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.