Interview With Howard Alden, Internationally Acclaimed Jazz Guitarist
This week on FretDojo, I’m happy to share with you an interview I recently held with internationally acclaimed jazz guitarist Howard Alden.
Howard is one of the leaders of jazz guitar in the modern era. His accolades include:
- Student the Guitar Institute of Technology in 1977-78 with Herb Ellis, Joe Pass, and Howard Roberts
- Collaborations with Dick Hyman, Dan Barrett, Bucky Pizzarelli and many others
- Alden recorded the guitar performances for Sean Penn‘s character Emmet Ray in Woody Allen‘s 1999 film Sweet and Lowdown – and taught Penn how to mime the performances for the film(!)
- Recorded many albums with Concord Records as well as other labels, including four with the famed 7 string jazz guitar innovator George Van Eps
- Has been the recipient of many awards, including:
- Best Emerging Guitar Talent, JazzTimes (1990)
- Guitar Player of the Year, American Guitar Museum (2003)
- Top 75 Guitarists, Down Beat (2008)
- Jazz critics have said of Howard Alden that “He may be the best of his generation” and “the most impressive and creative member of a new generation of jazz guitarists.”
In the interview below, I go on a deep dive with Howard about his journey with jazz guitar from a youngster to where he is today. I also ask Howard to reveal his secrets for how to maximise the results you get in the practice room – there were some fantastic tips Howard gives in this interview that you should definitely pay attention to.
Interview With Howard Alden (Audio Version)
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 1:09:08 — 47.5MB)
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Resources mentioned by Howard Alden:
- 3 Part Guitar Compendium by the late Howard Roberts and Garry Hasberg (3 book set)
- George Van Eps Guitar Solos (book)
- Solos From “Sweet and Lowdown” – Howard Alden (book)
- Featured during the interview are tracks from Howard Alden’s recently released solo jazz guitar album ‘Guitar’ – get your copy here.
Find out more about Howard at howardalden.com
Now the exciting bit:
If you're keen to have a structured, step-by-step approach to learning jazz guitar, it might be worth checking out my online learning system, the FretDojo Jazz Guitar Academy.
Here's what you get when you join up:
- Detailed step-by-step video lessons on new classic jazz tunes and essential jazz guitar skills added to the club website each month. Includes listening recommendations, demonstrations of the melody, analysis of the harmony, and detailed explanations on how to solo over the tune.
- Key improvisation concepts and techniques for soloing, and classic licks and example solos that relate to each tune, so you can continue to expand your jazz vocabulary and have more options when it comes to soloing.
- Detailed comping ideas to suit the style of each jazz standard covered
- Lessons on how to make chord melody and solo jazz guitar versions of tunes featured - play a complete jazz standard completely on your own like Joe Pass!
- Members only forum - A worldwide community of jazz guitarists from all around the globe.
- Regular workshops, masterclasses, and Q & A Sessions - get direct answers from me on anything holding you back in the practice room. Replays of all sessions are available to access for all members even if you can’t make it live.
- Massive searchable database of jazz licks and soloing concepts - the ultimate idea "grab bag" for your solos.
- Optional monthly challenges where members participate to get feedback on their playing, reach new milestones and be eligible for cool prizes.
The best part:
You can access this all of this and more for just $1 by signing up to a 14 day trial. Go here for more info: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer
Special Offer: Get a 14 day, obligation FREE trial to the FretDojo Jazz Guitar Academy, my online learning platform for jazz guitar. Sign up here for instant access to my entire collection of online jazz guitar video courses (no credit card required): https://www.fretdojo.com/free-trial
Great interview. I’ll get that album. As a student who took your fundamentals course, I can say he hit on all the important practice points that you have taught: guide tones; learn many tunes and the melodies; learn vocabulary as opposed to scales even though scales are a foundational necessity but don’t get stuck there; necessity of community or actually playing with someone (backing tracks still are a good start; find a teacher. One point that you haven’t mentioned is playing the melody with the base notes (I imagine it to be more that the root of the cord and more of a line). One point I especially liked was picking less well known tunes to work on (within one’s capability of course). Thinking some of the Charlie Parker tunes that even if well known, the cooking head is a bebop lesson in itself. Thanks much.
Hey ! Good stuff Greg.,
Also, I found these very useful too.
I just love the lines of horn players in the 60’s ( CD blue note series ) and I often wondered how did they do it ? — is it possible to adapt to guitar ?
Well you can and it helps to learn their phrasing and their story vocabulary
Jerry Coker’s 2 classics: complete method of improvisation and patterns for jazz are very useful indeed
and if you follow John Stowell’s advice about running the melodic minor aperggio, o broken scale fragments over dominants and ( altered ones too ) you begin to make satisfying progress — of course you can adopt Stowell’s tip of playing the melodic minor a semitone above ; below; a fourth of fifth and then add in for spice some scale tones with your own rhythm and syncopation — you will create something new.
Only problem you have to pre-plan all this before you can internalize it and play on the spot — bands will be impressed by your knowledge !
it will get you more gigs and out of practice room in the garage.
Howard Alden seems to be of my age. I think I once mentioned here already that I grew up in a very remote part of Germany in the early 50s but with a lot of swing music in my early childhood ( American forces network) and R&R/B in the 60s.
Absolutely no guitar teacher in these styles within 100 miles! Being the absolute autodidact I found a funny guitar LP in the local shop. It happened to be a Howard Roberts’ LP… ( a US soldier had ordered it and forgotten). Strange music for me as a Beatles and Stones fan , but I was so fascinated that I gradually ordered the rest of the 13 Capitol LPs by HR. Having no idea of 2-5-1 or altered chords at that time I could only understand and learn Roberts’ bluesy titles and improvisations BY EAR.
And here comes my new point:
“the compendium of 3 books”
At the age of 30 I finally met Mr Roberts here in Germany at a workshop organized by J.Aebersold and had 1 week of lessons.
So I once asked him to play a solo “transcription” in one of those 3 books published under his name that I had not found on my LPs at home. Roberts tried 3times and got stuck every time after a few bars!
“Who has written this? ” And he looked at the cover. ( You?!) ” I don’t know what this guy (Gary) wrote down here…What does he want…?”
So my dear guitar fellowmen , don’t get too frustrated, if you try to play the solo pieces written by Howard Roberts ‘ “ghostwriter”. You are not the only ones to fail, haha
Great interview Greg…You asked all the right questions…not only are you an accomplished jazz guitar teacher, but also a fine journalist! There is a lifetime of practice outlined by Howard in this interview.