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  1. #1

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    I'm new to playing jazz, but I've been playing blues and rock for 40 years. I've tried a couple of guitar teachers who know some bluesy songs with 9th chords, but that as close to jazz as they get. Shouldn't the emphasis be on reading, sight reading, chord usage, etc? I want to be a well rounded player, but I'm really interested in comping. I was listening to Donna Lee on YouTube and I was much more interested in the guitar comping along than the lead player. Thanks

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  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by takefive
    I'm new to playing jazz, but I've been playing blues and rock for 40 years. I've tried a couple of guitar teachers who know some bluesy songs with 9th chords, but that as close to jazz as they get. Shouldn't the emphasis be on reading, sight reading, chord usage, etc? I want to be a well rounded player, but I'm really interested in comping. I was listening to Donna Lee on YouTube and I was much more interested in the guitar comping along than the lead player. Thanks
    An ideal teacher would put an emphasis on songs and playing by ear. Lots of listening, and hopefully, singing back. Then play what you sang. Stuff like that. If they talk about modes, run.

  4. #3

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    Very simple, someone who (obviously) knows what they're doing but, more than that, someone you can connect with.

    They need to be able to understand where you're coming from and be able to explain things clearly so you understand them completely in your own way. Someone who doesn't find teaching you a chore and just takes the money.

    It's a bit of a tall order but you never know.

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by takefive
    I'm new to playing jazz, but I've been playing blues and rock for 40 years. I've tried a couple of guitar teachers who know some bluesy songs with 9th chords, but that as close to jazz as they get. Shouldn't the emphasis be on reading, sight reading, chord usage, etc? I want to be a well rounded player, but I'm really interested in comping. I was listening to Donna Lee on YouTube and I was much more interested in the guitar comping along than the lead player. Thanks
    Comping is an art form in and of itself...really good comping is actually harder than playing a solo, really!

    Reading/sight reading...I wouldn't stress working on that during a lesson with someone who wanted to learn jazz, but it would be best for the student to pursue that. I don't think you have to be a great reader to play jazz, but it sure doesn't hurt. Certainly, if you can quickly read down a Real Book style "lead sheet," that's gonna be great if you want to play with others or play tunes without really knowing them (which happens)

    A good teacher will help you set goals and make a plan for getting to them...so that's what I'd look for.

    For me personally, learning tunes and working on your ear would be the two most important things off the bat. You'll want to make sure you know your drop 2 and 3 voicings and inversions too, on string sets 4-1, 5-2, and 6432. And an arpeggio for every chord shape you learn. But all of that can be done in the context of tunes...

    The more fundamental stuff you have out of the way the less roadblocks you'll hit. Like, how well do you know the fretboard?

  6. #5

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    Just to add on top of what was said, for me it was also about finding someone that I actually liked as a person. When I was taking lessons in my late 20s, I wanted to take lessons from someone that understood where I was in my life, and treated me accordingly.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by takefive
    I'm new to playing jazz, but I've been playing blues and rock for 40 years. I've tried a couple of guitar teachers who know some bluesy songs with 9th chords, but that as close to jazz as they get. Shouldn't the emphasis be on reading, sight reading, chord usage, etc? I want to be a well rounded player, but I'm really interested in comping. I was listening to Donna Lee on YouTube and I was much more interested in the guitar comping along than the lead player. Thanks
    Hard to come up with an adequately organized answer.

    I'd start with the idea that the teacher needs to assess your goal. What kind of music? What kind of band/solo?

    IF the goal is to be the so-called "well-rounded" jazz player, then there are a lot of individual things to work on.

    1. Ear training, learning tunes and learning vocabulary (lines in the style and chord progressions) can all be accomplished together by copying from records. This seems obvious, but there are great players who say they haven't transcribed much.

    2. Technique and theory get introduced as needed to support tunes. Theory can be, IMO, a distraction. The theories that have been offered are bottomless -- and can interfere with focus on more essential skills. Don't ask me how I know this.

    3. Not all good jazz guitarists can read, but I think it's a very important skill. The teacher should be able to read, value it and know how to teach it.
    The student who can read needs to be careful not to over-rely on it. Jazz is still an aural skill.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    Hard to come up with an adequately organized answer.

    I'd start with the idea that the teacher needs to assess your goal. What kind of music? What kind of band/solo?

    IF the goal is to be the so-called "well-rounded" jazz player, then there are a lot of individual things to work on.

    1. Ear training, learning tunes and learning vocabulary (lines in the style and chord progressions) can all be accomplished together by copying from records. This seems obvious, but there are great players who say they haven't transcribed much.

    2. Technique and theory get introduced as needed to support tunes. Theory can be, IMO, a distraction. The theories that have been offered are bottomless -- and can interfere with focus on more essential skills. Don't ask me how I know this.

    3. Not all good jazz guitarists can read, but I think it's a very important skill. The teacher should be able to read, value it and know how to teach it.
    The student who can read needs to be careful not to over-rely on it. Jazz is still an aural skill.
    I can play by ear decently, I can usually learn a melody pretty fast by ear and I can sometimes pick out chords. I can read a little too.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by takefive
    I can play by ear decently, I can usually learn a melody pretty fast by ear and I can sometimes pick out chords. I can read a little too.
    That's a great foundation. So, one approach might be to combine all of it. In this scenario, your teacher directs you to a performance to transcribe. You write out a chart with the chords and the solo. That allows you to work on repertoire, jazz vocabulary, ear training and reading/writing all at once. You bring in your work. He corrects it, if there are errors and you learn to hear those notes better. You analyze the harmony and the solo, so you've got some theoretical underpinning. You discuss how to apply this knowledge to other tunes. Fifty tunes of this (which might be a focused year) and you'll be in pretty good shape.

    Back to the lessons. You solo. The teacher helps you find your way through the tune using whatever devices he teaches. (There are so many ways to do this!). If it was me, it would be several different ways. Scat singing would be one. I see that as important. Being able to analyze the harmony and get in the right tonal center would be another foundational skill. Being able to navigate progressions and even single chords using the usual scales, arps and licks.

    Somewhere in there would be some focus on technique, with, IMO, particular attention to the right hand.

    Then there is the issue of getting good tone.

    And, with all of that, combo skills. Can you show up for a standards gig with players you've never met and hold down your chair? There are a bunch of conventions that pro players use to make this work. The usual tunes. How to count them in. Intros and endings on the fly. Hearing variations, for example, the pianist using different harmony than you learned and adjusting to it. When to know it's your turn to solo. How many choruses to take. How to signal that you're done. Getting a good blend of sound with the band. And so forth.

  10. #9

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    My copy of The Realbook has chords I've written in on some of the songs I've worked on. A lot of times I'll hear a song and try learning it by ear and I'll end up with something that sounds reasonable, but then I'll see a chart or watch an experienced player play it and the chords are completely different from what I'm doing.

    I guess my tone is ok. I'm practicing on my Harmony Archtop acoustic for now and it has a great sound, but I'm looking at Archtop electrics.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by takefive
    My copy of The Realbook has chords I've written in on some of the songs I've worked on. A lot of times I'll hear a song and try learning it by ear and I'll end up with something that sounds reasonable, but then I'll see a chart or watch an experienced player play it and the chords are completely different from what I'm doing.

    I guess my tone is ok. I'm practicing on my Harmony Archtop acoustic for now and it has a great sound, but I'm looking at Archtop electrics.
    '

    The more you do it by ear, the faster you are likely to improve. This comes more easily to some than others.

    But, however you get it, try to understand the flow of the harmony (a teacher can be very helpful with this) and how to apply the same concepts in other tunes.

  12. #11

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    Well I am not sure but constructing chords and knowing theory are important. Reading is also important in some cases. Learning tunes and working on chord melody and playing in groups of 4 and 8 bar phrases. A teacher that does that is probably going to help the most. They do not need flashing chops or even be considered great but able to play through tunes and improvise over changes. The best teacher is the one who teaches you to teach yourself.

  13. #12

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    What to look for in a jazz guitar teacher?

    1. Patience 2. Knowledge 3. The ability to communicate that knowledge

  14. #13

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    Lots of great advise here. All I can add is that I have found that first lesson to be key to getting a clue of how fruitful future lessons will be. My favorite teacher, Stu Goodis (So Cal CA area) did the following during that first lesson:

    1) Had me play two tunes with a bass \ drum track. Play the melody, then rhythm, then a solo.

    2) Breakdown my performance explaining my strengths and weaknesses.

    3) Explained to me that he would create a lesson play to address those weaknesses and show me that plan the next lesson.

    4) Spend the rest of the time, giving me material for one of those weaknesses.

    With each lesson one tune was provided, with a CD that contained various backing tracks, and versions from various jazz guitar players. Each tune was part of the longer-term-plan and would build upon each other;

    At the start of each lesson I would play the song I was given the prior week. If it was obvious I didn't work on the tune, sometimes he wouldn't give me the next one but instead just re-focus on the concepts the tune and prior lesson was trying to convey that I missed because, well, I didn't practice!

    I had weekly lessons for about 5 months, covering around 25 tunes and this is where I made the most progress. He didn't provide scale or chord sheets but instead just referred me to existing published material. I.e. why spend time (and thus money) showing someone a voicing when one can read that in a book on their own time. (but he would comment about chord voicing selection when I would fall back (way too often), on those 6th and 5th sting root chords instead of inversions!).

  15. #14

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    Many things listed above, and most of them can be practiced alone.
    My preference would be based on what a student can not do alone...

    - feedback, the teacher should always carefully listen and observe and give personalized feedback advices on both left hand, right hand, time, phrasing, ear. Should underline what is a good direction, should give you personalized excercizes, to improve weakness.

    - Create a presonalized learning track for you at least 3-6 month in advance for you and communicate that.

    - Should be able to give you discipline, which is based on respect.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by jameslovestal
    Lots of great advise here. All I can add is that I have found that first lesson to be key to getting a clue of how fruitful future lessons will be. My favorite teacher, Stu Goodis (So Cal CA area) did the following during that first lesson:

    1) Had me play two tunes with a bass \ drum track. Play the melody, then rhythm, then a solo.

    2) Breakdown my performance explaining my strengths and weaknesses.

    3) Explained to me that he would create a lesson play to address those weaknesses and show me that plan the next lesson.

    4) Spend the rest of the time, giving me material for one of those weaknesses.

    With each lesson one tune was provided, with a CD that contained various backing tracks, and versions from various jazz guitar players. Each tune was part of the longer-term-plan and would build upon each other;

    At the start of each lesson I would play the song I was given the prior week. If it was obvious I didn't work on the tune, sometimes he wouldn't give me the next one but instead just re-focus on the concepts the tune and prior lesson was trying to convey that I missed because, well, I didn't practice!

    I had weekly lessons for about 5 months, covering around 25 tunes and this is where I made the most progress. He didn't provide scale or chord sheets but instead just referred me to existing published material. I.e. why spend time (and thus money) showing someone a voicing when one can read that in a book on their own time. (but he would comment about chord voicing selection when I would fall back (way too often), on those 6th and 5th sting root chords instead of inversions!).
    That is what I think of as a good teacher. (As an aside, those 4 points are what a good golf instructor does also. Add to that, -Identifies one area to work on that will have you improve the fastest and work on that first).

    I'd also add being well organized is a big plus. I've had a couple of instructors that are forum members that were both well organized (Tim Quinn and Pete Sklaroff). An organized instructor moves things along more effiecently and gives you more value for your dollars.

  17. #16

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    In my opinion, the best teacher is time and performance. Most don't have it or believe they have it(time). I believe in the organic approach: playing, listening and experimenting which requires time and seasoning. However, many would be Jazzers do not have a technical foundation and are "ear musicians" who are lacking in the essential foundations of music: formal technique, theory, and repertoire which, in my opinion, are needed to jump start/accelerate your playing. So, you study with a good Jazz teacher and he says lets start playing scales over a diminished 9 chord. You say, "What's that?" You've just lost the purpose of your lesson since you should know already what he means and be able to play it and if you/he does take the time, you've wasted money and time on the lesson that you could have learned before you came(school,personal study). Not everyone is a Wes Montgomery or Pat Martino . . . in fact, only a handful among millions of guitar bangers. Secondly, start a band and start playing for an audience. Maybe in 20 years you'll be a good player . . . unless you're Wes or Pat. Good playing . . . Marinero

    P.S. In the ancient past as a saxophonist, I studied Jazz Improvisation with renowned Chicago Jazz pianist Willie Pickens at the American Conservatory of Music. Willie's approach was pick a tune and write out your improvisation(s). Then, play it for me next week and we'll talk. It was an organic approach based on the player's personality and Willie's comments and advice. Is there another way? Here's Willie at my old stomping grounds. R.I.P. Willie Enjoy!
    Last edited by Marinero; 01-22-2020 at 12:44 PM. Reason: addition