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  1. #501

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    Still lurking and absorbing


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #502

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    It was a year ago that I started to put together a program of tunes that would, in essence, create an environment of immersion for those who had found some traction in the Howard Roberts Super Chops program we did together. Honestly, it was a good time for me to do this, I'd kind of gotten over the fascination with those aspects of guitar besides playing (no more need for acquisition or personality worship) the task of being someone who REALLY understood the process seemed a good one, especially with like-minded players in this forum. We've covered much more than just tunes in this past year. Thank you all.

    This summer I had the great fortune to take on a student with whom I met on a daily basis. 6 days a week. Absolute immersion and practical discussion of the craft, abstract discussion of the art and the peripheral brought into focus. During that time I came to work with learning improvisation in a three layered process; each layer constantly being revisited and subjected to an organic evolution.
    The Form.
    Whether it was the blues form or free form, the awareness of the form and what it really means is the foundation we worked with. From the earliest lessons, I emphasized understanding of the form as something akin to a walk through a house, different rooms being accessed and each room distinct and requiring a unique mindset. When you get off book, and see recurring forms, and harmonic structures, you see form as something like another player: you respect, understand and play within its limitations and boundries.
    The Syntax
    This is the choice of mechanisms you use to adhere or build within the form. Chords, scales, consonant textures, dissonance and space. SO much goes into what you can play and getting to fit these choices on the Form was the second level we worked with.
    The Language
    In the end, we created our own language built on the synthesis of our syntax and the tendencies we found in our own playing that we developed, developed to that habit could be revealed and used for its strength, never relied upon through weakness. This was the challenge and the source of the greatest satisfaction.

    All three of these areas were an ongoing evolution throughout our time together.
    I hoped that we might share our own questions and observations with each other, to use the forum to become more creative and realized improvisors. I have loved the questions and contributions of those of you who've followed and added to this yearlong journey.
    The last couple of weeks we'll look at tunes, but also at where we are, what we do and how we grow before this year closes.

    Hey y'all, tell me who you are in the lives you lead as players. If your fascination with jazz guitar is about playing, let's hear about your partnership with tunes, your struggles and how we've come to see tunes in a different light.

    I look forward to this final turnaround!


  4. #503

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    As we close out this year of practice, there are so many things we've encountered, and still so many questions and answers to explore. One of them is: How, when and why do we navigate ourselves to coordinate the shifting tonal areas of a song form and the options we've got at our disposal throughout the guitar fingerboard. For me this speaks directly to my question of "How do some players seem to have endless ideas through their solos and how can I learn to think that way?"
    One idea I've been working with has been moving figures and ideas down by whole notes.
    Here's a challenging and really useful exercise I start my practice with: I take a major scale based phrase or song segment and I play it in any key; I can begin anywhere. At the start of the week I can do this at a slow metronome setting. Play it for a number of beats/bars. I like one or two measures.
    Then drop down a whole step. This is enough so it "washes the taste" of the key and we begin again. I keep in mind the phrase I just played, but this time I can play it again, or I can make a variation, or I can embellish, or I can reverse direction... the point is to be aware of where I'm going, and what I can do.
    The more I do this, the more intent I can impart on what I play. After a while I can create a "larger picture" free of noodling that takes me where I don't want to go.

    The next exercise is taking a minor scale, and doing the same thing. Dorian is nice. Dorian phrase, drop down a whole step and dorian phrase. You'd be surprised at how this can focus your playing.

    Then try alternating. Either on the same note (Bb major and Bb minor, drop down whole step) or with descending whole tones (Bb major drop down Ab minor, Gb/F# major...)

    These whole tone sequences will open up the focus and vision of your phrasing and can take you away from single tonal noodling, or that awkward "Now what do I do?" soloing that leads to falling into cliche or lick based ruts.

    This is one of a number of techniques I use to get to really know the fingerboard, the sound of changes and the options I have.
    When you do this exercise in the variations I've suggested, you may even see and recognize some of the pieces we've encountered through our yearlong catalogue. Doing this slowly and gradually increasing will for sure open up abilities and musical options you may not have explored before.

    See if this does anything for you if you feel like it. The variations are endless, as your soloing should be. Have fun!


  5. #504

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    OK. I guess I've lost anyone who was intrigued with this idea. I'd thought that through an ever increasing familiarity and facility with the structures and language of standards and tunes, we could bring our playing to include the elements of outside/inside playing over standards. I see that's not of interest so I'll say it's been a fun journey and I hope there'll always be something to be had for those self driven players who look for the limitations of their playing, of the form, of the music you hear, and strive to go beyond it through knowledge, facility and imagination.

    Yes, I still pick a tune every few days and personally, I still find something new about the instrument and the music every single day. It's the reason I love this music. I look at improvised music as an infinite series of steps. In this way, you don't get to the heights deemed impossible unless you progress steadily and humbly; then one day you look around and you've got an understanding that you're where you once considered impossible.

    A lot of progress can be made by following other people's footsteps. There is no doubt that much can be learned from the studious assimilation of other peoples' work. Too, we can fall into the dangerous place where we limit ourselves by staying in the shadows of others and not constantly searching for the things that inspired and nourished them. Acquire the tools and build your own. That's always the message.

    One example of this thinking was the set of exercises I'd thrown out there in the previous post-the whole step root movement exercise.
    It's true that for someone merely wanting to learn a tune for a jam, doing exercises like this aren't of practical use if you just want to play a tune. OK. Maybe not. Or maybe it's just not the step you want to take because you don't think it goes anywhere. Fair enough.

    So let's look at a final tune now.

    Commit to a song a week. What could a serious student hope to learn?-miss-jones-png

    Have You Met Miss Jones has been a real staple of the standards book for a long time. So many approaches to this tune and it really reflects the individual's knowledge of tonal landscape and getting around in it. This is just one way to look at what's going on.

    The piece is in the key of F and the A part is a nice relatively straightforward journey in the key of F.
    We begin at home. F Major.
    A transitional chord leads us to the II V of our key. That's nice, pretty manageable way to create some movement.
    Hey since we're headed home, let's take a little detour and go the III, VI, II, V route and THEN go home. That's nice. That's the A part.

    B part.
    Hey what's going on here?!! Hey I heard people talk about Coltrane changes. Hey I see people following the changes from their real books. Hey I see people trying to play this one by ear with varying degrees of success. What's going on?
    One way you can look at it is take our key of F and make that F a springboard to new tonal areas.
    F7 leads to Bb. Cool
    Drop down a whole step and we can play minor
    Drop down a whole step and we can play major (look at it anyway you want but it works nicely with the previous measure too)
    Drop down a whole step and play minor
    Drop down a whole step and play major. Boy this is fun. Do we detect a pattern here?
    Now we break the pattern, the key and create a turnaround to Gb
    Do the same thing a half step down and we're in our original key of F.

    Back to the A part. That was fun.

    Yeah that bridge is kinda like the exercise we met last post. And it's kinda like a water slide ride; once you know how it goes, it's not so dangerous and you can begin to have some fun.

    That's the form of the piece as I see it, and this map is just one of many ways to look at Miss Jones. You can spend the rest of your life working with and playing a song and if your imagination is ever growing, you will be able to avoid getting bored or falling into a solo you've played once before.
    Get to know the fingerboard. Just because a line seems to descend doesn't mean you need to be moving DOWN the fingerboard. Use the whole instrument-you paid for it, use it.

    I hope this year has been an enlightening one for you and for those of you who get as much or more from what you play as the trappings of the instrument itself, for those of you that find that rush in finding new ways to grow and express yourself, never limit yourself.
    You can learn something new every day. By next year this time, you won't recognize yourself.

    Thanks for taking this trip with me.


  6. #505

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    Truth Hertz,

    I tried the descending whole step exercise, but I don't quite understand what you mean when you say it's a step toward outside/inside playing over standards. I do see that it forces me not to rely on familiar physical patterns, but to hear a melodic idea and find it in different keys and different places on the neck. So I've been trying to play the same or similar short melodic ideas in as many places as possible over a standard tune.

    What do you mean by outside/inside playing over standards, and how does the whole step exercise lead to it?

  7. #506

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    Thanks you David for your time and efforts on this thread! It has been very helpful (even if I haven't absorbed it all in this first pass) and will make a great resource going forward.

  8. #507

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    The teacher appears when the student is ready.

    This thread seems to be exactly what I need so I will try to follow closely.

    I'm actually studying Trinity grade 7 classical guitar but jam a bit of jazz most Friday mornings so this thread will definitely help with that.

    Currently I'm trying to play changes using the material from An Introduction To Jazz Soloing by Joe Elliot but using Leavitt fingerings. I'm getting the concept of mixing comping and solo lines etc so it will be interesting to record each song and listen to myself improve with creating lines etc over time.

    I won't do an hour per day but I'll do what I can as it will be a late night project when the rest of the family is in bed.

    I'll be starting with Autumn Leaves and am excited to see where this will go.

  9. #508

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    Quote Originally Posted by ibnrushd View Post
    Truth Hertz,

    I tried the descending whole step exercise, but I don't quite understand what you mean when you say it's a step toward outside/inside playing over standards.
    I see the changes of a given piece as being informed, and restricted by the melodies and implied melodies of the piece. In the weekly running of this thread, I've tried to encourage the possibilities of diverging from the more traditional way of fulfilling harmony (strictly diatonic) and a more open ended treatment of the solo space.
    So I've used pieces as ways to find larger tonal areas and dropped the hint that within those spaces, you could use harmonic ideas "outside" of the given harmonies. If you take the A section of Miss Jones, and establish your soloing course so the first measure is of "peak importance" and again you deem measure 5, the A- (III VI II V) is what defines the personality of the piece, you can use measures 2-4 as a passage in whole tone (one example) that includes an E. Those ideas, imparted life through chromatic tension, rhythmic phrasing and note choice will make a nice lead in back to the A-. There's one example.

    The chord scale approach over changes is only one way to solo. What I've outlined above is another. It was an approach I'd learned where the emphasis is on tension and release through phrases of differing length. You hear this in post Coltrane and vamp based improvisation. It also allows for your your own harmonic structuring that, from a stricter adherence to the changes, can be seen as "outside".
    That's how you might think of interpreting a standard.

    The B section is a great and quite unique opportunity to take structures, and change them progressively by whole tone. If I were to arrange some scales I'd practiced, y'know really gotten to know melodic potential within major and minor families, I could progressively introduce phrases that evolved in tension and complexity within each root area.
    Bb major triad
    Ab- triad with maybe a b6
    Gb major scale
    E- minor phrase with chromatic approach
    D augmented triad ending in an augmented scale
    G lydian scale (substituting for the Ab-) as a step down to
    Gb major scale...
    See how you can step outside of the given harmony, play phrases that sound "outside" the given changes and solo in a way that is creative and satisfying, still working within the structure of the piece? Now to make these musical, use rhythm, motif, alternating ascending and descending, successive directional motif, wide vs narrow intervals, quoting phrases from elsewhere in the piece, consonant progressing to dissonant, dissonant leading to consonant, two lines converging, oblique or parallel movement (you've got a guitar, you can do that), playing with dynamics-question pp and answer FF, superimposing odd meter... all that is stuff we've encountered through previous songs in this thread and these are all treasures of construction that you can employ on the forms you yourself dictate. See? This gives you an ENORMOUS amount of creative freedom on a given songform. But the obligation to assemble a working vocabulary of colours is up to you. This thread has focused on song form as the primary step.

    Of course to think this way, you need to practice ways of thinking, patterns of phrases that are not based on inside harmony (diatonicism) but rather have constant and moving structures.
    Symmetric harmony is good for this. Synthetic scales are good for this. Simple triadic structures with complex approach strategies are good for this.

    All these things can take you to a zone where your playing is full of surprise yet very much reverent of the given harmonies. If you want to go in that direction.
    I personally find it a great way to play. I listen to people from Sonny Rollins to Kurt Rosenwinkel, and I hear the facility that comes from mastery of small structure vocabulary applied to a given harmonic framework, but not held by those changes. It's a different way of thinking, and a deep level of freedom.

    Does this make any sense? I wish you'd brought these things up earlier in the tunes we looked; there are many different things to try on any of these tunes we've looked at. It all depends on what you want to do and how you use your practice time.

    Last edited by TH; 09-24-2018 at 05:36 PM.

  10. #509

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    Wow...thank you for taking the time to explain your thoughts. I've never considered this type of approach. I've just been going off the melody and voice leading, plus a lot of trial and error. I'll give this stuff a try and see if I can figure it out. Now that I look back on your posts, I see that you were talking about these long tension and release patterns. I was just too ignorant realize 2 and 2 were in front of my face, let alone put them together.

    I hope it's not impertinent to ask, and of course feel free to ignore this question, but do you have any recordings of your music available for purchase?

  11. #510

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    Quote Originally Posted by ibnrushd View Post

    I hope it's not impertinent to ask, and of course feel free to ignore this question, but do you have any recordings of your music available for purchase?
    No, not at all. It's a personal philosophical choice but I have a love/hate relationship with recording. I have heavily documented others (around here, I've been a documenter and archivist of the scene for a long time) but I don't record myself. It's distracting from the process of the lost moment for me. I play a lot with people though, and if you by any chance live or study by my town here, Boston, hit me up and let's play.

    It's really the way to bring the lifeblood to all these ideas.


  12. #511

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    One of the best farewell songs written.
    Commit to a song a week. What could a serious student hope to learn?-screen-shot-2018-09-28-8-22-08-am-png

    I'll leave the analysis of this wonderful gem to you guys, except to say that duality between Eb and C- is a potent one. Use it to create solos that embody a larger sense of composition. Go beyond running changes and think with a sense of perspective and scale (the other sense of scale).
    For instance, you might set yourself a three chorus solo scheme. The first one plays with melodic ideas that allude to the head, the second takes a motif and develops it with figures of your own vocabulary, the third combines patterns of a denser nature that set up and highlight melodies that return you home to the head that close out. Thinking on a larger scale holds its own set of considerations that require thought and practice. Use your practice time to think in different ways too. Expand your awareness.

    Personally, I'm going to spend the next year on an ongoing exploration of Tune a Week part 2. This one I'll do on my own.
    One thing I've decided to do is set up a weekly regimen wherein on the first day I'd look at essential elements of the piece, melody, chordal structure and topography, and understand the form.
    The second day I'll create diatonic phrases with embellishments (pickups, approach notes, passing tones... the bebop vocabulary).
    The third day I'll begin chord substitutions and harmonic approaches that use tritone substitutions, sequences, secondary dominants.... This is where I'll combine patterned sequences with melodic destinations.
    The fourth day I'll focus on creating melodic and rhythmic ideas that diverge from the form yet converge at important points in the form to create alternative melodies working independently but bring you home in a very recognizable way.
    The fifth day I'll just see how all these things fit into some two or three chorus scheme I plan out ahead of time.

    This is my own personal plan for the coming year. I'll be doing my own tune a week; I really enjoy this "immerse and swim" way of learning and though this thread is now at a close, I'll be listening. And I'll be seeing you.

    I'd love to hear about your own strategies and goals for continuing your own awareness to the next level, whatever that might be.

    Play like you mean it. Be playful


    Brad Mehldau's with notes

    And Brad's teacher, the master himself, Fred Hersch, with notes

    For the Julian Lage fans

  13. #512

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    thanks so much for all the effort you put in to this- the generosity is humbling. It has been a real highlight for me to see new message alerts and the thought provoking content. I never really commented that much, partly out of modesty/shyness, with so many seasoned players around here. In hindsight that was a mistake, it’s leeching off you without giving feedback to interact with. Sorry.

    You’ve taught me so much about what makes music musical, and tasteful phrasing. In development terms i’m still internalising mechanical facility on the instrument. Your language of contours, landscapes and how to approach tunes takes me beyond that and lays a roadmap ahead for quite some time. That material is going to live well beyond these 12 months.


  14. #513

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    David, thank you so much for your hard work with this thread. I have been following this since beginning, but the new tune per week turn out be too much for me to take on. I do think there is a lot of valuable information in this thread and your analyzies of these songs have brought lots of new ideas for my own practising. Thanks again and all the best for you.

  15. #514

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    I've just done my first week of this study group with Autumn Leaves. This week has definitely helped me get around the changes all over the fingerboard which was my primary aim.

    A nice surprise was that I was improvising mainly with chord tones from arpeggio shapes that I made up from Leavitt scale fingerings and the results sounded mediocre to be honest. However yesterday I bought a Frank Vignola's Essentials Jazz Standard Soloing course on TrueFire which I thought was below my level of playing......however Franks lines are extremely tasty. They are very melodic and used things such as rhythmic displacement etc. The feel of his lines are great.

    So my aim for All of Me is to simplify my lines and make them really melodic......can't wait.

    Ps David, thanks for all your work on this thread. It's appreciated and I'm sure that I'm not the only one that hopes that you'll change your mind and continue with part 2 of a tune per week on this thread.

  16. #515

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    Quote Originally Posted by Liarspoker View Post

    So my aim ... is to simplify my lines and make them really melodic......can't wait.
    I think about how challenging it is to make things simple. Really, the goal of everything that's within this thread, is to make everything simple so the feeling of creating can always be honest and natural.

    No matter where you are in the development of yourself as a musician, an artist or most challenging, an improvisor, I know that being honest with what you know and do will inevitably lead to becoming extraordinary in what you create.

    For everyone that's curious about what can be accomplished in a year of pieces, or anyone who feels overwhelmed by what it takes to take a step for one day, I have a thought exercise: Don't let what you learn get in the way of what you can imagine.