Tricks of the Trade

a list from John Lyon


Tricks Of The Trade could be any little thing, any idea of piece of information that helps us provide more depth and variety in our playing.  Examples could include:

  • Turnarounds, the little 2-bar chord progressions and licks that mark the end of a 12- or 8-bar blues progression, or the end of a chorus of a jazz standard like “All Of Me”.  
  • The Circle Of Fifths as used in tunes like “Sweet Georgia Brown”—-how to play the on guitar, and the licks that can be used with these chords.
  • Tricks and licks used when playing the II-V-I chord progression. There are whole books on this subject.
  • Double stops (playing two adjacent strings at once)—-where, when, and how to use them.  Jazz guitarist Howard Alden is a master at this and even teaches a whole class on double stops for Mike’s Master Class.
  • Syncopation—how and why it makes our playing better—-examples of this. You can’t play blues, jazz, or popular music without knowing something about syncopated rhythm.
  • How and how much, and when to practice. How to learn to play fast.
  • Who each of us has learned from the most, and what in particular we have learned.
  • Voice leading, which is the idea of playing each note in a new chord no more than two frets away from the notes in the last chord—-what it is and what it can do for your playing (hint, it sounds great). Bach was a master at voice leading.
  • Key changes and modulations—examples of songs that use them, and how we manage to play them. Coker’s book on chord progressions has many examples of this.
  • Examples of using diminished chords and scales.  Where and when are they used.
  • Examples of using the #5 chord in both major and minor keys, e.g. the chord in “What A Wonderful World” sung by Louis Armstrong where he sings “And I think to myself…” it’s used in the minor blues and other minor songs too, e.g. “The Thrill Has Gone” by B.B. King.
  • Octave displacement, chromatic passing tones, repetition, blues notes (flat thirds and flat sevenths)
  • Chet Atkins and Travis Picking
  • licks,
  • string bending

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