Friday, May 27, 2005


I took yesterday off to give my back a break. Over the past few weeks my back has been progressively becoming more painful. I think it’s because of my posturing when I’m practicing in combination that with my poor upper body development. Taking the day off from guitar was harder than I thought. I found myself with not much to do.

Today my back was feeling much better. I could tell, because in the morning, when I woke up, I wasn’t in pain. I took it easy through the day and did some mild stretching. In the evening I sat down for two practice sessions.

The first was more the more theoretical of the two. I spent some time reviewing my modal exercises from Tim Miller. I’m a little at a loss and amazement with the possibilities and priorities of exercises regarding modes, but I’m eager to begin because I think it holds a lot of value for me. I’m a little of a jagged melodic player and I’d like to some more linear ideas into my repertoire. I spent some time trying out some different notes on some modal vamps and feeling the dissonances. I’ve been noticing the profound difference between saxophone or trumpet players compared to what I do as guitarist and I’ve been trying to develop some of the power those instruments hold. While developing my lines I was really trying to feel each note and it’s relative dissonance or consonance by its vibration. I also tried cutting back on my available strings to play to give me a more linear sound. I played through Freddie The Freeloader this way and I was intrigued by the results. It brought out some slurs as I jumped for some of the further notes and it required me to not only think about the changes, but think about my ear. As I started out I was thinking more from my ear’s perspective and was amazed with some of my note choices. I was using avoid notes and chromatic approaches quite liberally and really only knew what chord I was on by it’s sound. My ear was good enough to let me know where the next note would be, but it couldn’t articulate the chord in symbol format. I find this fascinating, because essentially my ear can tell the sound of the chord and know what note will sound good over it (I have to be on the fretboard to start with). I know intellectually what note I’m playing and what note I will play next but I don’t know the next chord by name, even if it’s a familiar form, like a blues. This is an experience that I keep seeing in my playing and I find fascinating. My ear’s ahead of my intellect, and I’m not sure how to get my intellect up to speed. Sometimes when I have to think of a chord or chord scale the amount of information seems to complex for me to think about. Thinking the chord Bb7 can be too much sometimes because there are 4 notes involved, two tensions and one avoid note, not to mention the Blues applications with altered tensions. It’s a neat experience to be aware of where I’m having trouble playing.
When I was working through this exercise I was ear-dependent I was surprised and pleased by the results. At times the melodies were sound and nice, and other times when I sounded like a saxophone player (wayne shorter to be specific). Noting my limitations and seeing small progress, even though I have a long way to go, is inspiring and humbling. Accepting to be patient is not always very exciting.

My other big practice session was sitting down with the solos I’m working on. I had a chance to look at Phillip Johsnton’s and Miles’ solos this evening. When I sat down with PJ’s it was the first time that I actually could play the whole thing. I couldn’t do it at tempo, but that didn’t seem to matter. There were some very difficult phrases in there for me and I was amazed that after taking a day off, how solid some of them were. The ones that I had been working on in the past really came together for me. The new licks I looked at today were coherent for the first time. It’s a good feeling because the practice routine I’m using is showing results.

When I looked at the Miles solo, I was happy with my playing. I was really solid with the whole thing. Some of the phrases that were tricky for me a few days ago were solid this time around (and I even had a day off). The tune was so solid that I actually could take my ear away from the solo on the recording and listen to my own playing. It was really nice. There’s an understanding of the tune that I’m developing that I don’t really understand, but I remember working this way when building my rock n’ roll chops. Listening to my own guitar, I really could feel the weight of each note and craft the articulation of each phrase. It was quite delightful.


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