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Blog // Sounds
January 9, 2012

Notes From The Woodshed

Today is the second Monday of the year. But, it’s the first Monday “in the office” for most people. To mark that, here’s a little series I’ll be writing throughout the year – Notes From The Woodshed. On the first Monday of every month I’ll posting some notes, from my “office” so to speak. These […]

Today is the second Monday of the year. But, it’s the first Monday “in the office” for most people. To mark that, here’s a little series I’ll be writing throughout the year – Notes From The Woodshed.

On the first Monday of every month I’ll posting some notes, from my “office” so to speak. These will include five guitar studies, available for you to download, for free.

These are not really lessons. I’m sharing with you the actual stuff I’m working on. Some of it is technique. Some of it remembering patterns I’ve forgotten. Some of it is sure to feel esoteric and, occasionally, out there.

Anyway, here’s a rundown on the five studies for January (you can download the studies at the end of the post);

January Etude 1
Pat Methany’s Guitar Etudes have inspired me to more intentional about warm-up patterns. This study is three patterns, working through the chords of the C Major scale. The second and third patterns link together arpeggios in quick succession, which is an essential skill for jazz guitar.

January Etude 2 (G Harmonic Major)
I love the sound of the G Harmonic Major, but truth be told, I haven’t really mastered it yet. The first two patterns in this study show the basic way I become familiar with a scale and its chords. The third pattern is the G Harmonic Major played as quartals (chords built by stacking intervals of a fourth, instead of intervals of a third, as with normal chords). Quartals are an important form of modern jazz harmony.

The final pattern in this study lays out the quartal chords as arpeggios. This is an unusual vibe. Open, but with some jaggedness as well. Love it or hate, this is the Harmonic Minor sound I am trying to develop.

January Etude 3 (D Modal)
There are at least two ways to practice modes. The most common way is to play them sequentially, that is, play all the modes of one scale. You see that in Etude 1. The other approach, is to play them in parallel; all of the modes of the same root note. That’s what this study is all about.

The third pattern in this study is one of the best ways I know to drill the sound of different chords. The first four notes are the core sound of the chord (Root, 7th, 3rd, 5th). The next three are the colours (4th, 9th, sixth). With patterns like this, it pays to play slowly and cleanly, letting the notes ring out as long as you can hold them, so you can really hear the variations between each chord.

January Etude 4 (G Jazz Blues)
This study shows how far you can go with a number of basic building blocks. Of course, I wouldn’t play a blues this way – the study is all about getting the available notes under your fingers and drilling the chord changes into your memory.

The first two studies demonstrate one of the most basic approach to learning how to play over jazz chord changes; playing the first four notes of a scale from the root of a chord, either going or going down. The third pattern combines the ascending and descending initial phrases.

The fourth pattern involves playing arpeggios over the chords. In this instance, all the arpeggios start on the root of the chords, to aid memorisation of the chord progression.

The fifth pattern is one of my favourite practice tools. The whole exercise is made up of four note arpeggio “clusters.” These are pre-determined patterns of notes that I choose every half bar. For this one I worked with R-3-7-4, 9-6-7-4, 3-7-5-9, 7-4-3-6, 5-9-R-4. I also forced myself to keep the transitions between each cluster small; either a tone, semi-tone, or the same note.

The final pattern is a combination of initial phrases and clusters. Again, I’ve tried to keep the transitions between each four note group as tight as possible. This demonstrates one of my key goals in single note playing; spell out the chords clearly while keeping the transitions, across bars and chord changes as controlled and fluid as possible.

January Etude 5 (Post Christmas)
I wanted to keep the spirit of Christmas alive a little longer. So, this study is based on the progression for Angels We Have Heard On High. I’ve moved it to the key of Ab and included a number of ideas from the previous studies, as well some things I’ll explore more in the future.

A Note About Fingerings
I’ve included TAB for guitarists who don’t read music well. However, all the fingerings are totally optional. I’m not into making hard rules about the correct way to finger scales or arpeggios and I will often finger the same notes in the same song in different ways.

You may find some of the fingerings odd or even uncomfortable. In Etude 5, over the Bb7-Eb7 changes there are some very unusual fingerings. That’s just something I’m currently experimenting with.

I’d suggest trying my fingerings, simply because sometimes by playing the same thing in different ways, we open up new ideas. But, if you feel any pain or discomfort, or just hate the way I’ve TAB’d this out – feel free to finger the notes a different way!

The Download
You can download the [download id=”7″]. They are five separate PDF files in a folder. That’s over 12 pages of practice material that should hopefully keep you going till February.

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