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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.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Lesson #9

I'm continuing to summarize my lessons with Dave Frackenpohl at GSU to absorb the new lesson assignment and help others who may be on the same path.

After a short warm-up, Dave had me play Wes Montgomery's solo from his recording of Gone with the Wind. In our last lesson, I had to play it very slowly to get through it. Dave asked me to keep working on it and build up speed. I managed to increase the tempo from quarter = 80 to quarter = 110. I didn't play it well at this lesson. I probably counted it off too fast. Dave suggested some fingerings to help get through the more challenging licks.

Next, I requested that we work on It's Only a Paper Moon, specifically for unaccompanied improvisation. We worked through it, not just for soloing, but for comping styles. There's more on this below, where I write out my new assignment.

Then we turned to The Brazilian Guitar Book, where I'm working through the "Samba" chapter. We didn't do much with this. I'm learning the patterns pretty well, and he assigned a few more pages.

Toward the end of the lesson, I played Joe Pass' solo in the Ella/Joe Pass recording of I'm Beginning to See the Light. I had to play it very slowly, and so my next assignment is to work it up to speed.

The new assignment:

  • Whole Tone Licks: Dave assigned three different whole tone scale fingers a few weeks ago, which I've been practicing daily. Now he's given me a sheet of whole tone licks to incorporate into my improvisation. Learning a scale is like learning the letters of the alphabet. Learning a lick is like forming those letters into a word. Incorporating that lick into your playing is like learning to use that word in a sentence. It takes time, but that lick eventually becomes part of your vocabulary. I'll focus two or three of these licks at a time.
  • It's Only a Paper Moon: Part of this assignment is to find a solo that I like and to transcribe it. For unaccompanied soloing, Dave has given me a few options to try. There's his 2/2 plan, where you comp for two measures and then solo for two measures (or vice versa). Comping works particularly well in this song, because there are usually two chords in every measure. With so much harmonic activity, you can just comp and it still sounds like you're doing something. For soloing, he suggested arpeggiating chords. For comping behind a singer, he showed me a couple common Joe Pass arpeggio patterns, and then there's the classic Freddie Green comping that always works so well. Sometimes all you need to do is play quarter notes to lay down a nice groove for the singer.
  • The Brazilian Guitar Book: I'm continuing to work through the "Samba" chapter. The last two assignments have been page after page of short samba patterns. Dave has given me a choice between a long comping etude or a chord/melody solo. I'll check them both out today to see which one seems more manageable.
  • I'm Beginning to See the Light: I'll continue working on the Joe Pass solo, gradually bringing it up to speed.
As usual, I'm excited to be working on unaccompanied soloing. I'm also enjoying The Brazilian Guitar Book. I've worked through a lot of fun patterns. Now I need to start applying them to my own repertoire. To do this, I'll pull out some Latin songs in my book and sketch out some rhythmic patterns. Eventually, I'll be able to play these Latin grooves at will, but for now I need to write them out so that I can remember them.

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