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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, October 10, 2013

Lesson #14

I am continuing my practice of recapping my jazz guitar lessons with Dave Frackenpohl, who teaches at GSU. This helps me wrap my head around each new lesson assignment, and I hope that it helps others who may be on the same path.

I went into this lesson less prepared than usual, but I had a good excuse. Last week, I was preparing for a 3.5 hour solo guitar gig with no vocals and no looper. I put my lesson material aside for a week to prepare for that gig. As expected, I had an okay lesson…not terrible, but not great. It happens.

We started off by playing There Will Never Be Another You. It went well. I thought I was done with this tune, but no! Dave assigned an arpeggio exercise to go along with this song. (You can skip down to the "new assignment" part of this article if you absolutely can't wait to see the arpeggio exercise.) The exercise can be done with any song, but we're sticking with this one.

Next, I played my new harmonic minor arpeggio exercise…outline the 1 chord up, the 2 chord down, etc., working my way up and down the scale. Dave reassigned this exercise, suggesting some more comfortable fingerings.

We then played Blues for Alice. I had to play this pretty slowly. I have the song memorized, but it's a really awkward melody on guitar (and perhaps on other instruments, too). I'm to continue working on this one, building up speed.

Then I played a page of the Blues in Twelve Keys exercise from Galbraith's Guitar Comping book. No problems here.

Finally, we sight-read a duet that was transcribed from a Joe Pass and Herb Ellis recording. Dave enjoys sight-reading guitar duets at the end of my lessons. I'm a strong sight-reader, and I think Dave likes to read this material with me. I certainly enjoy it.

The New Assignment

The new assignment looks a lot like the old assignment, but with some new wrinkles.

  • Continue transcribing a Joe Pass solo. This is Joe's solo from his and Ella's recording of 'Tis Autumn. I've transcribed a pretty fair chunk of it, but I set it aside when I began preparing for the solo guitar gig.
  • There Will Never Be Another You arpeggio exercise. This is a pretty straightforward exercise, but Dave suggested a few chord substitutions that will slow me down for a time. The exercise is to arpeggiate 7th chords from the changes, starting with the 7th, so the upward pattern is 7-1-3-5. I am also supposed to reverse that, going from high to low in a 5-3-1-7 pattern. When I get used to that, then I'll be ascending on one chord and descending on the next. There are a couple dominant chords that don't function as dominant chords (in the standard key of Eb, there is a Db9 and an F7, neither of which function as dominants). Dave suggested altering the 5th (sharp or flat) for those chords.
  • Harmonic Minor Arpeggio Exercise. I'll keep plugging away at this, using the more efficient fingerings Dave showed me. When I'm able to play this smoothly, I'll have a melodic minor arpeggio exercise to tackle.
  • Blues for Alice. Build speed on the melody, and find a solo to transcribe, but just one chorus.
  • Galbraith's Guitar Comping. Add another page from the Blues in Twelve Keys etude. This new page covers the keys of Gb and B…not your most common blues keys!
A recurring word in this article is "reassign." Except for Blues for Alice, which I honestly don't like, I don't mind repeating material from lesson to lesson. I find that my playing improves overall when I explore the possibilities of one song in greater and greater depth.

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