Thursday, July 3, 2014

An exercise to stretch the fingers and the ears.

I recently watched a YouTube video about fourths and realized while trying to fall asleep that the exercise described in the video could be applied to the guitar as a way of teaching position shifts, fingerings and the like in a contextual way.  Like a muscle memory formula.  If then...

So the exercise is this.  Pick a note, pick a finger to play that note and pick a note within one octave of that note to be the upper or lower limit of the octave in which you will play the entire cycle of fourths or fifths ascending or descending.  This forces one to concentrate!  Once you've played through the entire cycle the fingerings will become a pattern and you will repeat the cycle with the same optimum fingering.  Now, change one variable in that equation, be it the starting note, the finger you play it with, the octave in which you play the cycle and go again. This exercise forces you to be conscious of your instrument in a particular way that is useful to improvisation and to sight-reading and because the harmonic component is so void you can focus on the technical challenges that every guitarist must overcome in order to play music fluidly (ie. spatial awareness of the fretboard and the mechanics of your left hand.)  There is more to be said but now that the gist is here I'll write more at another time.  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fanatical Behavior

While I am a musician I am also a music fan and fan of other musicians.  I waited for what seemed to my wife to be an excessive amount of time to have a word with Kurt Rosenwinkel after the Human Feel concert tonight.  It gave me a chance to pay some compliments to other musicians who performed during the night but when the gathered crowd was dwindelling and there was still no sign of Kurt, Ioana said let's go, and we went.  I explained it to her this way: I wanted to tell him thank you for being an inspiration.  I also thought I'd snap a picture of him for my wall of fame.  I realize now and really have for some time that this is perhaps juvenile but the admiration I feel for these guitarists who've inspired my development is real.  Instead of a picture I left with a sonic impression of the evening's music and glimpses of great technique that got me thinking about what goes on in Kurt's mind and fingers so I came home and practiced.  I worked out a diminished pattern that is not on my list but should be so I'll list it here:


Also I noticed Kurt do something like this:

That got me thinking about other open string ideas such as:

On the way home, my wife asked me how he made his guitar sound like a bass and an organ and I knew the answer and I knew that someday I could do the same if circumstances warranted it.  I guess it would be more realistic to expect that when you go to a concert you will hear music, not necessarily meet up with the artists who make it.  But what if you want to thank them for the music and demonstrate that they've made a valuable contribution to your musical thinking?  Then you write them a thank you letter or you write a song that expresses such.  Someone like Kurt has given guitarists and musicians in general so much to think about that our artistic debt is sort of self-evident.     He's the man!  Anyway, I'm not a sycophant, just a fan and a musician thankful to everyone whose made an impact on my musical development.



The other side to all this is that you feel the onus of what you wish to become, artistically.  You feel inspired to grow.  Anyway, music has always been a source of joy and the sort of malingering that goes on after a concert is fine to a point but one should never feel disappointed because you didn't get a word in or a photo with your particular guitar hero.  You got what you came for and that's the music.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Diminished Patterns

|------------------------------------------------------------- etc.

|-------------------------------------------------- etc.

|---------------------------------------------------- etc.

|------------------------------------------------------------------- etc.

|--------------------------------------------------------- etc.

|------------------------------------------------- etc.

|------------------------------------------------------------ etc.

|------------------------------------- etc.

|----------------------------------------------------------- etc.

|------------------------------------------------------------ etc.

|-------------------------------------------------- etc.

Kind of handy!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

In Response to another recent question, "What do you think about while you're playing?"

Thank you for you question James!  This is what I think about: Music.  But before I could do that, I had to think about the mechanics of this kind of unwieldy instrument with 5 different places to play middle C and four, potentially 5 fingers to play them with.  My strong suggestion is to begin by learning arpeggio shapes.  Then moving them through a key.  Familiarize yourself with the shapes of different intervals and how you might reach them.  Where your hand is currently dictates some of where you can go next and so context becomes very important and to develop continuity you must learn every inversion of every chord and all positions of a given scale.  My little book on motific mastery might be helpful.  It is a fairly robotic approach but it lays the groundwork of moving up and down the neck.  We should just do lesson!  Until then, YouTube!  So many free guitar lessons it's silly.  Everyone has something to offer, even if it's a good example of what not to do.  Best of luck.  Oh, and often I'm thinking about dynamics and balance.  That is the thing I'm conscious of most of the time.   

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In response to a recent question, "Where do you find your vocabulary?"

Some of the most helpful answers I’ve found are in the music itself.  By transcribing what it is that piques my interest musically, I have learned to make the theory come alive in a way that it might not have otherwise.  I think the theory you learn in college or wherever is a useful framework for cataloguing your musical ideas and extrapolating new ones but in itself does not inspire.  So return to the source, the artists who made you pick up the instrument in the first place and listen.  Transcribe what you love and see if you can stretch it rhythmically, harmonically, melodically into a vocabulary of your own.  Keep only what you love.  Make mistakes, learn from them.  Let them go.  Be forgiving of yourself and others and keep playing. 

Practice connecting your instrument with your voice by vocalizing while you play, unless you play a wind instrument.  Be disciplined.  If you want to be dogmatic go ahead, though it may limit your circle of friends.  I’m from Seattle where the rule seems to be “to each his own” and I’m just fine with that.  You can see a prism of the world’s cultures here and I love it.  When I hear something that touches me I isolate it and study it and and work it up and down it's given harmonic context.  I break things down by key center, and mode.  In other words, “What key are we in?  What chord are we playing in that key, the IV, the V, etc?  What degree is this melodic note relative to the root of that chord?”  Some things are atonal and those are usually kind of intuitive on the geometry of the fingerboard, even if they don't fall into a key.  I had just played "Freedom Jazz Dance" when this question was posed to me.  What had I played and where did it come from?  I was following my ears and occasionally my fingers.  There were other things like superimposed harmonies and a Michael Brecker lick that I lifted but that intervallic stuff lays on the guitar pretty well.  That is such an idiosyncratic melody that just moving motifs from it around can make up a great solo.  The diminished scale has a lot to yield toward outside playing but there are other symmetrical scales, like Messian's modes of limited transposition that can be applied to a static harmony to give a sense of movement.  Was I thinking of any of this while I played?  No.  But's it's good to have onboard.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

That Mysterious Kurt Rosenwinkel Lick

This is what I'm hearing and feeling about this lick at 2:18 in Minor Blues from Kurt Rosenwinkel's album The Next Step.  It's on the 2nd and 3rd strings and this fingering is pretty intuitive.  I've transcribed it in C to remove accidentals and any resulting confusion.  The slurs indicate pull-offs.  If you've been trying to figure this out for a while, you should feel pretty good this.  Now put it into different scales and keys and make it your own.  As ever, thank you Kurt for the inspiration and thank you reader for sharing my enthusiasm for this music.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tuck Andres in '84

There aren't too many guys who carry the history of the guitar on their backs the way Tuck does.  He is able to elucidate techniques from a broad range of players and has developed such a unique style over the years.  He touches on George Benson, Jay Graydon and Lenny Breau in this clinic.  A lot of key stuff here.