- 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.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Listening and Memorizing
The biggest difference between classical trombone and jazz guitar lessons seems to be the emphasis on listening and memorization as a jazz player. There was certainly emphasis on listening as a classical musician, particularly in ensemble playing. In my jazz guitar lessons, however, there is a heavy emphasis in playing by ear versus reading as a classical trombonist.
Reading is still important as a jazz guitarist. We usually spend some time sight-reading lead sheets or duets, but for the most part, we aren't even looking at music. It's assumed that I will memorize my assignments, and I always have an "ear assignment": transcribing an improvised solo, learning to play it, and stealing licks to apply to my own improvisations.
I take a lesson every other week. A little while ago, I realized that by the time I start my second week of practicing, I'm no longer using music. It's all memorized. Through memorization, I'm internalizing the music more than I ever did as a classical player – which makes me wish I had spent more time memorizing when I was a trombone player! It's also fun to be able to practice anywhere, anytime, because the music is all in my head.
The heavy emphasis on listening has been an overall benefit. When playing gigs, I'm more attuned to what is going on around me, and I find it easier to interact with the other players.
Since memorizing the music for my lessons is so beneficial, the next logical step is to memorize the music in my own book, especially the Tea for Two and Godfrey and Guy repertoire. That's a lot of music, but with practice, I'm finding that it's becoming easier to memorize new songs. I would love to someday show up to a gig with one of my groups and not have to pull out a single sheet of music!