Thursday, May 04, 2006

[quote="mr. beaumont"]becoming a good rhythm guitarist/accompanyist is the best thing you can do for your playing-- sight reading, feel , phrasing, it all gets better, including that big element you just can't teach--taste.[/quote]


This is absolutely true.

As I said in another thread, ear training is very important. You must "hear" harmony almost innately to be a great player. Start by teaching yourself to hear chords. I'll bet right now, any one of us on this board can conjure the sound of a major triad in their head. Now, can you conjure the sound of a lydian dominant chord [dom7b5]? How about a dominant 7+5 chord? These two chords are frequently used in jazz progressions. Don't be alarmed if you need to get a guitar out and play these chords to know what they are.

Most of us can conjure the sound of the Jimi Hendrix "Foxey Lady" chord without a guitar. Some of you know that this chord is an E7#9. This will be the V chord in any jazz progression in the key of A. Why do you know that chord? Because you have heard it 20 gajillion times!

Repetition is maybe the only way you can get the sound of each specific chord into you ear. Train your ears to hear the "harmonized" major scale. Make a recording of yourself playing each chord, then make a loop out of it. Choose one chord a week, and play your loop for 5 minutes at a time, at least 5 times day when you are doing other things like driving, working out, et cetera. You don't need to give yourself a headache listening to your chord loop! Slowly the sound of that chord will enter your cell structure.

After a few weeks, you will be much more comfortable with progressions and solo ideas without even learning one new lick! Any new licks or runs you do learn will make sense faster and will integrate [ntgr8 :D ] into your playing much quicker.

The harmonized major scale is as follows:

I Maj 7
II min 7
III min 7
IV Maj 7
V Dom 7
VI min 7
VII min 7 (b5)

In the key of C, this would translate to:

C Ma7
D mi7
E mi7
F Ma7
G 7
A mi7
B mi7 (b5)

Incidently, this is the basis for the Nashville numbering system!

Like horn players, you want to hear these chords in every key. Add the augmented 7th and the diminished 7th to this list, and you have all of the basic chords EVER USED in jazz or any other type of modern American music! That is a grand total of SIX chords in all!!! What a relief for those of you who have ever thumbed through Ted Greene's book "Chord Chemistry" [which ever guitarist should have]!

[1] The Major 7th {spelled 1, 3, 5, 7}
[2] The minor 7th {spelled 1, b3, 5, b7}
[3] The Dominant 7th {spelled 1, 3, 5, b7}
[4] The Half-Diminished or minor 7th (b5) {spelled 1, b3, b5, b7}
[5] The Augmented 7th {spelled 1, 3, #5, b7}
[6] The Diminished 7th {spelled 1, b3, b5, bb7}

Beyond this, you can easily train your ears to hear extensions [9ths, 11ths, and 13th] added to these basic chord types, alterations [b5, #5, b9, #9, #11, b13], and specialty chords like the minorMajor 7th {spelled 1, b3, 5, 7} or the minor 7th +5 [aka the Steely Dan chord] {1, b3, #5, b7}



Licks are an important component of playing and learning any type of music. It builds confidence within the player to continue striving and learning.

I believe it is a good idea to learn a few licks and tricks early on in your development, then turn your focus to ear training. Ear training is the most important thing any player can do for his or her playing. When you truly "hear" a chord, it is nearly imposible for you to play "incorrect" things over that chord. Your fingers simply won't do it! [In this case, "incorrect" only applies if you have no clue where you are with a chord and you play something outside the chord structure. Someone who understands how a particular chord works, can play outside of that structure with confidence.]

There is a discernable difference between players who "hear" the chord over which they are improvising versus players who are simply playing something that is supposed to work over a chord passage. The later is like saying something perfectly in a foreign language without understanding a word of it versus using a limited vocabulary, but knowing what you are talking about. Which speaker is in a better position to express himself?

After a solid foundation is achieved getting the chord "into your ear," then I highly recomend learning some standard licks. By this time you will have an understanding of why those licks work.

There is no magic to doing this. Simply pick a chord, make a recording of it sustaining, maybe over a groove if you want to work on phrasing ideas at the same time, and just noodle over it. Start by spelling out the chord. Then play the appropriate arppeggio. Play some alternate arppeggios. Eventually, almost like magic, the sound of the chord will creep into your psyche.

I spent the last 4 years touring with the great saxophonist Plas Johnson [The Pink Panther theme; numurous solos on albums by Frank Sinatra and the like]. Plas is one of the most amazing soloist I have ever heard on any instrument [if you live in the Los Angeles area, you can catch him at the few jazz venues that still exist there]. Only Phil Woods or the late Harry "Sweets" Edison may be featured on more classic recordings as a soloist. Anyway, on many occasions, I have listened with amazement at Plas hear some chord passage for the very first time and play the most perfect solo instantly! It is because he hears the chords first!! Other players who in my opinion have an uncanny love for the chord include Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, Pat Martino, Mike Stern, Herbie Hancock, Howard Roberts, Julius "Cannonball" Adderly and George Shearing to name too few.

Learn to love chords and harmony. Pick your favorite chord passage, make a loop of it, and just begin listen to it until the harmony gets into your cell structure. You already love music [hopefully]. You love to play. It shouldn't be hard. With a little patience, your playing level will take a huge leap forward.

Here are a few "lick" books that I recommend:

"101 Must-Know Jazz Licks" by Wolf Marshall
(Everything by Wolf Marshall is exceptional)

"Bebop Bible" by Les Wise
(This book is out of print, so you will have to find it on EBay or visit the music libraries of Berklee College of Music or Musicians Institute in Hollywood)

"Voice Leading for Guitar" by John Thomas

"Tons of Runs" by Andy Laverne

There is also a great funny book I bought once called something like "How to Fake Being a Jazz Guitarist." It had an amazing breakdown of the chordal and solo styles of all of the most influential jazz players including the gear they used and more.

The key is keep an open mind. Almost anything can be used to improve your playing. Do get too sacrosanct about licks versus runs versus free jazz et cetera. Jazz Nazi-dom does not confirm you as a player. It just makes you boorish. Cheers!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

just guitars ...

this blog is for guitar talk ...
playing ...
gear ...
shedding ...
living ...
zen ...

i created this blog for my husband to talk all he wants about one of his greatest passions ... guitars!

peace & harmony,
'freedom must be exercised to stay in shape!'