Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sonny Rollins - Tenor Madness and more

Even more stuff coming up now... for example, my transcription of Sonny Rollins' Tenor Madness. I played it at a slow pace, used some blues chord substitutions. All in all a great standard and fun to play. No tab for the melody, figure it out yourself or ask me ;-)

Also, a sort of simple analysis of the progression and ideas to use for improv. I haven't embellished this section too much, and I put the emphasis on the melodic minor since I've had more experience soloing over blues. But the good part is a 90 second jam track you can noodle on for a while. Look at the changes, be smart, mess with the melodic minor suggestions. I'm just working out a few positions (6th and 12th fret), but obviously would like to cover the neck. We'll see how it goes.

Other than that, chord voicing charts have come together a little more. I hope to get some melodic minor vamps up tonight to practice those modes. Sort of like how I used to practice the Dorian scale over a Dmin7 vamp or something, but now for the melodic minor modes.

Friday, August 7, 2009

More references - key signatures, transcriptions, intervals

You can see where this database is going now. I've been continually adding new stuff so that I'll have every tool at my disposal. Ideally, you could open up a few windows so you have fingering charts, key signatures, intervals, etc. It's simple without a lot of flair, but that makes it easier to navigate. Check out the new changes here. Lots more to go up Sunday. As I go through some jazz standards, I'll be putting up my notes for the song there. Theory analysis, comping ideas, melodic ideas, scales, etc. Some recordings too hopefully.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chord voicings for comping

I'm in the middle of uploading my chord charts that I use for comping on the guitar. Most of these are engrained in my head by now but I always like to have something to reference. It's always helpful to know the inversion of chords so that, given any chord tone in your bass string, you can still form that same chord and not worry about moving all over the neck. Substitute in some embellishments like a 6, 9, or 13, and now it starts to sound jazzy. Check out the Major 7 Chord Inversions and Minor 7 Chord Inversions. Obviously more to come, specifically the min7b5 and dom7 chords. A work in progress.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

7th mode melodic minor - Superlocrian practice

Now we're rollin... I decided to setup a simple website to keep track of my materials. I have lots of materials stored on my computer that I created myself, and it's hard enough to navigate through that. With a website, I'll be able to organize things more logically and let anyone else access them. I've called it the "Jazz Guitar Project" because I eventually hope to have a large database that many people can contribute to. Free jazz guitar resources for the broke, aspriring jazz guitarists out there like me.

I've only uploaded a few things so far. First is my practice for the melodic minor scale. I'm practicing the superlocrian (7th mode melodic minor) since it is prevalent in so many tunes. The progression I chose was a 4 measure excerpt from On Green Dolphin Street. Check it out here.

Buckling down on the melodic minor!

Ok I'm super motivated this time around to nail down the melodic minor. Not in one day of course, but worth starting. My plan of attack is to learn the positions just as I did with the major scale back in the day, and get comfortable with the fingerings and sound of each mode. I'll throw it right into practice of course with applying it to Stella by Starlight again. This makes use of the 6th mode a lot and the superlocrian (7th mode), as well as some others. Gonna post tonight some charts I am going to use to get crackin and do some old fashion muscle memory.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Music theory iPhone app reviews

If you're like myself and find yourself with time to use your iPhone
or iPod touch (ex. commuting), I find it beneficial to have some
music theory apps to keep yourself training when you're away from your
computer or instrument. I've come across some free and cheap apps that
I either use often or regret buying, so here's a look at some of them:

Key Signature by Jason Neufeld

This little app is simple and all you need to test yourself on key
signatures. Best of all, it's free! You start by choosing whether you
want to test yourself on major, minor, or both keys. You can also
focus on sharps, flats, or both. It also times you and keeps track of

your mistakes so you can see what you're good or bad at. I don't
really care for the timing thing. I just think that knowing key
signatures can help in so many ways. For example, if I know that F
major has one flat in it (Bb), I can then easily construct all the
diatonic chords from there (F major, G minor, A minor, etc...) as long
as I know my C major scale in thirds (a little tangent here but useful).

Neufeld has a paid guitar train
ing app also but I've yet to check that


This is a neat little application I paid 99 cents for. It's a great
reference to have at your side (like when you want to double check the
formula for the 6th mode of the melodic minor scale). It's divided up
into four sections: scales, chords, harmonizations, and notes. It will
give you the notes to every chord or scale you could ever imagine. Or,
start from any note and get all of the arpeggios, scales, and chords
from that note. The downside: some faults on notation. I was a little
confused at first when I saw the way he wrote a dominant seventh
chord. I still think it's a good tool to have at your side for any
instrument, as long as you don't mind some notational differences here and there.


I've never wanted my 99 cents back so fast until I got this app. I
just wanted a simple way to practice my sight reading abilities in
treble and bass clef. So from the pics the app looks okay. But why,
why the hell would you make a simple app like this that DISABLES your
music playing just to use it?! Absolutely crazy if you ask me. I don't
have perfect pitch so I'm not concerned with the sound of a G thank
you. After I got past this, I gave it a shot with my headphones in and
was mistified by the horrific choice of sound when you hit a wrong
note. So bad that now I can't even use it. I'll be on the lookout for
another app just like this as long as it doesn't punish me from the start.


Ok this one I really like and I think it has huge potential to be the
best music theory app out there. At the moment, it's really basic and
just has basic interval, scale, and major chord theory. Like really
basic. And so is the interface. It looks as if you are picking songs
to listen to, but he divides topics up into Theory and Practice. The
theory articles are good and make for good review I guess, but the
practice sections are phenomenal. You get to practice by entering
major chords and scales note by note. Practice the circle of fifths/
fourths. What's the diatonic fourth chord of F# major? Only has major
scales and chords at the moment, but imagine when other modal scales
are added and the quizzes can test you on practically everything? Pure
gold. And at 99 cents with free future updates, you're nuts not to get
this before the price goes up. Hell I would pay ten bucks for this

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I love the 80's (drum machines, that is)

I recently got my hands on a used Roland DR-550 Dr. Rhythm drum machine for maybe a tenth of the price when it first came out. Granted that was back in the eighties, but I'll sacrifice a little memory space for fun. I currently have a Boss RC-2 loop station that I love except the drums are so limited. Shouldn't have that problem anymore now that I can make any pattern I want and throw it in there. Combine that with a newly acquired used bass and I'm golden (all for under $100).

I had a good laugh when I came across the 1986 ad for this thing from an old Gearwire article.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Chord voicings and comping

I'm always practicing my voice leading because it's essential for any jazz guitar player. It's also packed with theory, so I find it helps with every other aspect of my playing and understanding of music in general.

I'm sticking with the Stella by Starlight example since it's filled with all sorts of cool chords and possible voicings. I'm going to practice this by playing all four inversions of each chords, with and without tensions.

Starting with the Em7b5, we have the notes E-G-Bb-D. Now the goal is to play these in every (possible) order on the guitar. By this I mean I'm sticking with the four middle strings and being realistic about the fingerings. I've done plenty of work here so I'm familiar with the order. Here goes...

(listed with 5th string first, then 4th, etc up to second b string)

Root position:
E Bb D G

First inversion:
G D E Bb

Second inversion:
Bb E G D

Third inversion:
D G Bb E

I'm charting this stuff out by hand but would put it up on here if there was interest.

The process goes on for the next chord, and the next, and the next... Adding tensions is the next essential part to comping effectively. It's rare that you will want to play the first inversion of a major chord for half a measure without any tensions. That's because the fingering will cramp up your hands in no time. To solve this case, you can substitute the 6 in for the seventh, and the 9 in for the root.

An example of this can be seen in a Cmaj7 chord. One would play the first inversion on the middle four strings as follows:


Oh yeah, it's difficult. Try putting the 9 (D) in for the root C, and the 6 (A) in for the seventh B. Then you get:


That looks, feels, and more importantly even sounds amazing. Play that over a Cmaj7 chord and you'll instantly see the potential of tension substitutions.

So that's what I'm going to do for all of these chords. Chart em up, play em, vary them up, whatever. You can hear me doing them in my Stella By Starlight example. Happy practicing.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Stella by Starlight and the Melodic Minor scale

I'm going to post way more often, I promise.

I've always wanted to get more involved with the melodic minor scale since I think it has such a distinct sound in jazz. There's tons of theory behind it so I'm taking it slow. However, I am putting it directly into practice by applying what I learn right away.

I'm skipping all the big theory babble because there are definitely sites out there can explain it better than I can. If anyone would like me to elaborate on any aspect, even if it's just "what is melodic minor," I'd be more than happy to. But for now I'll just go straight ahead into an application.

Stella by Starlight is a nice piece with plenty of opportunity for melodic minor applications. So much that I'm only looking at the first four measures (in fact just the first two measures).

The first four measures are as follows:

Em7b5 - A7b9 - Cm7 - F7

Yes, the last two measures are a ii-V as you might be thinking. But I always like to look ahead.

I recorded two tracks on here: one is a jam track that you can play to at your leisure, and the other is the same thing but with a lick 1341 from Bopland. You can type in the chord progression and be given tons of jazz licks to play with. I think this is advantageous because it always helps to have something to build off of. And we all need to add licks to our dictionary to do this.

Here are some notes I took for myself, just for strategic purposes.

- Chord tones: E-G-Bb-D
- E F# G A Bb C D E
- 6th mode of G melodic minor or E locrian #2 scale

- Chord tones: A-C-Eb-G
- A Bb C Db Eb F G
- 7th mode of Bb melodic minor or A superlocrian

On first change, look out for:
C stays the same... avoid on the first note of second measure
D goes to Db but not chord tone in the A7b9
E changes to Eb (also the 5th in A chord)
F# goes to F (passing tones)
G stays the same... avoid on the first note of second measure
A stays the same and is root of second chord
Bb stays the same

Target on the change:
Eb (fifth)


D -> Db
E -> Eb
F# -> F

I'll post an actual improv when I feel a little more comfortable =)

Oh I also realized the audio is really low... I'll fix that for next time. You might need some good bass on those speakers to hear it.

Stella by Starlight first four chords

Stella by Starlight - bop lick

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wes Montgomery - Four On Six

I love Wes Montgomery, and Four On Six is one of those songs that I need to know how to play. For now, I'm starting just with the bass line and the melody. I'll worry about the improvising later, since it will be great practice. The bass line is simple:

Root - 5 - 4 - Octave

and do that for G, G, G, G, C, Bb, A, Eb

As in the notes: G-D-C-G (four times), C-G-F-C, Bb-F-Eb-Bb, etc...

The melody was taken straight from the Real Book (and the last 4 measures of the first ending I listened to the recording). Those five chords you hear at the end of the second ending are Bbmaj7, Gm7, G#m7, Am7, D7#9. I played these the following way:

Bbmaj7 - Root position
Gm7 - First Inversion, with a 9
G#m7 - First inv., with 9
Am7 - First inv, with 9
D7#9 - Third inversion, #9 obviously

I'd be happy to explain what this means/tab/transcribe this if anyone asked, but for now I'm just putting it there as reference. Actually, I'm pretty sure I played the D7#9 wrong in the recording. Can you spot it?

The improvisation section will be interesting, I hope to get started on that soon. I'd love to hear any suggestions about that, or questions about what I did.

Four On Six - Wes Montgomery (bass and melody only)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Two five ones! Tune Up by Miles Davis

Very common in jazz songs are the famous ii-V-I progressions. I chose to practice along to the "Tune Up" progression by Miles Davis (just much slower). We have:

Em7 - A7 - Dmaj7 (two bars)
Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7 (two bars)
Cm7 - F7 - Bbmaj7 - Ebmaj7
Em7 - A7 - Dmaj7 (two bars)

If you have a "Real Book" (which you should), you will find this to just be the chorus through the second ending. But it's great because if you look at them, they are just "two five ones".

My strategy: I really just tried to hit chord tones. For example, when the A7 came around, I looked to land on the A, C#, E, or G. How did I get these notes? Well, Adom7 is really in the key of D major, thus giving us two sharps, F# and C#. It's good to get to know how to find the thirds, fifths, and sevenths of ANY chord, and to know what the accidentals are you can either think in terms of intervals OR in the major (or minor) key that the chord actually corresponds to (correct me if I'm right).

Learn how to calculate key signatures and then test your knowledge of key signatures.

Yes I linked back to, because it's the best thing I've found for this stuff.

And finally my track. Nothing special, I know. It's cause I'm practicing.

Tune Up jam

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thirds, sixths, "nths"

File this lesson under the "Ways I will try and make my understanding of the fretboard better" folder. Were you like me when you learned the guitar in the sense that you learned patterns and just shifted whenever you wanted to play in a different key? Yeah, that seemed like a good idea at first. I'm gonna try to actually OWN the fretboard. Know the notes and UNDERSTAND what I'm actually doing.

So in this practice session I went back to basics by playing on only the top 2 strings in the key of C major (no flats or sharps!). But I also focused on playing intervals of major and minor thirds (dictated of course by the notes in the key). Example: C-E is a major third interval. A-C is a minor third interval. There are too many sites on understanding intervals, so I won't attempt to explain it. I'm just practicing, right?

Rules to this game:

-Top two strings ONLY
-Use intervals of thirds a lot
-Try and make some music out of such limitations

It's a fun game. Check out some of the audio samples from that. The next game was then to focus on intervals of sixths as well. So in that clip, you'll hear me messing with thirds and sixths and individual notes. I did cheat here and used the 3rd string, but only when playing intervals in sixths. I could have played them on adjacent strings, and in fact I did/will continue to do more. I promise.

And since the vamps may seem boring (but oh so useful), I finished up with a "jazzier" progression (i.e. a standard ii-V-I). Same rules: thirds, sixths, two strings (yes I cheated with the 3rd string).

Lessons learned:
-You can play on 2 strings and still make music!
-Training with intervals actually helps you see the fretboard better

For the future:
-More strings (or one string)
-More intervals
-More keys
-More modes

-Fretboard Trainer: practice the fretboard often (and everything else on there)

D minor, two strings, third intervals

Gdom7, thirds and sixths, two strings

ii-V-I in Cmajor: thirds, sixths, and two strings

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Walking bass lines/chord comping

I think this stuff is awesome... you're essentially combining the role of the bass player and comping guitarist. Ignoring those lessons you can easily find on Google, I just wanted to do it myself. Rules to this game:

-Must always start on the root of the chord
-Use chord tones (thirds, fifths, sevenths)
-Chromatic note above or below before switching chords

This last rule was really what dictated how I was going to play my bass line. It took me a while to figure it all out, a mix of trial and error and some miniature epiphanies. This is the chord progression I used:

-Bb7 - Eb7 - Bb7 - Fm7 Bb7 - Eb7 - Edim7 - Bb7 Eb7 - Dm7b5 G7 - Cm7 - F7 - Bb7 G7 - C7 F7 -

Four beats in between each dash line (thus that Bb7 to Eb7 in the middle means that each chord has only two beats).

Starting with just the bass line-
This first two changes are easy: Root (Bb) to third (D) to fifth (F) and chromatic down to the Eb (so E to Eb). Hey, we landed on the root note of the second chord!

But getting back to the Bb involved more chromatics: Root (Eb) to seventh (Db... which isn't in the key of Eb major but that's because Eb7 is really in the key of Ab major!). And from that Db, chromatic all the way down to the Bb (C to B to Bb).

Similarly to get from Bb7 to Fm7 chord, just went root to third and chromatic up. With the two beats in this measure for the chord, I ignored any chord tones except for the root F and just chromatic'd (made up that word) above the following Bb7 chord (so just did F to B natural).

So eventually figured out that bass line and now I have to add the chords in between (check out the sound clip of just the bass line). But for the chords, I just used a 3rd and a 7th, so for example in the Bb7 chord I played the Bb root and on the upbeat, played the 7th and 3rd (Ab and D). Just thirds and sevenths. Except maybe the diminished chord, I cheated on that and played the diminished fifth. Pretty experimental in terms of finding the right fingerings and the easiest ones, but got it eventually. Check out the other sound clip.

Lessons learned: Look at the notes, follow those rules, and it turned out alright. I'm happy. And it got easier the more I tried to do it, so hopefully for other progressions it won't take as long.

Bass line

Bass line with chords

Friday, June 12, 2009

First post / sound testing

Just looking to test my recording setup as it is right now. Nothing fancy, just a solo version of On Green Dolphin Street. Learned this from "Lick By Neck", which has a lot of tabbed out versions of jazz pieces. The good thing about it is that you can slow it down and look at the fingerings step by step. The bad things is just that: all you have are tabs, and it teaches you nothing about music (just how to play it!).

I try to avoid tabs unless accompanied by standard notation, and prefer standard notation alone. It's about 1000x harder for me right now, but is way more useful. Again, just wanted to test out this sound stuff. The setup is straight from my guitar to the computer, so it's not incredible. I'm working on improving that.

Green Dolphin Street test

The goal of this blog

I always thought it would be a cool idea to have a blog where people could follow me as I strive to learn the daunting task that is jazz guitar. After playing guitar for about 6 years, I realized that I hit a slump and wasn't going to improve until I gave jazz a shot. With all of the theory and complex "things" involved, my past year has been a challenging but rewarding one.

Through lessons, books, and other online resources, I think I've gained a pretty good foundation in jazz guitar that can keep me going as long as I am motivated. Thus, having a blog, I'd need to keep playing so that I could post, right?

This may seem like the most self-centered guitar blog you've come across, but I intend for it to be a learning experience for all. I plan to post as I learn and practice, gain feedback/suggestions from you, and create a mini-community for guitarists who want to improve themselves just as I want to.

So as I learn, you learn. And hopefully vice versa. Enough chatting, time to practice.