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Jazz Guitar Lessons: How to Practice

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So, I'd like to talk to you
a little bit about practicing.
I actually love practicing.
It makes me feel really good.
Sometimes, the more I practice,
the better I feel.
Not only physically, but, you know,
it makes me feel tranquil and
peaceful when I practice a lot.
I feel like my chops are feeling good.
And I'm lucky, I do this for a living.
I'm a guitarist and
at certain times in my life,
I've been able to really spend all day,
eight hours, ten hours a day practicing.
And I realize that not
everybody can do that.
It's, it's not realistic,
you know you might be looking at jazz
guitar more as a hobby or it might be
part of another part of a musical life,
but you're not devoting
every moment to it.
I understand that and I'm not asking
everybody to practice eight hours a day.
But I would like you to do is to try to
use what I'm telling you to move your
practice and your playing in,
in directions you might not normally go.
I'd like to in a way,
get you out of your comfort zone.
That's why I spend so much time talking
about playing things in different
positions, different keys and,
and mixing it up.
Because your like most of us,
probably used to playing certain things,
certain licks in certain
spots on the guitar.
I know this is real comfortable for me,
right in the middle of the neck around A,
B flat.
I like, you know, the [SOUND] that
scale position where it starts
with the second finger, but
it's important to take a chance.
If you're used to playing things and
always starting with your first finger,
[SOUND] you know,
with that this position were here.
[SOUND] Well, one day or one time,
take a lick, the same lick you know and
play it, starting with your second finger.
[SOUND] Start it with your pinky.
[SOUND] It might take you a while.
But spend a day just doing different
things, push yourself to play things in
different places,
in different ways than you normally would.
If you're used to playing on your
right-hand, for example, with a pick.
Try doing it with your fingers.
[SOUND] Try it with your thumb like Wes.
Get yourself out of your comfort zone and
see what happens.
Some other things about practicing,
technology has quite advanced in,
in what we can do.
You can use a computer.
Record yourself, then play along with it.
You can use your iPhone,
your iPad or your Android phone.
I know a lot of those have really
great little software apps in them.
And you, you probably or
you could or you may have a looper.
A lot of really cool loopers exist now.
Some are only just one button and
you can loop, you know an 8 or
16 bar chord pattern.
Just loop it and then play on top of it.
What a great practice tool, you know?
I didn't have that when I was you know,
Back in the days before there were cars
and we rode around in a horse and buggy.
But, [LAUGH] you know use a looper.
It's a great thing, I love loopers.
And you can use it for chords.
You could, and,
you know the greatest thing ever is,
you know,
get together with other musicians.
If you have friends that play, even if
they don't necessarily play guitar.
If you have a bass player who wants to
try to play some jazz walking bass lines.
You know, have him walk
through some lines for you and
then you come up with some chords and try
to play solos on the bass piano player.
Of course, other guitar players are great.
When I was at Berkeley, I spent so
much time getting together
with other guitar players.
We'd go into the practice room and
play song after song after song.
Kinda challenge each other too,
which is really good.
The other thing about that
is getting together with
other players makes you use these things.
You listen, be sensitive to what the other
guy's playing and try to support him.
Because, or her and
try to find what mel, what really melds,
what blends with the other
player to make music,
which brings me to a very important topic.
Even though we are quote unquote
practicing, we're playing music.
Even if we're practicing a pattern,
a scale or a technical exercise.
We're still making music.
So when you do it, everything you do when
you're practicing, try to make it musical.
Make it sound musical.
You know,
you can slide into a note here and there.
Or just, you know,
make sure you're getting a beautiful tone.
Put a little vibrato at the end of it.
I know I've seen Pat Martino warmup.
And his warmups sounds almost like
a beautiful little classical etude.
I see, I've seen many payers do that.
Everything you could do could be musical,
even if you're playing
a pattern through a song, try not to
think of it as a mechanical thing, but
actually as a little musical etude,
a musical exercise.
Most important of all, you don't,
you, we're not trying to be,
become Joe Pass or Wes Montgomery or
Pat Martino tomorrow.
Take your time.
Have fun.
And one other important thing is I'm
a big proponent of using a metronome.
There's a metronome on the site.
Almost every smartphone has an app that
you can download with a metronome in it.
Of course,
you can buy a metronome in a music store.
A little thing that,
that'll make th, click, click, click.
It's really, really, really important
to have the steady rhythm and
be in tune with the time.
Can't emphasize that enough.
Even when you get together with other
players, you can be the one to suggest,
okay, let's play a blues.
But let's play it with the metronome,
Click, click, click, click.
[SOUND] And you'll keep each other honest.
To sum up, I would also say about
practicing, have fun with it.
It's, it's a, it's a great thing.
We're playing music as my friend says,
nobody's on the operating table and
we're not flying a plane.
So let's have fun while we're leaning
this instrument, learning jazz guitar.
It really is fun and when you find, you
turn a corner and you find something that
you've done that you didn't know how
to do before, it's a great feeling.
And you don't have to do it all this week,
this month or this year,
just focus on getting a little
bit better every day.
And maybe learning a little, you know,
something that takes your playing up one
notch and you'll feel good about it.
So enjoy, have fun and
let's play the jazz guitar.
I'd like to talk a little bit
more about practicing and
some of the techniques that I use.
As I mentioned in my talk
about challenging yourself,
trying to push yourself to play where
you might not normally play on the neck
with the finger you might
not normally play with.
The way with your thumb,
you might not normally do, your pick,
fingers, anything you can do to kinda
push yourself out of the comfort zone.
I have some things that I do that
are kinda fun I call them horizontal and
vertical practicing.
I'll explain what each one is.
When I say horizontal,
I mean going this way.
Remember, I said that these are like,
these are the avenues, and
these are the streets,
like, if it's a map.
So sometimes, I'll just stay on one
avenue, and just play on that one string.
Okay, so for example, I won't start on
the high E, let's start on the G string.
I'm gonna start a metronome,
and I'm gonna play along.
And, I wanna remind you that when we
were doing scales at the beginning,
I said, sometimes try to have
your metronome be, offbeats.
Like they are the,
high hat from a drummer.
And, that's good, because it makes you
kind of imagine the beat that's in the,
in between the two beats of the metronome.
So, one and three are missing,
and all you're hearing is two and
four, kinda stren,
strengthens your rhythmic confidence.
So, we're gonna put the metronome on at a,
it's kind of a medium tempo,
of 84 beats per minute.
But actually, the metronome is
just gonna be two and four.
So, the tempo's actually
twice as fast as that.
I'm not good at math,
but I think it's 168.
And, so as the metronome comes on,
I'll count that it's the high hat,
it's the offbeats,
it's two and four, here we go.
[SOUND] one, two,
three four, one, two, three,
four, one, two, and it's like
the drummers going, [SOUND] right?
And I'm gonna play a little bit
I'm gonna use you know what,
I'll go back to the old stand-by
All The Things You Are.
And, I'm gonna do a little bit of this
horizontal practicing up and
down just one string.
So, here it is, I'm going to start on the,
on the G string, a one,
two, a one, two, three.
So, that was all on the G string,
and you know,
sometimes it gets a little bit goofy.
But, I'm pushing myself to try to find
things that I wouldn't normally play.
Obviously, I wouldn't normally play on,
on just one string, but
it makes me think this way, up and
down the neck, rather than this way.
Now let's do just the opposite.
All The Things You Are goes through five
different keys, as I mentioned before.
It starts out at A flat, and then it goes
to C, and then it goes to C minor, which
was really E flat, then it goes to G, then
it goes to E, then it goes back to A flat.
Now, with the six positions,
you know that you can play each
scale in almost any position, right?
There's A flat there.
And then,
we're kinda back to the beginning.
So, you can get the notes
anywhere you need.
So now, instead of horizontal this way,
we're gonna do vertical this way,
and stay in one place and
play in all those five tonal centers.
Basically within, let's say, you know,
six to seven frets,
just in one area of the guitar.
Okay, let's try that.
Here's our metronome.
[SOUND] A one, two, a one, two, three.
So, you see, my hand really never really
moved out of this one spot of the guitar.
So, those are two ways
to challenge yourself.
Another thing that I would do is after
I've been playing on one string at a time,
I might try to play on just two at a time,
not always the ones that
are next to each other.
But let's start with adjacent strings.
For example, I started playing
on just the G string before.
I'm gonna play on just the G,
and the B string for
a chorus, and then I'm gonna
switch to the G, and the D string.
Why is that?
Because, because of that interval
of a third between the G and the B.
That's a very special case on the guitar.
That's something you can work on.
Just playing on these two strings makes
you see how the intervals are different
there than they are if it's between
two of the strings that are,
that have a fourth between them.
So, let's try this now.
Just on the G and the B string,
all the things you are.
A one, a one, a one, two, three.
Now, I'm gonna do the same thing.
Now, you saw that before I go on,
you saw that when was I doing
some of the double stops,
and patterns of, on that string,
they have their unique look,
because of that third interval.
Those same intervals are gonna look quite
different when I do it on a string that
has a fourth interval relationship.
So, let's do that now.
I'm actually gonna jump down,
not be on the G string.
I'm gonna do the D and
the A string, let's try that one.
One, two, a one, two, three.
Those are the thirds.
This is kinda stuff that I've been
challenging myself for many years with.
And it's really opened
up a lot of doors for
me to know where the notes
are in the guitar.
Now, I want to point out
something very important.
I'm doing at 84 bpm, that's 168 bpm
really because it's the off beats.
Do it much slower than that.
You could even do it at if
that was the actual tempo.
So, it'll be one, two, three,
four, a much slower tempo.
Gives us more chance to really to look
at what we're doing on the strings.
Here we go.
And a one, two, three.
This give you a, really,
a chance to visualize,
and see where you need to go on the neck.
You can spent a lot of time on this.
I'm not saying that you should only play
on one string at a time, or two strings at
a time, but give it a chance, and
see if it opens some doors for you.