Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Sapphire Ng | Berklee Guitar Styles Skills - Jazz (Week 1) SPRING 2016 [Class Materials & Concepts]

Guitar Styles Skills - Jazz

Berklee College of Music
SPRING 2016 Semester

Class Teacher: John Baboian

[Week 1]

Concepts/content covered in class:

~ Clear distinction between R&B blues and jazz blues. In the area of improvisation, it is discussed in class that R&B blues would be characterized by bends and a relatively prolonged amount of time dedicated to soloing around a single focus note and that phrases are more repetitive. On the other hand, it is discussed that for jazz blues, there is a general absence of bends and focus of the improvisation would be more on the flow and movement of lines. 

~ A "Blues Reharmonization" handout is given to illustrate the harmony differences between R&B blues and jazz blues. I found it hilarious when we were comparing the chord progressions of the 2 styles of blues and my instructor said jazz does not like empty spaces, so we would find all sorts of ways to fill up all the empty bars with more chords, II-Vs and reharmonization.

~ A mention was given to the 3rd progression in the "Blues Reharmonization" handout in the 5th, 6th and 7th bar where the root motion of the chords goes half step upwards with each chord. Bb7 to Bdim7 to F7/C, where F7 is played with the C note in the base in order to allow for the root motion to move from the Bb note to B note to the C note. 

~ We were asked to play the chord progression in class accompanied by my instructor playing the walking bassline. I played the chords in root position, which the instructor later pointed out that I should have opted to play alternative voicings without the root since he is already playing the walking basslines. 

~ In refreshing of concepts previously learned, to improvise over a jazz blues chord progression, we can safely opt to play chord changes by playing the arpeggios of the chords in the progression and can practice by connecting the arpeggios one after the other according to their time value.
~ A second handout given out in class is "Be-bop Sounds using Chromatic Approaches". My instructor demonstrated the systematic examples given in the handout in the key of C major. This handout illustrates separate examples inserting a chromatic note between the root and 2nd note of scale; between the 2nd and 3rd note of scale; between the 4th and 5th note of scale; between the 5th and 6th note of scale; and between the 6th and 7th note of scale. 

~ In further illustrating the use of chromatics, my instructor stomped his foot and played a C major scale without any chromatics and showed that by only playing the 7 notes from the scale plus the root note again with a total of 8 notes, the guitar line would finish on the upbeat; whilst for the other examples including 1 chromatic in the scale, the total of 9 notes played would allow the guitar line to finish on the downbeat. 

~ For practicing chromatics and for playing "never ending guitar lines", my instructor said to set the metronome, and then to play a constant stream of 8th notes until your hand "breaks" (Hahahaha ! LOL). This is to develop the ability to improvise and play long phrases. He said if you cannot play really long phrases, then it will be relatively challenging to improvise short phrases well, but if a guitarist have the ability to play long phrases it will more often than not translate into a much greater ability to improvise short phrases well. 

~ For this chromatics practice, my instructor said it is essential to practice over the chord qualities of maj7, minor7, dom7 and -7(b5) because they are the diatonic chords to the major scale. To practice over maj7 chord, we would have to decide to improvise using the Ionion or Lydian mode; for minor7 chord, we can choose between Dorian, Phrygian or Aeolian modes; for dom7 chord it will be the Mixolydian mode; and for -7(b5) chord, there are two options of either Locrian mode or Locrian natural 9 mode. 

~ Another point to note for this chromatics practice would be always to start off by first playing diatonic notes to the scale and then later add chromatics. In other words try to avoid starting off the improvisation with chromatics, this way the tone of the scale used would not have been first established. 

~ Other things mentioned in class would be that one transcription would be given per class and out of five to be given in total by the mid term exam, we would have to choose one to play for the exam. Similarly another five transcriptions would be given out before the final exam whereby one would have to be chosen to be played for the exam. The transcription given this week is "Benny's Bugle" by Charlie Christian. 

~ Furthermore for this class, we are asked to get the book "Jazz Conception (Guitar)" by Jim Snidero.

~ We are also given the transcription and mp3 for the tune "Groove Blues" by Jim Snidero. 


Class Homework:

~ Blues reharmonization chord progression; chord changes improvisation over jazz blues progression. 

~ "Never ending guitar lines" chromatics practice for maj7, minor7, dom7 and -7(b5)

~ The tune "Groove Blues" from the book "Jazz Conception (Guitar)" by Jim Snidero

Class Materials/Handouts:

Blues Reharmonization




Be-Bop Sounds, using Chromatic Approaches


Groove Blues 



Benny's Bugle - Charlie Christian 



My Reflection:

~ Regarding the "never ending guitar lines" chromatics practice, I have to admit I am thrilled when we were given the assignment to practice this. I have always admired Pat Martino and his ability to improvise insanely long and perfectly phrased guitar lines. I always wanted to be able to play really long phrases just like Pat Martino ! I have also always admired how some jazz guitarists seem to be able to improvise insanely long well phrased guitar lines. I think it's the feeling of getting closer to a long time guitar dream of mine hahaha. I think I will even make the decision to adopt this practice as part of my daily guitar routine that I cannot do without or even make it my most essential practice routine to start off every practice. Yes, I want to be able to play incredibly and insanely and unbelievably long phrases LOL ! 




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