More Tricks

A metronome for your phone or computer —

A tuner for your phone or desktop —

A free Audio Workstation —

  • Listen to the music — what do you really want to achieve?
  • Plan
    1. Where are you at?
    2. Where are you going – folk – blues – jazz – classical
    3. What steps will take you from one to two
  • Divide and conquer – one bar, one lick, one tune at a time.
  • Slow down — practice make permanent
  • Be Accurate — play with a recording or a metronome
  • Record everything on your phone or on your computer – track your progress

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

11 Aug – Jazz standards for Beginners

I’ll start out by saying that jazz beginners are usually pretty good blues players. We have a few of those at the circle but nobody needs to stay on this list. As usual play what you like, just show up to play.

Here are 25 Jazz standards from the teachings of Aimee Nolte. If she played guitar she would be perfect but alas no one is perfect. These are ranked by difficulty for pianists from easy to more difficult. I’ll try to work down the list by linking to examples of performances and tutorials. As I learn new tunes I’ll link to my own renditions.

If anyone has a list that is specific to guitar players please let me know in the comments.

There is also a lot of Sandra Sherman here. She is a terrific teacher for beginning jazz guitar.

Back to Basics – June 30

After a year on Zoom we played together Friday in the tent at Brock House. For those that can’t make it out to Point Gray or to Trout Lake I’m going to continue to host Zoom Circles as long as we have people who want to play together.

I’ve found my own playing has not suffered from Zoom mostly because I have used the opportunity to play at several venues in addition to the Vancouver Folk Song Society where I started out.

So let’s celebrate the summer with some simple songs with basic strums and perhaps we will be joined by some folks who are still improving.

Jun 23 – Live long and Prosper

. . . translated from the Yiddish by Leonard Nimoy.

7pm. Sing songs that last. Sing the old songs.

This morning I woke up and decided to try and become a blogger. Actually that is what I do every other week. I create a theme for the Pickers Circle to try and guide our efforts to make some music. So this week the focus is on songs that we hope will last. And I will try and add a few paragraphs to this blog every week.

Why Blog? Because that requires the discipline of recorded thought. A long life and prosperity are the result of thought and effort. Putting thought into written form is the traditional way to prove you can think or to discover what you really think. As we get older physical and mental tasks become more difficult and it seems to me that attention to both is important to a longer life. It also seems to me that a blog is better than a rant and may save a lot of tedious introduction to simple songs.

People occasionally remark that, “live long and prosper”, is easy to say yet hard to accomplish. Some say you have to be lucky or talented. The yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar wrote in Light on Yoga, that all that is required to become enlightened is a folded blanket and some persistence. Yoga asanas are prayers for flexibility, strength and balance. For the persistent these prayers are answered. Much the same can be said of playing a guitar. All you really need is an instrument and some persistence. Everything else is sacrifice and sweat.

So as I turn 75 this month I will attempt to record some thoughts each week that I hope will help me to become a little better at everything I do for as long as I can manage to stay focused. You are not dead until you quit moving.

9 Jun – Talk about Tab

Lets’s play from Tab. What is your favorite Tab? How do you read Tab?

Two circle ago I was listening to John and Alan talk about slowing down the difficult parts in order to make the music possible. I was struck by the realization that the reason I have so much trouble with some of my efforts is that I play too fast. Since then I’ve reconnected with the TAB and my metronome.

Here are two different transcriptions of the Bouree from the Lute Suite in E-minor.

This music is intermediate level classical guitar. It has no really difficult stretches and not many bar positions. What is does seem to require is four working fingers on your left hand and a basic idea of how fingers relate to strings on the right hand. i, m, a play the high strings. T the thumb plays the three bottom, thicker, strings.

The key to playing this appears to be using a consistent fingering with the left hand. It is interesting to compare bars 8,12 and 14 which are marked in red. There are several ways to get the same notes on the guitar. I was given only the standard notation by my first teacher. I think the idea was that I should learn a bar or two at each lesson. That is not unreasonable but it would become expensive and I would have been forced to create my own tablature just to adequately record what I was being taught.

Most people should be able to learn a bar a day. This might take several hours but I’ve always thought it worthwhile.

Here are the TABs for The Entertainer and Spanish Romance contributed by Thomas Matheson.

Spanish Romance is about 29 min into the video above.

May 26 – Bob Dylan

Well here I am late again for those of you hoping for an early theme at the Wednesday circle.   Were here to make music and so far that has worked out pretty well.  Anyway it is Bob Dylan’s birthday this week so for those who have not made up their mind that gives you at least 500 songs to choose from.  Hope to see you Wednesday.
Here are the highlights of the session:

As you know I have been recording most of what I hear in Zoom sessions and I frequently attempt to play along – muted, uninvited, so  pretty much harmless, nobody has to know what I’m playing.   Now with Sonobus we can record the output of a Zoom session AND my playing along apparently in sync.   This means that my setup of Zoom and Sonobus is sufficient to support vocal harmony and small groups playing instruments.  I’ll keep everyone up to day on my progress and I hope to manage a decent comp that I can playback for the circle. 

Double tracks and overdubs

People who have an interest in performing guitar music should know about the phenomenon called double tracking. This is simply the re-recording of a passage on another track of the composite production. The original and the second cut become the left and right channel of a stereo recording.

Our recent effort at the blues gave us a great set of highlights that we can all either double track or overdub. The blues is a perfect medium for improvisation using the recording of another artist. Your challenge is to listen to the recording from last circle and when it is your turn either:

1. Lay down a track for others to work on.

2 Double track the passage. That is try to reproduce it perfectly. This may only be possible for your own work.

3. Improvise a lead line or additional accompaniment over the track you are hearing.

We are recording the entire session so this will give me the material I need to produce the appearance of pickers playing with pickers. Hope you have fun.