Archive for improvisation

Homework 1: First Jazz effort

Posted in Jazz Guitar with tags , , , , , on November 22, 2007 by Staff Writer

If Wes Montgomery were a Chinese boy just starting out on the guitar and told to play something over GM7 | Em7 | Am7 | D7 when someone said ‘on your marks, get set GO!‘ then it would have sounded something like this.


  1. This is intentionally one single take with no correcting and overdubbing so I can home in on the horror of my playing under the harsh light that a live audience might – there will be no room for error when I finally get on stage. So, yes, I know it sucks, but that’s part of the point.
  2. Backing track created with my Yamaha QY70 sequencer (God, I love that thing).
  3. Recorded with my Boss Micro BR (God, I love that thing also).
  4. Timing sucks very badly at the beginning (God). Rhythm is a major weak point for me.
  5. I’ve deliberately tried to ‘make it swing’. Not sure how successful I’ve been…
  6. Progression is I vi ii V in G major, so GM7 | Em7 | Am7 | D7
  7. Didn’t do too badly at landing on the right chord tones for the most part.
  8. Playing is almost entirely diatonic with only a couple of Jazzy chromatic grace notes.
  9. Only a couple of truly horrendous fuckups. See if you can spot them.
  10. No distortion pedals were harmed in the making of this track.
  11. If you can bear it, I loosen up towards the end (2 mins+) and ‘just play’ and I think there are better results here than at the beginning when I’m thinking too academically about chords and scales and stuff rather than just letting the music come out.

Ok – so overall it’s not *too* nasty. No doubt in 5 years I’ll be thinking ‘Jesus H. Christ that was appalling’ but for now, I’m reasonably happy that my efforts in my bedroom with my magazines (guitar magazines) have at least given me a grasp of the rudiments of playing over changes. 


Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny…*

Posted in jazz, Jazz Guitar with tags , , , on November 20, 2007 by Staff Writer


Well, I finally caved in and did it – I got desperate and got a Jazz guitar teacher. Books and magazines are great up until a point but they can’t take you where a grizzly 50-year-old gig-hardened Mississippian (go check the spelling and see) veteran can in terms of imparting experience, anecdotes, knowledge and spontaneous licks.

The problematic part is this – I don’t actually like Jazz – at least, for the most part the stuff I’ve heard (and trust me, I’ve been in plenty of elevators) doesn’t really stimulate me as much as say a wild ‘n’ heavy thrash metal riff from Megadeth or a wailing distorted Yngwie Malmsteen solo, or a fusionesque and tortuously twisted Allan Holdsworth lead might. No – my musical interest and motivation is in IMPROVISATION, i.e. spontaneously making up some music on the spot without any premeditation and the Jazz realm is where this happens in its most refined and evolved form I suppose.

So, having already said that I don’t like Jazz let me qualify that by saying that generally, those Swing and Bebop tunes don’t really appeal to me though I do appreciate the harmonic sophistication and the musicianship that comprises a lot of it – I want to learn these techniques and apply them in a way that doesn’t sound quite so happy and jolly as a lot of Jazz does (of course I’m deliberately showing my ignorance here – no offence intended :)). Maybe I’ll dive into this in future to avoid too many flames on a new blog – (wishful thinking that there are even any readers out there…). Commentators may feel free to suggest Jazz which is non-happy and non-jolly sounding.

In browsing various magazines I happened across this (highly paraphrased) quote from Pat Martino: “sooner or later the guitarist is confronted with having to learn how to play over changes” – so that’s where I am now. A player for 20 years in various rock and metal styles, the time has come when I’m faced with a chord chart that shows more than just a static E minor chord vamp, but instead has a G7#5b9, B7+-\G, Em7, F+, C13#4b2sus3 and I am scratching my head saying ‘huh? How the heck do I play over this without looking like an idiot?’ – albeit an idiot with a fuckin’ bitchin’ looking pointy-headstocked metal guitar.

Part of the effort of this blog will be to document ‘before and after’ scenarios so I’ll be posting examples of my playing as I progress through my journey with my new guitar teacher and hopefully will be able to demonstrate some kind of improvement. I’ll also try to lay down some of what I was shown so if you’re so inclined you can copy some of it too.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin.

*attributed to the late great Frank Zappa – another totally bitchin’ guitarist and a unique improvisor.

Cool little online guitar neck ‘mapping’ tool

Posted in music theory with tags , , , , on November 19, 2007 by Staff Writer

Well, just trying out WordPress to see how it is as a blogging platform. First  up is a link to a little tool that helps map out the notes in scales and chords to facilitate learning the whole guitar neck.

The tool is here and below is a screenshot from the UI.


Well, I think it’s cool, but then I did write it… 🙂