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  1. #1

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    I returned seriously practicing guitar this year on 1st of January after a lull lasting a few years. Been playing music since childhood and guitar since my teens. Gave jazz guitar a half-serious stab in uni alongside playing in bands, making original music and wedding gigs. Suffered a bit of a burnout with jazz then.

    When adult life called, I found a new passion in Latin dances and my guitar languished on the side. I made a number of half-hearted attempts at returning to guitar and always doodled a bit, but wasn´t really motivated. This year the passion returned with a vengeance even before COVID. I can proudly say that I have had a daily practice schedule going on the whole year and my meagre skills are coming back slowly. Really enjoy playing and practicing these days again. I have paid special attention to learning jazz standards in order to develop a basic repertoire, here are a few takeaways:

    - Learning songs has done so much good for me.
    I now have a basic repertoire and could go to a jam (and probably cause mucho eye-rolling with my vanilla song choices, Satin Doll here I come!). Nowadays I am really wary of learning isolated stuff in the vein of 120 Lydian Dominant Licks You Must Know or 66 Essential Chord Progressions in Mongolian Hillbilly Bluegrass Fusion. Working on songs just feels extremely beneficial and I wish I would have done more of this earlier. I
    t's also easier to pick up new songs. Maybe in the long run this will result in some kind of positive snowball effect?

    - Remembering songs and progressions takes a long time. I took
    something like ten really basic essential standards and have been going through those over and over again. Not too many. Only now it´s starting to feel that those songs are finally kinda in my fingers. So for myself it just takes a long time to really learn anything and I still manage to forget them. But..

    - Recalling songs.
    In a way, forgetting and recalling songs is a part of the process. I have kind of accepted that I might not immediately remember the song 100 %, but it's somewhere in my backbone and will come back with a little searching. It also seems that every time I forget and recall something, it takes less and less time to recall the thing each time.

    - The melody as a hanger. I watched a lesson by Bruce Forman some time ago. The biggest takeaway for myself was that the melody is a kind of a hanger for the progression that you can use to recall the song. I can easily spend 15 min sessions playing a standard´s melody over and over again with variations and feel that it does me good. Case in point, I spent a good amount of time learning Solar and was at a point where I could kind of hang with the changes decently. Left it alone for a few days and came back to the song. Gone. What was the progession again? Played the melody on my looper and was able to find the changes again fairly quickly, hey presto! So that was a big moment for me.

    - Picking songs that genuinely interest me. I picked songs that are well-known and basic repertoire. But I also picked a few songs that I really like. I have found that this approach motivates me a lot more than the 120 Jazz Standards You Must Woodshed approach. Case in point, I am not a gypsy jazz player but I still learned Nuages this year. Probably nobody knows the song at my local jams during normal times. But I love the song and enjoy playing it. So sprinkling in some songs for selfish reasons keeps me motivated. I have a batch of songs earmarked for the next year - some of them are "must-knows" like Green Dolphin Street but I have a few personal faves like Nica´s Dream or Caravan in there to treat myself.

    This was mostly a way to try to collect my thoughts. Any reactions?

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  3. #2

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    Songs, songs, songs and a combo to play your arrangements. That's it. You can play other people's arrangements as well, but if you want to really get to know a tune, arrange it.

  4. #3
    Congrats! You put in the time and reaped the rewards! What did you listen to outside of your studies, and what kind of things came to you through informed listening? Did you learn things directly, and indirectly from listening to the music? Horn players? Guitarists? Other?

  5. #4

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    Hi,S,
    I believe in the organic approach: learn a song; play it often; discover its meaning and potential. When learning organically, it takes longer but every lick, chord change is yours and provides a moment of self-discovery as a musician. Music is temporal; it reflects who you are at any given period of time in your life. When you change . . . the music changes. I abhor the chameleon approach to learning music since for most . . . they never escape its tyranny.
    Play live . . . Marinero

  6. #5

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    There is something about Latin Jazz that just feels good, when it’s played well that is. A lot of modern jazz has moved beyond its roots as dance music, pushing the boundaries of harmony and melody in new and exciting directions, but nobody’s going to dance to it.
    This is why Latin, and Brazilian Jazz for that matter are so much fun to listen to. The top players in these genres know how to keep that deep groove, all while bringing advanced harmonic concepts to the mix.
    By doing so they not only appeal to folks who like to get up and cut the rug, but also to those who like to be intellectually stimulated when they listen to a jazz record or concert.

  7. #6

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    I've been doing something similar, cycling thru 5 or so tunes I really like: Body and Soul, Girl from Ipanema, I Remember Clifford, Django, Very Early, In A Mellow Tone.

    Either working out solos based on melodic embellishment, chord tones and the occasional scale, or transcribing. Transcribing, then fitting it to the Real Book chords. Playing the solos over recorded chords. Comping along to the record. It's all tune-centered. The method books stay on the shelf.

    Incidentally, forgetting and then relearning is consistent with the Pimsleur ideas about building memory (he was a language learning expert).

  8. #7

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    Good stuff Squeezebox

  9. #8

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    Congrats, good learning experience and observations.

    But really, the most important thing you mentioned is the one book I have not yet found (and am troubled to hear that it has gone undiscovered in my search for obscure and arcane distractions in guitar study) - where in God’s name can I find a copy of “66 Essential Chord Progressions in Mongolian Hillbilly Bluegrass Fusion”??????

    My. Day. Is. Ruined. Must. Maintain. Composure.

  10. #9

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    It is eerie how similar my experience this last year has been to the OP. I hadn't really picked up my guitar in a long time and this past year gave me the opportunity to really dig in and learn the instrument. I started with some simple real book songs basically from scratch. Now I am confident enough to learn anything. I have noticed all the takeaways he mentioned.

    One more takeaway I'd like to add to the OP is how much music I've discovered this year. Singers and instrumentalists I had never heard of while searching various versions of tunes on Youtube and elsewhere. When you learn more and more songs you run into more and more gems of musicians performing them. Really inspiring.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Squeezebox
    Learning songs has done so much good for me. I now have a basic repertoire and could go to a jam (and probably cause mucho eye-rolling with my vanilla song choices, Satin Doll here I come!). Nowadays I am really wary of learning isolated stuff in the vein of 120 Lydian Dominant Licks You Must Know or 66 Essential Chord Progressions in Mongolian Hillbilly Bluegrass Fusion. Working on songs just feels extremely beneficial and I wish I would have done more of this earlier. It's also easier to pick up new songs. Maybe in the long run this will result in some kind of positive snowball effect?

    - Remembering songs and progressions takes a long time. I took
    something like ten really basic essential standards and have been going through those over and over again. Not too many. Only now it´s starting to feel that those songs are finally kinda in my fingers. So for myself it just takes a long time to really learn anything and I still manage to forget them. But..

    - Recalling songs.
    In a way, forgetting and recalling songs is a part of the process. I have kind of accepted that I might not immediately remember the song 100 %, but it's somewhere in my backbone and will come back with a little searching. It also seems that every time I forget and recall something, it takes less and less time to recall the thing each time.

    - The melody as a hanger. I watched a lesson by Bruce Forman some time ago. The biggest takeaway for myself was that the melody is a kind of a hanger for the progression that you can use to recall the song. I can easily spend 15 min sessions playing a standard´s melody over and over again with variations and feel that it does me good. Case in point, I spent a good amount of time learning Solar and was at a point where I could kind of hang with the changes decently. Left it alone for a few days and came back to the song. Gone. What was the progession again? Played the melody on my looper and was able to find the changes again fairly quickly, hey presto! So that was a big moment for me.

    - Picking songs that genuinely interest me. I picked songs that are well-known and basic repertoire. But I also picked a few songs that I really like. I have found that this approach motivates me a lot more than the 120 Jazz Standards You Must Woodshed approach. Case in point, I am not a gypsy jazz player but I still learned Nuages this year. Probably nobody knows the song at my local jams during normal times. But I love the song and enjoy playing it. So sprinkling in some songs for selfish reasons keeps me motivated. I have a batch of songs earmarked for the next year - some of them are "must-knows" like Green Dolphin Street but I have a few personal faves like Nica´s Dream or Caravan in there to treat myself.
    A great primer for learning and enjoying jazz guitar! I echo the sentiment...eerily similar to my own experience.

  12. #11

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    Nuages, Caravan, and Nica's Dream are my fav tunes too. But it's true, while Caravan is universally known and played by anybody who identifies themselves as any kind of jazz player, it's not easy to find musicians who play Nuages AND Nica's Dream in one setting. Maybe a good working bass player would know though lol.

  13. #12

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    I was thinking about this last night. I have never made any real progress unless I practiced 3 hours a day minimum. The periods of my life when I made the most progress, I practiced 4 hours daily and gigged at night. So, when learning new material, what does that mean? Being able to play the melody/chords? Memorizing "improvised" lines? I don't know how anyone can do anything other than keep their chops us and play existing material on two hours daily. For example, I devote ,at least, 20 minutes of a practice session to warming/stretching my hands to avoid injury. Then, I play 50 minutes(total 1 hour 10 minutes) of old/new material. So in 140 minutes(2 hours 20 minutes), I really only play 100 minutes--not much when you're learning new material. And, sometimes, I extend the warmup if my hands aren't responding to a half hour thus limiting real practice time. Does anyone have a similar schedule or something different. There is a difference between practice/learning and just doodling on an instrument.
    Play live . . . Marinero

    P.S. Is it fair to say life gets in the way of music? M

  14. #13

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    Nothing's changed for me. If anything the challenge would be to play anything BUT songs.

    But that's a bit radical, and there's always an intermediate ground. Keep it fresh---how? Change keys or meter; rubato to tempo; tempo to rubato.

    I lucked up on a trick that has become a 'thing'. (Now I have to be vigilant against THAT turning cliche'): Not resolving the last chord---hanging on the V. Like my friend M'Fergu is wont to say: 'Gotta keep those ballerinas on their toes'. It's perhaps messing with listeners in an impish way, but going counter to expectation also can make people think deeper. Maybe.

    I also find it effective, primarily on ballads---and it works best either solo or with real listeners as bandmates: pauses at peak structural and emotional points of a piece. Why wait til the end to ritard or pause? That's done by everyone. If I were playing, say, Sophisticated Lady, a good place for a pause would be the last bar of the bridge. The lyric poses a question: 'Is that all you really want?' I honestly hear it ritarding and pausing on 'want'---giving the listener (hopefully they know the lyric, a big help here) a chance to reflect on that climactic point in the story. Once they have, stomp off to a-tempo.

    So the 'wheel' has some mileage left. Reinvention is one option, taking a different route another...

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero
    P.S. Is it fair to say life gets in the way of music? M
    Life, yeah---and PEOPLE! (But only if you let 'em)...

  16. #15

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    Great to hear you're learning tunes.

    Regarding having trouble remembering the changes, I suggest you do the following:
    - first, make sure you have nailed down the song "form" from listening, i.e. blues, AABA, AB, etc. Once you know this, you should never forget it.
    - second, assuming you're learning the chords from charts (which I also mostly do...learning by ear is better but is not easy), get away from the charts ASAP. By ASAP I mean that within 15 minutes you should be trying to comp through the tune without a chart, maybe 5 minutes for some tunes. Of course you'll forget some of them but you'll remember some of them too. Rinse and repeat. But don't sit there and stare at a chart over and over again. If you forget a chord, look at the chart, but then put it away again. Go in another room. Rinse and repeat.
    - third, once you have it down in one key, transpose into other keys and play in other keys. You can also do this in your head while walking/driving, etc.

    Good luck, hope you apply those things. If you do, they will help, no doubt about it.

  17. #16

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    " Rinse and repeat." coolvinny


    Yes! Play live . . . Marinero