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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, 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.

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.

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