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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, October 25, 2013

Lesson #15

This is my usual recap following a jazz guitar lesson with Dave Frackenpohl of GSU.

We started off sight-reading from some books that Hal Leonard had sent to Dave. I was interested in perusing the Hal Leonard Jazz Guitar method, which looks like a very useful book for a couple students of mine.

After that little warm-up, we dove right into Blues for Alice. I played the melody in two different registers, played the piano solo I had transcribed, and then improvised. No problems here. Then we moved on to the Joe Pass solo from his recording of 'Tis Autumn with Ella Fitzgerald. I got through it okay, which is the best result I could have expected. My assignment was to finish the transcription and then start learning it. At this point, I have the solo memorized. It's just a matter of woodshedding until it's under my fingers. We followed this with an arpeggio exercise over a harmonic minor scale. No problems. Then we worked on There Will Never Be Another You, starting with an arpeggio exercise that I had created for over the chord changes and then improvising. Again, this went well, and we ended the lesson with a page from the Blues in All Keys study from Galbraith's Guitar Comping book.

The new assignment.

  • Learn Four. I played this tune a long time ago, but it's time to get it going again. It's one of those bebop standards that you just have to know…plus it's fun. I'll be refreshing myself on the melody and changes this week. I predict that, at the next lesson, Dave will tell me transcribe a solo from a recording of Four. Dave is beginning to consistently assign bebop tunes. These are great for my technique.
  • More Joe Pass! I had started to transcribe Joe's ending in his recording with Ella. Part of my Joe Pass assignment is to finish that. Then I'm supposed to pick out a medium tempo Joe and Ella song, begin a new solo transcription, and pick out devices that Joe uses when he's comping for Ella. I've selected You Took Advantage of Me for this part of the assignment.
  • Arpeggio Exercise over Melodic Minor. I've worked up arpeggio exercises for major and harmonic minor, in which I outline 7th chords, ascending on the 1 chord, descending on 2, etc. This is the same exercise using the melodic minor scale. (For non-jazz players…In jazz theory, the melodic minor has the same raised 6th and 7th both ascending and descending. In classical theory, the melodic minor reverts to natural minor descending.)
  • Old Devil Moon. When asked which jazz standard I'd like to work on next, I asked for Old Devil Moon. I like this song, but it's awkward, and I'd like to play it better.
  • Galbraith's Guitar Comping. I'll be working on the next page of the Blues in All Keys study. I just finished the page that covers G-flat and B, which aren't exactly the most common blues keys! Next up are the keys of E and A – much more guitar friendly.
As usual, Dave has given me a challenging assignment. I discovered a while ago that jazz guitar lessons are quite different from the classical trombone lessons of my younger days. In classical trombone lessons, there were few long term projects except for solo and recital material. I was assigned a set of etudes, I learned them, and then I was assigned yet another set of etudes. The "long term" assignment was really to apply the fundamentals of good tone and articulation to each new set of exercises.

With my jazz guitar studies, the individual assignments are often long term. I'll work on the same song or transcription for 2, 3, or even 4 lessons in a row. With lessons spaced every other week, that means that I will sometimes be working on the same song for two months. Learning to play jazz and improvise is such an internal process that it often takes a long time for new concepts to settle in and become a natural part of your playing. Often, learning to play a particular song or transcription is almost a byproduct. The real payoff is internalizing new ideas that you can apply to everything else you play.

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