I just returned from my second lesson with Dave Frackenpohl. Summarizing these lessons in my blog will help me wrap my head around what I just learned, and it may help some other jazz guitarists out there find a path.
Today, we warmed up with the dorian and mixolydian scale forms that he assigned me. I didn't have any problem memorizing the scale forms, but to clean up my technique, he told me to use strict alternate picking (up/down/up/down) instead of economy picking (where you keep the pick moving in the same direction as much as possible).
Memorizing scale forms is one thing, but putting them to good use is another. To help me learn to apply the dorian scale forms in a practical way, Dave assigned Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage, which can be used as one big dorian scale exercise…and is also a cool tune to learn.
Next, we played through my transcription of a Django Reinhardt solo from a performance of All of Me. That went pretty well. We talked about a few licks from the solo that I can put to use in other contexts, and then he told me to find and transcribe a solo from a performance of Fly Me to the Moon. I'll have to dig through my recordings or hunt online and find an approachable solo. The transcribing was by far the most challenging part of my first assignment, but it was very rewarding when I finally worked through it and learned it.
Then we looked at the first exercise in the Galbraith Guitar Comping book. I had worked hard on this two-page exercise for the changes for Shiny Stockings. I knew I had overachieved when Dave asked me how far I had gotten. I had worked out the entire exercise. I think he would have been happy if I had conquered the first page. I have an affinity for different chord forms, and so even though the exercise was challenging to learn, the new chord forms stuck with me pretty well. I even found opportunities to use a couple of the new forms at gigs, and I'll most likely find good uses for them the next time I write a chord/melody arrangement. My next Guitar Comping assign is a comp for Out of Nowhere.
Finally, we went through my A Train assignment, which was to outline chords as he played through the changes. To add a little spice, Dave suggested raising the 5th whenever I outline a dominant chord. We're staying on A Train a little longer so that I can practice working through the altered dominant chords. He also showed me a nice intro and the shout chorus, which turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. We finished out the lesson by improvising over the A Train chords. I had a lot of great ideas that didn't quite make it out through my fingers. I kept thinking of something a friend jokingly said once…"I really liked what you tried to do!" Dave didn't seem concerned about the finger fumbles, though. He appreciated the fact that I had interesting musical ideas, and he told me that the ideas will come through my fingers once we've cleaned up my technique.
This was a good lesson. I feel like I made a lot of progress in the past couple weeks, and the new assignment, while challenging, isn't out of reach. As a bonus, I've been needing to memorize more songs. All of the assignments are based on actual tunes, so I'm automatically memorizing jazz repertoire as we go. I'm really glad I started lessons with Dave. I've never had a problem motivating myself to practice, but it's been a scattershot approach. These lessons are helping me focus and dig deeper into some important concepts.
- Tom Godfrey
- 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, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.