Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Jason, a jazz guitarist in graduate school

Found this on rec.music.makers.guitar.jazz -- a graduate student in jazz guitar is blogging on his experiences at Improvisations on a Theme. It's in the extremely early stages but just might offer some valuable insight into what's going on at the university level in jazz studies.

I plan to keep an eye on it, and it's going on the blogroll here in case you (or I) need to find it.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Jody Fisher and "The Art of Solo Guitar"

On my to-buy list is Jody Fisher's "Impromptu," samples of which are available here. Jody has quite a career writing instruction books for Alfred Publishing, and his jazz methods are some of the best around (and I make that claim about very few of the books I see).

While Jody is a prolific teacher and author, he also sounds fantastic. He lives somewhere in Southern California's desert and gigs a lot in the Palm Springs and Lake Arrowhead area. He's the closest player out there to the sound of Ted Greene in terms of great chordal voice leading, strong melody and use of artificial harmonics (which Ted took from Chet Atkins, Tal Farlow and Lenny Breau and refined).

I've never worked out of Jody's books before, but he has a new two-volume series, available from his Web site as well as Jamey Aebersold's site, called "The Art of Solo Guitar," which aims to teach the skills to IMPROVISE as solo guitarist, creating arrangements and playing over changes on the fly (as opposed to performing a previously written-out, unchanging version).

While there are hundreds of books devoted to teaching single-line improvisation, both specific to the guitar and for other (or all) instruments and perhaps a dozen on how to play solo guitar, there are very few that bring solo guitar and improvisation together. It's like the old analogy about giving a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, but give him a fishing pole (and a supply of hooks, bait and fishing line) and he'll eat for a lifetime. I think there's value in both the fish and the pole. You can still get a lot out of an arrangement of a standard tune and derive ideas and approaches that will work with other songs, and that way at least you have something to play for people.

But building the nuts and bolts of a technique that can be applied to every tune you see, man that is one hell of a fishing pole.

Monday, January 16, 2006

How badly do you want to play that tune?

That's the question I'm asking myself regarding the two posts below on chord-melody arrangements. I'm at the point where I don't want to put time into learning tunes that I'm not excited about. So that makes me less than excited about putting work into the pre-written arrangements I mentioned earlier. Forgetting transposition into other keys, I want to at least begin by playing in the songs' original keys. So I need to keep working on "How High the Moon," and think of some modern tunes that could be done solo on the guitar. I'm looking through a fake book now for candidates and trying to pick things that don't modulate so much.

In other news, I pulled all the guitars out last night to see how they're doing physically. Is anything falling apart more now than before? The Goya classical's back is still coming off near the bottom, but that's pretty much status quo. Everything else checks out. The ES-175 bridge is still tilting slightly (turns out that string pull can do that with a floating rosewood archtop bridge), so I'll have to loosen the strings and straighten it out. I want to measure first so I have a snowball's chance of getting the intonation set right, since that guitar is surprisingly flawless in that regard (unusual for a fixed, compensated bridge).

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Chord melody by Van Moretti

I believe an arrangement by Van Moretti has appeared in every issue of Just Jazz Guitar I have ever received. My philosophy has been that it is better to make up my own arrangements from the lead sheet of a tune because then it will perfectly suit the skill level I'm at and will make the most sense to me, both harmonically and technically. And as I get a bigger chordal vocabulary, the renditions of the tunes get better. The other thing I've been trying to do is play the tunes in their original keys.

It hasn't been working out so good. I don't spend nearly enough time, and I've been looking for a style of arranging for the guitar that fits where I'm at and how I want to play.

Some of the most intriguing arrangements are those of Robert Conti, who also has a tune in just about every issue of JJG. He does it all with chord grids above the staff, with melody notes below for reference (and with little rhythmic notation, as he encourages players to call upon their own interpretation in that regard). I especially like his reharmonizations, and he does have two books that focus on that subject. He no longer offers books of chord-melody arrangements, but the old JJGs are a good source.

Still, the Conti arrangements are not working so well for me at the moment. I can't say I won't go back to them. They have the aformentioned quality in their reharmonization, and they can also help with voice leading. But I just tried Moretti's "More Than You Know," and that sounds very nice. It's in the key of C, which is a very easy key for guitar (right up there with A, G and D). The original is in Eb. Hmmm ... don't know what I think of that, but it is a very nice arrangement, and I can make the melody pop out of it right away. Sometimes it's hard to make the melody come out of these chordal arrangements, especially if I'm not very familiar with the tune, but it was no trouble at all in this case.