Podcast: The Magic Of Solo Guitar

Podcast: The Magic Of Solo Guitar

Podcast: The Magic Of Solo Guitar

On today’s Podcast, Carl Orr,  FretDojo’s current Artist In Residence, shares his insights into the magic of chord melody and the power that comes from tapping into the strength of guitar as a solo instrument.

Check out the podcast here and listen to Carl’s story, as well as some very moving chord melodies he plays throughout the show:

Join FretDojo’s online jazz guitar academy here

Les Davidson

Les Davidson

Les has been in the music business for over 30 years and is a professional guitarist in the widest of musical settings. He has an extensive list of both touring and recording with many artists and bands including:

Leo Sayer, Joan Armatrading, Paul Rogers, Jack Bruce, Shakin Stevens, Barbara Dickson, Mick Taylor, Lenny Henry, Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, East of Eden, Labi Siffre, Laura Mvula, Dizzy Rascal, Jim Diamond, Tina Turner, Kenney Jones, Pete Townsend, Sniff n The Tears, Walker Brothers, Howard Goodall, Donovan, Bucks Fizz, Steve Coogan, Zoot Money, Mica Paris, Pete Brown, Mori Kante, Bonnie Tyler, Snuffy WG Walden, Steve Brown, Rumer, Folk Collective, The Corgies, Graham Bonnet, Vonda Shepard.

Les has written music for TV, film and has worked in many West End and theatre shows such as Tommy, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and We Will Rock You.

Les currently resides in London, UK and is a Guitar Tutor at the BIMM Institute.

Transcript:

Greg O’Rourke:

Hi, and welcome to the podcast. Greg O’Rourke here. We’re very lucky at the moment to have Carl Orr as the Artist In Residence here at FretDojo. He’s been busy recording shows lately with a whole host of guest artists that he’s planning to bring on the show in the near future. Today though, I’d like to share with you a very intimate solo session from Carl, all about his journey with solo chord melody, and how it’s impacted his relationship with the guitar as he’s gone through his musical journey. I really hope you enjoy today’s show. I really enjoyed listening to this one, myself. You’re in for a real treat, and quite a moving look at what chord melody can do for your playing.

Speaking of chord melody, a quick heads up that at this time of this recording, we’re actually releasing a brand new FretDojo course all about chord melody essentials. This is called the 30-day Chord Melody Challenge. There should be a link to get the course on the FretDojo homepage at www.fretdojo.com. If you’re interested in checking that out, go to that page to enrol. It will be open for this week, at the time of this recording. So, hope you catch that. But anyway, this is a very special show from Carl Orr, and I really hope you enjoy this session.

Carl Orr:

Hi, this is Carl Orr, Artist In Residence at fretdojo.com. I just want to talk about the magic of chord melody guitar, solo guitar. This has always been a big part of my life. The first live guitarist I ever saw was the esteemed classical guitarist, John Aaron. This was in a church in Newcastle in the north of England in 1971 or ’72. I don’t know what he played. He just played this hour lunchtime recital of mesmerising music, and I was really taken in by the unique quality of a solo guitar.

In this case, it was in the classical context, but there’s something about solo guitar, the struggle of the person doing it. There’s a kind of noble struggle to get from one end of each piece to the other without making a mistake, without falling off, and there’s a kind of intensity about that, which is very compelling. I always was very drawn to that kind of thing.

Indeed, my first guitar lesson, which was just a few months before, was actually a lesson in very rudimentary chord melody playing. I remember the first thing we did at our first test, and I still remember how to play it. It was an arrangement of the American folk song, My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean. It went like this. Pretty cute.

Right from my very first guitar lesson, I was aware that the guitar was a self-contained instrument that could create interesting music by itself. I remember my mom listening to me practising . She said to me, “You’re very lucky playing the guitar because you can make a complete sound.” She said, “Some other instruments, like the bass for example or the clarinet, you can’t make a complete sound. Whereas the guitar, you can be completely self-contained.” And she said, “I understand why you’re so keen on playing for long stretches of time, because you’re making this self-contained sound.” Anyway, I was always very fond of that.

I went on to study classical guitar with my teacher at school, a man named Mr. Paul Kay. He went through classical repertoire with me. I knew right from the beginning that it wasn’t really what I wanted to do, but I always loved classical guitar music. We did pieces by Fernando Soares in particular, I remember quite a lot, and Bach. I was always greatly attracted to Bach. I remember my absolute amazement when I could play this famous Bouree by Bach, the one probably most people know. You know that one. I remember being amazed that I could do this kind of complex thing with these independent lines going. It really got me interested in playing in an unaccompanied way.

By the time I was 14 or 15, I was showing some interest in jazz. I think I was 15 when my dad bought me a book of solo jazz guitar arrangements by the Australian guitarist, Don Andrews. I remember opening up this book and just opening up the first page and just starting to play this song. I was just amazed that something that sounded like jazz was coming out of my guitar. It was his arrangement of How About You, which I don’t remember completely, but it was something like this. Something like that. I was just shocked to hear myself playing something that sounded so much like real jazz and I was hooked from then on.

Then I became aware of Joe Pass. He would play solo electric guitar. He made these famous albums, virtuoso albums. Played solo electric guitar. Great, beautiful arrangements with great solos in them. Sometimes he would play on the classical instrument, which I was playing. It was quite revealing for me to see the classical instrument used in a way that had nothing to do with formal classical repertoire, but was in a very informal, individualistic way, in a very jazzy sort of way.

He didn’t sound like he was using conventional classical technique; he sounded like he was maybe using bare flesh rather than fingernails. But it was a great sound and I loved the intimacy and the quietness of it. It was so quiet you could hear his foot tapping. He sounded like he maybe had bare feet or socks. You could just hear this foot in a sock just gently tapping time. He was so quiet you could hear this gentle tapping of a sock underneath it. Really great stuff. I just loved that kind of quietness and intense kind of intimacy of that.

I grew up in Australia and when I was in my early twenties, the great Ike Isaacs moved to Australia. He’s a great solo jazz guitarist and a mentor to many people including most famously, Martin Taylor, who’s gone on to become one of the leading solo jazz guitarists in the world. Ike was a delightful man. He was so gregarious and just wanted to be friends with everyone. He was very likeable, quiet-spoken, highly intelligent man with a fantastic sense of humour. I just remember this combination of Ike’s warmth, and his fascinating stories, and his sense of humour, and his wonderful guitar playing.

He had been a successful studio guitarist in the ’60s and ’70s in London, played on lots of pop records. He enjoyed his work, but it’s quite a hard job, quite a stressful job. He said that thanks to having an understanding wife, a lovely lady named [Moira 00:10:26], he was able to come home from a long day in the studio and do what he loved to do best, which was to play his solo guitar arrangements of standards and his original songs. He became a real master of that and a world authority on that. He went on to finish off his performing career as a member of the great Stephane Grappelli’s band, but he always had this solo guitar passion underlying everything.

 

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.

Go here for more info: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

 

Carl Orr:

I met him when I was 23. We were talking and I said, “I can’t really do solo guitar very well.” He said, “Well, you just need a few guidelines.” And he said, “Just think of a song that you know. I said, “Well, I’m learning how to play Duke Ellington’s Prelude To A Kiss.” He said, “Well, do that then.” And I said, “Well, I don’t know what to do.” And he said, “Well, first of all, play the melody and just play the bass note under the melody.” So, I did that. Let me try and remember this.

And I just did that. I probably didn’t do it very fluently, but he said, “Yeah, that’s it. That’s where you start. Play the melody and play the bass note of each chord under it.” Then he said, “Okay, now flesh it out a bit.” So I tried it.

He said to me, “Play the melody clearly, play the bass note clearly, and just grab whatever notes you can in between the melody note and the bass note. That’s basically all you need to know about playing solo guitar.” At least it’s all you need to know to get started. So, that was a great introduction for me. Every time I do a solo guitar arrangement, I’d just say to myself, “Get the melody nice and strong, play the bass note, and grab what you can in between.” It’s a great way to approach it.

Anyway, as time went on, I neglected my solo guitar chord melody playing very much and really pursued my passion for being a virtuoso improviser, which I doggedly worked very hard at for a long time. They say life begins at 40. When I was approaching 40 … When I was 39, I felt myself changing quite a bit. One of the things that changed was my desire to play chord melody guitar, to play solo guitar was reawoken. I suddenly found myself playing little classical pieces that I’d learned as a kid and figuring out little chord melody arrangements. The whole intimate side of playing the guitar just would not be ignored anymore.

I was making an album at the time and I recorded a couple of solo original pieces. Since then, it’s been growing and growing. And then in the last few years, it’s been something that I do every day. I start my guitar practise every day with about 45 minutes to an hour of solo guitar, which can be anything from that little Bach piece that I played earlier on, to arrangements of jazz songs and pop songs in a jazz chord melody style. For example, I do an arrangement of Carol King’s So Far Away. I’ll play a little bit of it for you, like this kind of thing.

I love doing things like that. Just adapting songs and do them in this jazz chord melody style. This is something I do every day. Actually, unless I do play some chord melody guitar every day, I do feel a bit weird. It kind of grounds me. There’s something about the sensation of making all the sound yourself, which is very satisfying. So yeah, I do that every day. As I said, I feel a bit lost if I don’t do it. Every time I practise, I play solo guitar for, as I said, 45 minutes to an hour, and then I pick up my electric guitar and work on some technical stuff and improvisation. But it’s always the chord melody and various solo guitar things that get me started every day. Anyway, I think it’s a unique area of musical satisfaction.

I’m not somebody who’s, like what you would call a real guitar head. I’m somebody who’s interested in music in general, whether it’s Beethoven symphonies or Bill Evans playing the piano, or Ry Cooder playing slide guitar, or Bonnie Raitt singing a beautiful song. I don’t really care about musical styles and I’m not really that bothered about whether the guitar is part of what I listen to or not. I would love to listen to Glenn Gould playing the piano or Yo-Yo Ma playing the cello. That’s great. But increasingly, the guitar is very important to me. I’ve always practised a lot, but it’s something about playing solo guitar that just brings the guitar so close to you because it’s right next to your body, and it’s kind of vibrating.

Probably the most important thing the great Ike Isaacs said to me. He looked at me really seriously in the eye and he said, “Carl, the guitar is your friend.” It took me a long time to really figure out what he meant by that. But I think what he really meant was, if you play chord melody guitar, concentrate on, at least some of the time, playing solo guitar. The guitar really becomes your friend in a way that’s utterly unique.

Last year, I played with a wonderful pianist called Jesse Milliner, who is well known for playing with Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour and many other people. He looked at me and he said, “You’re so lucky playing the guitar.” And this guy’s a master pianist. I said, “Why am I lucky playing the guitar?” He said, “Well, you get to hold this instrument and you embrace it.” He said, “No piano player gets that sensation from their instrument.” And I thought, “Wow, that’s something I’d never thought of before.” So, enjoy your chord melody playing. Remember, the guitar is your friend. Have a great time with your friend.

Greg O’Rourke:

Wasn’t that an amazing look at solo guitar? I really enjoyed listening to Carl’s story then, especially when he was talking about that book he found of Don Andrews, because Don Andrews was actually one of my earliest and most important guitar teachers, myself. And so, it’s cool that Carl and I have that connection there. I really hope you enjoyed this session. Make sure that you check out my website fretdojo.com. As I mentioned at the start, there is that chord melody challenge course that’s being released this week. If you’re keen to learn a few techniques to get some chord melody approaches into your guitar playing, then it might be worth a look. Okay guys. Well, until next time, thanks very much. My name’s Greg O’Rourke. I look forward to sharing another episode of the FretDojo podcast with you soon. Bye for now.

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Big News – Carl Orr To Be Artist In Residence For FretDojo!

Big News – Carl Orr To Be Artist In Residence For FretDojo!

Big News – Carl Orr To Be Artist In Residence For FretDojo!

Exciting news today:

Carl Orr is going to be the official Artist In Residence at FretDojo for the next few months!

Which means Carl is going to be collaborating with me on courses for the FretDojo Academy membership, as well as bringing on fantastic guests artists for the podcast, recording Youtube videos and more.

Carl has performed and recorded with some of the finest musicians on the planet including Billy Cobham, George Duke, Ernie Watts, Randy Brecker, Gary Husband and Bennie Maupin.

He is a regular at London’s legendary Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in his own band and as a member of drummer Mark Fletcher’s supergroup “Fletch’s Brew”.

Carl has taught guitar at The Australian Institute of Music, Brunel University, Middlesex University, London Centre Of Contemporary Music and The Academy of Contemporary Music.

A prolific composer, Carl has recorded eight albums as a leader and is featured on albums by Billy Cobham, Fletch’s Brew, Geoff Eales and Nathan Haines.

In this special podcast, I introduce Carl to FretDojo so you can get to know about his incredible career – and he also gives some great tips out of the gate that you can instantly apply to your own guitar practice.

Check out the podcast here:

Join FretDojo’s online jazz guitar academy here

Transcript:

Greg O’Rourke: Hi guys, Greg O’Rourke here from the FretDojo.com podcast. Visit my website FretDojo.com for a whole bunch of free resources, tips, and other stuff to get your jazz guitar playing to the next level. I’m very happy to have a special announcement today actually, that the fabulous Carl Orr, for the next few months is going to be the artist in residence at Fret Dojo, and I actually have Carl on the podcast with me here today. So welcome Carl to the Fret Dojo podcast once again.

Carl Orr: All right, Greg. Great to be here.

Greg O’Rourke: Yeah, it’s really exciting that you’ve agreed to be an artist in residence. So over the next several months, we’re going to be working on collaborating on some courses together. We’re going to be doing some podcasts with some really fabulous guest artists from around the world, and a few YouTube videos, and all sorts of stuff. So if you guys are keen on working with Carl in the upcoming series of courses that we’re doing, make sure that you look at the FretDojo Academy, which is where it’s all going to be published. So today Carl, I thought it would be good to have a bit of, just a little introduction basically. I know you’ve been on the podcast before, but let’s kind of hear the backstory, like where did guitar playing start for you? And maybe it’d be good to hear a bit about your career and some of the amazing players that you’ve played with over the years?

Carl Orr: Yeah. Okay. Thank you. Yeah. Well, the guitar for me, I suppose like a lot of people in my generation started with Beatles. I was born in 1960, and the earliest thing I can remember in my life of any kind, is of attempting to play a toy guitar. I can’t remember anything before that, I must have been about two, playing this sort of plastic toy guitar and singing I want to hold your hand, and this quiet, little, horrible cacophony coming out of the guitar and thinking I’ve got to figure this out, that’s the best thing I can remember. And I basically haven’t had any other thoughts since, that’s kind of been my whole life-

Greg O’Rourke: It’s kind of amazing, isn’t it? Because you started with that little toy guitar and you’ve gone on to play with some of the biggest names in jazz and other styles as well. So you’re based in London now, aren’t you? At the moment. Yeah, so tell us about some of the guys that you’ve played with over the years?

Carl Orr: Well, yeah. I played up in London for 24 years, and I’ve played with Billy Cobham. I know I’m getting a bit old and like old guys over the age of 50, I think I’m a fascinating storyteller, so here we go, get ready to be fascinated J So when I was 14, I started to get aware of jazz and I went to this secondhand record shop in Adelaide where I grew up, and I picked up an album of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. And I looked on the back cover and there were pictures of the band, the album, Birds of Fire. And there was picture of Billy Cobham playing the drums and I thought, he looks like a nice guy, I’d like to be his friend and play in his band. I was just a kid, I’d never kissed a girl, I’d never done a gig, I was just this kid, and I felt, wow, I must be out of my mind, what am I thinking?

Well, when I was 17, I said to these friends of mine, again, I was still really naive and done much. I said to these two friends of mine, who I was having a jam with, I said, “I really like to play with Billy Cobham.” And they looked at me like, what particular drug are you on today? I just had this real clear thought in my mind that I wanted to play with Billy Cobham. One thing after I worked really hard on my music, really practiced a hell of a lot, and went to Berklee College of Music.

Came back to Australia, wind up playing, I played with Jackie Orszaczky, he was the guy to play with in Sydney, sort of the closest thing Sydney would have to, Miles Davis or something like that, the guy to play with, and I wind up with him after a lot of effort. And then through him, in 1989, late 1989, I got this phone call from Jackie’s manager saying, “How would you like to play with Billy Cobham, is coming up to Sydney?” Yeah, it was unbelievable. And I was really scared, I thought, well, this is what I’ve always wanted, and it was like 15 years after I had the original thought of playing with him. So then I played with him and he really liked me, and really like my character, and he liked playing a lot enough, and he gave all of us his business card. I stayed in touch with him and I sent him a CD.

My first CD was released in 1990, I send him a copy and then kept in contact. The thing that surprised me was, he was responding to my contact, he is replying, he send me a Christmas card or whatever, just some sort of communication, and then I thought, I got to stay in touch with him. Then I sent him my third album in 1994 and he rang me back and he said, “Carl, I really like this music, I want to come down to Australia and play with you again.” In early 95 we did that, we did Australian tour and I’d made up my mind to move over to London, he said, “Well, make sure you stay in touch.” I promised myself, I was going to ring him every two months until he either gave me the gig or tell me to go away, it was really terrifying.

I moved to London, October 95, and I rang him in October. And then two months later, two months later, two months later, and I think about the sixth phone call, he sent me a fax saying he wanted me to do a tour of Switzerland and Austria with him, which I did and then I was in the band for a while, and we played with some fantastic people as guests. Randy Brecker, did a UK tour with us, he’s a really great guy, he’s just as wonderful a person as he is a musician. Billy and I went to Los Angeles in 99 and played with the great Ernie Watts, who played in Charlie Haden’s band of course. The biggest one of all was the great George Duke. We played at Monterey Jazz Festival with George Duke. So that was sort of the top of the mountain for me really, so that was incredible. Yeah, I’ve recorded with these people, as well recorded four albums with Billy Cobham, and Billy’s on a couple of my albums as well.

Another highlight was two years ago, I got the call to play on Sting’s show, The Last Ship, and Sting basically loves the guitar, he’s crazy about the guitar. If you listen to Sting’s music, you’ll notice there is guitar on everything and very little piano or not much keyboard, especially recently. He just loves the guitar, and I was told this is a guitar based show, the guitar is the center of the band.

Greg O’Rourke: Awesome.

Carl Orr: Yeah, it was a really hell of a gig and Sting wasn’t performing much, but he oversaw the band and he sat in on performances and he talked to us and he was really great, very exacting how he wants things. But a total gentleman and a really, really great guy, I must say, I really enjoyed his company a hell of a lot. I just wanted to do my best for him, because he’s just such a lovely person, and I just gave a 100%. I think he just brought that out in all the musicians, everybody, he wasn’t too radical or superior in any way, just won people over with his warmth, and everybody just did their best for him, so that was a really great experience. And I’m glad I came away with a good impression of him because you don’t know with famous people, if their greatness ends once they put their instrument down…

 

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.

Go here for more info: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

 

Greg O’Rourke: So in summary, you are obviously a musician in high demand Carl, and one that has huge amount of experience in the jazz genre, but obviously in other styles as well. So, we’ve got a lot to learn from you in your capacity as artist in residence here for Fret Dojo. So, we’ll obviously get into that into the coming weeks and the courses that we’re going to do, but just for now, can we have sort of a big bird’s eye summary. What do you think are the most important things for a jazz guitarist, an aspiring jazz guitarist to focus on when they’re actually practicing? Because of course, just by spending a lot of time on the instrument doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get results. So what are the things that do you think students should be focusing on the most when they practice?

Carl Orr: Okay. I think, the older I get, the more I realize the importance of really, really basic things. So first of all, make sure you play an instrument that you like, it doesn’t have to be an expensive instrument, but make sure it’s an instrument you physically like the feel of, and you like the sound of. It could be a £7,000 pound handmade guitar, or it could be a really nifty Chinese made thing for £300, but just make sure you like the sound of the instrument and the physical feel of the instrument. I’m not a big collector of guitars, I don’t have many, but I know what I like to play. So that’s the thing, it’s not specifically to do with jazz, but I think it’s extremely important to have an instrument that you look forward to playing.

Secondly, again, not specific to jazz, the two most important things are to produce a good tone, with your hands. I play the electric guitar, unplugged a lot of the time to make sure my plectrum is doing all the work and the amp is just sort of amplifying what I’m doing with my hands.

Greg O’Rourke: Oh, that’s interesting.

Carl Orr: Yeah. So, and I play acoustic guitar more than half my practice time as well, I really concentrate on projecting a good tone, so good tone and also playing time. When people tend to play out of time, it’s usually because they’re trying to do too much. When people drift out of time, play too fast or too slow, it’s usually because they’re overexerting themselves. One of the things I learned, the biggest lesson I learned from all of these great musicians I played with is, don’t over exert yourself, always play within your limit and if you stick within your limits, as you continue playing, your limits will expand. Whereas if you overshoot and make mistakes continually or repeatedly as a result, then your limits don’t grow, they don’t, they just kind of wind up in a deadlock, so always play within your limits.

So anyway, specific to jazz I think the important thing is, learn songs, and especially concentrate on songs that you like. You know what? All the standards, there standards because they’re of a certain standard, but I’m a big believer that you like, what you like, and it’s well written as they all are, where I like some of them more than others as we all do. And I would definitely encourage you to concentrate on the songs you like best because you’ll learn them a lot more quickly and more thoroughly. So that’s the thing, is I think learning songs is the important thing. I think, to me the basics are, be able to play the chords fluently, be able to play the melody fluently, and if possible memorize both the chords and the melody before you start to improvise on the tune.

Some people don’t work like that, I have a friend who is an amazing jazz pianist and as amazing as he is, he’s not capable of doing that, but if you hear him play, he’ll just blow your head off. So I don’t say one thing applies to everybody, but I think generally, memorizing is a good thing for most people. But as I’ve said, I do know people who are amazing or certainly know more than one musician, who’s absolutely amazing, who likes to have the paper in front of them as a reference and it actually helps them to play better. But I would say get really intimate with the tune, so you can play it off by heart or nearly off by heart with just minimal referencing to the notation.

I always feel if you’re improvising and reading chords, you’re doing two things at once. Whereas if you know the chords that one, you maybe just have to glance at them. If you know the chords and you’re not looking, you’re only doing one thing, your brain is just doing the one thing of improvising. So I think obviously it’s not ideal for everybody, but I think the closer you can get to just improvising without reading that’s a good thing.

Greg O’Rourke: I think it’s a good practice technique, even if you feel you know the music on stage. I definitely think it’s something everyone should try to do, at least in the practice room, like turn the page over and just see what happens sometimes. You’ll be surprised, you think you know a song until you turn that page over, then you realize you still have a little way to go.

Carl Orr: Yeah, and I think it’s, I don’t know about you. I mean, one of the things I love about music is the effect that it has on your brain. When you’re doing that, you’re memorizing something that active memorization, your brain just kind of goes… and it’s really amazing. I think it’s quite interesting that a lot of musicians look very interested in neurology, and there’s a couple of leading neurologists who are actually ex recording engineers, like Daniel Levitin, who’s featured extensively in Stewart Copeland’s recent documentaries about music on the BBC. He was a top notch recording engineer in the USA and he got more and more interested in what music is doing to the brain and his now a neurologist.

And another one is that I don’t remember her name, but she was Prince’s full time recording engineer for seven years, working around the clock with Prince as a young woman and she is now a neurologist.

Greg O’Rourke: Yeah, really.

Carl Orr: I think people become so fascinated with the effect of music on the brain, and I think there’s something about that thing of memorizing your brain just goes, Oh yeah, give me more of that, I love that. It’s really tremendously beneficial, your brain just is like singing.

Greg O’Rourke: I think what’s interesting, about what you said then about the link between the study of the brain and music, is that… I guess as a musician, when you really deeply get into instrument, you start getting very interested in what the brain responds to. It’s sort of your practice room is your laboratory, and you try this and then you notice the effect that it has. Because in the end, that’s what it is basically, it is a way of studying the mind and sort of learning to work with your mind, and so I could really see that connection really clearly with myself anyway.

Carl Orr: Anyway, I don’t want you to think I know anything about neurology because I know nothing, but I do know that my brain likes it when I learn a new song. And I do think it’s interesting that people who are accomplished at music are interested in neurology, but mine is not an expert opinion.

Greg O’Rourke: That’ll be the next podcast. Carl Orr talks neurobiology.

Carl Orr: That’d be a good listen, yeah.

Greg O’Rourke: All right man. Well, I think just a little short and sweet introduction to everyone. Carl’s going to be connecting with a little high profile players that he’s connected to, I’m going to bring them on the show. I’m going to be taking a little time out here and there because I’m in the midst of creating a brand new chord melody course, that’s going to be coming out hopefully in just a few weeks, so stay tuned for that, I’m going to knuckle down over the next few weeks. So it’s great to have you as an artist in residence Carl, and yeah, we’re really looking forward to learning from you and you can share your wealth of, a lifetime of jazz guitar, knowledge and experience with us, and I think the students of the Academy, as well as all the subscribers from all around the world to Fret Dojo, are really going to benefit from you being with us. So thank you so much.

Carl Orr: Thank you, Greg. I’m very much looking forward to it.

Greg O’Rourke: Okay guys, we’ll leave it there. Check out the website FretDojo.com, as I mentioned before, to get a lot of free resources to get you started on your jazz guitar journey. And make sure you check out the FretDojo Academy, which is the complete collection of Fret Dojo courses by myself and other wonderful guest instructors like Carl. Okay guys, until next time, look forward to hanging out with you on the Fret Dojo podcast. I’ll talk to you soon.

 

Before you go…

Join my 30 Day Jazz Guitar Challenge

Instant access:

•  A step-by-step guide on building core improvisation skills

• Fundamental comping techniques to be a hero on the bandstand

• Discover the biggest mistakes made by aspiring jazz guitarists…and how YOU can avoid them

• The ultimate fast path for establishing a foundation in jazz guitar

• Instant access – find out more and sign up by clicking the button below:

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•  3 part video series - a step-by-step guide on building improvisation skills

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The 5 Minute Miracle – Guitar Practice Efficiency Secrets

The 5 Minute Miracle – Guitar Practice Efficiency Secrets

The 5 Minute Miracle – Guitar Practice Efficiency Secrets

Here’s a simple but incredibly effective strategy that I’ve used over the years when I have been busy, but I still need to make time for my music.

Check out the podcast below where I share it with you:

Join FretDojo’s online jazz guitar academy here

Transcript:

Greg O’Rourke: Hi guys. Welcome to fretdojo.com. My name’s Greg O’Rourke and it’s great to have you listening along today. This website’s all about the rapid path to mastering guitar and to build your skills to get you to the next level in your playing. So visit my website for a whole bunch of free lessons and courses and everything you need for a step-by-step instruction on building your skills with guitar and especially jazz guitar.

So here’s a simple but incredibly effective strategy that I’ve used over the years when I have been busy, but I still need to make time for my music. I don’t think you need to assume that to still make progress in guitar, you need to practise for hours and hours every day. Obviously, if you can that’s fantastic, but sometimes you can make excellent progress, simply by using what I call the Five-Minute Miracle.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about this really. All I do is grab my mobile phone, which has a countdown timer on it, and I set the timer for five minutes. And then I just grab my guitar, I don’t even bother to tune it. If it’s reasonably in tune, that’s great. And I just get straight into the next thing on my list that I need to develop.

So for example, if I’m trying to learn a new jazz standard, I might spend a bit of time learning one or two phrases from the melody. If I’m interested in learning how to solo over a particular tune, this is something I often do, I’ll just put on one chord from the progression and jam over it for a while. Building things up like this step-by-step, can be very effective because what it does is it presents your mind with a problem in a very constrained way. So for example, soloing over a G13 chord in the progression. And then, you can just focus on that single chord. And then maybe the next day, you might revisit that for say, 30 seconds, and then go to the next chord in the progression. And then on the third day, you might practise those two chords together. And I find a looper pedal is incredibly useful for this kind of technique.

So what am I talking about here? Let’s give a real world example. I’ve just set the timer for five minutes. I’ve grabbed my guitar. I don’t really care if it’s perfectly in tune or not, and I’ll just lay down quick pattern like this on my looper. Here we go, it’s a nice G13 chord. And so, this is one of the chords out of Take the A Train or something like that. If I’m looking at that standard and I see this chord, I’m just going to practise messing around over G13. Okay, here we go.

 

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.

Go here for more info: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

 

Okay, so can you hear how… what’s great about this practise is, it’s instantly satisfying, and also it’s a great step-by-step building block for say, focusing on a jazz standard, because rather than getting overwhelmed with all the different chords in one practise session, you just focus on one chord. And even if you only have time for one chord in one of those five minute miracle sessions, then gradually over the course of the week, you can actually cover quite a lot of different chords and combinations of them. So for example, in the next practise that I’ll do the next day for five minutes, I might combine that with another chord and loop that around. And so, in this kind of very embryonic step-by-step way, you’ll actually be very surprised on how fast you can develop your skills over a standard.

And what’s interesting is that it’s actually very highly leveraged because what you’re doing is, you’re presenting your mind the problem, and then you’re going away from it and you’re going to sleep and then you coming back, consolidating it quickly, and then adding another chunk. And then, if that’s all the time you have, then you go to sleep the next night. And then by the power of leveraging your subconscious, which is something I’ve talked about a lot in my courses and programmes over the years, it kind of seemingly without effort, you can really develop your playing. And it’s crazy how you think, man, I only spent five minutes on that, but I’ll come back the next day and it’s a lot easier and everything’s making sense. That’s your subconscious working for you when you’re not on the guitar.

This is the thing sometimes I find… I’m sure you’ve all had this feeling, when you’re trying to solve a difficult problem, in anything. For example, on my website I had a bit of a coding issue, and I was scratching my head, trying to peel my brain, how am I going to solve this problem? And I would have sat there for like an hour, just not really getting anywhere. Then I go to sleep on it and I come back, and all of a sudden the solution presents itself within a few minutes. A lot of creative types and scientists have commented on this, the power of the subconscious in solving problems when you’re away from the problem.

And so being very consistent but diligent, even with a very small five minute practise, even that can really help you develop your playing. And you start to realise, maybe I don’t need to spend as much time as I was thinking, when you do have more time to practise. So of course, if you have a couple of hours a day to practise and that’s fantastic. Of course, you’ll likely make more progress, but you have to be careful that you are using the leverage of your subconscious. So you need to be very planned with your practise. You need to make sure that you present your mind with a new problem and that the next day, even if you are practising a lot, you need to consolidate it and review that and then add another bit on step-by-step.

And so, this is why I find just moving through maybe a standard, one phrase at a time, trying to memorise one phrase the first day and then consolidating that the next day. Then adding another phrase on the second day and so forth. And moving slowly but steadily, sequentially through material is an excellent way to build progress. And not feeling like you need to get all this right all at once. And this is why a lot of people feel like they’re a “deer in the headlights” when they’re soloing. Because they’re trying to work out how to solo over every chord in a single session, and they get completely overwhelmed because it’s just too much information for the brain to handle. The brain works best when it’s focused on just small pieces of information and then develops those and then links them together.

And so, anything is easy if you can break it down into its constituent parts rather than feeling like this whole massive difficulty in front of you. Just pick things apart and focus on one little element at a time. And this is why this five minute miracle technique is something that I’ve always fallen back on in busy times.

But you can use the principles of this technique, even if you have a longer practise sessions, to present the problem, review the second day and consolidate, add one more element on that next session, rinse and repeat through the week. And then make sure that you get a really good night’s sleep and take care of yourself. It said that there’s three ways in which the mind most effectively consolidates information.

The first is sleep, the second is exercise, and the third is socialisation. Now obviously, that third one might be a little bit difficult at the moment, but we can definitely do the first two. We can do get a good sleep and that’s really important for your wellbeing right now anyway, outside of music. You just need to make sure that you get a good night’s sleep. It’s really good for everything. And then the second one is exercise. Again, that’s really important, but the brain actually makes all the connections in those kinds of categories of activity, ironically, when you’re not even on the instrument or when you’re not studying. It’s those times when you’re doing something like sleep or exercise, when the brain starts to knit everything together.

Actually, there’s a really good course that I want you guys to check out if you haven’t already. I think it’s a free course. It’s on Coursera, at least it used to be free. So check it out. It’s called Learning How to Learn, and they talk about the efficient processes for learning. And it’s really, really interesting, and I’ve based a lot of my recent study and practise on the principles that I learned about in that course. So make sure that you check it out.

Okay, so in the spirit of the topic today, this is a very short and sweet podcast, but we did a focus on something really important, how to highly leverage even small practise sessions on your guitar to get some strong results in your playing, even if you’re busy with other things.

So my name’s Greg O’Rourke. Really hope you enjoyed this today. Please get in touch with me and let me know what you think about this. You can leave a comment on my website. Make sure that you give this podcast a five star rating and a nice comment, if you enjoyed today’s show and you’re interested in me doing some more of these shows. Yeah, I’m happy to keep doing these, but I need your support. So make sure you give me a good rating on iTunes please. That would be wonderful. And yeah, in terms of what’s going on at the moment in FretDojo, there’s some great courses that you can get into.

And also, I’m offering the 30 Day Jazz Guitar Challenge, which is one of my most popular programmes, and you can now enrol on it any time. So make sure that you visit my website. It’s on the front page at the moment, at the time of this recording for info, if you’re interested in having a nice structured programme for developing jazz guitar skills, if you’re looking for something to do at the moment that’s a wholesome, healthy activity. And something where you can develop a hobby and something you’re interested in, then this course might be a good fit for you.

Okay, guys, well, hope you have a great day today. Stay safe, stay calm and keep on jazzin’! I’ll talk to you soon.

Before you go…

Join my 30 Day Jazz Guitar Challenge

Instant access:

•  A step-by-step guide on building core improvisation skills

• Fundamental comping techniques to be a hero on the bandstand

• Discover the biggest mistakes made by aspiring jazz guitarists…and how YOU can avoid them

• The ultimate fast path for establishing a foundation in jazz guitar

• Instant access – find out more and sign up by clicking the button below:

FREE Course:
The BIG Secrets of Jazz Guitar Improvisation

•  3 part video series - a step-by-step guide on building improvisation skills

• Learn the biggest mistakes made by aspiring jazz guitar improvisers and what you should be doing instead

• Instant access - completely FREE!

How Hard Is It To Learn Jazz Guitar?

How Hard Is It To Learn Jazz Guitar?

How Hard Is It To Learn Jazz Guitar?

In today’s topic, I want to talk about something important.

How hard is it, really, to learn jazz?

Check out the podcast below where I answer this question:

Join FretDojo’s online jazz guitar academy here

Transcript:

Hi guys. Greg O’Rourke here from the Fret Dojo Podcast. Visit my website, www.fretdojo.com to get your guitar playing to the next level. In today’s topic, I want to talk about something important. How hard is it, really, to learn jazz? Because there’s a lot of differing opinions on this, but a lot of them seem to gravitate to the point of view that jazz guitar is incredibly hard to learn, will take a large chunk of your life, definitely you can’t focus on any other aspect of your life to get good at this.

Kind of like the Whiplash kind of approach. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that movie. I actually don’t really recommend that for the fainthearted, that movie, which is basically about a jazz student that goes to more extreme and extreme levels of dedication in the face of quite an intense and violent teacher that kind of puts him through hell basically to learn jazz.

Now in particular, I want to talk about an article that one of my readers sent into me with this question. How hard is it and how long does it take to learn jazz guitar? It’s on guitarprinciples.com and the web post name is How Long to Learn Your Style of Guitar. It goes through a few different styles, but then it comes to jazz guitar.

Now I won’t read this whole thing obviously on the podcast now, but I just want to pick out a few tasty morsels here. So here’s a few things that this article says. “The jazz player needs a vast and extensive range of tools, because the music they play is based on sophisticated scales, and those scales are used to generate extremely complex chord structures. There are hundreds of code forms to learn and a great number of scale forms all over the neck in every key.”

So already, you can kind of hear that there’s a lot of complexity going on with jazz guitar and most people would be put off by that first paragraph here. They talk about here, in terms of the amount of study required for a jazz guitarist. Five years of study, averaging two or more hours a day, hopefully more, are required to get up and running as a player in the jazz genre. Then it takes about 10 years of three or more hours a day to fully acquire the use of those tools and a lifetime of continuing study and refinement if you want to be among the greats. A high degree of refined technique must be developed as well.

So you have to decide, do you want to be a brain surgeon or a jazz guitarist? Probably becoming a brain surgeon will be a bit less of a commitment. Well, if that isn’t the most off-putting thing I’ve ever read about wanting to study jazz guitar. I’m going to let you into a little secret. I haven’t spent that much time studying jazz guitar and I can still gig and improvise, and I have a whole website about it.

So I think this is really, really misleading, this point of view. But it’s a pervasive point of view that you hear about when it comes to studying jazz in general, that it’s really for people that want to do nothing else in their lives and they need to spend their whole day on it, it’s the most completely overwhelming form of music to study, but this simply is not the case.

I think we need to talk about what your goals are as a jazz guitarist. Sure, do you want to be like the next West Montgomery? Then probably, yes, you do need to spend a large part of your life refining your style. But you don’t need to get to that level to still enjoy playing jazz to competently solo and play in the band and do gigs and all that sort of thing, you don’t need that much time.

I think it’s a kind of a psychological thing. If you think something takes a certain amount of time, you’ll find it will. So, the way we think about something kind of creates our reality. I think when you read something like this, you got to take it with a grain of salt and put it in context. So don’t get me wrong, jazz is a vast topic and that’s kind of what I like about it. There’s so many different players with each of their individual kind of slant and approaches on improvisation and composing.

I think that’s what makes it so wonderful to study, is this kind of vastness. There’s pretty much something for everyone, because it’s very different to other styles. Every great player really does have their unique kind of feel and approach and improvisation concepts that they tend to focus on. But I think that’s where the first thing about learning jazz is a bit misleading, is to qualify as someone that can play jazz, you need to know how to solo in the style of Pat Martino, in the style of Joe Pass, in the style of Emily Remler, in the style of Barney Kessel and 150 other great jazz guitarists before you’ve kind of got this qualification that you’re allowed to then gig or make music.

That’s really not the case. You don’t need to have such a wide expansive influences to simply make great music. Think differently, I think. That’s what Steve Jobs said, think different. What about just trying to make great music with what you have right now? Sound like you. This is the thing. A few years ago, I was teaching a lot of kind of one-on-one individual lessons online and I was meeting a lot of amateur players from all around the world and helping them with their jazz. I always got them to start on this little exercise.

I actually did a video on this on my YouTube channel a few weeks ago, and it was about basically how to solo with five notes only, okay? So it was just five notes from a blues scale, that was it. But I got them to just start improvising with those five notes with that single scale over a simple chord progression. Now what’s interesting about doing that exercise with hundreds of players is that I’ve never heard someone play that exercise the same way twice. Everyone, even at the very start of their jazz journey, has something unique that they can say with the material.

So you have to trust yourself that, as a human being, you are an artist, you have that artistic drive inside you and that you can make a powerful musical statement very quickly. You don’t have to wait till you’re qualified and you kind of learn every single theory trick in the book and every single substitution, and you have transcribed all the things that you should transcribe. That’s a load of rubbish, basically. You can start making good music right now.

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.

Go here for more info: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

 

I also think that just having a limited set of inspiration can actually be a springboard of creativity anyway. Wes Montgomery spent a lot of time transcribing Charlie Christian. He was just obsessed with Charlie Christian. He would learn every single solo by Charlie Christian. I don’t know if he extensively did other transcriptions from other players, but once he’d kind of got that main influence, then he used that as a springboard to enhance his own playing as Wes Montgomery, okay?

So, you don’t need to study every single player out there to still have a solid understanding of jazz and a solid feel for the core approaches. So I think that’s where you have to be a bit selective. It’s kind of ironic that if you feel like you have to be a walking dictionary of jazz, you’ll find that it’s actually harder to be creative ironically, because you’re sort of locked in superficially studying too much stuff, rather than going deep and narrow on a couple of players that you really like.

I think you need to start thinking as an artist. Even from the outset as a beginner player, rather than thinking of yourself as a student that has to fill your brain up with so much knowledge, you definitely need a bit of that, but then how do I then turn that into a musical statement that’s uniquely my own? That kind of changes the whole nature of the study of jazz guitar. You can start to feel like you’re more making a creative statement, rather than just parroting something that’s been done by other people.

So when it says here five years of study, averaging around two or more hours a day are required to get up and running as a player. I know that that’s patently wrong, because I have, for example, I have a course called The Fundamentals of Jazz Guitar Improvisation in my Fret Dojo Academy membership programme. The course is structured for about a block of 10 weeks, for about 45 minutes of practise, five days a week.

By the end of that programme, and I’ve run this for a few years now, I’ve seen people do videos where they’ll be good enough to go and get a gig with the music that they’ve learned, okay? So I know that that’s not true. Once again, your mindset is everything. If you think something will take 10 years to get good, or if you think you need at least three hours a day to be able to even just play a simple song, then it will take that long. But question everything, that’s what I’ve learned. Because early on in my kind of journey with jazz, I definitely thought like that, because that’s what everyone was saying. But then when you realise that maybe that there’s another way to do it, then a whole lot of other possibilities can open up for you.

So there’s other things in here, like there are a large number of standards, songs and pieces that every jazz player knows that they can play and improvise on, all of these must be learned. Now, that’s not true. I don’t know every jazz standard, but the set lists that I do have, I know really well. If I’m collaborating on a project with someone and they want to do a few standard tunes, and some of them I would know, some of them I don’t. It doesn’t really matter.

If you know the core concepts of how to improvise over the main progressions that are featured over and over again in jazz, it means that you can solo over hundreds of tunes and do reasonably well. Once again, you don’t need to be a walking dictionary of jazz standards. I was actually talking to Howard Alden once about that and he thought it’s not like you have to learn every jazz standard. Definitely learn the main ones that you might find come up and up again depending on where you gig or where you go to a jam session or whatever, learn those ones. But then, just learn ones one at a time, or better still, compose your own standards, make your own music.

So I know I have a different point of view to some of the other guys out there, but I think definitely it’s important to learn jazz standards. In my membership, every month we’re focusing on a new jazz standard to kind of learn some of the important chord progressions and soloing approaches, and a bit of transcriptions and things like that. But it’s not like you have to learn 500 of these things to be able to do a gig. Again, it’s just simply not true.

Now here’s another point about, I’m quoting from the article here. “Although there was going to be a repetition of patterns as we go about learning all this musical material, there’s still a tremendous amount of material to study. Many great players have filled large volumes with the material they practise and have published it for other players to study. So, you can fill a room with such material and have a lifetime of study ahead of you, which is very fortunate if you love this sort of thing.”

Now again, I don’t think creative soloing necessarily comes from a large amount of material, I think creative soloing comes from actually placing limits on your material. So selecting the key approaches, the most important ones, and then going really deep on that. Not just filling your head with all this stuff that you … because when you improvise, you need to be able to spontaneously in a very natural way, kind of talk with this music, you don’t want to kind of just superficially learn a whole bunch of different stuff.

Of course, jazz is a bit of a lifetime journey, but you shouldn’t mix that together with having to feel like you need to spend a lifetime before being able to perform. So, let’s just step back a bit. You can effectively solo, learning how to solo over major 2-5-1s, minor 2-5-1s, a few secondary dominant sort of approaches, tritone substitutions, and a couple of arpeggio by substitutions or something like that.

If you can have that material, that will keep you going for a very long time, okay? That really doesn’t take that long to learn. It’s all about being selective and kind of having material that’s what I call high frequency, so stuff that’s very relevant to a lot of different songs, okay? So if you can have that kind of collection of material that’s very applicable to a wide variety of situations, then you’ll find that very quickly you can start to make sense of this kind of game of improvisation.

Now my membership programme, actually, kind of has that. I’ve documented the main approaches that are worth looking for and we work those over a variety of exercises and the most important standards. Then you can go for your life from there and apply them to a whole bunch of different tunes.

So I’m going to kind of say something a bit controversial here, I don’t think actually jazz is hard at all. Nothing in jazz is necessarily hard when it comes to learning the concepts of improvisation, it’s more a case of uncovering the most efficient and effective approaches. So it’s more a case of finding them that’s the tricky part. It’s not necessarily doing them or learning them, but it’s kind of sorting the weak from the chaff and learning the most essential aspects and approaches, and kind of techniques for learning soloing. So none of it is actually hard, it’s just something that you learn.

So having high frequency material, having a good mindset, having the understanding that if you’re consistent in your practise and leveraging that kind of inertia that happens when you start to practise, not necessarily a long time every day, but a little bit every day and being very focused on your material, you can get wonderful results.

So once I actually taught a Saxophonist over Skype. Even though I don’t play saxophone, but this person was struggling a bit to learn to improvise, and was in a situation where they had to play a lot of gigs in that style and it was stressing them out. Now I had to listen to what they had to say, and from the outset this person was saying, “I just can’t improvise, I’m a terrible improvisor,” and all that sort of thing. That was actually creating the reality of this person, okay? So, I had to really unpick that in the lesson.

After a while, she started to realise, “Hang on, maybe I can do this.” I showed her a few techniques from that Fundamentals of Jazz Improvisation course that’s on my site. But seriously, it only took about 20 minutes and she was playing a really cool natural sounding solo using some great pentatonic approaches and some blues, and she couldn’t believe her own playing. So it was mainly the mental block of thinking she couldn’t do it, and I had to just convince her that she could.

So people just need to start, okay? Make great music right now, don’t wait to feel like you have to have some qualification from someone else to get better at this stuff. I wouldn’t pay much attention to the sentiments in this article. I’m sorry I’ve kind of dished this person a bit in his podcast, but it really highlighted that kind of attitude that creates so much mental blocks in people’s abilities to just get started, and to start to make great music and start to enjoy this wonderful music that’s jazz with other people.

All right, guys. Well, let me know what you thought about this topic today and I’d love to get a bit of feedback. Either people that agree with me or even people that don’t agree with me, I’m interested to hear your thoughts and read them on my site. Please post a comment if you get to my site there. Yeah, I look forward to catching up with you in the next episode.

We’ve got some pretty cool stuff coming up in the Fret Dojo. I’ve got a great live session with Carl Orr that’s going to be on in a few weeks time in the membership, and he’s going to be talking about comping in a duo setting and some cool techniques for that. So that’s something that we haven’t focused a lot on yet in the Fret Dojo, so make sure you look out for that. Make sure you sign them up to my email list, I have lots of stuff coming out all the time, videos, new podcasts, and new courses as well.

So, okay guys, well, my name’s Greg O’Rourke. Great to chat with you today and I look forward to catching up with you in the next episode of Fret Dojo. Bye for now.

Before you go…

Join my 30 Day Jazz Guitar Challenge

Instant access:

•  A step-by-step guide on building core improvisation skills

• Fundamental comping techniques to be a hero on the bandstand

• Learn the biggest mistakes made by aspiring jazz guitarists

• The ultimate fast path for establishing a foundation in jazz guitar

• Instant access – find out more and sign up by clicking the button below:

FREE Course:
The BIG Secrets of Jazz Guitar Improvisation

•  3 part video series - a step-by-step guide on building improvisation skills

• Learn the biggest mistakes made by aspiring jazz guitar improvisers and what you should be doing instead

• Instant access - completely FREE!

Free Sample Lesson: Charlie Parker Ornaments

Free Sample Lesson: Charlie Parker Ornaments

Free Sample Lesson: Charlie Parker Ornaments

Welcome to this month’s free sample lesson from the FretDojo Academy where I’ll show you how to apply some cool Charlie Parker style ornaments to standard arpeggios.

Saxophonist Charlie Parker is considered to be the father of bebop, who has been a key influence of countless jazz players of all instruments ever since.​​

This lesson is part of a series on the classic Charlie Parker tune “Yardbird Suite” which was recently released in the FretDojo Jazz Guitar Academy. To find out more about the Academy and to sign up to get instant access click here.

Video Sections:

00:00 Introduction
01:19 Ornament #1
05:28 Ornament #2
07:31 Combining ornaments

Watch the video above and experiment applying the embellishments you learn to your own soloing and licks.

Note: About Band In A Box 

I’ve provided in the ‘Backing Track Collection’ zip file a Band in a Box file. This is excellent software for your jazz practice as it can speed up or slow down the track to any desired tempo, change the key, style, and even generate a solo for you to play along with. It’s an excellent tool for any jazz student and I highly recommend this. Get it for Mac here or for Windows here.

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The BIG Secrets of Jazz Guitar Improvisation

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The Problem With Modes (and the solution)

The Problem With Modes (and the solution)

The Problem With Modes (and the solution)

One of the biggest questions my readers write in about is:

“Should I be using modes when improvising on jazz guitar?”

The answer is:

It depends.

But, most likely there is a more effective approach for jazz guitar improvisation, using arpeggios and chord tones as a basis.

Check out the podcast below which will show the reasons why:

Join FretDojo’s online jazz guitar academy here

Transcript:

Greg O’Rourke: In today’s episode, I’d like to talk about a topic that I get bombarded with in my email inbox all the time on a weekly basis. It’s all about modes.

What is the value of modes in jazz and in soloing? Now the modal concept is something that is actually very ancient. You might’ve heard of the terms like Dorian mode and Phrygian mode. What this is basically is a scale that starts on a different note to what it usually does.

So let’s say we have C major. Okay, but let’s say instead of starting on the note we usually do, let’s start at simply on the next note up. So we’ll start it on the D and then finish on the D. So that actually has all the same notes in it as C major. It’s just that I’ve used a different starting tone which emphasises that new tone as kind of the centre of that scale. 

Now here’s the thing. Modes are useful to understand because they are often referenced in jazz theory books and when you’re playing over something like So What or Impressions or Maiden Voyage and things like that, these are tunes that are actually based around that harmonic idea; the idea of composing the tune with a mode in mind. So in those circumstances a mode is quite useful to solo because you can kind of gravitate around that mode in your soloing. Often those kinds of chord progressions are quite static so you can just play around with a mode.

If you take swing tunes like All the Things You Are or Along Came Betty or Satin Doll, anything like that which involves a lot of key changes moving quickly, a lot of chords moving quickly. The modal approach, in my opinion anyway, it starts to fall down. The reason for that is because just let’s say the classic kind of example you hear when you’re listening to a lesson on modal soloing is that let’s say we take the two quarter note in a two, five, one progression.

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.
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  • 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.

Go here for more info: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

 

So here’s my key. There’s chord one there and chord two and chord five and chord one. So here’s chord two, right. You’ll often hear that referenced to as use a Dorian scale over chord two. Okay. Then for chord five, use a Mixolydian scale over that. Then finally finish with just a major scale or Ionian mode, which is the same as major for the one chord. Now, the problem with that is in a chart which is a swing tune with a two five one, it kind of goes like this.

Okay, so the chords moves so fast in a two, five, one in jazz. Then how are you supposed to be able to target all those notes in each mode over every single chord? It’s actually impossible and I don’t really know of anyone that would think like that. The only way you could really think like that was if you kind of imagine in your mind that all those chords are the two chord and then you just play the D Dorian mode for that whole progression. I’ll try this on my loop and I’ll just get that fired up here. So here’s my chord progression. Two five one on my looper.

So it sort of sounds possible, but can you see how that doesn’t really sound like jazz when I’m doing that? Sure. It’s not like it’s incorrect, but it just doesn’t sound that good. Why does it not sound that good? Well what’s happening here is I’m sort of generalising everything, treating it kind of like it’s just all the notes out of C major and I’m kind of just using Dorian so I don’t start on the note of C all the time when I’m playing, but the problem with this is it causes two issues. The first one is that I tend to just play everything in a very ‘scalic’ way because I’m thinking in a mode, you know what I mean? We’ll talk about an alternative option to that in a minute. The other problem is that it’s not specifically targeting the relevant chord tones for each chord.

I’m just kind of noodling around on that scale with my ear and it doesn’t sound, on the two chord it sort of sounds pretty good. On the other chords it really just doesn’t sound that strong. I’m not clearly targeting strong chord tones. So with those two issues combined makes it in my opinion, an inferior method for soloing over typical older style jazz progressions, like two five ones, one six two five, three six two five, and so on.

So what’s an alternative to soloing that doesn’t involve modes? To be honest when I’m playing jazz, especially on the kind of music that I prefer, which is the music anywhere from the 40s to the 60s, I don’t tend to use modes that much. I more think in terms of chord tone soloing.

So chord tone soloing is where you can identify the relevant notes of each chord and hit them at the right point when the chord progression is played. So that means using arpeggios is pretty much what I’m doing here. So targeting my tones, using arpeggio shapes that I know. I’ve learned them, I can hear them in my ears, and then I can kind of target those tones as I apply through a progression like this. So I’ll give you a sound of what that sounds like. Let’s apply my chord progression again. I’ll stick in the same sort of register. Here’s my two five one progression. Here we go.

Okay, so you get the idea of where I’m going with this. So you could hear how I was much more closely adhering to the sounds of the chords when I was using chord tones and it makes sense. I’m deliberately targeting those notes through applying the relevant arpeggio shape each time. Although arpeggios in a way they take a little bit longer to learn because there’s more shapes to learn for the arpeggios, even just sticking to these kind of one octave arpeggio shapes like this, you can get a lot of ammunition with that and it gives you the ability to switch from each shape to another just like you’re changing chords with when you’re playing rhythm guitar.

So I find that this is a much, much more effective way to solo is targeting these chord tones when you play and arpeggios is the means to do this. Now there’s some cool things you can do with arpeggios. Let’s take this D minor arpeggio. You don’t really need to know a lot about jazz theory to create some really hip sounds here. What I could do is just kind of play up two notes into the chord tone. So listen to this.

So I was just ending up on each of the arpeggio tones, but starting it from two notes from below. I could also start from two notes above. See how jazzy that’s sounds. I could take a chord tone. Let’s say this A that I’m playing here. The fifth of the D minor seven and I could just play one fret above, one fret below, and finish on the chord tone. So if I do that in a line, see how that sounds really jazzy.

So I don’t need to be so theoretical about my soloing now because I can see that pattern on the fretboard. Then I can just lead my fingers to each of the chord tones in the arpeggio. It’s a lot of fun and it’s kind of relaxing to solo like this because I don’t need to really remember what mode is it I’m on at the moment or anything like that. I simply see that arpeggio shape and then can instantly kind of doodle around on that and firstly create strong strong chord tone basis for my soloing. Then use some nice chromatic tones to lead to each of those and sort of thread a really jazzy line. So chord tones very, very important. I think unfortunately often overlooked when it comes to how the jazz education has been codified., A lot of the books that you read, especially for jazz guitar actually seems to focus too much on this modal aspect in an inappropriate context because they’re using this this style of jazz playing that was more popular in the 70s and beyond.

It doesn’t really apply to music that’s older than that because the composers were using a different framework for their harmony. So this could be the missing link. If you’ve been wondering why you’re just not sounding that great using modes and scales and things like that when you’re playing, it’s probably because you simply haven’t been targeting chord tones. Now I suggest that you look on some resources on that topic. There’s some resources and courses on my website about this, about chord tone soloing. There’s some great books available, but I suggest that you just experiment with these little shapes.

See if you can figure, obviously this is an audio podcast so you can’t see my guitar, but see if you can find out how to play the notes of a Dm7 chord for which would be D, F, A, and C. Work out a shape of just a one octave shape on the fretboard and then mess around with that shape just over a static backing track. Here’s a little example. To make this really easy I’ll just clear my looper pedal here and I’ll just lay down like a little basic. Just D minor seven by itself.

Okay, here we go. So there’s my looper and I’m just going to play firstly the arpeggio. Maybe play it backwards. Now let’s do some interesting rhythms. Mix up the notes. See that’s quite strong. See how that’s got a nice kind of bounce to it now because I’m not playing like this. It doesn’t sound like jazz there but this does more. Now let’s put some chromatic tones in there and see how now I can start to put the scale notes around that, but I’m focusing mainly on the arpeggio tones. It sounds much more jazzy like that.

Try sliding into the tones. Try to punch some of them out more than the others. Lead with chromatics and you can have a lot of fun just over that one chord. Could you hear how you can keep things interesting over a static chord even just with a basic one octave arpeggio. So that’s really the power of arpeggios chord tone soloing. It’s kind of the basis of my methodology when I’m teaching students is going from the chord tones and arpeggios first. The other stuff can come later depending on what style that you want to eventually get into as a player. Definitely knowing where your arpeggios are very, very important to get straight into the harmony and hear the harmony in your lines. So I really hope you enjoyed today’s podcast.

It was a very important topic to cover as a jazz musician. Yeah, give this a try in your practise this week. I want you to get one arpeggio out, put it on a backing track or a looper pedal the corresponding harmony for that, and then mess around with it and see what kind of jazzy sounds you can make. You can have a lot of fun with this and it’s very, very good ear training, fretboard training. It’s a wonderful exercise.

Okay, well until further ado, I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of fretdojo. Peace and I’ll talk to you soon.

 

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The BIG Secrets of Jazz Guitar Improvisation

•  3 part video series - a step-by-step guide on building improvisation skills

• Learn the biggest mistakes made by aspiring jazz guitar improvisers and what you should be doing instead

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