Actually Playing the Guitar

Tinkering with guitar, amps and pedals without actually being able to play a song from start to finish on them is a bit pathetic. So this three-day weekend I made sure to get lots of actual playing in, on top of messing around my G&L’s tremolo and new wah/volume pedal. So what did I play?

  • Turn It Out (Soulive): I’ve been afraid to listen to this band or anything with a B3 since…the incident, but something inspired me to play this turnaround-like tune which is  probably Soulive’s jazziest. A few years ago, I struggled with the A-melody and chords on the bridge, but not only did I get it this time, I was able to play it together with chords. Isolating the melody and bass, and then building chords between those is really the best way to work things out by ear. Then you can really the relationship between the melody and harmony. Even if there’s no melody, like in the tag, I just listen for the top note, and treat that as the melody. Thinking about it that way, I can do the reverse: add (or substitute) chords where there are none. More important than the harmony is the vibe, though. This weekend I listened to the version from their first album on Youtube, which I had never heard before.
  • Ready & Able (GBQ): Last week I figured out bits of Benson’s approach to comping rhythm changes. Inspired by my success with Turn It Out, I went back to try and work out a fingering to play the head fluidly. It turns out that it works a lot better down in 6th position, than higher up the neck.
  • Alive! (Grant Green): I just played along with this while trying to debug my new volume pedal. Kras is right: “Grant Green was the man.”  I can pretty much play anything this guy played with minimal effort, but so what? Even with the same band and tunes, I wouldn’t sound as good as he does on those albums. The thing about Grant Green is that I really enjoy listening to his albums, more than just his guitar playing. I can’t say that for Benson or Pat Martino.
  • Chord-Melody Phrases for Guitar (Ron Eschete): I set the iPod to shuffle mode, and tried whichever example played. There is some really challenging stuff in this book, like chords that stretch across  6 frets and five strings. This book is on indefinite loan from my friend from Peter Montgomery, and the material complements the stuff in Robert Conti’s book on Intros/Endings/Turnarounds which I had loaned him very well. This isn’t exactly a coincidence. Peter has lots of books, but this is the only one I’ve borrowed, as it addresses an area of my playing which I desperately want to improve.

Because my G&L was out of commission for most of the weekend due to tremolo issues, I didn’t really play any rock but heard some King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple on the radio at dinner which inspired me to play with my new fuzz a but more as soon as I get the chance.



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