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.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Five Stages of Jazz Guitar Arranging

Writing arrangements for solo jazz guitar is a special joy of mine. Some of my arrangements are purely instrumentals, while most of them are written as solo choruses to vocal arrangements for myself or for Godfrey and Guy. Arranging for solo guitar is challenging and rewarding. I always learn something in the process. These are my five stages of jazz guitar arranging:

  1. Glee – I like a song so much that I can't wait to arrange it for solo guitar. Or Lori, my music partner, likes a song so much that I am required to write an arrangement.
  2. Despair – After sitting down with the new song and trying different approaches, I realize this is harder than I thought it would be. In fact, I can't think of a way to make it work. If it's my own song, I might find it difficult to find chord forms that will allow me to highlight the melody. If it's a Godfrey and Guy song for Lori, it's a sure bet that she sings it in a key that is too high or too low for the guitar, forcing me to get creative with octave displacement.
  3. Hope – After fiddling with the song for a couple days, or even a week, I figure out a good way to play a phrase. If I've figured out how I can play one phrase, I know I can write the rest.
  4. Determination – After a week, or possibly a month, I've written the entire arrangement. The end is in sight. Now I have to learn how to play what I wrote. This can take a while. Sometimes I can play my arrangement right away, and sometimes I need to spend a lot of time playing it in super slow motion before working it up to speed.
  5. Pride – Finally, I can play my new creation at a gig – usually a background gig where people are more worried about getting refills than whether or not I'm debuting a shiny new song. That doesn't matter to me, though. I mostly care that I took the time to write a new arrangement for a song that I like, and that now I have a new song in my repertoire.

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