Podcast: Interview with Jazz Guitarist Barry Greene

On today’s podcast, Greg and Vin interview one of jazz guitar’s leading players and educators, Barry Greene.

Audio Version:

Here are the key highlights from the interview:

  • Barry emphasizes learning by transcribing and memorizing solos of musicians you admire rather than getting overly focused on music theory.
  • He advises finding 2-3 musicians that deeply inspire you and learning their solos note-for-note to absorb their phrasing and feel.
  • Barry believes many students get too consumed by music theory rather than just playing and making music. The jazz greats he looked up to didn’t obsess over theory.
  • He recommends melodic exercises like playing nursery rhymes on 1-2 strings to develop fretboard knowledge and rely more on your ears.
  • Barry stresses the importance of command over the fretboard and knowing chord forms and scales in all positions.
  • Great jazz improvisers start solos melodically, build gradually while incorporating some technical ideas, and reach a climax, rather than just starting with fast lines.
  • The internet has enabled more of a community spirit amongst jazz guitarists who support each other’s playing despite competing for the same small audience.

Join FretDojo’s online jazz guitar academy here

Resources And Links Mentioned:

Barry Greene YouTube Channel

Website: Digital downloads, merch:


Greg: Hello and welcome. My name is Greg O’Rourke. Welcome once again to another Fret Dojo podcast. Fantastic to have all our listeners join us today. And today I’m joined today by my assistant instructor Vin Amorando. Today we have a very special guest on this podcast, Barry Greene. Welcome to the show, Barry.

Barry: Thank you. Nice to be here.

Greg: Fantastic. Well, let’s get started. Just so you guys get a bit of a sense of Barry’s accomplishments as a jazz guitarist and jazz guitar teacher over the years, here’s a bit about Barry’s illustrious career. So Barry’s been described by jazz guitar legend Pat Martino as:

“… one of the best, not only as a player, but also as a writer and teacher. I agree with others who regard him as a world class musician.”

Well, there you go. That’s pretty high praise, I have to say, from one of the, one of the grandfathers of jazz guitar. Uh, but, uh, Barry got his start on the guitar at age 10 when he was into the Beatles, later Led Zeppelin, before discovering jazz in high school.

Barry attended Berklee College of Music and William Patterson University in New Jersey, where he received his bachelor degree and later attended the University of South Florida for his graduate studies. Barry’s played all over the United States and Europe.

He has eight CDs out under his name. He’s played with a who’s who of guitar greats: Jimmy Bruno, Tommy Emmanuel… Oh, another Aussie… fantastic. Mike Stern, Jack Peterson and many many more.

Barry’s been a professor of jazz studies at the University of North Florida School of Music since 1995. He’s also authored several interactive iBooks, including ‘Playing Jazz Guitar’, ‘Chord Melodies’ and ‘Intros and Endings’, all available on his website BarryGreene.com.

Vin and I feel very privileged and thrilled to have you on the podcast today. So. Thank you, Barry. Let’s get started with a few questions just about where it all started for you.

So, mentioned you came across jazz guitar during school. So do you want to elaborate a bit upon that and kind of where your journey went from there?

Barry: Well, I think like a lot of people growing up in the 1970s, especially guitarists, you know, I gravitated toward people that you mentioned, You know, it was more honestly .. more Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith and those kinds of groups in the 1970s, It was such a guitar laden, great…Just so much fun music.

And I had a Fender Strat. I had a Les Paul. I had a Marshall stack and I had a garage in New Jersey where we used to practice. And so yeah, it was great. I grew to love that part of,.. I mean, that kind of music and the excitement of playing for other people.

But it got to a point where I was getting ready to almost graduate high school. I did graduate high school. What I’m saying is that I found myself spending a lot of time not going to school. Mother laid down the law that if you don’t get serious about something, we’re going to kick you out of the house. And you know, a mother from New Jersey, when she said that she really meant business.

But in any case… so I got a guitar teacher in my junior year of high school who introduced me to jazz and introduced me to some of the people you mentioned, like Pat Martino, for instance, and George Benson, Joe Pass. And I was completely, just absolutely blown away. I had no idea that anybody could play the guitar at that kind of a level and I just became obsessed with trying to gain that level of mastery myself.

Greg: Let’s talk about how you got to where you are now. Like, you know, one of the most highly acclaimed jazz guitar teachers, You’ve got a huge profile, You’re teaching at a prestigious university and so forth.

So what do you think are the elements that have made you exceptional, like who, what are your influences or what are the main things that you focused on?

Barry: Well, just as far as the players themselves, I already kind of rattled them off, from hearing guys like both the Pats, to say Pat Martino, Pat McManus as well, George Benson, Joe Pass. All those …West Montgomery, of course, Grant Green,

The long, long list…inspired me, but I think like anything, when you have a desire to do something and you just give it everything, that you have to try to be the best you can be at it. As a … I remember being 18 or 19 years old and transcribing these solos off of recordings by Charlie Parker and John Coltrane and absorbing all this information.

And I remember thinking, ‘okay, well, I’m 18. By the time I’m 25 I’m going to be this level, by the time I’m 30 … and always gauging myself to the guitar players and musicians I was admiring. And here I am 62 and I’m still doing the same thing. But that was it. It was just an incredible drive and desire to do it … and a pure love for it. It wasn’t just some obsession. It was a pure love. And I feel that way still today.

Greg: Yeah.

Barry: So hopefully that answers your question.

Greg: Definitely. So you kind of… You had that sort of vision as to where you wanted to go. It sounds like you had a lot of clarity as to where the kind of … where you’re aspiring to go.

Barry: Yeah, I think… I didn’t ever expect to be a professor of jazz studies at the University of North Florida. That was definitely not on my game plan at all. At all. It really was just to try to be the best guitar player that ever lived. That was pretty much it. I really, really worked hard.

And then just like anything, when you’re playing a lot, you’re teaching a lot, you’re meeting people, you’re genuine and you’re honest and you’re just ,.. you give off a good energy and stuff just starts coming your way.

I’m not making light of it. It takes a tremendous amount of work and effort, but if you can back it up by the fact that you are an accomplished musician and can add something to a musical situation, the phone just rings for you and things just start happening. Because like I said, the last thing I expected was to be a professor of jazz studies. That’s for sure.

Greg: Amazing. So, Vin, you had a question you wanted to ask Barry about … George Benson .. do you want to elaborate on that?

Vin: Because he had just mentioned it in passing, but I was reading in an interview, I don’t remember the publication, It could have been Jazz Guitar, one of those, where you had actually cited George Benson as maybe the most influential. Did I read that right? Like, if you had to pick one guy that was your big inspiration…

Barry: I think George Benson just personifies everything great about jazz guitar. You know, I’m not going to say that he’s number one or number two in that long list, because how could you really say that about, you know, when you’re citing West Montgomery, George Benson, Pat Martino … They all have an incredible impact on jazz guitarists. There’s not a guitar player alive today that can say that they haven’t been influenced by those people.

But I think George just has everything, you know? He’s got insane chops, insane time feel, phrasing, sound, vibe. I mean, it’s just incredible. And as a young person, I’d always thought if I can get the line playing, that execution of that line that Pat Martino had, with all of the grace and soulfulness that George Benson has, you would just have the perfect guitar player, you know?

But so when I say that, I do mean that, I mean, he is an astonishingly great guitar player and every time I hear him come on some playlist and I’m listening to Apple music and he did something I hadn’t heard in a while, I think to myself, my God, there’s nobody who’s touching this guy. Yeah, it’s just truly remarkable.

Greg: Amazing. So Barry, let’s talk now about the … you as a teacher, important things that you find yourself time and time again talking to your students about. You’ve come across jazz guitar students of all shapes and sizes. But let’s start maybe from the beginner…

If someone was starting from scratch, what would you say would be the logical progression of exercises or fretboard knowledge or things like that? Like, what are the building blocks that you tend to focus on in your teaching?

Well, because of what I do I’m usually meeting students that have already been playing for quite a while. People are coming into college level and the people that I teach online via Skype, or even zoom like this, even in an older age bracket.

But if I were to go back in time and be able to counsel myself … how I would do things differently, There’d be a few things I would do a little bit differently.

The most important thing is what we’ve already been talking about. Is that you have to be able to connect with some musician that you just feel like, man, I would just love to be able to play like this person. I’m not about copying or emulating them to the letter. Just to say that when I hear this person, it’s just moved me beyond words. I just want to be able to do that and identifying two or three people like that you could just focus on.

I think where the issue lies, especially today with so much information, whether it’s a college or YouTube or even what we’re doing right now, is that people get way too caught up in the whole theoretical part of being a musician.

And it’s … I can’t say this for certain. I’ve had this conversation many, many times. That I can’t imagine the people that we’re speaking about sitting around talking about the Dorian mode. I just can’t, I don’t see it. Even in my own experience, like you mentioned a bunch of guitar players,. I’ve hung out with all the people you’ve mentioned and had conversations. We’ve never ever talked about that stuff. We would say ‘Hey, have you checked out this guy?’ ‘Have you checked out that guy?’ ‘Oh yeah, that was killing.’ But it’s never about the specifics of theory because it has very little to do with the actual playing of this music.

The analogy I’ll give, and maybe it may be something you’ve heard already, but the way I think about it, music in general and learning how to be a good jazz musician, is that by the time we’re five or six years old going to grade school … I don’t know what it’s like in Australia … For instance in the United States, five years old, you’re going to kindergarten. You have complete command of the language. You know how to speak, you know how to ask for what you need. You could communicate without the need for verbs and adverbs and all the things that we learn about later on to go to school. And that’s the way I think about it. I think it’s a matter of just learning phrases from these great musicians that you admire.

That’s what I was saying earlier. And yeah, later on you could say ‘Oh, man, Pat Martino used a G minor arpeggio’ or ‘Joe Pass is using this voicing for a minor seven flat five chord.’ That’s all fine. But … even using Joe Pass as an example, I know for certain that he knew very little technically about what he was doing as far as the theoretical part of it.

There’s even a VHS tape, an old … I think it was called Hot licks or something like that. But I remember him … watching him talking about playing a G blues. I don’t have my guitar all hooked up so I’ll just say that he got to one chord and said, ‘This is an F 13 chord.’ And then another chord. And he was like ‘I don’t even know what the chord is called.’ And then went to the next one.

And it was a clear indication that that was so low on the totem pole for him as far as things that are important. So to answer your question, I think where a lot of students., it’s not that we go wrong, but kind of get misguided on is getting so consumed by the theoretical thing.

And I can’t tell you how many emails I get, maybe not daily, but very often … ‘what scale are you using?’ after playing an entire tune that contains so much harmony to think that it could be whittled down to just one scale! But it’s not about ‘man, who did you check out?’ or ‘where are you getting those lines from?’ …that kind of thing.

It’s just always about theory, theory, theory, theory. So that concerns me a bunch. So to answer your question, I would say number one, identify with people that you admire. Learn solos off the records, note for note. You don’t have to write them out, but just memorize them. Play along with the recordings. Because that builds up such a sense of time feel and groove and all the other things that go with just being a musician that you can’t get from a book.

And then, yeah, if you want to study the theoretical part of things, go ahead and do it. But I definitely will put that further down the rung of things that are important. If you ask me questions about … I can get more technical, not technical, but more specific about things. But to me that, in a global sense, that’s the biggest issue. It’s too much theory, not enough just playing and making music.

Greg: Yeah. It seems so it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because I’ve gone through a bunch of different styles over my career. Like, I started … I focused a lot on classical guitar initially. And something that seems quite particular to jazz guitar … I don’t know if it’s like that with other instruments, but it just seems like with jazz guitar there’s as you say … it’s just so much textbook focused, sort of (textbook) learning or emphasis.

It reminds me a bit of that old kind of … there’s an old parable where it’s like … Ok I can talk about an orange. Like an orange is this like sort of nice bright color and it tastes sweet and it’s juicy or whatever. But it’s only actually when you bite the orange that it all makes sense. You know what I mean? Otherwise you’re just kind of talking about this thing the whole time, rather than actually getting in there and doing it.

That’s true. That’s true. I mean, it seems so simple. You know, we’re talking about it. But somehow that message is lost now. And I think it’s just … not that there’s too much information, because a lot of stuff I see on YouTube is great. And that, and my God, the level of musicianship of musicians all over the world right now, it’s just at an all time high, it’s incredible.

But all I can say to you is … for instance, in a couple of weeks I’m going to Colorado and Jimmy Bruno will be there and Sherry (Bailey), Rodney Jones, Pasquale Grasso, all these great guitar players, we’re all going to be hanging out. I can guarantee you that theory will never be the topic of conversation, ever. And that’s all I’m trying to say about this. It’s just that it’s more of a mentorship with the recordings, at least for everybody that I’ve known. It’s going through that process and just basically mentoring through recordings. And just developing their own style from that.

Greg: Fantastic. So because you have an online learning platform, is that kind of your emphasis of what you do when you’re teaching, like focusing on transcriptions and kind of going through those? What’s your process?

Barry: I do, I do make that case a lot. I do, but on the same token, of course, being a professor at a university for almost 30 years now, if I were to take that approach that we just been talking about, I wouldn’t have a job (laughs) because honestly, what I would love to do is walk into an improv class….

I would, what I would love to say is ‘here are four transcriptions I want you guys to transcribe, memorize, and then come back in two months’. And we’ll work it all out because then you’ve absorbed the material by osmosis, picked up the time feel, the sound and vibe and all that kind of stuff.

And then I could say ‘hey, here they use a diminished scale. This comes from the second mode of this scale’, whatever it may be. But it’s secondary, more supportive versus the primary way of learning.

So yeah, when I’m teaching the lessons online there’s a lot of talk of theory but I’m constantly reinforcing the idea that people will say ‘hey, where are those lines … where’s all those lines coming from? Because I’ll say ‘hey, here’s G Dorian….’ I should have had my guitar all set up to play. But if I said ‘here’s G Dorian, play G Dorian’, it’s going to contain a lot of chromaticism, enclosures, all these kinds of things that jazz musicians routinely do.

So when people ask me ‘well, that’s not the Dorian scale.’ It is the sound of Dorian. It’s just incorporating the methods and things that jazz musicians just did with that singular scale there.

And we’ve … I even gave the names. I didn’t even like using those names, like enclosure and all those names. Because I generally don’t think that that’s the way that guys like Charlie Parker thought about it.

Barry: I could be totally wrong, of course I could. But I just don’t feel that that was the kind of way that they approached it. You know, I think it was more of a building these melodies and somebody like Charlie Parker, for instance, understanding and recognizing those colorful tones that are above the seventh of the chord and all that tension that could be. I just don’t think it came from such an analytical thing as that’s become right now. But as a teacher for almost 30 years, to me that’s the biggest issue and I’ll say 1 more thing about it.

And I can tell you that 9 times out of 10, when somebody will make an appointment to meet on Skype or whatever, they have like a stack of books. Some of them my own. I’m even telling them put the books away.

You know, that we just need to get down to the, like I said, the musical part part of this, you know? They probably could speak about the theory better than I could at that point. You know what I mean? It’s just, that’s the part that’s lost is how do you turn all that information that you’ve absorbed from the books? It’s art. That’s really it. It’s the biggest thing.

And you look at a guy like. for instance Wes Montgomery, I mean he was the absolute Godfather of all this. When you even look at him, he’s got a big smile on his face every time he’s playing and it’s full of joy. There’s no way in his head he’s thinking about harmonic minor or anything. He just … I guarantee you that. I would actually bet my soul on for sure. You can just feel it from him, it’s just so natural. Anyway, if I keep coming to the same point I apologize.

Greg: No, no, man.

Barry: But I’m passionate about that.

Greg: I think it really needs to be emphasized a few times because you know that, it was interesting, we recently had a chat with Sheryl Bailey, another fantastic jazz player and teacher. She was very much saying the same sort of thing.

Like when I’m speaking to you right now, I’m not particularly concerned with adverbs or nouns or things like that. It’s probably helpful in some corner of your learning to maybe sort of just understand the structures, especially if you’re gonna compose music and things like that, there might be some good tools there. But I think jazz is very much, as you’re saying, it’s a heartfelt thing. It’s kind of goes into the subconscious. And that’s where the great music happens, is when you’ve really internalized, in a very intuitive way, this music rather than being worried about what scale you have to play next. That’s kind of going around things the wrong way, as you’re saying.

Barry: Right. It’s just, yeah, that’s it … you said you put it perfectly, that’s exactly it. Exactly. But it’s hard to convince people of that, because the one thing that we haven’t talked about…

Is that, you know, some people will say that, in other words, the thought of me being an NBA basketball player ,,, totally out of the question, you know what I mean? I’m not athletic. You know what I’m saying? There’s a conversation about can anybody do this?

In other words, I’ve gotten this conversation, a bunch of online people that… Look, if all it took were you knowing all your modes and scales and have a bunch of chops, then you could be a great jazz musician. Why hasn’t there been another West Montgomery, you know? Because it’s not about that.

It’s about the things that are intangible, you know? So it’s a big message to send. But I understand that when people are getting started, we’re … it’s hard to find yourself in that kind of a head space when you’re looking at an instrument and just trying to figure out how to play it.

It’s going to be very mechanical. And I think the scales and stuff we’re talking about for that purpose are perfect. You’re getting an understanding of your instrument and how it’s functioning, all that kind of stuff. But when you cross that barrier, which is the biggest barrier, that for every student that I’ve ever met is that moment where ‘OK. I understand this machine works and I know how to play it. I know my chords and then my scales. Why can’t I play a great guitar solo?’ An Autumn Leaves or something like that. And that’s the biggest hurdle.

But I think the answer is, what we’ve just been talking about is, you almost have to put all that stuff away and turn the page to a whole new chapter and the way you approach music in general.

Vin: OK Barry I’ve got a question for you. Let’s assume that there was … outside of the jazz world, somebody who isn’t known as a jazz guitarist…

Are there any other guitarists in any genre that you love to listen to, gives you inspiration, maybe new ideas that you like, might not have gotten if you had stayed only in the jazz world when you’re listening for new artists?

Barry: Yeah, yeah. I could say two or three people that come to mind immediately. And it would be for the same reason, though, I’ll have to say for the jazz guys. because it’s …

When I think about, for instance, somebody like Stevie Ray Vaughan, you know? I think just all the passion and just such … it’s so honest. That’s what I’ve been trying to get to the entire time we’ve been speaking. It’s just so honest. It’s surpasses all the (theory) stuff. Obviously he could play the crap out of the blues scale. We know that he learned the blue scale. But man, what he did with that and just the pure energy and vibe and time feel.

And another guy I admire a lot is Steve Lukather, the studio guy from the band Toto. He’s been on like zillions of records. Just his music, musicality and just his ability to … it’s a very difficult thing to do, by the way. just to be in a studio and for somebody to say ‘hey, I need you to come up with a part right now for this particular piece of music’ and just come up with these such memorable pieces of music on the guitar, that in some cases are in the background. But if you took them out, the entire arrangement would fall apart.

So there’s a lot of people I think like that. I can’t cite necessarily somebody that’s blowing my mind other than the jazz guitar players we’ve talked about. But I’m just saying the musicianship from those guys in particular, those who come to mind immediately. And I’ll probably regret that and think that I missed some people after we stopped talking, but like I said what I want to emphasize is for the same exact reasons that I love George and Pat and Joe Pass, all those guys. It was just very honest and it surpassed … I’m trying to think of the other word … it just went above and beyond just all the thought and theory and all that kind of stuff.

I know it’s the same old thing I’ve been saying a lot. But yeah, I think when I hear Stevie Ray Vaughan, I’m like ‘damn, man this guy is just such a natural musician.’ Prince, I feel the same way about Prince. When we sit here, all these names are going to come into my head. But yeah, in other words, it’s a true musical master, you know? Anyway, like I said, I can I’ll probably think of other names, but hopefully that is a good enough answer for you.

Barry: Yeah, you guys know what I’m talking about when I say Steve Lukather?

Vin: Oh yeah. Yeah. I was a big Toto fan. When I was at Berkee on campus, I actually started on campus in the 90s and then I finished online much later, but when I was there in the 90s I remember Toto came by and played at the Paradise Club. It was like the big rock club in the place. And it’s funny because it was a pretty big rock club, might hold maybe like a thousand, maybe 1,500. It was a big club. All of Berkee was there for Toto, even though they’re not jazz and yet Berklee was known as a jazz school.

But I think they all felt the same way you did. They were just such high caliber players, you know? It’s like half the school was there to see the rock band Toto.

Barry: Yeah. Steve is just one of a kind for sure. You know, and I don’t know if we’re still recording, but of course Eddie Van Halen too. He’s another one for all the same reasons, I’d be saying the same thing about everybody that I would cite, but those names came to my mind for whatever reason right away.

Like I said, I’ll probably regret it later and think I should have come up with thess other names, but yeah.

Vin: Oh, perfect.

Barry: Just giants, right? Eddie Van Halen.

Barry: Oh my God, man. Anyway.

Vin: He’s the reason why I play now 30 years later. It was all because of Eddie.

Barry: It was Eddie?

Vin: Oh yeah. Yeah. My room was like a shrine to Van Halen.

Barry: I was at Berklee … that’s funny because I went to Berkelee in 1979 and then of course it was like a jazz school. But I think there were almost a thousand guitarists. I’m not exaggerating. That was a number that was thrown at me. There were a thousand guitar players at Berklee in 1979. But there was this definite war between the jazz guitar players and a rock players because you would go into a practice room and there would be like a cartoon of a jazz guitar player. There would be a cartoon of a rock guitar player,

But the greatest day ever was … there was a bar right across the street from the main entrance of Berkee and they had painted it just white. I don’t know why they did this. The wall was bright white and within a, I don’t know how long it was, but in red letters it said ‘Rock took a shit and Jazz came out.’ (laughs) It was out there for like a month. Just insane times. But Steve Vai was there when I was there … there’s another one. Steve Vai was at Berkee at that time.

But anyway, I think that sums it all up. I don’t know if it’s still recording. I know you’re not going to use that last bit but just to say that.

Everybody that we love, whether it’s classical, jazz, rock, blues, funk, whatever. It’s just … the people that rise to the top have this quality we’re talking about. It’s just this incredible way of just being able to bring the emotional component of being a musician to the forefront always, And never get caught up in the technical part of things. That’s it.

Greg: So we’ve sort of touched a lot on … really going to that heart level of the music and the value of internalizing transcriptions. Aside from those things, are there any other general concepts you tend to find yourself teaching your students? Like, in parallel to that main idea?

Barry: Yeah, of course. Over the years, I’ve been playing the guitar for almost … well, more than 50 years at this point. So yeah, there are some things that I really believe in that I’ve stumbled on.

All I’m saying is that if you were to take a tune like Stella by Starlight … or Autumn Leaves. To say that okay, well I’m going to Play a Cm7 chord, which is the first chord on the lowest part of the guitar that I can. I go through the entire tune. Like Cm7, F7, BbMaj7, EbMaj7, Am7b5, D7#9, Gm, E7 … And get what I’m doing here is by forcing myself to play in position and developing this extraordinary amount of fretboard knowledge, because I’m not having to say ‘well I only know this chord here or that chord there’. It’s the same thing with the sound of the scales. C minor, I play C Dorian. For F7, I’ll play actually the same kind of thing. Bb major 7.

You get the idea, and hopefully some of that is audible, but going up and down the guitar neck like that where you tackle it position by position. And I think of it in terms of five positions that you would walk up the neck. So if I could play all the chord forms and not just chord forms, good ones. And all of the associated chord scales up the entire neck, That means that I could be anywhere on the neck and anything that I’m hearing is going to be available to me because of that command of the instrument.

So that’s one thing that I’ve discovered. Although it sounds restrictive by putting yourself in this little box, like I just demonstrated, it’s one of the best things you could do to determine how much chord scale … I mean how much fret board knowledge you have. Because the moment you say, ‘I don’t know how to do that here’, there’s your first red flag. Okay, here’s something I need to work on.

Greg: I think Barry, that’s really insightful. I really liked how you said that then the red flag, you know? Like, it is a big one isn’t it? Because if you … and maybe that’s where people get a bit stuck because they haven’t figured out their positions, to really know when they put a note on the guitar what it’s going to sound like. And so until you really get to that point it’s hard to play intuitively. So maybe they say ‘Oh the answer is to fall back.’

And I’ve got to know the scales but what you really have to know is the fretboard and the structure of the instrument, the mechanics of it. And maybe that’s where scales, arpeggios, position playing can really … that’s the real purpose of that. Maybe not so much to understand how to be creative but more just understand how to use the machine, you know?

Barry: That’s right. You said that’s exactly right. You know, when you mentioned that too … we talked about George Benson a bunch today … But he solos so naturally, you know? Just such a strong indicator that everything is coming from the right place for him.

You know, I’ve heard musicians that I’ve had in the past kind of singing during guitar lessons. And I would say you’re not even singing the notes that you’re playing. All you’re doing is just … it’s very distracting to me. And then I could say ‘why don’t you play me Mary had a little lamb’, play me Mary Had a Little Lamb and they can’t. Say ‘can you sing it?’ So there’s the evidence right there.

By the way, I also consider it a great exercise for doing what we’re talking about. It’s to get more intuitive about your playing, is to free yourself from all the scales and the chords and things like that. And so just to take a little nursery rhymes and things like that and just try to play them on your guitar without thinking about scales and chords.

And even the guitar teacher, Mick Goodrick from Berkee, who I’d never had any kind of interaction with, but he had some great ideas along those lines where you to try to play a song like that, or some patriotic song. Whatever it may be on one or two strings and limit yourself to that because then that breaks you free of the position playing that you’re accustomed to with scales. And it really forces you to rely on your ears. And that’s … I think those kinds of exercises are really, really great for you. To break that.

Like we’re talking about that bridge from I understand theory, how do I become a musician? You know, those are the kinds of things that I think really helped that.

Greg: Yeah. It reminds me of a … there’s actually a YouTube video, I think, I don’t know if it’s still on YouTube, but of Barney Kessel, quite a long workshop and it’s all black and white. It’s quite old, but he was very much that one. That’s one of the first things he said, like, this is all about melodies, you know? Like, just think of a common melody, you know, Try to work it out on the instrument, Like that was like his very first lesson I remember on that tutorial he gave. So yeah, quite interesting.

Barry: And it’s super insightful on his part because, you know we mentioned the tune, Stella By Starlight kind of in passing. That song has so much harmony in it. So many chord progressions, so many chords that you have to refer to different keys and analyze it’s deep.

But when you look at the melody, there’s only a couple of moments where it’s not a diatonic tone that’s belongs to key of B flat. It’s a beautiful melody. You know, that’s one of the things that really makes me laugh and in one sense, only because I’ve been doing this for so long, I can look back and laugh about it now, but you get so consumed. Like, I know it’s a repetitive thing, but that melody is beautiful.

And if you could improvise that melody when you first chorus of a solo people would just be just so moved by that versus playing a whole bunch of bebop stuff as soon as the melody is over. You have this beautiful thing and all of a sudden you’re just playing a bunch of eighth notes because you’ve practiced these lines and passages or whatever it may be.

To me, all the answers are just basically what you said, like these beautiful melodies. All these standard tunes are just filled with these wonderful ideas. And in most cases, if you look at it, whether it’s Have You Met Miss Jones, whatever it may be, most of the melodies remain diatonic in the key center.

It’s just the harmonic component is a little bit, you know … Well I was going to say it’s based on secondary dominants and things like that. I don’t know if I’m talking above or below your audience to say that, but the melodies themselves remain really consistently diatonic.

Right now I’m working on the tune Triste. You know, it’s the Joe Beam tune. And it’s another example of just tons and tons of harmony, but the melody is almost entirely, totally diatonic, But it’s a beautiful melody. And any of us would have loved to be able to create that on the spot, improvising wise.

Greg: But that’s what the audience really wants to a degree as well, you know? Like, depending on the audience, but sort of the general public, that’s what draws people to music is just a great sounding melody, great rhythm, all those fundamentals. You know what I mean?

And obviously you can get very advanced but if you don’t have that starting point of a melodic sense to your playing then people can’t understand it, because it lacks that melodic component, you know?

Barry: That’s exactly right. And the people that we’ve mentioned, even going to some of the horn players including Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, they were exquisitely beautiful melodic players, you know? That stuff with Johnny Hartman, with John Coltrane. It’s holy, I mean, who wouldn’t want to play like that?

But then he has got this entire other thing that he’s able to draw from if he needs to based on the environment that he’s in. But if you’re sitting there playing in this intimate setting with somebody singing in the style of Johnny Hartman what sense would it be to just to play the stuff that he does typically if he’s playing with, for instance, his own group or Miles doing some modal … you know what I’m talking about?

It’s just having that understanding and depth of understanding of the language of jazz that you know what’s appropriate for the moment. And, as you pointed out, yeah depending on the audience.

Unfortunately in this day and age, 2023, those standards that we’re playing, the people who really, really enjoyed them and love them, they’re all dying. You know, that’s all there is to it. So when you play these tunes, unfortunately not many people now recognize them at all…to an audience that’s not a jazz audience.

I’m kind of getting off on a little tangent here but what you’re saying is correct. There’s no doubt about it. But for me as an improviser if I’m finishing up the melody to Autumn Leaves I’m not going to just start all of a sudden … just start like a whole bunch of lines. I’m going to build into that, but there is a growth. There is a … that whole … I think they call it the golden ratio. Do you know what I’m speaking of?

Greg: Yeah. Yeah.

Barry: That whole idea of … it’s going to have to entail you play melodically, and building and building. And the rhythm section is following you and you come to this climatic moment and all that entails some of the things we’re talking about. Where you are going to rely on things that you’ve practiced in lines and very … not aggressive, but eighth note-y articulated kind of lines, but to come out of a beautiful melody like that.

I think that to me the most moving solos are the ones that come out of that and then continue that and build it to something nice. And to me, like Coltrane, George Benson, Wes Montgomery, they were all just so, they did that so naturally. And to me, when I don’t hear that, it seems … man you just played a bunch of stuff that you’ve memorized. I’m not feeling anything at the moment right now. And then you’re not moving me. I’m impressed by your virtuosity, but after a song or two I’m ready to go. Do you know what I mean?

Greg: Definitely. Yeah, because music’s all about communication really, isn’t it? It’s like being able to say something with meaning and for the other person to hear it and understand it, you know what I mean?

And yeah, sometimes music can be very complex, like the Coltrane stuff but whoever listens to that, it does have an impact. You know, that kind of … you know, depth to the art form that we get with players like that. So yeah, completely get what you’re saying.

This has been absolutely fantastic, Barry. I think we’re really honored to hear your insights and wisdom on this playing. I think what I really love about our chat today is how you’re able to boil it down to really the core principles of what people should be focusing on. Because it’s like one of my mentors, I’ve mentioned this actually to Sheryl as well Vin when we chatted to her the other week, but the concept of signal versus noise, right?

So there’s a lot of noise out there and especially with the volume of material online now. All you have to do is type in one word onto YouTube and you’ll find like thousands of different videos on how to do this and that, but you really got to go down to the core. You got to find the signal in the noise. So I think Barry you’ve really outlined that really in a very insightful way today.

Barry: Oh, thanks. I’m glad. I mean, you could tell I’m passionate about all this, but you’re also … I’m recognizing I’m an old man now that people come up to me like a Yoda figure of jazz guitar. And I still feel like a kid inside, you know? I really, really do. It’s not … oh well.

Greg: Yeah. Well may the force be with you, Barry. But before we wrap up I wanna … I think we’ve talked a lot about your teaching today and your insights on teaching but I wanna hear some of your playing, man. Alright, so let’s hear some of Barry’s playing now. Let’s have a listen to Periphery from Barry’s album Resurgence.

(Audio plays)

Greg: Okay, so that was ‘Periphery’ by Barry Green’s 2018 album, Resurgence, Fantastic to hear you playing, Barry! Let’s maybe wrap up the podcast with a few final thoughts here.

So in terms of … we’ve talked a lot about sort of the issues and overwhelm that people are getting with the information on the internet, but is there kind of ‘on the flip side’? Do you think there’s been some good things that’s come out of that sort of musical information revolution.

Barry: Yeah, absolutely. Just like you kind of mentioned, just the whole community aspect of it. You know, for instance, Dan Wilson, who’s considerably younger than me. But we definitely come from the same place.

I remember hearing him for the first time and just contacting him and he said ‘oh, Barry, you know, I’ve been a fan of yours …’ and that’s happened so many times, people that I’ve reached out to that I thought they would have no idea on earth who I was would say, ‘man, I’ve been watching your videos’.

All that kind of stuff and it just brings us … even though I don’t have … sometimes I’ve not met these people yet create the sense of this camaraderie that we’re all doing the same thing. We’re all trying to accomplish the same thing with a music that is really … has such such a small audience. And it’s such a difficult way to make a living as a performer. But even this past, I think it was this past week it was released, where a YouTuber by the name of Chase Maddox, who happened to be a former student of mine from UNF did a thing where he had a bunch of us do a track on Autumn Leaves. And it was Dan Wilson, me, Dave Stryker. It was a bunch of people. And we all did our take on Autumn Leaves.

There wasn’t a sense of ‘I’m going to outdo you’. But I got so many emails from the players themselves saying ‘man, Barry, you crushed it!’ And I go ‘Dan, no you were …’ that kind of a thing.

So I think that’s a beautiful thing where … iIn the days when I was a kid in the eighties going to New York to go to jam sessions, and playing was much more of a cutthroat kind of … everybody trying to outdo each other. So, somehow that has changed where it’s a much more warm, loving thing.

I got an email today from Rodney Jones, a guitar player out of New York. We’re both doing this event in Colorado in a couple of weeks. Just commenting on a video and just being so kind, and those kind of moments are just wonderful.

Like I said, we’re all doing the same thing. We’re all vying for the same audience and trying to accomplish the same thing. And just the fact that it’s, like I said, it’s a warm … just a beautiful, beautiful thing. So for that reason the internet has been incredible.

Greg: Yeah. So amazing, isn’t it? Because in my part of the world, in Australia, and for a long time I was actually living rural in the country in Australia … So, imagine me trying to pick up jazz guitar students in that scenario. But when you put it out online and literally thousands of people see your things, it’s a real sort of Renaissance period for teaching, I think. And maybe that’ll help the tradition continue, you know?

Barry: I think it will for sure. Sure.

Greg: Fantastic. Okay. And once again, Barry, I’d really like to thank you so much for sharing your insights and wisdom today on the show. This has been an absolutely fantastic conversation we’ve had. So why don’t we talk a little bit before we wrap up about what you do online, speaking of online. So where can people find you and how can people actually access your teaching?

Barry: Well it’s really easy. It’s just barrygreene.com. That’ll take you to my website and that will give you a super easy link to get to the teaching site. And that’s … I’ve had that site running for about, well a long time, since 2007. And there’s a tremendous amount of content on there, all of which I’m super proud of. And the most recent lessons, when I say that I’m talking about probably the last two years, feature backing tracks with Ulysses Owens who’s now … I think he’s got three Grammy awards. Just an amazing drummer.

You know, as the years have gone I’ve tried to improve the quality of the lessons and I listened to tremendous amount of feedback that I get from students about what they really would like to see more of as far as content. And just ways that I can improve getting the information to them. It’s been an amazing thing.

I never expected to see it grow the way it has but now it’s become such an important part of my life and I’m very, very proud of it. And I think it’s really … My initial thing was to design it for the intermediate to advanced guitar player. And I do address some of the fundamental things on the site, but it’s certainly for somebody who is coming to the site who already has some background with playing the guitar and a level of understanding about jazz.

And that’s really it.

Greg: Fantastic. You know, it’s good to put it out there and ,,, you’ve got rave reviews online and some fantastic content out there. So make sure that everyone checks out what Barry has to offer.

His website is barrygreene.com, with a link to his online training area as well. And I believe you do Skype lessons as well, Barry?

Barry: Yeah, I do.

Greg: Fantastic. Well worth looking up Barry’s website. So make sure you head over there.

Well thank you once again, Barry. Is there any sort of final thoughts that you want to let our audience know about before we wrap up today?

Barry: All right. Just the most cliche thing of all. If you have it in your heart to do this, just persevere. Never give up. Don’t listen to what people are saying to you. Just have that goal and pursue it like it’s the most important thing ever and you will succeed.

Greg: Fantastic. Alright. So everyone go and meditate on that one this week and let’s make some great music. So Barry Green, once again, thank you so much for joining us today on the Fet Dojo podcast.

Barry: It’s my pleasure. Great meeting both of you guys. Thanks.

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