Practice/ playing ideas

 

Hearing weird chords unweirdly!

Exercise:

1)Play a C chord, (normal C voicing 1st position) for four beats then play a G7 chord for four beats.

2)Keep the C on the B string sustained for both bars, so over the G7 as well.

3) That’s it, it should be really easy to hear the note C on the B string as part of the G7 chord.

4) Try sustaining different notes from each chord onto the other chord.

5) Try  applying it to a song e.g. Night and day, the G7 in this would probably be b9b13 but start with just the triad then 7th chord. So the first four bars |G7  |G7  |C   |C    |

so the basic idea is that you sustain one note from one chord onto the next allowing you to start hearing notes going through the chords relating to maybe the key centre rather than just the particular chord.

 

Do you divide your practise into long/ short term goals???
 Sometimes it’s good to know when to let go of long term goals if they become too much of a drag… but learning how to reach achievable targets over a time can open the door to really internalising things and letting them become part of your playing (e.g. Learn a John Scofield transcription, learn all the modes of melodic minor, play all major scales in sixths). Picking something that inspires you will help you to get the energy to keep picking at it over time.

 

right hand
A lot of players hold the pick completely differently in the right hand (Metheny/ Moreno/George Benson all completely differnent) but there are always some things in common, don’t angle the right hand back and create tension on the back of the wrist/hand, keeping the wrists/ arms and hands as light as possible. (though some players lock the right hand to play at speed e.g. John McLaughlin.) Technique is a personal thing so you might want to compromise speed for getting a better sound from the strings and being able to dig in more. Sometimes a limit on your technique can help you to play with more space. Trying to play at different tempos can be hard depending on how you hold the pick, e.g. I find 120 really hard but 135 a lot easier to play sixteenth notes. Spend time on those harder tempos and it will help to make you more of a complete player.

 

Visualising roots on four note chord voicings

It is kind of obvious not to play root notes all the time in a band scenario so for the purpose of this exercise you could see yourself as having two options:

  1. Take existing chords you know e.g. maybe four note chords and inversions, (Root, 3rd, 5th, 7th) and omit the root when playing with someone else who is playing the root.
  2. Learn some four note voicings that do not have the root, so visualise the root without playing it.  (e.g. over rhythm changes in Eb (Wail) the bridge G7#9 (B,D,F,Bb)-C7#11(Bb,D,E,A). Does the melody fit around the chord shapes????

 

Bb7#11 or C7b13 or F melodic minor….arrghhhhhhhh!
Get used to using your ear (then your brain automatically) for harmony not your brain first e.g. Play a Bb7 chord on a sustained loop and improvise with a c major triad only. What sounds like the root?? The Bb or the C? Your brain/ theory tells you on paper you are playing a Bb7 chord but your ear (listening and taking a moment to let it absorb) tells you it is most obviously a C! Therefore it becomes easier to hear and construct melodies from that rather than ‘think’ melodies from the Bb7. So in fact you are hearing more of a C7b13 sound (fifth mode f melodic minor)….sounds like a lot but if you give yourself time to listen to the structure of the sound then your ear can adjust and it is a lot more easy to hear than ‘thinking’ your way through the sound. For most of us there is always (especially in modern jazz) going to be harmony which is complicated and it is necessary to kind of blag the harmony by thinking, ok this scale and this chord…go lydian lick…but it’s quite cool to accept maybe you are somewhere between the two points and not to close your ear off in the name of complicated theory!

 

dynamics inside chords
dynamics in voicings, like ellington, bring out some notes more than others, try not just accenting the top voicing. Can you play the melody as a middle or bottom voice of a chord?!

 

accurate sliding
Practise slide with a chromatic tuner, seems obvious but after listening to recordings of myself the tuner helps to point out the obvious

 

rhythm changes opener

rhythm changes can be a bit of a grind, always tending to run up and down Bb blues licks/ play the same licks on each chorus so there is an opportunity to work on different possibilities as rhythm changes is a great framework to practise and apply many possibilities for harmonic substitutions, polyrhythms,develop phrasing and build your language. Here is one idea to start, build vocabulary of licks from recordings. 1)take 1 lick a day, maybe from a record you love (could be Sonny Rollins playing Tenor Madness). 

2) Analyse the lick harmonically and rhythmically….what chord does it describe? What beat does it start/ finish on. e.g. Bb7 starting beat 2.

3) Transpose the lick through the rhythm changes chord sequence

4) Displace the lick i.e. move it forward an eight note or quarter note.

 

Ending notes
How do you finish a sound when you say a word? It could be where the next word starts or when your breath runs out or finish with a consonant.  When playing phrases on the guitar it’s so easy not to be aware of the end of the phrase but having control of this can make your lines sound much stronger. It makes an intentional use of the space after your phrase. Listen to John Scofield on Agogo and see how and where he ends his phrases.

 

Reasons to learn Standards
FUN!!!  a way to play with and meet new people, even if you speak different languages, each song has a new piece of harmony, vehicles to apply language to, the more you learn (especially from the recordings as opposed to from a chart) the more know the more your fluency in playing grows overall (rhythm, groove, harmony, awareness of form, ear develops) any others?? …

 

How to learn standards

There are so many standards it can feel overwhelming but maybe try to approach one the same way a classical musician would, paying more attention to details. Of course there will be some tunes that come up that you have to wing your way through but having a few standards you know really well can help you grow musically.

Learn the lyrics, listen and or find the music to several different versions so you are finding close to the original so when you make your own interpretation of it you are not making an interpretation of an interpretation. Play the melody in different ways: out of time/ displaced/ anticipated (not every note landing on the beat)/ different dynamics/ accents/ think of the meaning of the lyrics/ can you play the melody with different feelings, maybe in a way to express how you feel now??  Try to make your own arrangement of the song.

 

Riffing
You can think of repeated riffs in different ways e.g. the same riff over and over/ call and response riffing with yourself/ riff ABAC. Try practising soloing to a riff i.e. play the riff, answer with an improvised phrase, repeat and try building the solo from there. Check you are holding the tempo ok with a metronome. Try playing along to grooves you love (e.g.I like the bass line on Agogo/ anderson paak ). Have the sound of the recording and your guitar in a place you can hear them both, record them together and you playing it on your own. After listening to yourself playing it then go back to the record, there might be some big differences which you can now hear and work on.

 

sing sing sing

sing sing sing- wether good or bad singing, internalising the harmony makes you much more in touch with the music and gives you more ‘human’ control over the music:- e.g. phrasing, articulation, dynamics, ending phrases comes more naturally. Two ways to sing/ grunt :

1)Singing what you play, i.e. the melody or a particular line of horizontal harmony through a chord sequence.

2) Sing a song and being able to accompany yourself, you could try it in time or out of time.

(3)….Also Kurt Rosenwinkel talks about playing what you sing and singing what you play….

 

Brain or ear first ?
Get used to using your ear (then your brain automatically) for harmony not your brain first e.g. Play a Bb7 chord on a sustained loop and improvise with a c major triad only. What sounds like the root?? The Bb or the C? Your brain/ theory tells you on paper you are playing a Bb7 chord but your ear (listening and taking a moment to let it absorb) tells you it is most obviously a C! Therefore it becomes easier to hear and construct melodies from that rather than ‘think’ melodies from the Bb7. So in fact you are hearing more of a C7b13 sound (fifth mode f melodic minor)….sounds like a lot but if you give yourself time to listen to the structure of the sound then your ear can adjust and it is a lot more easy to hear than ‘thinking’ your way through the sound. For most of us there is always (especially in modern jazz) going to be harmony which is complicated and it is necessary to kind of blag the harmony by thinking, ok this scale and this chord…go lydian lick…but it’s quite cool to accept maybe you are somewhere between the two points and not to close your ear off in the name of complicated theory!

 

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