Monday, January 25, 2010

The Black and White or My Real Journey part 1/2

    Less time than tunes, its time to lay down the law.  What constitutes learning a tune?  Most people, when attempting to learn a tune will learn the chords and/or melody and call it a day.  For my purposes, I need to go much deeper than that.  I want to get inside the harmony, be able to live there and call it my home.  For this I have devised a method.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My "Real" Journey


  

    So I have done an assessment on where I am, musically, and where I want to be.  The results?  I'm not where I want to be.  What do I need to do?  I think I need to learn more tunes, so I will learn more tunes.  How will I do it?  I'll tell you how I'm going to do it.  I'm going to take my 6th edition Real Book and learn every goddamned tune in it.  All 400 and some.  That's right, I said 400 and some.  It's so many tunes that I can't even give you an exact number.  How long will it take?  A long time.  I will be posting regular updates on my "real" journey, so check back often to see how I'm doing.

    What's the Real Book?  I'm glad you asked.  The Real Book is a fake book.  Confused?  That's understandable.  A fake book is a book that contains lead sheets to tunes.  A lead sheet contains the melody and chords to a song, giving you the basic harmonic structure of the song.  The Real Book is just a slightly clever name for a fake book that contains the lead sheets to "standard repertoire" jazz tunes, otherwise known as "standards."

    My journey begins now.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Destination (Never an Arrival)


  

    I haven't been posting as much as I would like to over the past week, because I've been spending close to all of my time practicing.  I suppose you could say I've had a bit of a "practice fit."  On top of that, I have also been watching lots of music on youtube.

    Watching a few videos of your heros do what you want to do with ease can be quite inspiring, but after a certain point it starts to get to you.  Say, after about the 3rd straight hour of watching all the people I admire on youtube, I began to start thinking of myself as a hack.

    It's not the first time I've questioned myself as a musician, but it's the first time it really made me think about why I feel that way sometimes.  A friend of mine suggested it was just part of being an artist, and after a long pondering session with myself, I had to agree.  I think that it's what makes an artist an artist.  The artist is constantly trying to improve upon his/her work because he/she never feels that it is good enough.  Being an artist is the constant struggle to reach a destination that can never be arrived at.

    I came across an essay on this exact subject yesterday by Steve Khan.  That can be found here.  If you didn't know already, Mr. Khan is an incredible guitarist.  I first heard him on a live recording of the fusion group "Steps Ahead."  He has also written a couple of books for guitar which are also excellent and I would highly recommend them.

New Trio


  

    So a few weeks ago I gathered a couple friends and started a new trio, called Almost Jazz.  I feel that the name is quite fitting based on what we have composed so far.  Everything we have worked on up to this point is original, with the exception of a John Scofield tune.  This whole project is still in its infancy, but I am excited to see where it goes.  I really like the direction the music is taking us.

    Anyway, I recorded some of our practice today and posted some songs on a fresh myspace page, which can be found at http://www.myspace.com/almostjazzz.  Mind you these are working versions meaning that they can and probably will change.  I put them up so that you might get an idea of what is to come.

    Also, I added a new track to my own myspace page, at http://www.myspace.com/brianmaag.  It is my solo on a song called Phat Dip which was also written with the new trio and recorded today.

    Support my music by checking out the links above.  Hope you enjoy.

Cheers!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thinking Outside the Box from Inside the Box


  

    The box I'm talking about here is the infamous "minor pentatonic box"  (shown above) which guitar players seem to love so much.  This box pattern is usually the first thing guitar players learn when first dealing with improvising over a blues progression, so most guitar players should be very familiar with this scale.  In this article I will be demonstrating how one could use this scale to play over a ii-V7-I progression, which is a common sequence used in jazz.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Drop-2 Concept


    (this is a scan of Bach's 8th invention, but as you can see he originally intended it to be his 4th.  What does this have to do with drop-2 chords?  Nothing.  It looks cool, though.)

    If you've been playing guitar for a reasonable amount of time whether studying privately with an instructor or on your own, you've probably at least come across the concept of drop-2 chords.  These chords are very useful to the guitarist, and learning them will open up your understanding of the fretboard and take your playing in new directions.  Actually, you're probably already using some drop-2 chords and don't realize it.  The concept is relatively simple yet will have a huge impact on the creative chord possibilities you have.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Stupid Guitar Tricks: Hexatonic Scales


  

    What the hexatonic is a hexatonic scale?  A hexatonic scale is a scale with 6 notes.  Because of the tuning of the guitar, playing the standard 7-note scales on the guitar provides a multitude of patterns to be digested.    How can we simplify a 7-note scale pattern so that it falls into a better looking and easier to digest pattern?  The answer is so simple it's stupid.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Doctor Is In...The Fundamental Checkup


    


    You think you know your way around the guitar and have some pretty heavy chops but you're not sure if you can sit in with the local heavies yet.  If only there was a way to figure out just where you are struggling and find the cure for it.  I've got good news for you: "The doctor is in!"  It looks like it's time to schedule your checkup.




Sunday, January 3, 2010

Get the Most Out of Your Practice Journal


  

    In keeping with the self-improvement vibe that seems to permeate everyone's lives this time of year, I thought I would share a tip for increasing the impact of your practice journal.  Previously, I discussed how it can be beneficial to keep a day-to-day log of your practice regime.  However, writing it down is only the first step to improvement.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Concern About RSI


  

    What's an RSI, you ask?  RSI stands for repetitive stress injury or repetitive strain injury, and it is something all musicians should be concerned about.  An RSI can be caused by any number of factors, one of which is repetitive tasks such as typing or playing an instrument.

    I have a friend who is a very gifted musician, but can no longer play his instrument because of an RSI.  It could have easily been prevented if he would have been aware of the symptoms.  As you see, repetitive stress injuries are no laughing matter and all musicians need to be aware of them.

    If you are playing your instrument and you begin to feel pain or tingling in your hand(s) stop what you are doing immediately!  Your instrumental abilities could depend on it.  I am not in the least bit qualified to discuss the specifics of an RSI, but I found the following website to be helpful in explaining it.

Musician's Health

    The Musician's Health website also has some stretches on the site to add into your daily practice routine in order to lower the risk of an RSI.  Also, do some searching on the internet yourself and see what you can find.  Try putting "Repetitive Strain Injury" into wikipedia or "RSI musician" into google.

    Please look in to this as it should be important to you as a musician, and also spread the word along to all the musicians you know.  It could save your/their creative ability.

    Peace