time anyway, so it still seems better to stick to my strengths and seek out new info when a weakness bothers me. I have too many weaknesses to address all of them

    So yeah, I'm a simple guy. No heady theory, no scales, no modes (though I know how to access the sounds within 'em) small bag, but if I reach in I can find what I'm looking for.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  4. #3

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    I have forgotten at least a book of repertoire, it’s the nature of the beast.

    Its all still up there somewhere. What’s important is that I’m hearing things I never could have 10 years ago.

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    I can!

    Because my bag is very small.

    I'm a shapes/melodic embellishments/ear player. I have a very basic, old school approach, chords are everything to me. At any given moment I see the meat and potatoes of a chord and then possible extensions and tensions. When I play melodically, I hear basic touchstones and fill in between with enclosures and chromatics.

    A long time ago, somebody told me it was better to really KNOW 5 things than to know of 500......

    Your approach is clearly working for you from what I hear of your playing - you don't sound like you're pulling from a small bag ...

    I think memory must play a part, it's one thing to learn a bus load of vocabulary over many years, quite another to retain it.... and imperfect memories like mine might do better to perhaps try to make more from less.

    It's the curse of the auto didact - you learn how to practice , instead of learning how to make music!

  6. #5

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    Like Jeff, my bag is really small. I have a nonexistent vocabulary. I don’t have a bag of trucks or licks. It CAN get tiresome after awhile. It’s harmonic layouts. I mentally sing. So I have a tiny bag. It works for me most of the time.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by henryrobinett View Post
    Like Jeff, my bag is really small. I have a nonexistent vocabulary. I don’t have a bag of trucks or licks. It CAN get tiresome after awhile. It’s harmonic layouts. I mentally sing. So I have a tiny bag. It works for me most of the time.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Yeah, I get how just knowing your arps (chord tones) and extensions along with some enclosures and passing notes (including chromatics) can get you a long way in improv. If you're skilled enough - like you are - you can make it sound like you're pulling from vocab when you're essentially spinning your own vocab on the fly...

    But I guess I like collecting certain ideas and drilling them because they're the sort of things I'd never come up with otherwise however I do realise I have been over doing it. The good part is, I hope, that when I dig up stuff from my past notes, it does come back after a few days, but then it nudges the fresher stuff aside so it's a balancing act. Early in my playing career I must have taken it too literally when I read somewhere that "you can never have enough vocabulary"!

  8. #7

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    I think only steady gigging musicians get to maintain access to most of their best chops. An hour on the bandstand is worth five in the shed.

  9. #8

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    Oh man, I forgot more than I could relearn. Usually I can only keep up what I'm using in my current band.
    I have to admit I never really was into standards and apart from the occasional session I never play them. So usually I remember the Chorus but forget the bridge. I try to keep my chops up, but these days we do more like a funk jazz with rather simple modal harmonies – which suits me fine. But I just don't know how I would fare if I had to play over more sophisticated harmonies. I'd certainly needed some time to relearn that.

  10. #9

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    For me it’s about playing intuitively. There’s no way I could ever get into the zone if I’m trying to remember licks and lines. Not me. I know this is the primary way jazz is learned and taught, but I never could or never did.


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  11. #10

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    The older I get, the more I realize the best thing for my playing is a good night's sleep. When I haven't slept well, I play but I don't much enjoy it. It's a struggle.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    The older I get, the more I realize the best thing for my playing is a good night's sleep. When I haven't slept well, I play but I don't much enjoy it. It's a struggle.
    same here. To be more precise my mental tiredness or freshness cause exactly the same what you described. So I guess I would be a good performer because early morning gigs are rare...

    regarding the OP, I have not yet bag, but what mr. beaumont described seems to be the way for me as my affinity to chords and melodies is stronger than to long even 1/16ths runs. Btw it seems easier, but according to my experience so far it is definitely not. It is pretty much known how to practice scales and licks, but way less straightforward how to practice chords, embellishment, and melodic sense. I mean the are no simple way to get or create exercises in this territory.

  13. #12

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    When things are going well, meaning I am soloing over harmony that I have internalized well, I sing to myself and try to play what I'm singing. I guess that would be a bag of trick. One trick. That's my goal.

    In contrast, if I'm reading unfamiliar harmony, I have to rely on some knowledge of how to play over it, to avoid clams. Arps, mostly. I fill in the non-chord tones by ear, mostly. I do know the usual scales. I know a handful of licks. I guess I've forgotten some over the years.

  14. #13

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    My bag is full of doodads I can’t identify and receipts for things I’ve forgotten I got.

    Seriously, it feels I’ve got like two licks, but when I listen back it sounds ok.

    I think there’s a few things that have penetrated into my skull brain over the years

    1) a limited bag helps give you a style
    2) every guitarist repeats themselves if you listen to a lot of stuff from the same period. But there is turnover.... stuff they were playing 10 years ago is not necessarily what they are playing now
    3) you might have a limited bag at any point, but that doesn’t mean the way you use it has to be limited
    4) a limited bag can also be full of a few things you can develop in different ways. Develop flexibility - especially rhythmic
    5) anything you can play fast will be stuff you have played before. Beyond a certain tempo most players improvise by clipping chunks together to make longer lines
    6) don’t be judgemental of your playing as it happens. You may be surprised....
    7) sometimes it’s good to say ‘no’ when a lick puts its hand up.

  15. #14

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    Ultimately, these questions tend to hover over the elephant room, the question that really deserves the proper answer, but nobody really wants to bring up:

    How well do you know the instrument? How well do you REALLY know your instrument?

    For me, the "bag" is simply the following (I play solo guitar): how well can I put together something that sounds both melodic and pianistic that combines, at any given time, single-notes, dyads, triads, four note rooted and rootless chords, and any clusters thereof?

    When I frame the question as above, it presents a seemingly simple issue that represents a lifetime of work, effort and joy.
    Navdeep Singh.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by NSJ View Post
    Ultimately, these questions tend to hover over the elephant room, the question that really deserves the proper answer, but nobody really wants to bring up:

    How well do you know the instrument? How well do you REALLY know your instrument?

    For me, the "bag" is simply the following (I play solo guitar): how well can I put together something that sounds both melodic and pianistic that combines, at any given time, single-notes, dyads, triads, four note rooted and rootless chords, and any clusters thereof?

    When I frame the question as above, it presents a seemingly simple issue that represents a lifetime of work, effort and joy.
    Its an interesting question and I have been thinking about it as well. To me I don't think there is an end in sight when it comes to truly learning the instrument. There is just way too many possibilities, ultimatedly I guess it comes down to where do you draw the line. And frankly I don't buy that anybody has even mastered the fretboard yet. Not Wes, not Django, not Julian, not Pasquale, not even Ben Monder.

    At some point the bag will probably become too heavy to carry and to hold on for it for the rest of your life is quite an ordeal but I guess its still possible. How long would it take the master the fretboard? Maybe 9 lifetimes if you don't forget anything. 33 if you do forget. 42 for ultimate enlightenment

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by jazznylon View Post

    At some point the bag will probably become too heavy to carry and to hold on for it for the rest of your life is quite an ordeal but I guess its still possible. How long would it take the master the fretboard? Maybe 9 lifetimes if you don't forget anything. 33 if you do forget. 42 for ultimate enlightenment
    My teacher said that it takes about 5 years of consistent work and practice for any kind of mindful basic and essential functional knowledge of the fretboard. Which presumably means you have a whole series of ways of voicing chords, but voice-leading THROUGH a cadence, and these ways incorporate multiple string sets.

    Another great player, Christopher Woitach probably has the absolute BEST video course (TrueFire) on how to build your own chords, dozens of them, what he calls "representational harmony". It's basically a simplified way of how Alan Holdsworth thinks about chords. It's hands down the best solo guitar master class out there. But not for beginners or those emerging from the starting blocks. Sadly, not many people know who Christoper is.

    As for increasing the "density" of the bag, even adding on it in a fundamental way, even incrementally, takes MONTHS and MONTHS of constant practice and repetition, from the mechanics and motion of the physical movements through field testing the ideas in actual songs. There's no other way around it. In order for one to access anything, anytime, it has to be fully internalized and become second nature. That takes a LONG time. From my experience, anyway. Once you internalize it, it becomes a part of you, sort of like learning to converse aloud. You no longer have to think about it.
    Navdeep Singh.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    The older I get, the more I realize the best thing for my playing is a good night's sleep. When I haven't slept well, I play but I don't much enjoy it. It's a struggle.
    Barney Kessell recommended frequent naps.
    Best regards, k

  19. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by NSJ View Post
    Ultimately, these questions tend to hover over the elephant room, the question that really deserves the proper answer, but nobody really wants to bring up:

    How well do you know the instrument? How well do you REALLY know your instrument?

    For me, the "bag" is simply the following (I play solo guitar): how well can I put together something that sounds both melodic and pianistic that combines, at any given time, single-notes, dyads, triads, four note rooted and rootless chords, and any clusters thereof?

    When I frame the question as above, it presents a seemingly simple issue that represents a lifetime of work, effort and joy.
    Sorry, but I don't understand how the question "hovers" over the importance of knowing the instrument. If anything I know the instrument too well! I spent too much time, I think, learning all my devices in every position for every chord in every key. Knowing my way around the fingerboard is not really my problem. Remembering everything I've ever shedded is the problem I'm referring to. Using it all musically and tastefully is a whole 'nother discussion...

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    The older I get, the more I realize the best thing for my playing is a good night's sleep. When I haven't slept well, I play but I don't much enjoy it. It's a struggle.
    (Half jokingly) Peter Bernstein suggested that sleep deprivation helps keep him creative and open.....

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    (Half jokingly) Peter Bernstein suggested that sleep deprivation helps keep him creative and open.....
    Hope someone else is driving him home from gigs. ;o)
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet View Post
    Sorry, but I don't understand how the question "hovers" over the importance of knowing the instrument. If anything I know the instrument too well! I spent too much time, I think, learning all my devices in every position for every chord in every key. Knowing my way around the fingerboard is not really my problem. Remembering everything I've ever shedded is the problem I'm referring to. Using it all musically and tastefully is a whole 'nother discussion...

    This reminds me, generally, of why everyone should start out with a teacher who can fundamentally help them outline and define their goals, not just for the time that they will be studying with them. But more critically, to instill in the student with the proper way to be their own teacher, to learn how to focus on what exactly they want to do, what they want to accomplish, and find the necessary steps and resources required to accomplish their specific goals. So the benefit of a teacher is not just what they teach you when they are teaching you; but to instill a sense of discipline over the course of a lifetime and to help the students become their own teacher over the course of their lifetime, well after the actual teaching has already passed. The problem is when people don’t really have this discipline and focus that only a private teacher can deliver, they pile on information after information, with no way to assess whether it’s relevant, important, necessary, helpful. So learning becomes this pastiche smorgasbord of unrelated, unfocused, unfinished, not very well developed, amorphous whatever it is. “ This looks good, throw it in there“.

    I mean look at what we see: people buy book after book after book and guitar after guitar after guitar but they have not thought thoroughly what exactly they want to do.
    Navdeep Singh.

  23. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by NSJ View Post
    This reminds me, generally, of why everyone should start out with a teacher who can fundamentally help them outline and define their goals, not just for the time that they will be studying with them. But more critically, to instill in the student with the proper way to be their own teacher, to learn how to focus on what exactly they want to do, what they want to accomplish, and find the necessary steps and resources required to accomplish their specific goals. .....
    Oh, absolutely, and boy have I learned this the hard way, a good teacher would have made a massive difference to what I learned and the way I did. The downside to years of pre loading is wasted years practicing, but without making music. The upside is having loads of material under the fingers which connects to the "pre hearing" thing, so it's all about creativity from here, if I can just find a way to remember it all....

    There's many a way up the Jazz Mountain, and I guess some arrive with more baggage than they really needed.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet View Post
    I've woodshedded so many devices over the years that when I look back at my notes, from say 5 years ago, I realise I no longer have under my fingers certain things that I spent months acquiring. In fact, from one year to the next it appears certain things rise to the top of my "bag" while other things slowly sink to the bottom, become neglected, or plain forgotten. I have tried to find ways to make all the past hard won ideas I've mastered available on tap, certain practice routines as well as etudes have helped. But because I work things through all positions, it just takes so damn long to practice what I know, just to maintain it.

    I think it's important to spend time just blowing, against tunes as well as time working up new material, but that unfortunately means I will forget older stuff. So I'm thinking chops maintenance must be a problem for us all, even the greats. If you listen to Bird's bag from year to year, it changes, Dexter, Coltrane, Rollins, McClean etc, they were a work in progress. Some things from the past stuck around, some devices didn't...

    Did they unintentionally forget lots of cool stuff because they couldn't fit it all into their ever expanding bag? Did they go into a gig or a recording with recently practiced material at the expense of material not maintained? (think Coltrane here). How about you guys, is this a problem for you as well? Or are you happy to lose access to some stuff as you replace the old with the new?
    I don't have notes on what I've studied and practiced, so I don't have any way of knowing what I've learned but forgotten in terms of devices and "vocabulary" (not sure I really have a lot of a lot that anyway ...). I definitely forget tunes. But I also remember a lot, though -- that seems to be dependent on some combination of a)liking it a lot b) playing it a lot and c) learning it when I was young. For instance, songs I learned when I was 20 seem to be permanently ingrained. But if I play something that a jam a couple of times nowadays, and I feel kind of meh about the tune, I'll probably forget it. The same may apply to licks, chord sub-moves, patterns, etc.. I don't have a systematic awareness of what is kept vs lost in that domain.

    John
    Last edited by John A.; 11-18-2019 at 12:57 PM.

  25. #24

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    I like to write a 1 or 2 page outline of all my improv systems and tape it on the wall in my practice area to remind me to keep them in mind. Also, maybe keep a copy also in my jacket pocket, my cell phone, and the bedroom wall and bathroom wall.
    Casino Coupe with "Antiquity" P90s. Telecaster with S.D. Vintage Stack pickups. Stratocaster with 3 "Little 59s" pickups. Monoprice 5 watt with GG 12AY7 tube and Gold Lion 6V6, and Weber alnico speaker. Fender Rumble 40 with Eminence Baslite speaker.

  26. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by rintincop View Post
    I like to write a 1 or 2 page outline of all my improv systems and tape it on the wall in my practice area to remind me to keep them in mind. Also, maybe keep a copy also in my jacket pocket, my cell phone, and the bedroom wall and bathroom wall.
    hehe, at last someone else here that fears forgetting ...