Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Self-assessment of Equinox (Minor Blues) solo

I recently recorded this solo as my contribution to a forum thread in which participants were invited to post clips of themselves soloing over a minor blues, preferably using the Dorian scale.  I'm only going to leave this track online at Soundcloud for a limited time, as I have the free account, which only allows so much space to be used for tracks.  The backing track was downloaded from the "Soulstice" section of Sheryl Bailey's Essentials: Bebop Etudes course.

I still sound like a player who relies a bit too much on scalar runs in my improvisations.  I didn't mean to throw in the two-handed tapping bit in there, but the 3rd up from where my left hand pinky was just begging to be played, and my right hand finger just happened to be available.  The etudes I've been working on from the Hip Licks For Guitar book and the 30 Sax Licks You Must Know course; as well as bebop licks stolen from recordings and "in the style of" bebop licks that I've made up... I'd hoped more of that stuff would show in my playing.  But I understand this is a process that can take some time.  Still, I feel like progress has been made.

I'd like more usage of arpeggios and intervallic jumps.  The etudes I've been studying and practicing has these in spades so I'll keep practicing them.  I think though it would be a good idea to start practicing scales in broken 6tha and 7ths.  Sheryl Bailey's etude for "Soulstice" (her version of Equinox) relies on lots of 4ths, as  a nod to the quartal harmonies and melodic ideas pioneered by John Coltrane and his quartet at the time.  I might work those in too.

The Advancing Guitarist: Notes on how to use

The book The Advancing Guitarist by Mick Goodrick has an iconic reputation as the ultimate self-help book for guitarists who want to keep taking their game to the next level and beyond.  However, it can be a bit of a confusing read, leaving would-be advancing guitarists scratching their heads and maybe sticking the book back on the shelf for another couple of years or tossing it into the donation bin.

From "KRosser", an longtime instructor at Musicians Institute:

Here's what I did:

First, I worked through exactly what he presents in the book - each of the modes based on C major. I taped myself playing the vamps into a portable tape recorder (what I would do now with the Voice Memo thing on the iPhone). I played each vamp for about three minutes and then rolled it back, doing once through for each string. In other words, going through the first C major vamp took 18 minutes of playing, plus the time it took to rewind the tape in between.

Then I worked on other stuff for the rest of my practice time that day.

I did one of these for each mode, as he presented, which means after one week I was done with all seven modes based on the key of C.

I really liked the initial feeling from the results of that, so I kept going. The following week, I did the same thing but based on all the modes in the 'G major' group. Goodrick didn't write out vamps for that key set, so I just made up my own, kept them very simple, just like the originals Goodrick presented.

Each week I progressed around the Circle of 5ths, so after 12 weeks of doing this I had done all seven 'major scale' modes up and down each single string in all 12 keys. I had a ball doing it too, I really learned a lot about the guitar neck, phrasing the various modes, etc. Several of my impromptu 'modal vamps' that I came up with actually lead to original compositions after the fact, which was a nice unexpected, tangential result.

I enjoyed this so much I then did the whole process over with the seven Melodic Minor Modes in all 12 keys, and then the Harmonic Minor modes.

So all said and done, that was a little less than a year's worth of half-hour a day work. Which was fine - I was going to practice at least a half hour a day all year anyway.

Honestly, I think I learned a lot from coming up with vamps (especially some of the Harmonic Minor modes got really interesting) and then playing those rhythm vamps for three minutes straight with a solid sense of groove and make it comfortable to solo over. I tried to give them as much variety as possible - tempos, styles, dynamics, time signatures, you name it.

I tell my students this all the time - recording yourself playing an accompaniment for 3-5 minutes and then solo over it, rather than using loopers or pre-prepared tracks, will teach you a lot about what it feels like for someone else to solo over your own comping. Sorta like forcing a cook to eat his own cooking ;)

I was already a gigging player back then, and had a degree in classical guitar with a heavy emphasis on jazz on the side - in other words, modal theory was not new to me in any way. And still, I'll tell you - I felt like a whole new guitar player on the other side of all that work. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Prefabricated Homes for Green Living

Interesting "hobbit house" designs - I think they all incorporate a "living roof"