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  1. #1

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    I'm one of those guitar ( hobbyist) Boomers who's been playing since the '60's. My method has been to buy music and play along - -my most recent buy was the Sweet & Lowdown soundtrack. I pretty much can play about half of the tunes. I had a good teacher back then and learned a lot of jazz tunes - chords & melodies. I have a good ear, and can get around most songs if I hear them enough.
    As you may have guessed - -here's the kicker - -I don't read music very well, if at all.
    I recently started lessons again, 'cause I'm now retired - and have some time freed up. But this new teacher - -who is good - wants me to maybe learn to spell chords, and I can feel myself getting frustrated again. Do I have even less patience now than when I started ??
    Has anyone been through this? Am I missing what a student should ask for ? I'd probably be happy just doing duets with this guy for an hour a week, and whatever I learned about watching and listening to him would be fine .
    Does this make sense?
    Any help / suggestions /observations appreciated.
    Thanks.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I would suggest working very hard at it for six months or so. That will probably get you over the hump and it won't be such a big issue anymore. You can do it, and will probably be happy that you did in the end.
    1932 National Duolian in Duco & Rust
    1993 Fender JB Stratocaster in Banana Pudding
    1996 Fender JV Stratocaster in Olympic White
    2000 La Patre' Etude in Cedar/Mahogany
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  4. #3

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    I am telling myself that exact same thing. Hopefully I can stick it out. This reminds me of the length of time it took me learn to multiply fractions.
    I wish I were kidding.
    Thanks !!

  5. #4

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    Maybe your teacher will let you do both, learning the theory and playing tunes/duets. Some pleasure with the pain.
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  6. #5

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    hit it HARD.....it only hurts for a little while...

    you will be glad you took the time to do it...

    time on the instrument...pierre

  7. #6

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    I'm 53 years old, and a guitar teacher of 25 years. Many of my students are older than me, some new to music, while some have been playing 30 years or more. Sometimes I get a jazzer who just will not and cannot read music, so we find a way around it. Same with theory. It may not be a popular stance on this forum, but you do not need to be able to read or know advanced theory in order to enjoy playing some styles of jazz guitar. Yes, you can "give it a serious go" - and I suggest you do, because the benefits are manyfold - but it is not a necessity. You have good ears, can presumably read tab (?) and chord boxes, so there is much you can do.

    Some of my retirees do just come to have a jam for an hour once every week or two weeks, and there is nothing wrong with that. They enjoy it, and look forward to the next jam, maybe with a new lick I've shown them, or chord substitution. Hopefully your teacher can see what your real needs are, and tailor to suit...

  8. #7

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    I don't consider spelling chords advanced theory...I think it's fundamental, and worth learning.

    Hang with it for a bit and see if it starts to click...it is a little rough to spend so much time on the "thinking" aspect of the music. If it doesn't click and you can't work with this teacher, then move on.

    A good ear is a great resource, but I'll be honest with you--most people I meet who say they have a good ear don't. And the people I've met who truly have a great ear--they know the stuff too...It's not either/or....jazz is a both/and proposition.
    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

  9. #8

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    Go out and get a copy of Aaron Shearer's "basic theory for Classical Guitar" (or it's named along those lines). It's a very thin book - more like a workbook really - and by the end you will be in good shape. The book costs maybe $10 and will take you no more than a few weeks to get through.

  10. #9

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    Rob's answer above got me thinking.

    To answer this question one really needs to know your guitar playing goals.

    I think in general we assume that everyone wants to become as good of a jazz musician as the can given the amount of time they allocate to playing/practicing guitar. A lot of what some practice or study involves delayed gratification. For some, and/or at some age, all this delayed gratification doesn't make much sense. (Although, for some others, studying theory is actually part of the enjoyment).

    The following has not been proven, "Theory may not be enjoyable for some to study, but hopefully it will result in enjoying your guitar playing more in the future." Maybe that's true maybe not. Maybe it depends on the person.

    Probably 90% of the first section of the Mickey Baker's Jazz Guitar book 1 doesn't involve reading notes. You could do the entire book without knowing the theory of how to construct chords.

    However, yes, knowing how to construct chords would help you with that book. But, even that book might be getting deeper into jazz than you want. It depends on ones goals.

    Edit: Note, the Mickey Baker book is a book a lot of guitar players used when learning and is often recommended for those wanting to get into jazz guitar by guitar players and teachers.
    Last edited by fep; 10-03-2012 at 08:43 PM.
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  11. #10

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    It's a royal pain, but certainly time well worth spent! If it's something that you don't feel you need then by all means don't worry about it, but...
    if your curious as to what is going on and help you name the things your hearing well then my recommendation would be to just take it nice and slow.
    Just take a few chords at a time. start with the key of C.
    Do all the chords within the C major scale, then go through the cycle of 4ths, very useful to us Jazz folks, so key of F,Bb, Eb, Ab, Db and Gb
    Not only will you know all of your chords, but you'll be able to transpose anything, in any key and you'll understand how basic substitutions work, why?
    Because you'll know what notes make any given chord.

    Hope that helps and best of luck to you!

    As a side note Mickey Baker's book is AMAZING! I have learned so much from it. Of course having a solid understanding of some basic Jazz harmony will help you get the most out of this book since Mickey doesn't shed much light on the subject, but with a great teacher you should be fine!
    Last edited by rcaballero; 10-03-2012 at 09:28 PM.

  12. #11

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    I agree with much of what has been said: it's well worth learning. It's critical to learn if you want to reach an advanced level of playing. But from the point of a view of a teacher, I generally do not teach people theory, unless they really want to learn it. You can't learn theory properly if you are not interested in learning it. And even the ones that are interested in learning it, after studying it for a bit, they often give up on it, when they realize it takes time, patience, study, lots of reading and written work. You can't just read the theory and get it, you have to spend hours writing out things, whether it is notes on the staff, or chord spellings or whatever. You have to do it both with pen & paper, as well as on the instrument.

    Trust me, it's more annoying to teach it to someone who does not want to learn, then it is to be pushed to learn it, when you don't want to learn it. When I do teach it, I break up the theory into small segments. Each segment can be learned in one weeks time of study and doing a simple written assignment. So when people don't get it after 3,4,5,6... weeks, I just have to ask myself what's the point? That's why I don't push theory ever. I encourage, but never push. People have to ask me to teach it to them, and then they actually have to do the assignments each week, or the deal is off.

    Something to consider as well is that you may say to your teacher "I want to learn X", but what you don't realize is you have to master "Y", before you can even touch on X. Perfect example, I just had this new student begin who was focused on learning to play chord melodies. So I meet with him, and he struggles through a really simple arrangement. I realize that he doesn't even have a firm grasp of basic chords & scales. I explained to him the chord melody is about the hardest thing you can play on guitar, and he still hasn't mastered level 1,2,3,4, etc....So we'd be somewhat wasting our time if we worked on level 10.....Now I could have just taken the approach of showing him chord melodies by rote, i.e. put your fingers here, ok, now here, etc...But that wouldn't have really taught him what he needs to learn in order to play chord melodies. So explained this to him, and we are going to be working on the basics.

    Anyways the moral of the story is your teacher is trying to get you to learn things that will allow you to play what you really want to play, you just don't realize it!

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by jazzadellic View Post
    Something to consider as well is that you may say to your teacher "I want to learn X", but what you don't realize is you have to master "Y", before you can even touch on X. Perfect example, I just had this new student begin who was focused on learning to play chord melodies. So I meet with him, and he struggles through a really simple arrangement. I realize that he doesn't even have a firm grasp of basic chords & scales. I explained to him the chord melody is about the hardest thing you can play on guitar, and he still hasn't mastered level 1,2,3,4, etc....So we'd be somewhat wasting our time if we worked on level 10.....Now I could have just taken the approach of showing him chord melodies by rote, i.e. put your fingers here, ok, now here, etc...But that wouldn't have really taught him what he needs to learn in order to play chord melodies. So explained this to him, and we are going to be working on the basics.

    Anyways the moral of the story is your teacher is trying to get you to learn things that will allow you to play what you really want to play, you just don't realize it!
    Excellent post, jazzadelic. In a perfect world all teachers would do this. It's very important for a teacher to help a student realise what kinds and amounts of work needs to be done in order to acheive the student's goals.
    An ongoing dialogue, with the teacher making the whys and hows clear, is paramount.

  14. #13

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    Thanks to all ! I thought maybe I'd understand these theories better ( meaning 'easier' ) this time around, but ok, so maybe not. I don't want to wear out my welcome with this teacher, 'cause he's a great guy. I also don't want to be a lousy student either, so we'll see.
    I liked the idea about meeting and jamming for an hour a week - -I could get used to that too. When I suggested that to my teacher, he said we should perhaps get at this first, although next week I will bring a tune or two for us to play. But I promise to check out the books mentioned.

    And thanks again.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep View Post
    Rob's answer above got me thinking.

    To answer this question one really needs to know your guitar playing goals.

    ....
    +100!!! If your goal is to sit in your room and do play-alongs, then you probably don't need to learn certain things (although, as others have said, learning more will make it more enjoyable and maybe sound better, too!). If your goal is to play with a band, or to be able to go to a local, open jazz jam and sit in on a few tunes, then you likely will want to learn more "technical" stuff.

    I hate the "well, so-and-so didn't know theory, and he was great!" arguments, because people list incredible musicians who were probably incredible as teenagers, and then grew from there. Many of us in our 30s, 40s, and 50s are not in that ball-park, so we need to practice to get good.

    Have fun, whichever direction you take!

  16. #15

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    I don't think anyone here said, "well, so-and-so didn't know theory, and he was great!" - I certainly didn't. As for hate, I would save that for child molesters, not those who have a different view on learning jazz guitar.

    Dennis, jazz is so varied these days, so it's good to talk to your teacher about a specific style - rather than just 'jazz guitar', which means different things to different people. When you know more about what you want, he will be able to help you better. That will involve a lot of listening - records, youtube, etc - and that's never a bad thing. Good luck!

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by marcwhy View Post
    I hate the "well, so-and-so didn't know theory, and he was great!" arguments...
    I agree those who preach that taking lessons and learning theory is not necessary to be a great guitarist are, IMO, being lazy. No one ever got worse by taking lessons and learning theory, and just the act of studying and practicing has value. Hard work and commitment to the instrument goes a long way.

  18. #17

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    If you decide to learn chord spellings and scales, here's a possible tip. Write them down on a sheet of paper or notecard you keep in your shirt pocket, pick one and recite it to yourself at stop lights, while waiting in line for something, anytime you have a few spare minutes. I learned all of this (and more, modes, changes to tunes, etc.) many years ago when I was driving a truck while in college, doing exactly this. It was a pretty painless process, doing it in small chunks of time. A few months ago, in a discussion with my current teacher, he mentioned that he told his students that "red lights are your best friends". Just passing on something that worked for me.
    "Talent is a pursued interest; anything that you're willing to practice, you can do." - Bob Ross

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by zigzag View Post
    ...those who preach that taking lessons and learning theory is not necessary to be a great guitarist are, IMO, being lazy.
    Where does the OP state he wishes to be "great guitarist"?

  20. #19

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    Yeah, I don't really think we're being fair here...

    My thing is, if someone tells me they want to get better, then I tell them they can't turn any avenues of knowledge away...if you stay in your comfort zone forever, you do not get better.
    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

  21. #20

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    Sure, I agree. But, believe it or not, I have met a few elderly students who just want to jam, talk guitars, listen, play, enthuse, who are reasonably resigned to their skill level, and what to just enjoy it. I for one see nothing wrong with that. They are happy. Happier than some of the younger bucks who practice hours every day, and have dreams to take on the world. Nothing wrong with that either.
    I'm not saying theory and technique is not necessary, just not always what is wanted or, indeed, needed. I discuss theory and improv ideas with all my students, even those studying classical guitar. I've written papers on 19th-century improv practice - so don't assume from what I've said that I don't value or teach these things. All my students are individuals, and don't follow one "method".

  22. #21

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    Well, that's exactly it Rob, that's why I made the point that I only push when somebody says they want to get better.

    I have a guy who takes lessons with me who's in his 70's. He says it's cheaper than therapy to get together with me every few weeks and play some old standards or country and western tunes...we learn new songs, but he uses the same four or five chord shapes he's known for ages, and he enjoys singing...I know better than to push. He says our time is some of the most enjoyable he has, and the feeling is mutual.
    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

  23. #22

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  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    Where does the OP state he wishes to be "great guitarist"?
    He didn't. I was responding to marcwhy's point. The OP apparently has an issue with his teacher's thinking that he knows what is best for him. I see both perspectives, but I think it is best for the student to be taught what he wants to learn. It's the teacher's responsibility to figure the best way to get him there. (From my perspective, I want to learn all I can. I do not aspire to be a great guitarist, only the best that I can be. I want to be happy with my playing.) Understanding chord construction is fundamental. It sounds to me like the OP would be happier having a playing partner than paying a teacher to teach.

    Edit: My apologies for not reading past Rob's response to mine. I can see where it would be of value to some to have a playing partner. If I was a teacher, I think I'd have a hard time charging for that even though the student is getting exactly what he's paying for.
    Last edited by zigzag; 10-05-2012 at 10:17 AM.

  25. #24

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    This has been interesting and I very much appreciate the responses and suggestions.
    One thing that came up here that has helped is that there can be separation between chord & melody theory and sight-reading. The chord charts I could always relate to, and have always been able to play and hear the melody around the chords I'm playing.
    Another point made was maybe I may just be looking for someone to accompany on a regular - -and this is pretty accurate. I even asked my teacher this exact question , and the answer was that we can always do that, but let's just see if we can take some of the mystery ( and fear & dread ) out of learning this music theory.
    So, ok, I still plan on sticking it out, and again, thanks for the replies.

  26. #25

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    I think a good teatcher would know how to combine the teaching of theory with something the student find fun or more hands on. Or at least be able to give you a little of both. Talk it over with the teacher and see what he can do for you.

    That said I think it would be well worth your while to learn the basics of chord construction, reading notation etc. It's not all that hard to learn the fundamentals, and a little will go a surprising long way. Very few people have to be world class sight readers for instance, but being able to work your way through a lead sheet at your own pace is a good skill to have

  27. #26

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    Hello.
    It has been an interesting four lessons, and an interesting time between them. I very much appreciate all the suggestions and encouragement from everyone.
    I am further along that I have ever been, and I guess this time I have a little more patience. I really didn't realize how stuck I was /am in my ways 'til I decided to hit this hard as someone suggested - -thanks.
    My teacher has been more than patient, and to his credit, isn't letting me fake my way around like I used to do.
    So, with much gratitude to everyone , I am sticking at it. I am glad I have the time now 'cause I'm recently retired.
    Bottom line, the guitar is still and always will be a neat instrument. Anything that can lend itself to so many different forms of music has to be special.
    Thanks again to all.
    Dennis