About Me

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Atlanta, GA, United States
When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995 and have been music director at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation since 2011.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Learn Tunes


Joe Pass was one of the best jazz guitarists, period, and he's one of my main musical inspirations. When asked what a developing guitarist should practice, he responded with "learn tunes." In other words, all you need to know is contained in the jazz repertoire. Now I suspect that Joe spent plenty of time practicing licks and scales, but I think he meant that you should spent most of your time learning the repertoire, because the licks and scales are all there in the music.

Lately I've gotten away from learning tunes. I've been spending a lot of time working on technique, especially scales, arpeggios, scale patterns, licks, and pick speed. There's nothing wrong with this. It's a necessity at my stage of development. While I'm not setting the world on fire, my technique has definitely improved over the past several months, but I've drifted away from learning tunes. It's time for a course correction.

When I was a classical trombonist, I played a lot of etudes. An etude is a piece of music written for study, not necessarily for performance. An etude is meant to help the player focus on one or two aspects of playing. For developing legato technique on trombone, you absolutely have to work through the Rochut Melodious Etudes for Trombone. And then there are the Blazhevich Clef Studies that were written specifically to help (or force) the trombone player to be comfortable reading bass, tenor, and alto clefs.

From now on, jazz melodies will be my etudes. Today, I started working on Joy Spring. I've been in love with this melody since the first time I heard it. It's tricky. My single line technique will improve as I get this melody under my fingers. My improvisation will improve as I learn to navigate the chord changes. I'm not going to stop playing scales, patterns, and licks, but I'm going to renew my focus on learning tunes.

In case you haven't heard Joe Pass, click here for a YouTube clip of Joe Pass performing Joe's Blues.

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