Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday / "Pharaoh's Army Got Drowned" / THE EASTER CHALLENGE, 2014

"Old Mr. Satan, he got mad,
lost that soul that he thought he had. Pharaoh's army got drowned, Oh Mary Don't You Weep."
                      - Negro Spiritual

Happy 88th birthday to my dad!

Played two Masses today. Did a great version of "Oh Mary Don't You Weep" during the prelude which actually led to applause by the congregation (!).  No practice today but feel good about my decision to stick to the Melodic improv book. Did a lot of traveling these past few days due to it being Easter.

Enjoyed the Flyers and Phillies winning today.

The Easter Challenge / 2014:

1) Work for one year (or less if it takes less) mostly just on the Fewell book with regards to learning improvisation. 

2) Put a big hold on buying instructional materials and equipment.

3) Keep using Conti's "Assembly Line" method to amass 24 songs in my repertoire, after which get more into his "The Formula!"

4) Assess how I did with #'s 1-3 above next Easter, 2015.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday, 2014

No practice today, but made a decision to use the Fewell book at this time rather than the other one. I still think the Alexander book seems good, though; however, I'm not really into the bebop sound that seems to be emphasized in the Alexander book. I'm more attracted to the melodic sound in the Fewell book.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Frankie Trumbauer / Benny Goodman / Good Friday

Received the second book today in the mail regarding improv. Not sure if I'll use this one or the other. 

Listened to some Frankie Trumbauer today. So cool how these original guys just improvised so melodically. Also listened to Benny Goodman.  Got my love for the big band stuff from my dad who played this music when I was a kid.

Below is a picture taken on my parents' wedding day in 1950.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"I've Got a Crush on You"

Will practice tonight with the Church group to get ready for Easter.

Finished with "I Got a Crush on You," and here's how it sounded today:

The playing is fine except for one minor mistake. The recording itself could be better: too much hiss.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor (Before and After)

Did not quite like the pickguard on my guitar. So I took the suggestion of someone on a forum. I used nail polish remover on the front of it, and black magic marker on the back of it. I like it. It's not quite perfectly black, but I like it.




Didn't really expect to play tonight. But I ended up having a difficult time  putting the guitar down. Went through some repertoire, and really worked on the Gershwin tune. It's just about done, and I'll probably record it tomorrow. Buzz on the guitar was giving me some problems, but by the time I was finished tinkering with it trying to fix it, and done playing, I think the buzz may be back under control.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It Don't Mean a Thing, (if it Ain't Got That Swing)

A surprisingly good day of practice. I received the Fewell book, and although some hunches were that it was too advanced for me, I dove in. Up to chapter two, and did some interested reading and practiced an exercise. Interesting how past experience with the Sudnow (piano) Method helps me understand somewhat better what is going on in the Fewell book.

I don't think I'm one to remember scales, and I might even rationalize my ignorance of them by suggesting that they don't quite sound musical, anyway. The Fewell book seems like something to try.

Went over my repertoire, and almost done with, and ready to record, the Gershwin tune. 

Made an interesting note today. I used to think that perhaps the old jazz of the '20s was my thing, and to an extent, it still is, when it comes to jazz genres that I enjoy. However, I may have underestimated just how much I love swing jazz. Folks like Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian. This kind of stuff to me is so cool. It moves in a soulful melodic way.

I'm just trying to keep this whole guitar learning stuff fun, and do not want it ruined with trying to learn every little thing.

Here's an enhanced pic of my guitar in a transition stage. Trying to make the pickguard look black: 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Holding Pattern

Been in something of a holding pattern but that's ok; been busy without time to practice. Last night saw a couple of more modern bands in concert. They were ok, I guess. Used a lot of sound effects. 

Regarding improvisation, I ordered two books that might help:

1) "Jazz Improvisation for Guitar: A Melodic Approach" by Garrison Fewell

2) "Fundamental Changes in Jazz Guitar: An In depth Study of Major ii V I Bebop Soloing" by Mr. Joseph Alexander

Did a little more reading of the IFR book. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Charlie Christian

Well, he's my favorite guitarist. 

A good practice day, even if I did not do a variety of things. Went over some of repertoire and continue to work on "I've Got a Crush on You."

Practiced with the Church group tonight, preparing for Easter. I'm taking lead vocals on (what else?) "Mary Don't You Weep."

When it comes to jazz, I just can't help but continually be attracted to what is melodic and swings. Just can't get into the bebop modern sounding improv stuff. And when it comes to the guitar, Charlie Christian is the Man. Interesting how he is perhaps the first electric jazz guitar player, and how I like him best out of everyone that I've heard who followed him.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Gershwin and Improvising

Just worked on "I've Got a Crush on You" today. I probably could have finished it if I kept it as originally planned, but I added an intro to it. It's coming along nicely.

I just don't know about this improv stuff. One minute I want to use this method, then another method, then another...etc.

Part of me just wants to copy what others have done and memorize their improvs. Another part of me want to use a more method based approach.

There's a book I'm interested in. I know, I know, yet another book. But this will be the limit. One more book and then I just have to pick one method and STICK WITH IT.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mickey Baker / Gershwin

When I take a practice session slowly with no pressure to go fast, things seem to go great. Reviewed my repertoire, and it looks like I'm almost done with "I've Got a Crush on You." It's sounding nice.

Also started working in earnest with the Baker book, and I'm on lesson one.  Using a cool website that helps with the book as I go along. Would like to devote a week to each lesson. 

With regards to the buzzing in my amp, I took my guitar and amp to a friend's and all seemed fine. I was all prepared to see if the guitar made a buzz with his amp, or if his guitar made a buzz through my amp. But we never had to get to all that testing because all of my stuff sounded fine at his place. Perhaps the culprit isn't my guitar or my amp, but rather grounding issues wherever I set up. Not concerned about it anymore.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Didn't really practice today. Played acoustic guitar at Mass.

Frustrated with the buzz coming out of my amp and trying to figure out if it's the guitar or the amp. Trying to move on despite the frustration.

Made a radical decision. I think I'm going to be using the Mickey Baker book instead of the other improv books/materials. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Gypsy Rock & Roll Gig

Played a gig tonight in two bands. The first band was the Gypsy band that played during the first part of a party function. Then some of us played in the Rock & Roll band during the second part of the party. 

The Gypsy stuff went ok, I guess. 

The Rock & Roll stuff went fair. Some technical stuff got on my nerves. My amp had a buzz. Then a pickup on my guitar decided to stop working. Then it started working. Wasn't crazy about the quality of my guitar playing tonight or how we sounded.

Playing guitar is difficult. 

At least I liked the way I sang "Johnny B. Goode." Found a cool rock & roll Springsteen type of voice.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Charlie Christian / New Tune

Interesting day of practice. Didn't really feel too "into it" at first, but it seems as if I got more so as I went on.

Continued to review repertoire.

Started learning the Charlie Christian book again. Taking it very slow, trying to get F minor shape engrained in my brain with the different scale degrees. Was interesting messing around with the shape on my own.

Added a couple measures or so to "I've Got a Crush on You," and it's sounding nice. 

Just have to take this stuff slow, not sell myself short, believe in my potential to succeed, and have fun.

Up to page 52 of the IFR book.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


No practice today. But switching again! I think I may be selling myself short. I really like the Charlie Christian style and I think it'll be worth trying that book again.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Doodle Day ~ But Yet Another Change ~ More Robert Conti

A very laid back day on guitar. Just played my repertoire, did a very small amount of IFR stuff, played what I know of "I've Got a Crush on You," and made yet another change of plans regarding my guitar learning. Nothing will change with regard to my chord melody song learning, and using Robert Conti's materials to get there. The IFR stuff will also still be there, but not emphasized. But a major shift in focus will be made with regards to how I'm going to try to learn improve.

There is a plethora of methods, videos, DVDs, and books out there when it comes to teaching improvisation. And I have some. There are methods out there that emphasize learning arpeggios, theory, chords, shapes, modes, scales, etc., etc. Then there is a method of learning improv like they did in the old days.

That method is learning solos. Memorizing them. Copying them. Making them your own by mixing them up. And I think that's the method for me. So to learn improvisation, I'll use Robert Conti's "Ticket to Improv. Volume One."