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, 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.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Jazz Guitar Lesson Recap 6/23/14

Today's lesson with Dave Frackenpohl was particularly good. I played well nearly everything really well, and Dave gave me good tips to help with the music that challenged me. This was one of those lessons that made me feel I was really getting somewhere. The glow will fade soon enough once I begin tackling my new assignment, so I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Dave gave me a lot for today's lesson: Joy Spring, Body and Soul, Bernie's Tune, Angel Eyes, Bésame Mucho, Song for My Father, and my transcription of Jim Hall's Saint Thomas solo, which he played with Ron Carter.

We started off with Bernie's Tune, which I admitted to giving me problems. The chord changes themselves are quite easy, but I had trouble improvising at speed. Dave gave me a good exercise. More on this later.

We played Body and Soul and Joy Spring next. Dave was happy with how those went. I really like using Coltrane's 1235 approach for outlining chords. I used that so much in my practice sessions that my improvisations began to sound like etudes. That's okay, though. It helped me learn the changes thoroughly, and if you don't have any better ideas, it's a good way to make your way through the changes. I plan on using this idea as a way of learning songs in the future, and as a bonus, it's great for building technique.

We then played Angel Eyes, Bésame Mucho, and Song for My Father. All went well. Dave gave me some good substitute chords to play in the bridge. The progression, if you're curious, is in the second half of the bridge of Bésame Mucho. The stock key is D minor, but I play Bésame in A minor. In A minor, the first half of the bridge is Dm - - - | Am - - - | E7 - - - | Am - - - |. For the second half of the bridge, Dave suggested what amount to Autumn Leaves changes: Dm - G7 - | Cmaj7 - Fmaj7 - | Bm7b5 - - - | E7 - - - |, and then you're back to the A section. I'll look forward to using this in the near future.

Dave didn't give me as much music for my new assignment. After the way he piled it on for today's lesson, I'm not complaining! Here's the new assignment.

  • Speed Building: This is what Dave suggested after I told him that I feel challenged in building speed. (And yes, I know speed takes time.) Take a scale and play it up to the 9th and back down in 8th notes. Start at quarter=70, or whatever feels comfortable. Then play it in triplets. (In triplets, you need to play it up to the 10th to make it work out evenly.) Then play 16ths up to the 9th and back. Pay very close attention to make sure you're playing solid time and not rushing. When playing triplets and 16ths, accent the first note of each group of 3 or 4, respectively. You can practice this for scales in general or use it as a warm-up before improvising. If you use it as a warm-up before improvising, play this exercise on the scales you plan on using in your improvisation. Do this scale exercise for at least 5 minutes.
  • Sweet Georgia Brown: This is one of those "must know" standards, and it's well past time I learned it. This is also my new transcription assignment. It's up to me to pick the solo. Dave suggested I start by listening to Django Reinhardt. I suspect that my search will begin and end there.
  • Well You Needn't: Learn it.
  • A Day in the Life of a Fool: Memorize it. I already have this one pretty well learned, but when I perform it, I almost always sing it and then play it as a set solo arrangement. I rarely improvise on this one, so most of my practice on this song will simply be getting comfortable playing over the changes.
That seems like such a small assignment compared to my previous lesson, but there's plenty of good material to challenge me.

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