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Larry F
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Larry F



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12 Nov 2013
I have always loved the woodshed. It keeps my technique up and gives me a sense of accomplishment, guaranteed. I also love to gig and rehearse. My general approach for a long time has been to keep track of how things are working for me in gigs and rehearsals. If a particular action causes me to stumble, or more likely, and much worse that stumbling, avoid doing certain kinds of things. It's a funny thing, but if a certain kind of activity reaches a level of sureness and ease, then I find my ear, heart, and brain spontaneously come up with ideas and pathways when improvising.

I have always tried to come up with ways of practicing a particular kind of activity. Let's say that I want to improve my dyads. Right now, I have a routine where I play 3rds up/down strings 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, etc. Now, I might also practice playing a minor pent. (my focus is blues, and the minor pent should not be disrespected; if you hear a problem with a guitarist using the minor pent, the source of the problem is phrasing, not the notes.) When using the minor pent, I might do a trill whenever I come to the 3rd string. Or I might play every whole-step interval by bending up to the higher note. There are lots of different things to do when practicing the minor pent.

Anyway, I have three choices in the woodshed. Method 1 is to play dyads for 5-10 minutes, minor pent for 5-10 minutes, something else, another thing, something else, etc. With this approach, I keep these techniques at the forefront of my brain and as reflexes. Method 2 is to play dyads for 15-20 minutes, minor pents for 15-20 minutes, etc. Method 3 would be 30 minutes for different activities. Each method has its advantages. I generally use Method 1, or sometimes Method 2. I am considering trying Method 3 for a while.

The activities themselves are not part of the question I am asking. What I need to hear from folks here, is how should I allot time to each activity?
12 Sep 2013
Blues solos are my thing. I love the minor pent and don't find it boring. What is boring is lukewarm rhythms and not being able to phrase. There is sort a revisionist movement among guitar players who feel that the minor pent is generally insufficient for building and maintaining interest. This is because, I think, guitarists who can only play in the minor pent are probably not far enough along musically to be able to phrase well. In other word, the minor pent is not something bad, it is an indication that the guitarist is sort of still undeveloped.

As an antidote to the minor pent, it is quite common to add the major third, the flat 5th/raised 4th, 2, and 6. If we focus on the minor pent with the added 2 and 6, we get a dorian mode. However, I'll issue a listening challenge. Of the Chicago/Memphis blues guys, when they play a 2, they rarely precede or follow it with the b3. Instead, they seem to substitute 2 for b3. If a play does not do that, and instead plays 2 followed by b3, or b3 followed by 2, the result sounds more like blues-rock than blues. It also sounds more quote/unquote "schooled," and I mean this in a bad way. As a general observation, I feel that Europeans are more inclined to do this than Americans. I attribute this to the different kinds of folk traditions found in the US and Europe.

Everything I said about 2 and b3 above, is also true with 6 and b7.

Now, to test out my little theory, play some blues and use the dorian mode, without regard for whether or not 2 and b3 are played in sequence. Ditto with 6 and b7. Now, play a minor with 2 and 6 used as substitutions, as described above. Your ear will demonstrate whether my little theory holds up for you.

Now, here's another element to this. The minor pent has no semitones. If we substitute 2 for b3 and 6 for b7, we still have no semitones. However, if we play 2 and b3, and 6 and b7 sequentially, then we have semitones. My general observation of blues solos, in the Chicago and Memphis traditions, is that semitones are reserved for b3 to major 3, as well as perfect 4th to b5, and 5 to b5. This is where players use bends to play in the cracks between the 12-note equal tempered pitches of the guitar, piano, etc.

Turning away from blues solos and focusing on melody, you won't find many blues songs of the Chicago and Memphis styles to use anything other than the notes of the minor pent. If the minor pent is itself such a problem for guitarists these days, how do we reconcile that with the melodies that are strictly minor pent?

I refer to the 2 and 6 subs as my little theory, but I want to make clear that I didn't make the first observation of this. Several years ago, someone on a different forum brought this to my attention. As soon as I read it, I immediately knew there was something to it, as I kind of ran through all of the blues solos that I have heard in my entire life. Of course, I didn't literally do that, but when we look back at a ton of music and make a general observation, this is something that musicians do all the time.

The 2 and 6, to me, sound "uptown" and suave, as if the notes are wearing little top hats. Mike Bloomfield talks about these sweet notes a lot in interviews, and attributes BB King with bringing this aspect of the language of blues to the fore. However, one thing that BB does a lot, is use the semitones between 2 and b3, and 6 and b7. By breaking my rule, he is either disproving its validity, or has a unique style. So, if BB can do it, why can't I or anyone else? This difference between breaking the rule and sounding like BB is that he will sit on those 2 notes, and kind of goose them around a little bit, drawing attention to them. But he sure doesn't play runs in dorian.

My hope is that readers of this thread will test these things out, both by playing on their own, and by listening to different recordings. By the way, Texas and jump styles don't follow this convention, in part because soloist arpeggiate chords and hit on chord tones more significantly than Chicago and Memphis guys would.
17 May 2013
In my blues soloing, one particular kind of move I would like to be more spontaneous with and sound more confident is dyads 3rds, 4ths, 6ths, and 8ves. 6ths are the most interesting sounding to me, and I generally like to use two, a step apart, for some kind of punctuation or emphasis. I have several different ways of practicing all of these dyads, which I will call A.

Another move I like to use is a rapidly descending line, usually slurred, often based on the minor pent, but frequently using the 2nd instead of the 3rd, and the 6th instead of the 7th. By substituting these notes, I avoid playing dorian runs. For me, the semitone between 2 and 3, and between 6 and 7 is non-idiomatic in blues playing. Even the greats make exceptions, so I am only speaking of generalities or tendencies. When practicing these runs, I mix up their direction, so I might play a scale: - - - + - + - - - - + - - + - - -. The minuses are usually played as the next step down, whereas the + could be a step up, or two steps up, or maybe three steps. I am describing the + intervals as steps, not as thirds, 4ths, etc., because if the minor pent is my basic scale, there are two pairs of steps that are minor thirds. I'll call this kind of practicing B.

Another move is string bends. There are a lot of ways of integrating bends in one's playing, which often rely on the guitarist's ability to get into the best hand position and bend right to the target, with no out-of-tuneness. I'll call this kind of practicing C.

I probably have 6-10 routines for each type, A, B, C. In reality, I have maybe more types, say, D, E, F, G, H.

I'm of two minds. Part of me wants to keep each type of move fresh in my mind and fingers, so that I can quickly and spontaneously integrate these into my soloing. Another part of me wants to immerse myself into one type, so that I can feel that I have mastered it, and then move onto to something else to practice. The word mastered is, of course, completely relative.

What works for others here in this forum? Immersion or maintenance?
17 May 2013
My practice routine has almost always been based on my playing in gigs and rehearsals. In theory, if there is something that I try to play, but flub or tighten up, I work that into my practice routine. At the next rehearsal or gig, if I play it well, then I move onto something else. If I still flub or tighten up, I go back to the woodshed with it.

Now, I qualified the paragraph above by say "in theory." In reality, the situation that I described does not actually come up very much. Instead, something much, much worse happens: I don't even try to play something. When there is something that I imagine or pre-hear onstage that I don't even try to do, then it's to the woodshed.

Oh, no. Even the paragraph above is not exactly what happens. The real scoop on this, is not that I try something and flub it, or I imagine playing something, but don't even attempt it, but that I don't even imagine it or pre-hear it in the first place. Here is what really happens, and I bet most of you, the readers, experience this, too. Instead of starting the practice routine by first analyzing what I play onstage, I will start lying in bed at night. Lying there, my mind will drift and I will imagine myself playing something that sounds a certain way. Alternatively, I will listen to music and hear some things that I would like to do in a solo. So, I devise a practice routine to address that. After a period of time, I'll be on the bandstand and suddenly, I will start playing in a new way. I will imagine or pre-hear things I have never even considered before. It is as if I am a different person. Just by having some moves under my fingers, I will start having ideas that I had never even considered before.

This seems somewhat backwards, and maybe to many readers here, an inadvisable way to practice. But this is what happens.

Anyone experience this?
10 Apr 2013
This probably isn't the best place to post on this, but it is starting to feel like home already here. What is a good way to approach lighting for a video? Multiple sources, colors, filters, diffusers? I have several Zoom Q3 HD cameras (long story) and good mics, interface, software for sound. I also have Final Cut Lite. I've been posted YouTube videos for a long time, but want to upgrade the video quality.

If the mods want to move this to a more appropriate forum, that would be great. I'm still learning my way around here. And, by the way, very, very impressive forum here.
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