Classical guitar for "jazz"

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
razz
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Classical guitar for "jazz"

Post by razz » Sat Mar 25, 2017 11:22 am

I'd like to add some improvised or loosely arranged "popular" melodies to my repitoire. Part of the reason involves my aging fingers that don't stretch and scrunch like they once did. I should be able to work around those hand positions that are uncomfortable or more difficult.
Also, I like the music that players like Earl Klugh and Charlie Byrd offer.

If you arrange melodies or just improvise with your classical guitar, can you tell me about your process. I'm particularly interested in playing solo.

More specifically:
Do you work from the melody or the chord progression?
Do you use a fake book or some kind of sheet music?
Do you just wing it because you have heard the song a million times?
Do you write out your arrangements?

Can you offer any advice or can you relate something about the experience that you think is important?

Many thanks. I always appreciate your help.

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scottszone
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Re: Classical guitar for "jazz"

Post by scottszone » Sat Mar 25, 2017 12:19 pm

Do you work from the melody or the chord progression?
BOTH. A starting point is to add the melody note to the top of chord extensions, alterations, and substitutions, as a way to arrange a chord-melody version of the song and improvise fills around the melody with appropriate scales, chords, arpeggios, and jazz vocabulary.

Do you use a fake book or some kind of sheet music?
Fake book or lead sheet is all you need unless you want to learn a specific arrangement. Joe Pass has some chord-melody books that are good for that.

Do you just wing it because you have heard the song a million times?
No, off the cuff improvisation is the result of thorough preparation. For a start, work up a simple chord melody version of the song, they work up variations with alternate chords and melody in different octaves, then work up a third variation, mix and match variations. Work on different rhythms, tempos, and dynamics. Then learn to harmonize the melody in thirds, sixths, tenths, and octaves. Then analyze the chord progression for appropriate scales and arpeggios for improvisation material. Try fragmenting the melody (only imply the melody with the important notes or rhythms), and improvise around the melody. Mel Bay's Fingerstyle Jazz by Allan Mause is a good book to introduce these skills.

Do you write out your arrangements?
Just the chord progression to help memorize the song form and chords. Being able to sing the melody (at least in your head) will help you memorize as well.

Can you offer any advice or can you relate something about the experience that you think is important?
Learn to recognize and understand major and minor ii-V-I progressions, secondary dominants, altered dominants, tri-tone subs, modes and chords of the major, harmonic, and melodic minor scales, chromatic embellishments, modulations, swing rhythms (shuffle feel), bossa and samba rhythm patterns and related chords and progressions, listen actively to LOTS of jazz to internalize the music and develop your ear.
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tbeltrans
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Re: Classical guitar for "jazz"

Post by tbeltrans » Sat Mar 25, 2017 2:49 pm

My approach is not really "jazz", but rather presenting the melody of a song in a nice arrangement in general. I have a book that is now long out of print, called "Chord Solo Guitar" by Bill Munday, written back in the early 70s. In it, he takes you step by step through arranging a number of tunes that were popular at the time: Godfather Theme, Love Story Theme, Love Is Blue, and finally Duke Ellington's Satin Doll (where he goes a bit into the jazz realm).

The book starts with a set of rules that cover every possible thing that can happen in a measure:

1. Raise/transpose the melody so it fits on the top two or three strings, so the melody will be the highest note in a chord.
2. If a melody falls on a beat, play it with a chord.
3. If a melody comes without a beat, play it solo.
4. If a beat comes without a melody note, play a bass note or chord strum.

With these "Rules", he then arranges "Silent Night", adhering strictly to these rules. Using these rules, you can quickly and very efficiently block out a quick arrangement of ANY tune as a starting point for arranging.

In the book, Bill Munday strongly suggests using a chord dictionary. There is a companion chord dictionary to the book that he suggests, written by Ralph Higgins called "5002 Guitar Chords". Ralph Higgins is credited as an author of the "Chord Solo Book", so there is a definite tie-in. Bill Munday says that every chord form used in the "Chord Solo Book" came from that chord dictionary.

I can see why Bill Munday would suggest a chord dictionary. First, he doesn't spend time on knowing the guitar fretboard or music theory except in very specific situations. To me, it is a mistake with books of this kind to try to cover everything. Second, by looking in the chord dictionary for the needed chord forms, with a focus on arranging, you do begin to understand how this process works without getting bogged down i memorizing a bunch of inversions up and down the fretboard.

In my personal experience, I have never found a better resource for learning arranging pop tunes and standards for solo fingerstyle guitar than these books. Bill Munday made (in my opinion) the right choices as to what to put in and what to leave out so the focus is on successfully learning to arrange tunes by the time you finish the book. He is very clear on the fact that this is the foundation on which you build your own style as you arrange many tunes on your own, working through each musical problem as it presents itself. It is in how you solve these problems that your own style begins to emerge.

To me, studying Earl Klugh's (or any other) arrangements before really having this foundation, whether gleaned from these books or another source, is a study in frustration, putting the cart before the horse. Until you know what questions to ask, from a knowledge base of your own, you can only hope to learn to learn how to play another person's arrangement, rather than gleaing from it stuff that you can "take home" and put into your bag of arranging tricks.

After "Silent Night", he begins to "break" or "stretch" these "rules" to begin creating arrangements that flow and have more interest and sophistication. There are all manner of devices you can use to do that, and he gives a good grounding in doing that.

After finishing that book, I then arranged a lot of tunes using what I learned over and over again until I was completely comfortable with that. It is only after having done all that, that I began to study and listen to other people's arrangements, particularly those of Howard Heitmeyer and also Stan Ayeroff. The reason is that until I am personally involved in arranging, I really can't know how to analyze what these other top arrangers are doing so I can learn what I need from them to apply to my own arrangements.

After getting a good start such as I describe here, you will be able to learn what you need to know, such as the notes on the guitar freboard, how to spell chords and scales, and how to use this information in your own arranging process instead of just memorizing a bunch of information that might be useful someday. David Sudnow, in his piano course, said that we should learn everything we need to know in the context of the song. Once you are creating your own arrangements, you will always have a context to learn whatever theory or new techniques in a practical manner. the mistake we often make is believing that we have to learn a pile of information first, and then start making music with it. I think that is backwards. I know all too many people who can spout theory in forum after forum, but don't really put any of it to real, practical use. That is just a waste of time. Get started arranging in however simple a manner as you are able, and then start learning what else you need to know, when you need to know it. Over time, we will learn all we need, but that process takes years and never really ends. You might as well be arranging during all that time and have a very practical, task-oriented approach to learning new ideas, concepts, theory, etc.

As for the Bill Munday book, it shows up used from time to time on e - b a y or abebooks or other outlets. Fortunately, it is not a high demand item, so it sells quite inexpensively. If there is another book out there like this one, I certainly don't know about it, and I have a lot of this kind of material.

Tony

D.Cass
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Re: Classical guitar for "jazz"

Post by D.Cass » Sat Mar 25, 2017 5:45 pm

Having studied chord melody for many years, I will try answer your question. I find a tune that I like, more than likely at of a fake book. Learn the melody first, an octave above written, and then add the chord as written. This provides a skeleton to work from. Then typically I would reharmonize the melody, smoothen out the voice leading or chromatically moving into chords, to make a bit more hip. On parts where the melody note is sustained I may do some kind of back cycling, pedal thing, or moving tenor line, or melody fill. Then I would start to altering melody, like a theme and variations. However, when you start to change the melody typically one has thin out the chords, remember you only have 4 fingers. Then I would attempted a complete single string improve sole, pretending to be Joe Pass. After awhile then I would start shorting from the hip because then I would have thorough understanding of the tune. All of this requires a huge understanding chords, scales and harmonization tactics. Also, a huge vocabulary to draw upon. How does one develop this vocabulary? Listening, analysis, stealing, and experimentation.
Good luck

tbeltrans
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Re: Classical guitar for "jazz"

Post by tbeltrans » Sat Mar 25, 2017 6:08 pm

Good points about chord melody. I found Robert Conti's materials to be a good resource, but certainly not the only resource as many folks have found their own way. Conti has two books with DVDs that are focused on chord melody.

The first "Chord Melody Assembly Line" gives you a chord vocabulary to harmonize any melody note with each of the chords in the harmonized major scale, including b5/#5 and b9/#9, etc. These are very easy to memorize because you are essentially taking each chord and then playing it under each possible melody note. He does this with C maj, F maj, D mi, A mi, G7, and then runs through the augmented and diminished chords. He takes you through doing a chord melody of "Oh Susanna" in sections as he takes you through each chord, culminating in the whole song. He then has you do that to "Danny Boy", and gives you the entire arrangement to check your work.

The second book, "The Formula" shows you to change the harmony under the melody so that you never have to play it the same way twice. He uses the chords you learned in the first (Assembly Line) book. This opens up the whole world of harmony to you, which is where chord melody gets really interesting for the player, as the previous posters have described quite well.

Another approach is from Rich Severson at Guitar College. He has a course on arranging fingerstyle jazz guitar. He starts out with having you play chord inversions on string sets, which is the more typical way that teachers approach the subject, and then goes through all the various vehicles such as walking bass lines, substitutions, moving lines, etc. This is a very well thought out course and is compete as shipped. In his course, Rich Severson makes a distinction between "chord melody" and "fingerstyle". He teaches you to do chord melody first, and then goes into what he considers fingerstyle. For him, chord melody is rather static (obviously not how Joe Pass sees it), with chord and melody . For Severson, fingerstyle is moving lines and attention to individual voices, more along the lines of "horizontal" thinking rather than "vertical" thinking.

Some of us prefer to work from a guided course of study, and others are more DIY. The comments in both of my posts are not intended to argue or diminish in any way what the other posters here are saying. It is all good. I am simply providing the "book learning" approach, since that is what I have done that worked well for me.

My first post was about the Bill Munday book, which really results in a more classical sounding arrangement, which is quite different from chord melody. Though the title indicates "chord solo", as it progresses it is less and less like that. in other words, he starts with a more "horizontal" thinking approach and progress to a more "vertical" thinking approach, much like Rich Severson but a bit more basic.

Here is another approach (again, books)... Barry Galbraith. Mel Bay has two books of Barry Galbraith chord melody arrangements. Each comes with a CD of every tune in each book. The CDs are great to listen to on their own (except the tuning track...), and the arrangements are really fun to play. You can learn a lot from these arrangements. However, as I mentioned in my previous post, I think it is better to be immersed in arranging on your own first so you know what you are looking for in these arrangements, rather than just memorizing them to recite when you pick up your guitar.

I almost always work from a fakebook, as others have mentioned, but also will figure out the chords and melody from a Youtube video. Not all tunes are in fakebooks, but hearing them and figuring out what is going on is a good exercise too. :)

To me, it seems we each have our own learning style, usually a combination of ways we take in information. The problem I always have when self-teaching is that I want to start at the beginning and work my way through a step at a time. In self-teaching, we don't know the territory, so it is like going into the Alaskan wild without a guide - we can get lost and even give up altogether. for me, the books I mentioned have been valuable guides so I don't get lost. Certainly, that is not the only valid approach, as the other posters have described very well. Hopefully, folks reading this thread will get a variety of ideas and be able to choose the best path for them.

I really don't play "classical guitar" as it is widely approached in this forum. What I do is what is being discussed in this thread, so it is finally my turn to say something that might be of some help. :) That said, my absolute favorite form of what we call "guitar" as an instrument is the classical guitar. It is the perfect instrument when built well. I feel extremely grateful to have found such an instrument and rekindled my first love with the guitar.

Edit: Joe Pass has two CDs on which he plays chord melody solo on a classical guitar. I strongly recommend you give these a listen, and then do it again and again. "Songs For Ellen" and "Unforgettable" are the two albums. Of course, tehre are other players too such as Ralph Towner who has a couple of solo albums, and so do a number of other players. It would be worth your while to seek these out.

Tony

tbeltrans
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Re: Classical guitar for "jazz"

Post by tbeltrans » Sat Mar 25, 2017 6:17 pm

Me again...I have not had good luck finding a teacher to learn these styles from, hence, the books and DVDs. If you can find such a teacher, that may be the way to go. I don't mean to imply otherwise by leaving mention of a teacher out of my previous posts. I found people who taught around this stuff, but not who really delved right into it and led you to the desired goal of being able to arrange and play in these styles (chord melody and a more classical fingerstyle manner), though I have to believe they exist.

Tony

tbeltrans
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Re: Classical guitar for "jazz"

Post by tbeltrans » Sat Mar 25, 2017 8:17 pm

The chord melody approach has been discussed and described quite nicely by other posters here. Since the Bill Munday book can be difficult to find, here is the approach I take for that kind of arranging:

As previously mentioned, there are "rules" that Munday prescribed to start an arrangement. I use those in this manner.

1. Raise the melody and find a key for it that fits nicely on the top two or three strings. I first try for the keys of C, A, G, E, or D because I like to use open strings where possible. I think arrangements on the classical guitar sound nicer that way, with sustaining notes filling up the sound. An easy way to do this is to find the highest note in the melody and the lowest. That gives you the range. Now just fit those two notes around on the top two or three strings and you have it. Usually, there will be a couple of keys that will work. I pick the one that yields the most possible open strings as mentioned.

2. I write out the melody on staff paper with the chords written above it in fakebook style. I prefer doing this by hand for some reason, but you can use a computer. I find by hand to be much faster than wrestling with a notation program that never does what I expect.

3. I then put small vertical marks above every beat and every note. Obviously, if a note falls on a beat I use just one mark.

4. I have my own little code for the "rules":

c = chord + melody (play chord with melody when melody falls on the beat)
b = bass note alone (play bass note alone when a beat occurs without a melody note)
m = melody note alone (play melody note alone when a melody note occurs without a beat)

Over every vertical mark, you should be able to write one of these letter codes. these describe every possible thing that can happen. Though Bill Munday says that when a beat occurs without a melody note, play a bass note or chord strum, I just notate 'b' for bass note so that there is always a 1 to 1 correspondence between event and code.

5. You now have a basic arrangement that works every time. I play that over and over, starting exactly, as indicated by the little code letters above the vertical lines, until it is comfortable. This really gives you a feel for the tune before you start diving into all the other stuff that develops the arrangement. I just like to start at the beginning instead of somewhere in the middle where I can get lost. As I get comfortable with the basic arrangement, my fingers just naturally start to explore possibilities - a bass run instead of just a bass note, an arpeggio instead of a chord and melody at the same time, maybe insert a bass note or an octave under a melody note alone.

From here, it is just a matter of playing the tune over and over and letting it take shape as you want to hear it. Just continue playing it as you want to hear it, and let it mature over time. This is where something like the Bill Munday book comes in handy - it gives you many ideas for different tunes and musical situations. With the instructions I provided here, and then studying other arrangements, you can get similar ideas without that book, though having the book makes that transition much easier.

It seems to me that unless you are specifically wanting to play in a style like Joe Pass or any of the various jazz players, you may not necessarily want to go into all the chord substitutions and that sort of thing. By approaching an arrangement as I have described here, you start way before all that, leaving yourself that choice as the tune develops. If you start in right away with all the jazz chord vocabulary, you have skipped a lot of early steps that could lead in an entirely different direction for the tune. If you listen to arrangements from Howard Heitmeyer, Stan Ayeroff, or Harold Streeter, you will hear many of the wonderful approaches that could be taken instead. As much as I like listening to some of the jazz guys, I personally much prefer the arranging styles of these other folks.

Tony

AndyPurkis
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Re: Classical guitar for "jazz"

Post by AndyPurkis » Mon Mar 27, 2017 12:10 pm

Hi,

I seem to be on a similar journey to you on this one. I have found videos by Howard Morgan's 'fingerboard breakthough' really useful, they are available on truefire.com. I combine this with 'beginning jazz guitar' by Jody Fisher.

JohnW400
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Re: Classical guitar for "jazz"

Post by JohnW400 » Mon Mar 27, 2017 2:45 pm

Hello,

I have a good deal of experience with this style having studied at Jazz on the university level back in the late 70's. And lately, after lots of practice I now play a bunch of classical pieces and a lot more finger style jazz. So perhaps my perspective is a little different.

To me there are three things to think about right off the bat before anything else . Melody, bass line and chord progression in that order. As long as you have the melody and a bass line to anchor the tune you could put just about any chord you want in between them.

Another thing is having a good working knowledge of chords, inversions and voicings

One thing I think a lot about (rather than things like drop 2 voicing's and the like) is how the voices move. This affects my cord choices regardless of the basic progression. (and helps with finding interesting substitutions.)

Some other things I think about would be "do I want to harmonize the melody in compound intervals like 4th's , 5th's or 7ths? " Where can I fit in open strings ?"

Another thing I have been working on is taking a jazz piano piece and working it out on guitar. Bill Evans tunes work great for this. You learn a whole lot about moving voices and rootless voicings and you get a great lesson in both.

Charlie Byrd is great and so is Earl Klugh but you should also check out Gene Bertoncini. Also check out the Brazilian players like Rafael Robello and Paulo Bellinatti. they both have CD's where they cover some popular Jobim tunes.

There are some examples of chord melodies at

http://tedgreene.com/
Last edited by JohnW400 on Tue Mar 28, 2017 12:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

beanctr
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Re: Classical guitar for "jazz"

Post by beanctr » Mon Mar 27, 2017 2:55 pm

Two words, The Real Book,
R
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georgemarousi
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Re: Classical guitar for "jazz"

Post by georgemarousi » Wed Mar 29, 2017 2:52 pm

Great topic !

I am very interested read theory and begin transcribing ! :)

As mentioned before, I suppose the interesting rules mentioned are also applied even to rock/pop etc, not only "jazz", am I right?

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tbeltrans
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Re: Classical guitar for "jazz"

Post by tbeltrans » Wed Mar 29, 2017 7:58 pm

JohnW400 wrote:Hello,

I have a good deal of experience with this style having studied at Jazz on the university level back in the late 70's. And lately, after lots of practice I now play a bunch of classical pieces and a lot more finger style jazz. So perhaps my perspective is a little different.

To me there are three things to think about right off the bat before anything else . Melody, bass line and chord progression in that order. As long as you have the melody and a bass line to anchor the tune you could put just about any chord you want in between them.

Another thing is having a good working knowledge of chords, inversions and voicings

One thing I think a lot about (rather than things like drop 2 voicing's and the like) is how the voices move. This affects my cord choices regardless of the basic progression. (and helps with finding interesting substitutions.)

Some other things I think about would be "do I want to harmonize the melody in compound intervals like 4th's , 5th's or 7ths? " Where can I fit in open strings ?"

Another thing I have been working on is taking a jazz piano piece and working it out on guitar. Bill Evans tunes work great for this. You learn a whole lot about moving voices and rootless voicings and you get a great lesson in both.

Charlie Byrd is great and so is Earl Klugh but you should also check out Gene Bertoncini. Also check out the Brazilian players like Rafael Robello and Paulo Bellinatti. they both have CD's where they cover some popular Jobim tunes.

There are some examples of chord melodies at

http://tedgreene.com/
Very interesting post! Definitely there is a difference between having all the formal training you had and a person being self-taught. My schooling in college was engineering and not music. It worked out quite well for me, leaving music as a hobby. A lot of what you talk about, I have knowledge of, but not to the practical application depth of which you speak. For chord melody, I really have liked Robert Conti's two book/DVDs on the subject. In "The Formula" you would explore in depth being able to put most any harmony under the melody, driven by bass line so as not to ever have to play the same piece the same way more than once. His experience comes from years on the bandstand rather than school, so his focus is purely on the practical application rather than the theory behind it all.

Also, Mel Bay has two volumes of chord melody solos arranged by Barry Galbraith, with CDs so you can hear the arrangements. These are "pro level", but not particularly difficult.

My earlier post was decidedly not about chord melody and jazz, but creating a simple arrangement in an essential chordal "pop" style.

Tony

JohnW400
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Re: Classical guitar for "jazz"

Post by JohnW400 » Wed Mar 29, 2017 9:09 pm

the same applies for pop, C&W, Whatever

I have done finger style arrangements of a bunch of pop tunes without re-harmonizing them. Same rules. Look for a bass line and melody and pay attention to how the inner voices move

Have a look at that Ted Greene site. He does a bunch of pop tunes. Great Ideas there

I like the Conti stuff as it is the fastest way to learn the style short of waving a magic want :) but you don't really get to know how to make you own. The Barry Galbraith ones are also excellent.

There are tons of stuff on line. You can even find a sheet music folio of Charlie Byrd doing Jobim sambas that has been out of print forever.

tbeltrans
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Re: Classical guitar for "jazz"

Post by tbeltrans » Thu Mar 30, 2017 12:33 am

I learned quite a bit about bass line motion from Conti's materials. I have some of Ted Greene's books, and have worked through parts of Chord Chemistry in particular. I know of Ted Greene's site, but have not spent any time there yet. I seem to be on their mailing list, so I just recently got notice of a number of updates they have done.

Personally, I am more interested in the technique of writing simple, but effective arrangements of tunes, rather than complicated, dense types of pieces. I am getting a pretty good handle on that now. Conti's approach is quite dense, for example - lots of big chord forms. There can be a lot of beauty in just a couple of moving lines. Jimmy Wyble is a good example of this with a decidedly jazz feel.

Tony
Last edited by tbeltrans on Fri Mar 31, 2017 9:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Classical guitar for "jazz"

Post by bear » Thu Mar 30, 2017 12:52 am

I use the guitars in my signature. I was watching a video of Charlie Byrd and he played what looked like a Ramirez.
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