Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Sapphire Ng | Berklee Guitar Styles Skills - Jazz (Week 12) SPRING 2016 [Class Materials & Concepts]

Guitar Styles Skills - Jazz

Berklee College of Music
SPRING 2016 Semester

Class Teacher: John Baboian

[Week 12]

Class started with us playing "Cheesecake" by Dexter Gordon. As usual, after playing the melody through the form, we took turns improvising. John allocated each of us 32 bars to solo, where alternatively a student will solo for the first 2 A sections of the tune, whilst the next student will solo for the B section and the last A section of the tune. After our first round of improvisations, John drew our attention to all the G7 chords present in the tune and suggested we play the G whole tone scale over the G7 chord. 

He specifically mentioned 3 fingerings we could utilize for the G whole tone scale. One of the fingerings would be playing the G whole tone scale from the root note on the 6th string, 3rd fret, and keeping the scale within the confines of the 5 frets, i.e. play a combination of 2 notes or 3 notes per string in order to stay within the fretboard position. Another possible fingering would be playing 3-notes per string starting from the 6th string, 3rd fret, in which the scale would gradually travel upwards the guitar fretboard. Another scale fingering for G whole tone is one which starts from the "B" note on the 7th fret of the 6th string, whereby only 2-notes per string would be played, the scale thus would gradually travel downwards along the guitar neck.

At this point, John introduced the "Whole Tone Blues", which goes like this :

|| G7(#5) | C7(#5) | G7(#5) | G7(b5) |
 | C7(b5)  |            | G7(#5) |            |
 | D7(b5)  | C7(#5) | G7(#5) |  D7(b5) || 

Since there are only 2 Whole Tone scales that exist, John went on to label the chord progression with how those 2 scales will fit in as they are used to improvise over the chord progression. 
1 refers to G Whole Tone scale;
2 refers to Ab Whole Tone scale

||  1  |  2  |  1  |  1  |
  |  2  |  2  |  1  |  1  |
  |  2  |  2  |  1  |  2  || 

We then had an exercise. John played the Whole Tone Blues progression and asked all of us to practice playing the right whole tone scale along with the chord progression. The result was hilarious and chaotic, everyone was playing the whole tone scale in any order they liked, and I can't help but burst into laughter. Nevertheless, it was a really fun exercise. 

John similarly asked us to play the bassline for the Whole Tone Blues as he improvised over the progression using the same formula he prescribed us. His lines sounded really cool ! Though he joked that we may not want to practice this all day long for fear of driving our roommates crazy LOL. 


After that, we were asked to attempt a second round of solos to the progression of "Cheesecake" and asked to deliberately incorporate the whole tone scales when soloing over the G7 chords in the tune. As the G7 chord is approaching in any student's turn to improvise, John would give the hint "[The G7 chord's] coming". That was the case for me too, however I was not particularly sure of the specific location of the G7 chord in the BA section of the tune I was supposed to solo to, and I was pretty sure I missed it LOL, but I did play a couple of notes from the G whole tone scale haha. 

After everyone had a go at soloing, John pointed out that the class sounded a little too bright/sharp and asked that we adjust our guitar tone so that we could sound a little more like Wes Montgomery playing the tune rather than otherwise. He mentioned and acknowledged that yes, jazz guitarists like John Scofield definitely has a tone very different from the traditional jazz tone, but for our case, he would want us to sound more like Wes. In response to that, I changed my pickup from the middle position to the neck position. And we were asked to play through the melody and the form of the tune yet again. This time round the class definitely had a warmer tone. In ending off the tune, the last 4 bars of the melody was repeated 2 times.

Another feedback John gave me when we were playing "Cheesecake" was that I had too much reverb in my guitar tone. I then went on to lower the reverb knob on the amplifier.  


Concepts/content covered in class:

~ The handout "Exercises in 4ths - Physical" was given out. John demonstrated the examples where in both ascending and descending, we were to practice the technique of finger-rolling for all 4 of our left-hand playing fingers. 

[Interestingly in the lead-up to introducing this 4th-interval exercise handout, he drew our attention to the fact that if we played all the scales in the world, the intervals we practiced would just be 2nds, whilst when we learn arpeggios the intervals we practiced would have been only 3rds. The exercises he introduces to us then would focus on practicing the 4th intervals. 

[We were given some time to try the exercises after John showed us each of the first 4 exercises in the handout. John also noted that more effort would have to be put in should we have any weak fingers. Personally and as far as I can remember, I think I have only used my first finger, i.e. the index finger, to do the finger-rolling technique ever since I picked up the guitar. It is definitely a new concept for me that every finger could put that technique into practice, especially the 4th finger. 

[It is also that class session that it was the first time ever that I saw any guitarist do something that crazy when John demonstrated the finger-rolling technique for all 4 fingers spanning over 3 to 4 strings ! I sincerely thought that finger-rolling would be limited to maybe 3 strings at the most, but the takeaway from this lesson is that anything is possible.] 
~ The "Exercises In 4ths - Diatonic" handout is the next to be handed out. In contrast to the previous handout focusing only on the technical aspects of the finger-rolling technique, this handout puts the exercises into keys. 

~ The lead sheet of the tune "Witch Hunt" by Wayne Shorter was given out, and the primary reason would be the interval of 4ths present in the melody. This tune is said to be a 24-bar blues, that is doubled from the traditional and standard 12-bar blues. Specifically, for example, the first chord of the tune, the C-7 chord spans a total of 8 bars instead of the usual 4 bars in a typical blues form. It is noted that the song is in the key of C minor. The second chord of the tune, Eb7 is the dom7 of the b3rd of the key of the song. It is also important to notice the chromatic movement of the chords from bars 17 to 20, where Gb7 moves a half step down to F7, and then another half step down to E7, and a half step down to Eb7. 

[An important point John raised regarding improvising to "Witch Hunt" is that given that the melody of the tune is made up of intervals of 4ths, the versatile improviser is one who would incorporate 4ths in improvisations in order to complement the melody. Not soloing using the intervals of 4ths may seem out of place.]

~ The transcription given this week is Jim Hall's solo on "The Way You Look Tonight". This transcription is available as an option to play for final exams. We then listened to the audio of the tune in class. 


Class Homework:

~ Practice "Exercises in 4ths - Physical"

~ Practice "Exercises in 4ths - Diatonic" 

~ "Witch Hunt" by Wayne Shorter - Melody, comping, and improvisation

Class Materials/Handouts:

"Exercises in 4ths - Physical"


"Exercises in 4ths - Diatonic"



"Witch Hunt" by Wayne Shorter



"The Way You Look Tonight" by Jim Hall - Solo Transcription



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