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.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lesson 13

As usual, I'm summarizing my latest jazz guitar lesson with Dave Frackenpohl, who teaches at Georgia State University. This helps me process each new assignment, and I hope it helps others who are on a similar path.

We started off with an arpeggio exercise based on the major scale, outlining the I–maj7 going up, the ii–m7 going down, etc., and we followed that with the drop 2 chord exercise on a Maj7 chord, playing all four drop 2 voicings ascending, then taking it through the cycle of 4ths, ascending in one key, descending in the next, etc. Those went well. Dave suggested some more efficient fingerings for the arpeggio exercise.

We then played through the changes and soloed over Blues for Alice. I never got very creative with this part of my assignment. With so many 2-5's, I treated this more as a chance to practice various 2-5 licks. After Blues for Alice, we played through There Will Never Be Another You. I was pretty comfortable with this. Dave suggested exploring the Lydian Dominant scale over the Db9 chord. I also played through the classic Kenny Burrell Chitlins con Carne solo, playing all five choruses from memory and adding the guitar self-comping between phrases that Kenny does so well.

The new assignment:

  • Harmonic Minor Arpeggio Exercise: The same arpeggio pattern as before…outlining 7th chords, ascending on I, descending on iim7b5, etc. There are some tricky fingerings to work out here!
  • Drop 2 Exercise on 7 and m7: Use the same approach as we did with Maj7 drop 2's. Follow the cycle of fourths. Play through all four drop 2 forms in one key, ascending, descend on the next key in the cycle, wash, rinse, repeat.
  • Galbraith's Guitar Comping: Add another page from the Blues in 12 Keys exercise. We didn't get to this book in today's lesson, but I'll add another page anyway.
  • 'Tis Autumn: Transcribe the Joe Pass solo from the classic recording on the Fitzgerald and Pass…Again album. I'm super excited about this assignment! I love this version, and the guitar solo seems very approachable. I also plan to steal as many of Joe's comping ideas as possible.
  • Blues for Alice: I've learned the changes. Now I need to learn this awkward melody.
  • There Will Never Be Another You: Continue working on this song, and focus especially on using the Lydian Dominant scale over the Db9 chord. As a bonus, Dave showed me an exercise I can use to develop ideas from the Lydian Dominant scale. Using F7 as an example, he's having me outline F and G major triads in different inversions.
I'm very grateful for these lessons with Dave, and they're really paying off. I have a solo guitar gig next weekend. I haven't played pure solo guitar in quite a while, so I've been brushing up on my old arrangements, adding new ones, and improvising (unaccompanied) for a chorus or two. I've been pleasantly surprised at how much I've progressed since I last played so much solo guitar. My old arrangements sound better, I've been able to add several new songs that I couldn't play before, and I'm holding my own as I improvise unaccompanied. I spend most of my practice time pushing myself to work on new things. I rarely look back, but it's kind of nice to look back and compare myself to the player I was a couple years ago. My nose will soon be to the grindstone again as I work on my new lesson assignment, so my self-congratulation won't last long. Still, I've enjoyed looking back, and it makes me wish I could look ahead to see the player I will be in another 5-10 years.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lesson #12

Continuing the practice of reviewing each jazz guitar lesson with David Frackenpohl at GSU to wrap my head around the new material and help others who may be on the same path.

Dave took a teaching break over the summer, so it's been a couple months since my last lesson. I've been getting a lot out of our sessions, and I've been looking forward to starting up again.

We began by looking at a new arpeggio exercise and a series of inversions to enhance fretboard knowledge (more on these later). We then played through Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. This went pretty well, since I've been working on the song for two months! I was glad for the extra time on it. I play with a quartet, and I've always cringed when the leader calls Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. The bridge is tricky to improvise over. I can certainly navigate the changes now! Ironically, the quartet leader hasn't called this tune since I began working on it.

Next, I played through two pages of Blues in 12 Keys from Galbraith's Guitar Comping book. My original assignment was from the Brazilian Guitar book, but I was getting burned out on samba, so I assigned this exercise to myself instead. I love this Guitar Comping book. The etudes are challenging, but it's a terrific book for expanding your chord knowledge. After I played the blues comping study, Dave suggested I look at Charlie Parker's Blues for Alice.

Then I played my transcription of Kenny Burrell's classic Chitlins con Carne solo. Dave told me I sounded like Kenny Burrell when I played it. I don't begin to approach the level of a Kenny Burrell, but I was grateful for the compliment. I played along with the recording many times and worked hard to match Burrell's inflections. I love the soul jazz style, and I want to keep studying Kenny Burrell and other soul jazz guitarists.

Dave offered plenty of new challenges for the next lesson.

  • Diatonic Arpeggio Exercise: In every major key, outline the Imaj7 up, the iim7, iiim7 up, etc., and then reverse that going down. Use strict alternate picking. Do this in all major keys, as well as harmonic and melodic minor. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but I love doing these sorts of exercises. I've been wanting to change up my arpeggio routine, so this exercise comes at a good time.
  • Inversion Exercise: Play through each inversion of a Maj7 chord using drop 2 voicings. Do this in all 12 keys in the cycle of 4ths. Start by playing up the neck in one key, then move to the next next key and play down the neck. For example, start ascending on Cmaj7 inversions. When you reach the top of the neck, find the nearest drop 2 voicing of Fmaj7 and descend, ascend on Bbmaj7, etc. Jazz guitar is like an endless puzzle, and I enjoy exploring the fretboard and unlocking its mysteries.
  • Galbraith's Guitar Comping: Learn the next 1-2 pages of the Blues in 12 Keys study.
  • Blues for Alice: Learn this standard. The melody is good for single line technique, and I need to have this particular set of changes under my fingers in all keys. This particular variation of blues changes is called "Bird Blues."
  • Chitlins con Carne: I've transcribed the Kenny Burrell solo, but I haven't memorized it yet. I need to memorize it for next time. Also, I need to add some Kenny Burrell style "self comping" in the spaces between the single line licks. I'm more than happy to keep working on this solo. As I mentioned before, I love the soul jazz style, and in my book, Kenny Burrell is the man.
  • There Will Never Be Another You: Learn this standard. Memorize the melody and chord changes and be ready to improvise. I requested this one, because I've always felt awkward improvising over some of the changes. With a couple weeks of focused work, I should be as comfortable with this one as I am now with Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
Whew, that's a lot to work on, but I'm glad to get these lessons going again. I've learned a lot from Dave, and the hard work is beginning to show in my playing. Even though we only work on a few songs at a time, I am learning concepts that apply to my playing in general. I find that I'm able to navigate chord changes to new songs more easily, and I feel like I have more command over my improvised solos. I still have a long way to go, and I'm glad to have Dave as a guide.