Guitar

Topics specifically about the guitar and guitarists.

Feb 282011
 

Guitar Harmonics

This is just a brief into/example. To really learn this, look for alternative resources. (See the “Links to Other Music Sites” in the sidebar).

The basic pattern for making a guitar sound harp-like is to alternate notes “chimed” at (usually) 12 frets higher than fretted with notes played in the normal fashion. Some guitarists use pick and 4th finger; some use thumb pick and fingers; some use just fingers. Each harmonic, though, requires at least 2 fingers of your picking hand to execute it.

As a starting point, play at the 12th fret, and do not make chord with your left hand (we will get to that). The openly played strings will be D, G, B, and E, low to high; the harmonics will be played on E (6th string), A, D, G, B. Then there is a role-reversal of sorts (this is just one way of doing it). You can see this in the following sketch in the 2nd bar.

harmonics.mp3

Some of the great jazz practitioners of this technique that I am familiar with are Ted Greene, Martin Taylor, Lenny Breau, Phillip DeGruy, and many others. Most classical guitarists are use this technique as well, when appropriate. For example, a perfect use of this technique is used by Lagoya & Presti in their recording of Debussy’s Claire de Lune.

MusiciansMissions.com:

Ted Greene
Martin Taylor
Lagoya & Ida Presti

Wikipedia:

Ted GreeneMartin TaylorLenny BreauAlexandre Lagoya and Ida Presti

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Feb 112011
 

ffAlexandre Lagoya (1929 – 1999) and Ida Presti (1924 – 1967)

Lagoya was already established as an A-list classical guitarist when he met and subsequently married Ida Presti. They became one of the most remarkable duos ever. The English critic and musicologist Tony Cornwall gives some insight into their particular magic in following quote:

In these tawdry times where great emphasis is given by the media to celebration of the purely physical side of humanity—sport, models, etc.—questions of the mind and heart are often given short shrift. At a time when intimacy between adults is most often identified with the sexual act, it is refreshing and invigorating to hear proof of the narrowness of this view and the possibilities that exist. If you listen to any of Lagoya-Presti’s playing—not just hearing, but actively engaging with the music—you will hear conversations of such intimacy that one at first feels embarrassed at being privy to them. It is hard at times to believe that two people could communicate so intricately. Given that both are playing classical guitars makes it all the more extraordinary– Tony Cornwall

Cicking the mp3 link below, you’ll haer their own arrangement for two guitars of Debussy’s Clair De Lune. The original piano piece is in Db Major. However, they have moved it up to D Major. One guitar is tuned to D (or Drop-D); the other in standard tuning. This allows a rich bass for the home key, when the ‘D’ guiter plays its lowest note. One of the signature parts of the song is a ii minor (here it is an ‘E’) that occurs early on, when the melody moves from a minor 9th, then root, then minor-major 7th, a minor 7th,all the while over a sustained E note. On a piano, the low note is sounded using the sostenuto pedal; on the guitar, the bass note is allowed to sustain. Here the note is played as low E on the standard tuned guitar. You will hear this at 1:10 (open E); then at 2:03. An open D (D also played in many other places in the song). Also notice the creative use of harmonics from 3:00-3:24. This technique effectively extends the sustainable range of the guitar.

Clair-De-Lune.mp3
Jan 132011
 
Jackie King, Virtuoso Jazz Guitarist

Jackie King, Virtuoso Jazz Guitarist

I was fortunate to be able to share a house for several months with Jackie and his family in San Francisco. I had known him previously from his San Antonio days. There were a lot of  Texan musicians who were in San Francisco or Hollywood at that time, and we all tried to stick together. Many of them breezed in and out of Jackie’s house for impromptu jams, where I watched with dropped jaw.

One of Jackie’s gigs I went to was with legendary blues artist “Lightnin’ Hopkins”. Doug Sahm, another San Antonio man, also dropped by that night. Through my association with Jackie, he introduced me to a lot of great musicians. This gig was right at the time when Governor Reagan called out the natural guard because of the so-called “student unrest”.

Jackie is a left-handed guitarist virtuoso. I think that part of why he is so good is that he can take a “normal” right-handed guitar, turn it upside down and play just fine. Also, he got put on the spot (gigs) at an early age.

Country music was and is a big part of the San Antonio culture. He was enlisted at a very early age to do gigs, often with people associated with the older legends of the time, such as Bob Wills. On these “Country” gigs, a jazz feel and jazz playing was welcomed. This continues today, as many Nashville studio musicians and players are very accomplished with jazz. When George Strait is not on tour, some of his group play a regular jazz gig in Austin, TX.

Jackie has also played with Tony Bennett, The Boston Pops, Ray Charles, Bill Evans,  Jerry Garcia, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Doug Sahm, and many others.

Having known Jackie for many years, I know first hand that Jackie is unpretentious, humble, and always pleasant. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without a smile on his face. When playing, he often bursts out laughing, looking at the other players, when a song ends, as if an obscure inside-joke just occurred. In his own words:

The first (thing to know) is to always try to be around at least one person who is either a better musician than you or at least as good. The second is to remember you can always learn something from everyone, regardless of how well or poorly you think they play. Through the years I have found this to be consistently true…Somebody will say or play something that you think he or she really should not be able to say or do according to the level of player you think he or she is. Wow! I have learned a lot of licks, etcetera, that way…Control of energy is absolutely necessary to a great technique.

He once had a guitar school in San Antonio located in the historic Majestic Theatre building. In more recent times, he is or has been based in the San Francisco/Mill Valley area for years, but still does tour some, and makes it back to the San Antonio Jazz Festival most every year. He did have some instructional videos, but now, I think they are out of print. He has CD’s that are available on the Books & Media page on this website.

In the following clip, he plays solo, then with the band, his rendition of the song, “If”. Later in the clip, they play “There Will Never Be Another You” with Willie singing.

Jackie King and Legendary Sax Player Richie Cole

Here he plays some Charlie Parker tunes.

Willie and Jackie have an album of standards named “Angel Eyes” only available on Vinyl or cassette. Here is a video clip with Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, and Jackie King. I believe this is from the DVD of their HBO special, which is available for purchase on Amazon. They do a blues, then the song “Angel Eyes”.

Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, and Jackie King


In this clip they play Bach and Improvise over it. I saw this concert at the La Villita church in San Antonio sometime in the ’80’s.

Jackie King and Classical Guitarist David Underwood

This next clip was filmed at the Travis County Exposition Center in in Austin, TX. Jackie played a solid year of concerts (300+) with Willie that year. Here he holds back and lets Willie shine. After the concert, my family and I got to go backstage and then get on Willie’s bus and meet him–a very sweet man.

Willie Nelson, with Jackie King – On The Road Again (2000)

Willie Nelson on Wikipedia

Dec 152010
 

Ted Greene, Guitar Guru of Solo Playing

Ted Greene (1946 – 2005) was a guitarist of immense influence to other guitarists, although he was mostly unknown to the general public. He was known for his solo guitar playing. Everything, melody, harmony, and bass was played simultaneously. He knew at least 50 ka-jillion chords, and how to use them in any context. He only made one record album, “Solo Guitar“, that finally was made available in CD form a few years ago. He wrote a number of instructional books; “Chord Chemistry” is the first one to get. He also contributed to “Guitar Player” magazine. A number of books have been by him and about him. Some of the books and CDs are listed on the “Books & Media” page.
He mainly tutored private students and taught some at the Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood. He didn’t do many gigs; some solo, others as a duo with a singer. In the videos that exist, he often appears shy or nervous.
Here are three classic melodies he played at a wedding gig. Although there is crowd noise, the playing comes through pretty well.

In this video, he plays “Autumn Leaves”

This is a guitar lesson that was filmed by a student. This is Part 1; Part 2, not shown here, delves more into rock and blues.

Ted Greene played and recorded using the Fender Telecaster, which is not the “normal” guitar many jazz musicians use (He did play other types of guitars as well, and was somewhat of a collector). He would sometimes tune the guitar down to Eb, as Stevie Ray Vaughn did. In D-tuning, he sometime tuned it down to Db.

If you are a guitarist, and are interested in guitar setup arcana, you should watch this video where he explains how he sets up his guitar.

On his website, there is a radio interview where you can here a couple of tunes from the album “Solo Guitar”.
on the Ted Greene official website.

Ted Greene CDs and Books

Wikipedia – Ted Greene

Dec 132010
 

Gypsy Jazz Guitarist, Homage to Django

Bireli Lagrene (1966 – ) is a guitar virtuoso, who could play Django Reinhardt‘s repertoire at the age of eight.

One of the things about the legendary jazz guitarists is that they believe the naked, unprocessed sound of the guitar is beautiful in and of itself. While they may go to great lengths to set up their guitars for just the right tone and action, for the most part, they tend to avoid electronic effects. Although In the studio, at least reverb would likely be used. Clean playing–every note fully articulated–is highly valued over fast licks or runs. You could say the same thing about really good pianists or other instrumentalists. The epitome of clean piano playing, in my opinion si Glenn Gould. In other genres, guitar effects are de riguer.

Here he plays a jazz standard, “Stella by Starlight”.

This is a clip of Bireli Lagrene and guitarist Sylvan Luc playing Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely”. Sylvan Luc is just as awesome a player as Legrene. These two guitarists have a wonderful CD of their playing as a duo. Isn’t She Lovely”, “Blackbird”, and even a good version of the ’80’s song, “Time After Time” are on it.

Here he is playing Chick Corea’s “Spain” along with bassist, and 2 other guitarists.

This guitarists gives a lesson on playing a “Gypsy” standard in the style of Django Reinhardt, “Minor Swing”. The way he names the fret numbers and talks about what he is playing is easy to follow and very helpful.

Bereli Legrene on Wikipedia

Dec 122010
 

Django Reinhardt, The Gypsy King

Django Reinhardt (1910-1953), was born to gypsies, and was a composer and guitar virtuoso. At 18, a fire severely damaged his left hand. He learned to play with just 2 fingers, and could do so at lightning speed.

His quintet, the “Hot Club of France”, featuredStephane Grapelli, Django, Bass, and two “D-Hole” acoustic guitarists. Martin Taylor has a tribute band, but with different instrumentation. There is a whole school of guitar virtuosi carrying on the tradition that also includes Bireli Lagrene, and Stochelo Rosenberg, and many others well-known and not so well-known. Continue reading »

Dec 122010
 

Martin Taylor, Guitar Virtuoso of Jazz Styles

Martin Taylor (1956 – ) was practically born with a guitar in his hand. The guitarist Pat Metheny has said he is “is one of the most awesome solo guitar players in the history of the instrument. He’s unbelievable”. His influences include Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery, Ted Greene and Art Tatum. He is equally comfortable with pick or fingers.

Below are videos of both “Stella By Starlight” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” which you can compare with Birelli Gegrene’z version. Continue reading »

Dec 092010
 

Freddie Green played rhythm guitar for Count Basie’s various small and large bands.
If you are a Frank Sinatra fan, you probably heard either the Count Basie band, or the Nelson Riddle orchestra backing him up.

Basie played piano, and along with Freddie, the upright bassist and drummer they became an astounding rhythm section.< --more-->It was noted for its sparseness (Basie played a note here and a lick there-the opposite of Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum) yet it accomplished two things: It really did swing, and none of the rhythm players ever got in the way of each other or the rest of the band. Continue reading »

Nov 282010
 

For rock and all of its offshoots you need not worry that much about voicing. Most of the time you are looking for a powerful sound, or at least to sound in character for the genre.

Classical guitar music is composed and written out. To play that correctly, the starting point is to first play the notes written correctly and in their prescribed position.

For jazz, however, The first thing to avoid, as a rule, are using the open chord forms that all beginner guitarists learn, such as E, A, D, G, and C, formed within the first three frets. Continue reading »

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