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Jazz Guitar Motion

By Marc-Andre Seguin

Copyright 2008, revised edition
Table of Content

Introduction 3

Chapter 1 : Lines 4

1.1 Lines and Rhythms 5
1.2 Lines and the Guitar Neck 14

Chapter 2 : Chords 26

2.1 Chords and Rhythms 27
2.2 Chords and Fluidity 30

Chapter 3 : Ears 39

Chapter 4 : Resources 42


Hello and welcome! This book contains virtually everything that made me play WAY
better jazz. One of the key elements that really launched my playing was my planning :
deciding what I was going to play before sitting with the guitar. This book is in no particular
order so youll have no choice but to do the same: you decide your own What and When ,
and Ill help you with some How and Why .

You can be working on several elements/exercises in this book at once. You could
even be mixing from several sources! In fact, I urge you to read the Resources chapter so
you can discover even more ways to learn quicker, just like I did.

This book is all ear oriented. In my opinion, nothing is worth playing if you dont hear
it. Wind players have to face this challenge all the time. Try to imitate them! [See the Ears
and Resources chapter to start working on your ears].

Because of its ear oriented nature, this book will not address any theory questions.
There are enough resources out there (including fellow musicians) to dig the necessary
information about anything youll find unclear in this book.

As you may begin to understand, it would be impossible for me to answer every
musical question, the book would be 800 pages long!!! But, I know deeply that what youll
find in the following pages will bring your jazz guitar playing to new levels.

Keep on swinging,

I would like to dedicate this book to Rjean, Gary, Charles and Chris.

Special thanks to Annick, Pierre, Phil, Greg, Dalhi, Tristan, Ryan, Dave, Eric, Alex and Averil.

More thanks to Stphane for being a freak, to Andrew for making music possible, to Greg for being around, to
Tim for the book, to milie for the lesson.
Chapter 1 : Lines
The most important component of any jazz solo lines will be
approached from two angles : rhythms (the groove) and scales/arpeggios
(technicalities are not essential but useful to spice and color your playing).

1.1 Lines and Rhythms
If your goal is to play amazing jazz guitar solos, I will show you that practicing scales,
patterns, licks or existing solos wont be sufficient. All the above things are good but wont
sound very convincing without a deep groove.

Play anything (but make it swing!)
Rhythms must come first, thats the number one jazz secret in history! Notes are of
no value when improvising, unless the rhythms sound right. We can even go as far as saying
You can play anything as long as it grooves as demonstrated in Example 1.

If you play bad notes in good rhythms it will sound OK BUT If you play good
notes in a bad rhythm some of the notes will end up at the wrong place anyways!

That being said, if you are putting emphasis on rhythms when you are attempting to play
solo lines, you will improve quicker. In fact, thats exactly what happened to me : I studied
guitar privatelywith a drums teacher for a year and my playing really took off. Not that I
would end up playing the exact rhythms or exercises he asked me to dowhat happened is
that my playing was now informed of all those rhytmic possibilities. I felt free!

I suggest you pick some of your favorite players and listen to their solos only from a rhythmic
point of view. Youll soon realize theyre also drummers in a weird guitar way. Simply put :
the jazz guitarist is part of the rhythm section, right? My favorite examples are solos by Wes
Montgomery and Pat Metheny.

Track 1 is 3 choruses of a blues solo I improvised. The first chorus is just the rhythms played
on a single pitch. The second chorus is the actual solo. The third chorus is the same rhythms
with theorically wrong notes. Notice that the third chorus is still swinging. It just has this
extra spice because of the unusual wrong notes.

Respect Every Beat
Track 2 is a classic exercise I stumbled upon very late in my musical development (too
late?). Its simply a repeated descending line (on a C7 chord) to which we remove a note
each time we play it. As with my private drums teacher, stuff really started to happen when I
nailed this exercise. It enables the player to feel and own every little corner of the bar.

Play it as is and then try to play each individual phrase in reverse order (from last to first).
Then try jumping around (first phrase to third phrase to fifth phrase etc.). There is much to
do with this simple exercise and Ill let you experience the pleasures of self-discovery!

Respect Every Beat Even More!
Working with the charleston rhythm as in Track 3 is another way of owning the
different beats quickly. Its the single most used 2-note rhythm figure in jazz and pop music!
Its attractive and odd in nature. This is priceless; I am very serious.

The goal of the exercise is to play the charleston figure (doted quarter-note followed by an
eight note) everywhere in the bar. What I mean is to start the figure on every individual
eight-note. In the first and third bar of the exercise, the figures are played starting on the
one of the bar. The second time (bars five and seven) they are played on the and of
one (an eight-note later). The next time theyre shifted again by another eight-note. (Until
its displaced eight times to come back to the one in the last four bars).

1. This exercise has another purpose and is written this way to save some space : dont
limit yourself to whats written and try to play a full chorus of each different
location of the rhythmic figure. See the charlestons in the Chapters 2.1 for a clear
pictural idea. Do it by yourself slowly and youll reap the rewards very soon!

2. Keep the pickup in mind : beat four and the and of four are considered to be
part of the NEXT MEASURE; that is called anticipation, one of the prime characteristics
in jazz rhythms. It may sound funny to you at first but keep working at it.

3. The pickup is the reason why the fourth charleston (starting on the and of two ) is
in bar twelve instead of in bar thirteen. Bar twelve is the PICKUP to bar thirteen
because we are landing on BEAT FOUR of bar thirteen. (Remember, the aim is set
towards the first and third bar of every system.)

This is the rhythmic exercise I got the most serious about ever. Ive been doing charleston
figures everyday since I discovered them!!! Keep working at it and youll find plenty of fun
stuff to mess with. Theres a lot more to it than you might think here are a few questions
you can ask yourself if you get bored of the charleston :

What if its in 3/4 time? 5/4? 7/4?
What if you played two doted-quarters in a row (three notes instead of two)?
What about more consecutive charlestons ?
Can you play charlestons on something else than blues?
Does it feel good ? Are you swinging or in the pocket ?
Can you hear charlestons in jazz and pop music?
(I have yet to find ONE tune that does not contain a single charleston figure)
Where is Charleston?
Is it possible to apply the same concept to sixteenth-notes?
The charleston is a grouping of three notes (odd) in a binary environment (even).
What about even groupings in ternary (or odd) environments?
Have you ever felt overwhelmed?
Are the possibilities endless? (I have yet to answer this one)

Essential time/rhythm knowledge
You may be beginning to notice the importance of time and rhythms in jazz music. I
believe every player should be working on at least a little bit of time and/or rhythms often.
One of the most effective tools for practicing time is a metronome. I know, it surely wont
groove for you, or it wont swing , but its a good point of reference. (Am I speeding
up?, slowing down? Am I really nailing it everytime or am I a little before (rushing) or
after (dragging) etc.)

16 tempos
The metronome can be used in a myriad of ways (Ill show you one or two but I still believe
in self-discovery!). One aspect of it is to determine the tempo (speed) of what you are
playing. At first, you may be overwhelmed by the amount of different speeds to play at. Most
electronic metronomes can be set from 30 to 250 BPM (beats per minute). If you look at
quartz metronome with a round dial (or at the even older pendulum metronomes) youll
notice that not all the tempos are marked. You get :
(take a look at if you dont have one)

40 42 44 46
48 50 52 54
56 58 60 63
66 69 72 76

Why did I stop after 76? Because 80 is the same as 40. Likewise 52 = 10; 72 = 144, etc. Like
playing your low E string and your high E string, every tempo is the same as their half and as
their double. They feel the same. Thats quite a relief; now there are only 16 different

By working at a specific speed and being aware of its double and its half time, you are really
internalizing the feeling of this tempo. Just make sure you cover every 16 tempos once in a

My personal favorite way to practice this is going through four different tempos each day. It
doesnt matter what you play, but the speed and feel which you play at. Doing that, you are
assured to go through all the tempos in a week or less. I aim to play the 4 tempos in a single
column of the above table. They are at a distance of four metronome increments.

For example, one day Ill be doing 42, 50, 58 and 69. The day after I could be doing 76, 92,
108 and 126. Notice that it doesnt matter what the slowest tempo on a given day is because
they are still related to their half or double cousins. Make sure you change column each
consecutive days.

Use the following table if needed :

40 42 44 46
48 50 52 54
56 58 60 63
66 69 72 76
80 84 88 92
96 100 104 108
112 116 120 126
132 138 144 152
160 168 176 184
192 200 208 216
224 232 240 252
264 276 296 304

Finger Snapping Good
The metronome can also be used to practice as if it were the drummers high-hat .
Its the most common way for jazz players to subdivide the bar. You hear it every time people
count-in tunes on the bandstand when they snap. It is supposed to be set on the second and
fourth beat of every bar of 4/4. Those are the weaker beats of the bar, the stronger being
one and three.

Listen to Track 4 for an oral explanation (way easier to hear than to read!).

So you can use the metronome with anything you are working on with the click on 2 & 4. If
you are working in 3/4, it can be set as the one of every bar. The metronome can really be
set anywhere you want. (Start with the obvious before attempting to set it on the 3rd
sixteenth note of the 2nd

beat of a bar of 13/8!!!)

It Dont Mean a Thing
Jazz is, and has always been, about the groove. It must be pretty clear by now. So
what about this mysterious swing everyone is talking about? To tell you the truth, every
music has its own kind of swing (whether it be latin, funk, hip-hop, flamenco or indian
music). The prime characteristic of traditional swinging in the jazz idiom is about the
triplet. Playing eighth notes and replacing the offbeat by the third triplet. It gives slightly
delayed offbeat eight notes.

The constant polyrhythms created by subdividing every beat in three equal parts is the
traditional way of explaining this swing factor (by playing only the first and last triplet we
get this bounce ). Historically the eigth notes had a tendency to be straighter and
straighter (less swung) since the beginning of the twentieth century. Nowadays, even very
conservative, traditional players will seldom play jazz with this exact triplet feel, it tends to be

As explained early, the general tendency is to accentuate weak beats (like 2 & 4 for quarter-
notes, or the offbeats for eighth notes). It is also important to keep in mind that different
musicians swing differently. Some create this delay without using the triplet figure or any
accent; they just play behind the beat all the time to create the effect. It will surely never
be as accurate as it is on paper; its all about the feel.

Time Awareness and Subdivisions
This way of portraying an idiom by its rhythmic subdivisions is common. While playing any
style, it is always important to know and feel the underlying pulse of smaller rhythmic value
(in this case, triplets). It increases the time awareness because you have more than one level
of constant pulse to latch on to. I encourage you to become familiar with subdivisions in the
styles you play most often and sing them to yourself while your are playing or listening. It will
enlarge and boost your time feel and make you more aware of the groove. (As a practice
suggestion, Id say use the triplet for now, since this book is all about jazz.)

A good way to determine the right subdivisions to sing to yourself is to play drums. Play an
imaginary drumkit while listening to music in the style you are performing (even a recording
of your own band can be good!). Keep going for a while even if you look funny. Focus on the
thought : What if I was playing drums with that group? How would that feel? Simple but

Meditative Rhythms
Heres a great way to use the metronome and increase your rhythmic awareness. Be
careful, it is NOT related to subdividing focusing on a style like swing or funk. It is just a
general exercise.

Set the metronome very slow, I like mine at 40. Listen to the click for a while. Using a single
note (an open string for example), play on every click. Aim to be right on and focus on the
feel of it. Stay there for a while until you think you are grooving most of the time. Then try to
play two notes every click, dividing the click in two equal parts. When you get it, stay there
for a while and groove. You are playing 2 against 1 or 2:1. Then try to go at 3:1. Listen
and feel.

The next goal is to shift from one to another (2:1 to 3:1 for example) while keeping the feel.
Go back and forth often; you will have to move your aim so to speak. Its like a mental
shift every time. When you are comfortable with that, try jumping around (5:1 to 2:1 for
example) further and further.

Most of the time I go as far as 10:1 or 11:1 always focusing of the groove and I practice
different things (jumping around or playing odd groupings and melodies that turn around). Be
patient, do it a little everyday and its going to show quickly in your rhythmic abilities.

The next step (not recorded) is to play against more than one click. So far, its been X
against 1 . It is also possible to divide in polyrhythms (for instance X against 2 or X
against 3 ). The most commonly found in jazz are 3 :2, 2 :3, 4 :3. They are common jazz
rhythms. To push it even more try 5:2, 7:2, 9:2, etc. Make up your own challenges
depending on your level, interests and musical needs.

IcaNtHeaRwHatyOUrsayINg (Pacing your ideas)
Playing lines on the guitar can become easy very quickly for any serious player. It has
advantages and disadvantages. If used with taste, a flurry of notes will sound impressive and
fresh. But if theyre played all the time, the same fast licks will sound monotonous. If you
have the technical facility to play for a long amount of time without stopping, DONT!!! Use
space and silence like spoken punctation and accents.
As a comparison:

A fun exercice I do all the time is pacing (play and stop very frequently). You can be thinking
like a wind player : play, breathe, play, breathe etc. You could be aiming for a specific
amount of bars (for example: play 2 bars, rest 3 bars. Its even more fun with an odd number
of bars!). Another way to use pacing is to stop whenever you sense your ideas are leading
nowhere and start over again with a fresh idea. Yet another fun thing to try : leave as much
silence as possible and make sure every new idea is somewhat related to the previous one
(melodically [same notes], rhythmically, etc.).

If pacing is totally new to you, try the following: Always play on your THIRD impulse. Start
improvising, stop after the first musical phrase then hold it once, twice and play the third
time. It gives your mind a chance to hear the echo of what you just played. Keep that as
the mantra of pacing.

Track 5 demonstrates me playing in and out of pacing. Youll surely know how to identify
when I try to use space in my solo or when everything feels like its crammed.

On the same note, if you already have great chops on the guitar, try and leave the audience
wanting for more (dont play everything you know every time you improvise). NOT playing is
what made some players sound great. Sometimes when listening to Miles Davis, I realize Im
hearing things he chose NOT to play! (I still hear these notes as clearly as if he played them,
funny, eh?)

There is More
Once again, working on time/rhythms a little everyday helps a lot. It will expand your
improvisational ideas endlessly. To conclude, here are a few more suggestions :

Write rhythmic templates to improvise over. The simplest and most expansive
template is the charleston. With a good set of rhythms, any notes will sound good.
Vary your vocabulary; listen to and play swing, straight eight, rock, latin and other
kinds of music.
Look into odd time signatures, its a whole different world. (for example 3/4, 5/4, 7/4,
11/4). Bulgarian folk music is based on those, check it out.
Play duo with drummers; I promise it will change your life!
Play drums if youve got a chance!

1.2 Lines and the Guitar Neck
First of all, please dont let this guitar knowledge be in the way of your rhytmic or
melodic ideas. If you hear it and its not in a scale or pattern, its OK! The following
exercises and approaches for jazz guitar are really what helped me. (Seriously, thats the bulk
of my solos right there!). While learning them, I always kept my mind focusing on rhythms
and melodies I heard deeply. Keep it feeling good and groovy all the while using the following
tools to unlock your creative potential and spice up your playing.

After this little warning , lets get working on your left hand fingers and show them how to
rule the fingerboardjazz style!

East-West (One String and Twenty-Something Frets)
Use the learning all the notes topic in Chapter 4 if you are not familiar with all the
notes on your neck. I also believe every guitar player regardless of style or ability, should be
playing using only one string at a time. Its a great exercise : make up a grooving vamp (one
or two chords) and improvise on each string individually. Devise your own challenges (playing
a blues on a single string for example) as you go along. Dont underestimate this!

North-South (Six Strings and Four to Six Frets)
The complete opposite of single string playing is position playing. Positions are very
useful and a must to any serious player. The principle is one finger for each fret using the
index and pinkie occasionally to extend up to six available frets per position.

Aim to learn the major scale (C D E F G A B) and the melodic minor scale (C D Eb F G A B) in
seven positions (theres only one note difference in the two scales, its easier to learn that

Remember and practice the positions without using this String + Finger system. The first
number indicates the string and the second the finger used to play the first note (C, in that
case). The hand then stays in the position with the occasional stretch of the index or
pinkie. Always play every note available in each position.

The Seven String+Finger Positions

5-2 5-1 6-4 6-2 6-1 4-1 5-4

After you have nailed the positions, try to shift from one position to another using a half-step
present in the scale (E-F, B-C or D-Eb for example). The shifts should always be made with
the index or the pinkie. (So you dont have to stop a musical line to shift position)

Please refer to A Modern Method for Guitar by William Leavitt (Berklee Press) if you wish
to go deeper in the subject.

South-East and North-West (Six Strings, Twenty-Something Frets!)
The single string and position concepts can be combined in another way of
approaching the guitar neck : diagonal playing. This is the main aspect I will cover here and
throughout the book. It frees your mind and makes you phrase like a horn. Its been present
since the beginnings of jazz guitar but is now slowly disappearing guitar schools are almost
strictly teaching the rigid positions.

Diagonal playing consists of covering a certain area of playing with the four fingers (similar to
positions) that is a bit larger than positions, thus playing more notes on each string (similar to
individual strings). The spread can then be wider than the usual constraints of one
position (or one string) at a time.

Use track 6 to learn the chromatic scale using four notes per string (two octaves range) and
the same scale using six notes per string (three octaves range). See how much more
territory you can cover with the latter. Thats the key to better jazz guitar phrasing. MAKE
SURE you use your index and pinkie twice on each string in the six per string version. Think
of them as an extension, dont move the whole hand, just reach with the finger.

All the way up and down!
Using the diagonal playing concept, here is the G major and G melodic minor scales
over three octaves (Track 7). It is important that you relate and HEAR it as if it is the same
thing happening three times. (Please see String transference in Resources)


Please note that this is only an example. Thats what feels most comfortable to me. You have
to decide on your own fingerings; they will become second nature. The general guidelines in
creating your fingerings are :

-Shift using first or fourth finger LH finger if possible.
-Try to shift smoothly (shifts are not audible).
-Learn any new scales/material to have as much range as possible.
(3 octaves is not always possible on the guitar)

You are Bop! Yes, be BOP!
Having more and more range (three octaves for example) feels great on the guitar.
We must then make this guitaristic way of playing compatible with jazz phrasing. Historically,
jazz players had a tendency to add more and more chromaticism in their improvisations. That
means using not just the scales (usually seven notes) but also playing all the other notes.

The secret is to play rhythmically using the bad notes as passing notes and
play strong notes on strong beats (such as one and three). The first step in that kind of
playing is the bebop scale; it has eight notes instead of seven so it fits perfectly in a bar of
4/4. (Notice that the scale in Track 8 is playable starting on any of the chord tones, it is
rhytmically aligned with the bar; also note that, for demonstration purposes, it is still NOT in
three octaves fingerings.)

Applying the same concept (adding a note) play the three octaves versions of the major and
minor scales this way (Track 9 and 10) (also create your fingerings) :

These scales are commonly known as the bebop scales. When mastered, they can be used in
several interesting ways (there are NOT to be played strictly up and down!). Lets now look at
how to make the lines even more rhythmically interesting.

Pickup the Line Please
So far weve looked at beat one of the bar as a starting point in every exercise. In jazz
however, beat one is considered to be a point of arrival (or rest). Using pickups is the art of
creating a rhythmic momentum (ofter referred to as forward motion) by starting lines on
weaker beats in order to end them on stronger beats. (Again, strong beats = 1 and 3)

If we play any line and decide to place, for example, three eight notes before it, we are
creating a pickup. Play the next few examples keeping in mind that the accent is NOT THE
FIRST NOTE OF THE LINE. Not anymore! The accent is on the one and the preceding
notes are creating a tension thats released when we land on the one.

Learn the three octaves version of the chromatic scale (using six notes per string) with a
pickup. (Track 11)

Modes and Arpeggios Simplified (just play it!)
Youve probably heard of modes and arpeggios. It may be totally clear to you or not. It is ok,
Im not going to explain it. The goal is to make you play useful guitar stuff, not theoretical
stuff. Modes and arpegios are an integral part of any scale; DO NOT memorize them
separately from the scale. Play the next modes/arpeggios exercises (with pickups) and only
think of them as the major scale (or melodic minor scale). Learning this as a whole is of great
value for your playing. (See the forest before the trees so to speak)(Tracks 12 15)

Make sure you are rhythmically anchored in beat one and three. Look a the notation, the
pickup notes are tied together and strong beats are by themselves. For the scale, you will
notice that theres an extra note for every line, its derived from the bebop scales concept.
**Learn the descending version as well!!!**




To conclude on modes and arpeggios, the fingering possibilities are numerous here so find
what works for you (always keep the diagonal motion on your guitar neck!). I only covered
two octaves for each line here to make the exercise shorter; you get the idea. (As with
anything in this book, expand the exercise to three octaves, start in different areas of the
neck, go up and down or down and up, play in all keys, create your own pickups, etc.)

There is Always More
Working on fingerings and melodic ideas is a good way to improve but we always need
to have a foot into the rhythms (right?). I covered the basics that will let you grow the fastest
but you need to find your own stuff . Keep expanding your melodic knowledge of the
instrument with the groove in mind. Youll be surprised! Some suggestions :

Different kinds of pickup concepts applied to lines
Using everything rhythmically and melodically on the sixteenth note level
Displacing material you already play (by one eighth note for example)
Playing more notes in the arpeggios (five or six for instance)

Different material also :
Anything and everything that has to do with diminished scales/chords
Whole-tone scale and what it implies
Pentatonics (major : 1 2 3 5 6 and minor : 1 2 b3 5 6)
II-V-I chord progressions in major and minor.
Dominant seventh scales and the possible colors (diminished, altered, 7#11, 7b13,
7b13b9, and others)
Hang out with non-guitarists and learn lines from them (especially horns)

Wrap-Up - Chapter 1 : Lines

The goal of this whole lines chapter is to change the way you hear. I believe
that the only way to play differently is to hear differently. As an example, most
people would try to play fast by trying to practice faster and faster. I found out
that the only way to play faster is to hear faster.

If your goal is to expand in that area (who wouldnt want to play faster?!) I
think the pickup concept is a good starting point. It lets you hear a bit in
advance; if you practice scales that way and really emphasize beat one and
three of each bar, your ears know whats coming next and youll gradually
hear differently. The greatest jazz players hear like that; its like driving a car on
the highway and looking far ahead.

To conclude, start learning solos by your favorite players. You will learn great
rhythms and great lines. You dont have to write it down, just play along! And
also, when you feel ready, start composing solos. Look at it like you are
transcribing yourself ; the best part is that you can come back and edit your

Chapter 2 : Chords

Playing chords to accompany (or complement) a singer or soloist is the
reason why guitar players get hired most of the time. (Who needs another
guitar solo anyways?!) It is of utmost importance that you become comfortable
with the common jazz guitar chord vocabulary. Ill approach the chords with
rhythms first (you guessed it, didnt you?!) and then well look at physical
technicalities (keeping an eye on the groove!)

2.1 Chords and Rhythms
Comping for guitarists is all about rhythms. The chordal possibilities are less numerous
than on a keyboard yet more physically demanding. Professional jazz guitarists use what they
have and aim to be rhythmically connected with the band. More often than not, short and
sparse rhythms will suffice to accompany a soloist/singer while sustained chords will be used
for introductions and endings.

The Charleston FiguresAgain!
[Also look at the charleston example in Chapter 1.1]
The charleston is back! In Track 16 the figure is played starting on every eight-note of
the bar. Each charleston is played in every bar for a full chorus of Bb blues before moving on
to the next. I didnt include a note-for-note transcription because it would have been
redundant. Here it is, visually explained :
First chorus

Second chorus

Third chorus

Fourth Chorus

Fifth Chorus

Sixth Chorus

Seventh Chorus

Eighth Chorus

Dont underestimate the power of the simple figure. It is too common! While listening to
Track 16, dont forget :

Think of pickups. In chorus #4 through #8, the figure starts in bar twelve (a bar
before the top of the form)
Notice the double bar lines. It is because beat 4 and 4& are part of the next bar.
There is always the same distance between the two notes of the figure!
Different parts of the bars have different feelings attached to them.
Some figure (specially third and seventh chorus) may be harder to hear and feel.
Apply suggestions from chapter 1.1 to expand this exercise

Applied Comping
Chords can be played in two different rhythmic approaches : with or without a tempo.
The latter is often referred to as rubato. Playing out of time happens often with singers or
when playing solo guitar. A few tips to learn to play rubato effectively:

The melody is the master and you must follow and support it. When you are playing
duo with a melody instrument (voice or horn), let them dictate the way to go and
provide an appropriate harmonic context. Playing roots on chord is a good idea and
almost essential. Dont fall in a groove because you will tend to bring the other
instrument with you. Dont rush ahead , listen to the melodic instrument before
playing any chord. Let the music breathe, thats a difficult aspect to grasp at first.

If you are playing by yourself (doing an intro or a complete solo piece) the same is
applicable. Follow the melody (if you are not playing it, sing it in your head) and
provide an appropriate harmonic context. Let it breathe and use the space at your
advantage; well used, silence creates a mystic mood . The main difference when
playing solo is that YOU are the boss.

When comping in a tempo, the goal is to be improvising a very rhythmic single line and
harmonize it at the same time. This single line should be the top note (highest in pitch) of the
chord you are playing. Playing different chord shapes with a top note that is jumping
around just wont do it. So, playing chords in tempo is much like playing lines but there are
two main differences:

1. You will be playing less notes (I hope!) and be more sparse rhythmically.
2. You will often be supporting a soloist and he/she is the one to follow. The lines you will
harmonize to accompany will (and should) be inspired by what the soloist is doing.

Too Much of Not Enough
As you can see, its very easy to be a mediocre jazz guitar accompanist. (Too easy?)
Do your best to be part of the minority. The most common mistakes are to take too much
room (too loud, too busy, too sustained), to play poor rhythmic ideas, to NOT be listening
at all to a soloist or singer, to be playing on beat one of every bar and last but not least:
being lost in the structure of a tune.

Theres nothing more frustrating for someone whos in the middle of a great solo than to be
thrown off by a guitarist playing the wrong chords (because hes lost) too loud (because hes
dumb). BE CAREFUL, an amplified guitar accompaniment can make or break a great

On the same note, try to interact (or at least react) to the soloists you comp for. Answer
them right away at the beginning of a solo (imitating a rhythm they just played for
instance). Theyre going to trust you and feel supported. Keep the focus on the person whos
soloing while keeping and ear in the overall groove of the band (bass and drums). Always
make sure your intentions are clear and compatible to the songs vibe; never go against the

Theres More!
To finalize with chords and rhythms , I suggest you apply the rythmic knowledge
from the whole Chapter 1 to your chordal playing. The pickup concept is especially
valuable if used as tension and release in chords. I also recommend you use, rhythmic
templates right away to practice chords. With a good set of rhythms, every chord will sound
good! (wink winkcharlestons...)

2.2 Chords and Fluidity
As you may have noticed, this is not a method book nor a complete book. Its a
starting point from wich you can derive virtually all the useful information needed to play
genuine jazz guitar. Chords are about movement and I will not have enough space to cover
this matter deeply. Learn the basic material and apply movement to your chordal playing by

As a point of departure in moving with chords , I suggest you learn chords by progressions
or scales. Learning unrelated chords from a book can be time consuming and useless in the
end. If you find that one chord sounds good by itself, make an effort to incorporate it
somewhere amongst a progression. It will stick to you all life long.

I also encourage you to look at the most basic element of harmony: triads (3-notes chords),
their inversions and possible guitar voicings (closed, spread). Theyre the building blocks of
music. If you have patience, learn easy classical guitar pieces as well (you can play them on
the electric guitar). They cover the triads and are already arranged for you; you just have
to play them! Get this sound in your ears, centuries of guitar compositions cant be wrong!

The Basic(est) Voicing
The simplest voicings for jazz have three notes. I call them 1-3-7 (or 1-7-3) chords.
The tonic (or root) and the two other important tones : the third and the seventh. The root
gives us the tonality (the key its in), the third gives us the modality (major or minor) and the
seventh gives us the quality (natural or minor seventh). The natural fifth is not played since
its the most empty chord tone in the chord. Theres is a total of four chords quality to
learn and they each have two possible shapes .

1. Maj7 (1-3-7 and 1-7-3)

2. Dom7 (1-3-b7 and 1-b7-3)

3. MinMaj7 (1-b3-7 and 1-7-b3)

4. Min7 (1-b3-b7 and 1-b7-b3)

The 1-3-7 and 1-7-3 voicings provide a simple yet solid harmonic foundation if played in the
right register. I almost exclusively play them with the root on the 6th or 5th string; the bass
like definition is lost if theyre higher. It is recommended NOT to play this kind of voicing
when playing with a bassist; the frequencies will clash. [See String Transference in
Resources to learn how to transfer the above diagrams to root on the fifth string .]

Listen to Track 17 to get an idea how this voicing sounds.

Diatonic, Sixth-Diminisheddrop it
The other most common jazz voicings are drop-2 and drop-3. They are organised to sound
good and be relatively easy for the hand to grab. As I stated earlier: learn them in
progressions and they will stay with you.

Drop-2s have 3 possible starting points, while drop-3s have only two :

Drop-2 voicings encompass four adjacent strings.
(played on three different sets of strings : 6543, 5432, 4321)
Drop-3 are constituted of the lowest note, a string skip, and three adjacent strings.
(played with the lowest note on the sixth or on the fifth string thus : 6 432, 5 321)

I find the drop-2s sound muddy with the string set 6543. The examples will therefore
have the drop-3s as the voicing with the lowest notes. Drop-3s tend to have a clearer
definition in lower register; thats because of the string skip. Its up to you (again) to look for
the other possibilities! Think of different string sets to start on (string transference);
inversions; open strings; omitting or adding notes; RH arpeggiation; etc.

Play the examples of track 18 and 19 and make sure you hear the difference between the
progressions : **Learn descending as well!**

1. Diatonic (they belong to a major or minor scale)
2. 6th/diminished (they outline major or minor bebop scales (See Chapter 1.2) and
are literally just two chords alternating in a tension-release pattern)

[For a clear explanation of the 6th chords alternating with diminished chords, please consult
the book The Barry Harris Harmonic Method for Guitar by Alan Kingstone and the Barry
Harris Workshop DVDs; theyre the simplest, straight-to-the-point references in that area.
Personally, I find it is better to get them in your ears and fingers before trying to understand
the theory. [The least of theory information you can get before learning them is mentioned

As always, derive other fingerings (string transference) and expand them as much as
possible. Most professional jazz guitarists have all this at the tip of their fingers all the time
in all keys! It becomes second nature and makes your musical reaction time shorter.
Modern Sounding
To get a hipper sound some guitar players use chords build from the interval of a
fourth. Some of them are very easy to play since the guitar is tuned in fourths !!! (Chords are
usually based on the interval of a thirdwich is less guitar-friendly)

A no-name chord made of
stacked fourths

Ive been through the desert on
a chord with no name

The chords in fourths are usually referred to as quartal . Learn the following 4-notes
quartal voicings from track 20. There is no chord name since it is only the scale. The interval
of a fourth distorts the true nature of each chord somehow.

The inversions sound even cooler because they contain the interval of a second (step or half-
step). Theyre yours to discover (start with 3-notes quartal voicings if you wish to derive

Here again, use your imagination and enrich the basics in your own way. Think of different
string sets to start on (string transference), play it in minor, use inversions, open strings,
omitting or adding notes, RH fingering patterns for arpeggiation; etc.

Movement And Leading the Voices
There is always one or more notes that could be moving at any moment in any chord ;
you need to find them! Finding what stays the same and what is moving when the chord
changes is called voice leading. For example, if playing Dm7 (D F A C) to G7 (G B D F), D and
F stay the same; C goes to B, A goes to G.

The first step in moving chords into one another is to learn to play inversions of the chords
you already know. After that you can figure out the most economical (less voice movement)
way to go from one chord to another. (If you only know the root position, it will feel as if you
are jumping around .)

Since weve already played inversions of drop-2 and drop-3 voicings in Track 19, I invite you
to go back and investigate! Heres a written example of SOME possibilities.

Track 21 is for demonstration purposes only, I hope it inspires you to use the basic voicings
above in creative ways. I tried to cram as much chordal concepts as possible so it would not
sound like a piece of music . Just listen to it to find more possibilities for YOUR OWN
playing (drop-2 and drop-3, voice leading, quartal, rhythms, etc.).

Eventually, you can be playing many lines more or less independently over any chord
progression. Study counterpoint, harmony and play Bach; its worth the effort, trust me.
(Thats a well kept secret too)

Chord Melody
Chord-wise, the ultimate goal for jazz guitarists is to play melody AND harmony at the
same time. Its trying to be like a pianist : left hand comping and right hand soloing. This kind
of playing on the guitar is often referred to as chord melody. Im not a huge fan of definite
terminology so lets put it that way : to accompany YOUR OWN linear playing with YOUR
OWN chordal playing.

This is where you put together ALL the preceding (and following) material in this book.
Playing in a jazz guitar trio (guitar-bass-drums) is demanding; you are providing the melodies
AND the harmonic support all by yourself! Playing solo jazz guitar is even more challenging
and rewarding because YOU are the band!!!

At least 80% of the gigs I played in the last five years were in trio format. This is where the
guitarists musicality comes out to shine. The two main aspects of chord playing obviously
come into play when we look at any chord melody situation : rubato and with tempo.

Playing rubato, as explained earlier, is very delicate; I find it is used mainly for song
beginnings and endings (in a guitar trio). Doing a solo guitar intro is the prime example and it
is possible to play a lot (and I mean a whole lot) of stuff in that context. As an exercise, play
the melody of standards you know out of time (rubato). After each phrase, answer to the
melody you just played with a few chords. You can go nuts and harmonize the melody
sometimes, paraphrase it, reharmonize (change the chords), improvise lines between phrases
or simply go somewhere else with the tune. You are the boss. Listen to the recorded
example (Track 22), my goal was to be clear ( I am playing THIS particular tune ) yet be
spontaneous, creative and most of all, genuine.

In time
In the recorded example (Track 22), you can notice I am setting the tempo before I actually
play the melody in time. This is a good habit to develop since it is going to help the musicians
you play with; they will know where you are.

Playing the melody in time with accompaniment (or chord melody ) is probably the most
challenging aspect of the guitar. You need harmony and melody but your are limited (only
four fingers on the left hand, six notes allowed to ring at the same time and a maximum
range of two, two and a half octaves if you are lucky etc.) Let me tell you something : thats
the beauty of it. Dealing with your instruments limitation is a gift not a curse. If it feels like
hell to you then pickup the piano or the saxophone (youll be cursed even more!!!).

So in playing in time, a chord melody style melody, keep in mind that it doesnt need to be
full all the time. Dont always harmonize using the chord shapes you know, youll sound
like an idiot. Play the melody, accompany it : add some color (sometimes one or two notes is
all you need), use counterpoint (attack the melody, then the other notes), articulate
(legato/staccato), arpeggiate when playing chords (right hand), use rhythms wisely. Check
out classical guitar pieces, they use all the above concepts.

I find it is better to think of chord melody as arranging for six strings ; this is where
spending time with your favorite standards is valuable. Play the melody and compliment it in
your own way (compose a chord melody if you wish); the work you put will eventually show
up in different areas of your playing (such as improvising, playing rubato (!!!), comping,
composing, etc.)

Honestly, this is where I wish I had spent more time when I was younger. You dont realize it
until you get called to do that trio gig (or that solo gigthat scared me!) and the only thing
you can play is AMAZING guitar solosall single notes! ( Playing like a drunk penguin )

Finally, I believe every guitar player should aim to be in that mode (of accompanying
oneself) most of the time. When well executed, it feels and sounds like a pianist
punctuating their lines. This must be done when playing the tunes head as well as
when improvising. (Please dont fall in this trap : I will play the melody of the song
harmonized in 4-note block voicings and then improvise single notes for fifteen minutes )

Theres Always (way) More!
Working on chords and harmonic fluidity is always important for jazz guitarists. People
hire use for harmonic support most of the time. I covered the basics that will let you grow the
fastest but you need to find your own stuff , like in everything else. Keep expanding your
harmonic palette (voicings, counterpoint, chord melody, rubato/in time, etc.) and youll feel
your whole playing conception (and perception) change! Some more suggestions/reminders :

Comping is harmonizing an improvised line (the top note of your chord)
Application of the material (voicings) in this book is endless (for example, you can add
extensions, create substitutions, superimpose chords, etc) and it is your task to find
out whats hot and whats not. Experience will tell you.
Compose and practice chord melodies (ex.: intro to a song, entire tune)
Think of in time VERSUS rubato

Wrap-Up - Chapter 2 : Chords

The goal of this whole chords chapter is to change your perception of
chords in general. I believe people tend to think and play very static chords.
As a example, most guitarists would play the right chord shape when they
see a chord symbol. I found that harmony is all about movement.

If you want to get serious about chords, I think this chapter is a good starting
point. Practice chords rhythmically and apply them in progressions (diatonic for
for example) instead of in static shapes . Learning chords strictly by visual
reference is also a common mistake. (Learning music with your eyes is like
learning to dance with your nose)

To conclude, start learning chord melodies and compings by your favorite
players. You will learn great rhythms and great voicings. You dont have to write
it down, just play along! You may even learn only the rhythms to it and put your
own chords on top. And also, when you feel ready, starting composing chord
melodies and accompaniment on tunes. At last, listen to Lenny Breau and Ed
Bickert, they have a pianistic fluidity on the guitar.

Chapter 3 : Ears
This book is all about ears and this chapter might even change your whole life, perception
and playing. Get ready!

Some of you may already be feel players : playing by ear and by feel, knowing music by
instinct and appreciating the good stuff . I know I wasnt! My path was full of deceptions
and questions. Id be thinking well, I learnt the notes and all the chords, whats next? and
Id be trying to emulate the most impressive and flashy players. I gradually realized
that technique is worth nothing in itself (complicated doesnt mean good to listen too). The
Beattles are a great example of this : simple chord progressions and melodies being the
foundation of major, historically significant, songs.

The Ears Have It
I was stunned when I heard Wes Montgomery for the first time. I was listening to the
first few tracks on The Incredible Guitar of Wes Montgomery . Then I watched a video of
him and I was shocked! I know hes the most influential and imitated jazz guitarist of all
times, thats beyond the point. Theres more to it, go on YouTube right now and watch him to
hear what I mean!

Ear-wise, that is exactly what youre looking for. Dont worry about the theory (notes,
chords), the technique (fingers), the sound (guitar, amp) or the style (late bebop), just watch
him. He played what he felt and heard. I think thats why he became so famous and
influential: his ears and feel. He played nice lines and everyone is learning his solos but it
may be a good idea to imitate his feel, gestures and intentions first.

Wes never read or wrote a single note of music; I saw footage of him teaching his tune to a
band. Hed strike a chord and say This, play this chord , the other musician would go
Ah ok! Dominant seventh with a flat five. and Wes would just nod and smile Yeah, yeah,
thats it! . This is exactly what I mean, knowing by instinct what is good for you. Your
goal is to make the ears come first at all times (playing or practicing). Nevermind your
brain or fingersor what other people think!

Sing Sang Sung
Throughout this book, I gave you stuff to play on the guitar; you may have noticed
that most of it is NOT playable in a performance context (I would never play entire scales up
and down in concert!). The goal for me is to give you stuff to play that will connect you
with your inner musicality. It may sound strange but if you let go when performing, beautiful
ideas will come out without your assistance. In other words : you create the pathway
between the instrument and your inside and the music will pour through the guitar

In short, the goal is to connect your inside musicality with your instrument. Reflecting on this,
one might even say that you are the instrument and the guitar is merely a vehicule. Your
true voice is the one thats relying on your ears, feelings and instincts. It may take a while
to get used to; Ill paraphrase Miles Davis : when the real you comes out, you may not
even recognize it! Try to sing right now. Keep going. Dont stop! Singing is a good indicator of
whether or not your HEAR something deeply inside. (What about that last improvised blues

To emulate the typical connection horn players have with their instrument (because they
blow in it), I suggest that guitar players sing everything they play. It doesnt have to be loud
or in tune. One of the great advantages is that you cant play more notes if you are out of
breath; this is real pacing (see chapter 1.1). Sing melodies (learnt or improvised), sing the
top note of the chords you play, sing only the rhythms, sing when NOT playing (imagining
what you could be playing), etc. Try it for a few weeks and your playing and hearing will
change drastically!
(your singing is most likely to improve as well but you dont care about that, do you?!)

Inner Ear
Now that you know that the connection to the inside is the most important, lets
work on what you are REALLY hearing. Having a clear sound definition in your head is called
aural imagination. It is the same process as mental pictures applied to sounds and music.
(How easy is it to see your best friends face inside your mind? What about an entire song?)

I believe it is as important to work on improving what you can hear inside than how well the
inside is connected to the instrument. I call this the inner ear. It is much like singing without
making a sound with your voice; it is imagining that you are singing. (Can you imagine icy
water on the tip of your tongue? What about a single open-string on the guitar?)

My favorite way of working on the inner ear is quite cool and simple. I play an open string on
the guitar and hear another note in my head. Its harder than it sounds! Try it yourself : play
an open D and sing an open G in your mind (dont play or sing out loud the G). Focus on the
imagined G and make it louder and clearer in your mind. When the D string fades out,
make the G fade in even louder in your mind. It must be as if you are SCREAMING the note
in your head; yell it so loud in your head that it will wake up the neighbours!

Once you are comfortable, you can start to work on hearing all the other notes (twelve notes)
above or below any note that is played. Dont be concerned about the theory of the intervals,
just do it. After that, you can do fancier things like hearing two or more notes or singing a
song (or part of a song) from the only note you are playing. Make sure the focus is on
making the inner song as loud and clear as possible. Five or ten minutes a day is plenty
and youll notice your hearing and your concentration improve. I usually do that first when I
pickup the guitar; it puts me in a nice state of mind.

[Note : Use this technique to hear rhythms and grooves in your mind as well]


Sing Again
To conclude on the sing everything you play subject here are a few more
suggestions to improve this area :

Play easy folk tunes or nursery rhymes. Pick your favorite melody, choose a random
note on the guitar. This note is going to be the first note of the song. Play and/or sing
while playing and/or sing by yourself. Select another random note and play the same
melody (repeat a few times).

Use the same process with slightly more difficult tunes over time (classical melodies,
jazz standards, bebop heads and jazz compositions).

Use play/sing combinations with the melody and the bassline of the songs used above.
(Example : Play bass, sing melody then play melody, sing bass.) Do it in many
random keys as well; youll be relying on your ears 100%.

When learning a new chord voicing, sing all the notes individually while playing.

Come up with your own play/sing and/or inner hearing challenges.

More Here (ing)
Finally, I want to add that the best jazz players are always listening and paying
attention to everything that is happening within the band and beyond. In fact, I find that
world-class players have three distinct states or hearing : 1- The self, 2- The group, 3-
The audience. They seem to be listening to those three channels all at the same time; it is
really important to gauge and be listening from an audience point of view whenever you
perform. Getting the right mood and feel is often dictated by whos listening (and caring
enough to pay attention to your music).

Work hard on your ears and dont give up! In the first few years of my formal musical training
(classical), I was often very depressed by my own playing and hearing abilities. I was making
progress but it never felt good ; I finally found the answer : if youre training your ears,
youre also hearing yourself better (and differently). You may notice more mistakes that
you couldnt identify before. That can be depressing but it is a good sign; since your ears are
improving, you will be a better overall musician and artist.


Chapter 4 : Resources
This book is all about making good use of resources. Time is limited so the goal is
always to achieve progress in a limited time spawn. I will reiterate one of the principles that
made me progress faster : the material played in practice in NOT necessarly performace
material. The goal is not to apply any of it; in fact it is better to simply play through stuff
with a maximum of rigor. Try not to learn it! I know it sounds vague, but by doing that,
musical material becomes part of the unconscious and your playing is informed of everything
you played; you do not necessarly remember all of it clearly and its ok. (Like when learning a
new language, the goal is not to memorize a whole novel!)

In short, it goes back to the connection between the physical instrument and your inside ;
YOU are the instrument, your ears, instincts and feel are the real instrument. Practice
diligently and perform freely; let go in performance and dont try to control everything you
say on the guitar, your unconscious will do a way better job! Its all about getting YOU out
of the way of the music thats pouring through you. (Have you ever spoken in public and tried
to control your speech? Its easier to let go isnt?)

Use the following resources to pursue your musical goals. They are the bulk of the material I
came across in my personal musical quest. In your free time, make sure you dig more
resources, there are so many! Become part of associations (like IAJE) and keep in touch with
the scene ; also, use the internet and enjoy the free stuff.
Good luck!

Expansion - Contraction
You read that many times within that book already but I never labelled it that way.
Expanding and contracting is another way of saying make the most out of what you are
working on . It is zooming in and out of a particular subject. (For example, looking at
fingerings for lines, you can play on one string at a time, or six strings at a time.)

It is very important to go back to the real roots (contraction) of whatever material you are
studying. It is also relevant to push the material to a more complex level (expansion). The
reason why this is such an amazing tool is simple : most of the musical material we learn or
come accross is neither completely basic nor complex; its somewhere in between. By going
back with contraction or forward with expansion, new pathways become available for
anything we are working on.

Sometimes you can be working on something, zoom out a little bit, and then come accross a
completely new and fresh idea. I once was working on chord voicings and by contracting
them, I found out another way to play my lines! (This may sound vague to you but just
make sure you to look at everything from many angles, its priceless!)


Learning The Notes on the Guitar (in < 15 minutes)
Start by learning the natural notes on the first, smallest string. They consist of the
notes E, F, G, A, B, C and D. They are located respectively at frets 0, 1, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 10. It
is the C major scale (all the white notes on a piano).

Then derive and map out all the natural notes on the others strings. The sixth (big E)
string will be the same as the first one. Use your ears to determine if the notes sound the
same or simply use logic (by knowing the names of the open string and knowing theres
always two frets between each notes EXCEPT B-C and E-F wich are one fret). Dont memorize
them, just know how to find them.

After that, its easy to name any note since you found seven out of the twelve possibilities. If
you play a note that you did not map out , its going to be a fret away from a note you
know. Play the C major scale up and down many times on single strings, it will sink in quickly.

Learning The Relationship Between Strings
This is what I call string transference . Always make sure you know how to play the
same material on different sets of strings. It can be chords or single notes. If playing a chord
-- for example -- on the first three strings, learn how to play to same chord of the other three
string sets on the guitar.

If playing a melody that is played on two adjacent strings, learn it on other set of strings as

Remember, the interval between the strings is a fourth (except for G-B wich is a major third.)
Reading Music (ouch) Instead of Tabs
If youre a hardcore tabs only reader, let me tell you something : I UNDERSTAND
and respect you! I did that for more than ten years (no kidding!). At some point I decided to
learn to read music because the guitar is no different you know, any professional player on
any instrument can read treble or bass clef (even drummers!).

If you start to learn, I recommend some specific written material (below) and FIVE MINUTES
(yes, only) daily; set a timer. To do it DAILY is more important than the amount of time
spent. Always read stuff you can play but make sure its not too easy; you need to make a
couple of mistakes to get better. Also, make sure you have a good balance of written pieces
you learn and written pieces you sight read . Sight reading is good to improve your first
take reading ability.

Recommended for reading and sight-reading :

-Books by William Leavitt :
Modern Method for Guitar, Melodic Rhythms, Reading Studies and others
(published by Berklee Press)
-Reading jazz tunes :
Reading known or unknown tunes out of a fakebook.
-Etudes (jazz or classical) :
This is material to learn over a period of time. If you plan on spending a certain
amount of time with a piece (lets say a week), make sure its challenging
enough. Also work on the dynamics, phrasing and articulation.
-Classical guitar pieces :
My main experience is learning tunes from conservatory repertoire books.
The advantage is that they are all graded in difficulty.

Best of luck! Remember that most of the time, the guitar player who reads is the one thats
going to be hired! (even if hes less talented or doesnt have killer chops )

Transcriptions (Learning Solos) and LIVE Music
I could write a whole book on transcribing solos to play on the guitar. Ill try to be brief
here : learn solos (in parts or entirely) regularly on your instrument and refresh the solos you
learned from time to time. You dont have to write down what you are learning, you are
training your ears more than anything else. However, writing is a good idea only if you want
to work on your rhythms transcription skills (make sure you dont toss the recording away
after the solos on paper). Imitate the solo to perfection (rhythmically, melodically) and come
as close as possible to the original nuances, phrasing and accents. You should be listening to
the solo for a certain period of time before attempting to learn it; some heavy teachers (such
as David Liebman) recommend singing the solo to perfection before even attempting a single
note on the instrument!

Also, aim for playable yet challenging material that you can pickup by ear. Obviously, the
level at which you can transcribe is directly proportional to the amount of experience in that
area. Dont underestimate the power of walking in somebodys shoes for a few choruses.
As mentionned in this chapters introduction, dont worry about playing any of the material
you learn in your own solos; going through the process (the path) is much more crucial than
the actual notes and chords. Use transcription software to slow down fast lines (such as The
Amazing Slowdowner or Transcribe ) if needed, but always try with the original recording
straight in a CD player; its often easier to learn by chunks than note-by-note.

Finally, theres an even better source of inspiration for jazzers : attending live jazz concerts. I
know you cant come back from a concert and learn improvisations (unless you recorded
incognito) but that is the good part. Jazz is always new and fresh; tunes that have been
played a million times can sound as good, or better, tomorrow night in an unknown venue in
a small town. The fact that you cant bring home the notes and chords from a live solo you
enjoyed forces you to recall only the feel, mood and spirit of the music. Those are NOT
available on recordings! Whenever I attend a memorable and touching concert, I feel like Im
swimming in the music; it is so physical that I shiver, smile, laugh or cry. This is definitely not
happening when listening to a recording or a video. Transcribing favorite recordings is good
but limited; never forget that a recorded track is only a footprint in time. It is best seen as
how the musicians felt at that very unique moment ; like taking a picture (sometimes a
very good one indeed), it only represents a blink in a endless ocean of time.

Practice Sessions
The best idea is to practice a little bit everyday. Make sure you planify well exactly
what you will be working on. The best advice I ever had from one of my mentor is : KEEP A
LOG!!! It doesnt have to be strict but it helps putting everything together in your mind.

Make sure melody, harmony, time/rhythms and repertoire are covered in your learning
process. Aim to get a good grip on the basic elements first and then derive the material you
wish to explore. Slowly but surely!

I also believe deeply in learning to play in all keys. On the guitar it is so easy : play
something in A, move everything one fret up and you are in Bb! Ive been alternating the
keys I play in on a weekly basis. It means that after twelve weeks (three months) I covered
all the keys. I keep rotating because everytime I come back, I play different material. Time
changes, so do we.

Always make sure you are learning new repertoire (tunes). Vary the tempos, style,
forms, keys and time signature you learn them in (dont learn just medium swing, 32-bar
tunes in Bb!). I would say most of the jazz repertoire falls in three main categories:
standards, bebop and jazz compositions. Make sure you know a few in each category and
dont forget to include blues, rhythm changes and ballads (very slow tempos).

Learning common tunes enables you to play with other people more easily. The music
should be a communal activity, right? Also, try not to play everything from a leadsheet or
fakebook. Its a common mistake for beginners; if working on a specific song, discard the
sheet of paper as soon as possible. Bring a list of tunes you know well when playing with a
band; it will cut the time consuming what do you wanna play? in half

In order to meet more musicians, attend local jam sessions. People hanging out are
often actively looking for musicians to play with. Have your networking chops ready. You
dont have to play but always make sure to talk with the hosting band members before you
play. Every jam has its own kind of etiquette ; use common sense. Be there earlier, listen
to and respect the older, more experienced players; you could learn a lot. When playing,
dont exaggerate (usually two tunes and solos of reasonable length), make friends with
the people you are playing with. Knowing a handful of common tunes is very handy

Rehearsing with a band is very special regardless of the level. Be professional and be
there on time with all your gear, ready to play; learn the tunes beforehand if possible and
play your heart out. You will earn respect and appreciation from other players.

Rehearsing original music is usually a process and can be hard for the musicians. Stay
positive and focused, dont be shy and ask for a 10 minutes break if you need one. If the
band is playing your compositions, be kind; it is often confusing to read and play tunes for
the first time. (In short, dont be a dick , its all about the music.)

Composing original music is one of the most painful and rewarding process for any
musician. Its a process, much like planting a seed and watching it grow. One of the
advantages in writing jazz or pop is to play the new music with fellow musicians; the
compositions will grow and evolve during rehearsals. The drummer may come up with a
groove the composer didnt think about, the piano player may suggest alternate chords or the
form might change (more or less sections) for example. Keep in mind that, much like learning
guitar, the art of writing songs can be practiced . The more you write, the better it will

As a starting point, I recommend you write original melodies over the chords of tunes you are
very familiar with. For instance, write a few blues melodies (in different keys) and then write
something original on Autumn Leaves if you like this tune. After a while you will naturally
modify the chords to fit what you hear and feel (that is usually referred to as
reharmonization). Its a fun exercise and other musicians can relate more easily to chord
changes they know than to completely original songs and structures.

Another way of composing that is derived from the above exercise is composition by
interpretation . It is to write a new composition inspired by how a certain song makes you
feel. It is not reharmonization nor keeping the same structure with another melody. It is
asking yourself the question : What if I wrote this tune? . Most of the time, your original
will not have the same chords or melody and it is ok. When I do that, I try to keep the same
feeling and spirit. Im often inspired by non-jazz (believe it or not) I got a lot of inspiration
in metal and alternative music!

The Modern Sound
In many ways, contemporay jazz players aspire to a more modern , up-to-date
sound. This can be debated. While I believe it is not necessary to sound like Duke Ellington, I
find theres a substantial part of the modern sound in old music. Logically, there is no
other source of music than music played in the past! (Do you have a jazz recording from the
future? Can I hear it?!)

My vision of modern is quite simple : what sounds contemporary is an interpretation of
tradition. So modern (up-to-date and influential) musicians are, more often than not,
influenced by the far (or not so far) past. A musician influenced directly by people of his time
is often referred to as a rip-off , copy cat or simply an imitator.

A prime example of a modern sounding artist deeply rooted in the past is J-S Bach (1685-
1750); his music sounded very much like the early 1600s and some qualify his work as a
synthesis of the baroque music. In short, learning modern will not necessarly make you
sound modern; learning tradition on the,other hand, and making it your own, will. (Transcribe
Wes Montgomery before John Scofield)

Some Books I Found Useful
The list is no particular order but I put in bold the ones that touched me the most.

Hearing the Changes by Jerry Coker
How to Play Bebop (3 volumes) by David Baker
The Barry Harris Workshop Videos + Booklet (DVDs)
Charlie Parker Omnibook (transcribed solos)
Patterns for Improvisation by Oliver Nelson
A Guide to Jazz Improvisation by John Laporta
A Chromatic Approach to Melody and Harmony by David Liebman
Forward Motion by Hal Galper
Clear Solutions for Jazz Improvisations by Jerry Coker
The Jazz Musicians guide to Creative Practicing by David Berkman

A Modern Method for Guitar by William Leavitt
Melodic Rhythms by William Leavitt
Reading Studies for Guitar by William Leavitt
The Advancing Guitarist by Mick Goodrick
A series of article on jazz guitar by Mark White *free online*
Jazz Guitar Study Series (5 volumes) by Barry Galbraith
[Specifically Volume #3 : Guitar Comping]
Chord Chemistry by Ted Greene
The Barry Harris Harmonic Method for Guitar by Alan Kingstone

Time and Rhythms
Time Awareness by Peter Erskine
Factorial Rhythm by Mick Goodrick

The Jazzmaster Cookbook by Jim Grantham
Modern Harmonic Technique by Gordon Delamont
Modern Melodic Technique by Gordon Delamont
Jazz Composition, Theory and Practice by Ted Pease

Jazz Handbook by Jamey Aebersold *free online*
The Bottom Line by Todd Coolman
Jazz Keyboard by Jerry Coker

The Log Story
(This is a true story that changed my playing)

I had a one-on-one appointment with one of my mentors one day. He told me : Kid,
youre an OK player but I think you should look into keeping a log. I looked at him
skeptically. After all, I was improving and playing some gigs here and there. What was wrong
with the way I practiced ? Charles sensed my lack of interest and told me You HAVE to do
it! Just do it! . I was not enthusiastic about this idea at all.

I went back home thinking to myself Ill try it for a week, in the worst case, I will waste ink
and a couple of sheets a paper and my time. Within a month of doing the log thingy I
felt like I had never improved so fast before. I was hailed by fellow musicians and friends.
Charles noticed after 6 months, he said Youre looking it up! after I played a solo for him.

I didnt believe in writing a log for everything I played and for how long and how, and why
etc. because I felt like it would be a waste of my time in the first place. It turned out to be
the exact opposite! After a year, I was totally addicted to my log. It was not a detailed, exact,
note-for-note book, it was just enough information to keep track and focus on the right

That being said, I believe anyone trying to get better at what theyre doing should have some
kind of planning . (Whether it be body-building, music, dancing, flying a plane or cooking.)

A Word about Gear
Everyone has many tools to pursue their musical journeys. If you have books, CDs/DVDs,
playalongs, electronic devices or softwares aim to use them without wasting your time. I find
that guitar players in general tend to have much more stuff to mess with than they need
to practice and perform. Heres an example :

I just bought a new chorus pedal. I have a recording session tomorrow and I want to work
on a specific tune right now. I sit down with my guitar, amplifier and the new chorus pedal. I
start playing the song, stop right in the middle to fix the chorus sound. I start over, stop
again Play some unrelated stuff just to check the sound . Go back to the tune I did
NOT learn it properly and Ive been sitting here two hours tweaking knobs. Do you think the
new pedal really improved my sound?!? I would personally assign a knob-tweaking time
and then start REALLY WORKING on material.

Another thing : owning the right equipment doesnt make the right music. I was a
guitar gear freak for at least ten years. Im better now, but still tempted by some
toys you know what its like Anyways, I just wanted to mention that buying an archtop
and a polytone amp wont make you sound like a jazz player; your ears and fingers will!
While in jazz school, I was playing a Parker solid-body (pictured on the cover) through a
fender amp some people listened to my demo and asked me what kind of archtop I used!!!
Same for a good friend of mine, whos still using a Brian May signature guitar (solid-body) for
all his gigs (from Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band to jazz standards in trio). Think about it!
Listening to all kinds of music is good; listening to specific music is even more
important. Be critical in your listening and choose wisely. I pick my music pretty much the
same way I choose friends. It is extremely important to listen to music somewhat related to
areas you are working on musically. I played a whole year with a drummer that was putting
alot of time learning jazz but all he was listening to was hardcore and death-metal. Would
you think he improved very much? Whenever you have a musical question, be assured that
there is an answer somewhere on a recording. (Some people even go as far as The answer
is Miles !!!)

Also, listening to yourself is a very good tool to improve your playing. Record your practicing,
rehearsals and performances whenever possible. Dont be too critical or negative, just
aknowledge what you hear. Pocket recorders are accessible and inexpensive nowadays and it
is always good to have different perspectives on your playing. (Remember, the advent of
recording technologies is really what crafted the history of jazz! It was the first commercial

Lets Get Physical
[A word about playing physical instruments like piano, bass, drums or guitar.]

ALWAYS WARMUP before you play or you could suffer from severe injuries. Get rid of
unnecessary tention in your back and neck. Be active, eat well, sleep and dont abuse
substances (any kind of drugs, medication, coffee, alcohol, etc.) Get to know you body, its
pricleless. I heard very sad stories of amazing musicians quitting because of physical
damages. Dont destroy your music by negligence; anyone has the tools to feel good while

I discovered yoga and Alexander Technique at a very good time in my developement. I owe
them my career; dont wait, check it out now! (Especially the Alexander Technique.)

Take care of yourself!