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  1. #1

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    Anyone working through Mike Stern's book: Altered Scale Soloing?-936025682-jpeg

    Anyone working through this book?

    I just got it in the post today. I can't think of anyone further away from my usual style of playing, but I still have great memories of the Mike Stern Band in Edinburgh a few years back. It's a cliche, but he really did blow me away. And he also appears to be one of the nicest guys on the planet. So, being really bored by my own playing, I thought it would be fun and instructive to step inside Mike's mind for a while, see how he does things.

    He starts with the altered (melodic minor) scale, which I've been long familiar with, but his fingerings are very different from mine, and I find that interesting. That's it. I haven't got very far at all.

    The chapters are:

    1. The Altered Scale (Melodic Minor)
    2. The Mixolydian b2b6 scale (Harmonic Minor)
    3. The Symmetrical Dininished Scale
    4. The Whole Tone Scale
    5. Bb Blues Performance

    As I said, I know all these scales, but it's the view of them by an outstanding jazz-guitar giant that holds the interest for me.

    Mike plays all the exercises in downloadable sound files.

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Okay, it's just me and Mike! Chromazone, here we come!

  4. #3

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    Interesting list.

    I started to ruminate about it and came up with this, for some reason.

    Chord name translations in the key of C

    1. The Altered Scale (Melodic Minor). G7#11b13b9#9
    2. The Mixolydian b2b6 scale (Harmonic Minor) G7b9b13
    3. The Symmetrical Dininished Scale G13#11b9#9
    4.The Whole Tone Scale G7#11 b13
    5. Bb Blues Performance (I don't know what this is)

    Thinking of them as scales has the advantage of making each one sound distinctive. If you just think, "I'll alter 5th and 9ths on the fly" you can miss the individual sounds. But, OTOH, I think it's a good idea to be able to hear and play the individual alterations at will, without thinking of the scales.

    What about a chord that, when played over the G7 comping makes the required sound (bearing in mind that the comping may need to be R 3 b7 only for this to work).

    For G alt, Db Eb Ab Bb are the alterations. Does it help to think of that as Bbm7sus?

    G7b9b13 the alterations are Eb and Ab. Does it help to think Abm or Abmadd9?

    Next up sym. dim. Alterations are Db Ab Bb. Arguably, include E. Bbm7b5?

    WT alterations are #11 b13 (aka both alterations of the 5th). Db and Eb. Not sure what chord overlay gives that.

  5. #4

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    So, mostly we are thinking b5 #5 b9 #9.

    Mike writes about how he encourages students to think from the root, so instead of thinking Abm, he prefers thinking G Dominant.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    So, mostly we are thinking b5 #5 b9 #9.

    Mike writes about how he encourages students to think from the root, so instead of thinking Abm, he prefers thinking G Dominant.
    He's right, I think. But, you have to be able to do it in 12 keys plus a couple of enharmonic keys. So, sooner or later it will be G#7 or C#7 and you need to identify the altered fifths and ninths instantly.

    Arguably, it may be easier to think "minor triad a half step up" than memorize all the alterations in 12 keys.

  7. #6

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    I just got a copy of the book yesterday myself.

    I was expecting the 'think from the root of the chord/scale" thing.
    That, and the "play along each string" approach.
    But I was also a little thrown by Mike's fingerings which seem sometimes positional
    and other times a bit random.

    I feel we're going to have to wait for Mike to do a comprehensive book, I guess it's not
    really his thing.

    Still I will give it a shot as I like Mike.

    I don't have much time, feeling the pressure of life passing swiftly by.

    So, it's roll up my sleeves and get on with it.
    I'll try to keep you posted on my progress and look forward to your further thoughts Rob.

  8. #7

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    When you watch Mike play, his left hand is very fluid, and fairly constantly on the move, which can lead to his idiosyncratic fingering. The scale diagram on page 12 was really odd to me at first, but after playing with it for an hour or so it has a nice flow to it, especially when I put in a couple of semitone slides.

    But then his example in 3rds, page 13, departs from it. I'm okay with all of this. He's a player, not a "put your finger here" kind of teacher. I'm just letting him guide me a little, and then spin off in my own direction. I soon had the G Alt scale in 3rds all over the fretboard, it was great fun.

    Keep at it, Moonray! I'm no young lion either...we do what we can, and hopefully enjoy the journey.

  9. #8

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    Rob,

    Wondering how you and Mike are getting along. I was very interested when you first posted this and would have joined in if I were not two months deep into a Joe Pass deep dive.

    How goes it?

    Chris

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  10. #9

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    Hi Chris,

    Slow progress. I've been woodshedding the altered scale in 3rds then 4ths, with other intervals to follow. I'm in no hurry. A page could last a week or two. I now have more interesting things to play with over a V7 chord, which is always worthwhile, and I do so over a V7 vamp or a 251 progression, major and minor. I can imagine the book taking me a couple of years to get through, if I hang in there long enough.

    Cheers,

    Rob

  11. #10

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    Sounds like fun, Rob. And if you integrate a touch of Mike's magic into your playing in two years I would consider it time well spent.

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  12. #11

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    Ah, Magic Mike's Special Touch costs extra...a LOT extra...more than money can buy.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    Ah, Magic Mike's Special Touch costs extra...a LOT extra...more than money can buy.
    Anyone working through Mike Stern's book: Altered Scale Soloing?Well said.

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  14. #13

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    So, I actually just had a zoom lesson with Mike Stern yesterday. I wasn't thinking about the book (I'm generally not a book guy), but did ask him for help with adding more altered dominant and outside ideas to my playing as the focus of the lesson. He (unsurprisingly) suggested I buy his book. He took me through the things mentioned here -- playing the scale in 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, and 7ths, playing the scales on 1 string -- also some ideas for voicing harmonized major scales. He also suggested one of the Joe Pass books.

    One thing that I found pretty interesting is that he definitely plays the stuff in his book; it's definitely not just for the sake of having/selling a book. And he plays these scales unbelievably fast and clean without any thought or stumbling. It's just boom! Two octaves of Galt7 scale in intervals, all alternate picked at tempo, like that. He's exactly the friendly smiling guy you see in videos/performances, but he's also quite together as a teacher and very direct about correcting mistakes etc. Not at all a BS session trying to pass as a "master class", but a real lesson. I went ahead and ordered both because, based on how he uses this material himself, I think it'll be useful and will help in remembering the sequence and details.
    Last edited by John A.; Today at 02:07 PM.