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Techniques

for solo jazz guitar:



Compiling and analysing six techniques crucial in creating a sense of
broad harmony and rhythmic feel in unaccompanied jazz guitar


DIEGO VILLALTA-LAZO














Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Music
Performance Honours at the Southbank School of Music, University of Melbourne
October 2010

DECLARATION OF ORIGINALITY

This dissertation contains no material that has been accepted for the award of any
other degree or diploma in any other university and to the best of my knowledge,
contains no material previously published or written by any other person except
where due reference is made in the text.





Diego Villalta-Lazo

ii
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank Elizabeth Mitchell for her time and patience throughout an
intense year of change at the Melbourne University and former Victorian College of
the Arts, James Sherlock and Stephen Magnusson for sharing their time and
knowledge so generously as mentors, Geoff Hughes for his long-term support,
patience and inspiration throughout my time at the VCA/Melbourne University and
Elizabeth Villalta for just being herself.

iii
TABLE OF CONTENTS


1. Introduction 1

2. Independence 7

3. Chordal Melodies 15

4. Counterpoint 21

5. Closure 28

6. Time 35

7. Key signatures and open strings 42

8. Conclusion 48

9. References 50

10. Appendices
Appendix A CD track list 53
Appendix B 8-string guitar 53
Appendix C Explanation of chord diagrams 54

iv
1. INTRODUCTION

Guitarists should be able to pick up the guitar and play music on it for an hour,
without a rhythm section or anything. Joe Pass


Solo jazz guitar The first thing to come to mind, for anybody with knowledge on
the subject, could range from the well-accepted style of a player such as Joe Pass to
the more modern approach used by someone such as Derek Bailey. For myself these
3 words have represented the focus of my personal practice throughout the later
part of my undergraduate studies. With the popularity of the guitar taking off
through the 20th century and its wide acceptance as a leading voice in the jazz
context I was surprised at what initially appeared to be the small amount of
discussion within instructional material in the public sphere regarding this topic. This
is not to say that good quality information is not available, on the contrary, what is
out there is largely insightful and usually written and discussed eloquently by the
masters themselves. What I do believe however is that it is disproportionate to the
popularity of the genre and more importantly that it does not cover every aspect of
the style. Nevertheless what I have now come to believe is that these gaps within
the methodology can be filled by material that exists in relation to other musical
practices, quietly waiting to be embraced and interpreted for solo jazz guitar. This
has led me to the basis of this paper, which is to unify material relating to what I
believe are the most important concepts concerning solo jazz guitar under one
umbrella, helping to give a broader overview of what the genre entails.

For the majority of guitarists the notion of playing jazz unaccompanied can be
daunting. I personally have memories of early days, struggling to get through
standard forms without a piano player to outline harmonic movement and the very
thought of eliminating the bass player or drummer would have been especially
inappropriate to my skill level. But as technical, harmonic and aural skills develop,
the need for a piano player to hold down the harmony or a drummer or bassist to
outline the time becomes less imperative, on the contrary, it can be enjoyable to

2
experiment with different combinations of instruments. But even then, it can be
difficult to acquire the preferred or necessary instrumentalists and its important to
be able to compensate which was one of the main factors that convinced me into
thinking that learning to play unaccompanied would be a beneficial practice.

Obviously, the term solo jazz guitar is too vague a description for a paper such as
this, so to expand on my intention: this paper will concern itself with compiling and
analysing six techniques available to guitarists crucial in creating a sense of broad
harmony and rhythmic feel in unaccompanied jazz tunes containing improvisations.
Because some of the terms in the previous statement can be interpreted in different
ways, I will specify how they will be defined in this paper.

Jazz - to mean from the jazz standard repertoire, using as a basis harmonic
progressions, forms and/or melodic/thematic material. Equivalently, non-jazz
standard contemporary compositions or improvisations employing similar harmonic,
formal and/or melodic structures will also fall under this category.

Broad harmony from bass notes and root note movement to higher upper
extensions in vertical and horizontal harmonic structures

Time a strong sense of pulse to work with or against (to the point of abandonment)
in order to create rhythmic interest and forward motion.

Guitar of the common 6-string variety in EADGBe tuning for the most part but also
including baritone guitar, seven or eight string varieties and other open chord
tunings, restricted to playing techniques common to the jazz tradition. Not included
will be double-necked guitars (played with different hands simultaneously), effect
pedals such as loopers or synths, midi controller guitars, bass guitars, pedal steel
guitars and exotic guitar-based instruments such as Pat Methenys Picasso guitar.


3
METHOD

All the research undertaken for this paper has had a direct link to my personal
practice and development as a performing musician allowing it to be primarily
practice-led-research. I have drawn on instructional material (in both written and
video form), audio recordings and transcriptions, and first hand discussions with
leading practitioners. To a small extent I am also relying on my own personal
experiences on the topic having studied it in recent years.

The methodological material I have relied upon which relates directly to solo jazz
guitar includes texts and video such as Tuck Andress Fingerstyle Mastery and certain
chapters of Ralph Towners Improvisation and Performance Techniques for Classical
and Acoustic Guitar amongst various others. Although they were hugely insightful in
terms of certain aspects relating to the style (i.e. independence, mimicking walking
bass lines etc) what they didnt encompass I compensated with textual materials
from other musical fields. These are not relating directly but easily applicable to solo
jazz guitar and aid in demonstrating some of the more important and overlooked
aspects of the style. The main sources of material used however are audio
recordings of renowned guitarists in the discipline such as Joe Pass and Australias
own James Sherlock the old idiom still holds true about the recordings being the
best teachers.


CHAPTER OVERVIEW

Most chapters follow a rough template which include a description of the musical
device at hand, references to its use within the wider musical spectrum (i.e. classical
music, popular music etc), its prevalence within jazz, its importance to solo guitar
and finally examples of how it relates to solo jazz guitar. Each chapter is dedicated
specifically to one technique and these are independence, chordal melodies,
counterpoint, closure, time, and key signatures and open strings.

4
2. Independence considering this is one of the most crucial aspects of solo guitar in
general, it is a fitting pace to begin discussion and sets up the necessary
understanding of technical requirements for subsequent chapters.

3. Chordal Melodies deals with harmonisation of melodic material, a topic
thoroughly discussed in methodological literature for chordal instruments but
expanded on so as to demonstrate its importance as one of the basic techniques for
any solo jazz guitarist.

4. Counterpoint only recently coming to a high level of exposure and interest in
terms of jazz guitar within the last few decades, this paradigm for harmonic
exploration and chordal construction is borrowed from the context of classical music
where it has been popular for centuries and explored within the world of solo jazz.
Its presence on jazz guitar however, is for the most part not stringent in its
application as in some classical music and can be described as a non-strict form of
counterpoint.

5. Closure an exploration of a little discussed but widely used technique that
employs the mind of the listener to aid in establishing harmony and rhythm (or
groove). It is relevant to solo jazz playing on any instrument.

6. Time of all the devices available to solo jazz guitarists I found the manipulation
of the one discussed in this chapter to be the least explored within the directly
related pedagogical material. Its existence and importance within the recordings,
however could not be overlooked in this discussion.

7. Key Signatures and Open strings this chapter is the only one relating to the
specific physical layout of the guitar and how to utilize its idiosyncratic traits within
the solo jazz guitar idiom.


5
CONCLUSION AND APPENDICES

Following the main chapters is a summarising chapter in which I present how my
research could be applied to modern practices in solo jazz guitar as a guide to
understanding the genre itself and as an aid in perceiving its scope in the most
holistic way. It also continues on to discuss possibilities for further research. At the
conclusion of the paper there is an appendices containing additional information and
a track listing to accompany the supplemented compact disc of audio samples given
throughout the paper.

6
2. INDEPENDENCE THE SPLIT BRAIN

One of the most crucial elements in performing unaccompanied jazz guitar is the
ability to divide attention amongst various aspects of the music for extended periods
of time (e.g. melody/rhythm/harmony or 2 or more contrapuntal voices) whilst
simultaneously playing them on one single fingerboard. In an ensemble context
guitarists can experience these divisions of musical focus to a small degree by acting
out the roles of both a soloist and accompanist during their own solo improvisations
(unless there is an accompanist present) but for the majority of times these two
roles tend to be thought of in an almost mutually exclusive manner with attention
being placed on each in turn as opposed to at the same time.

Due to the layout and scope of their instrument, piano players have a much longer
history of dividing their musical awareness between two or more parts
simultaneously. Piano reductions and works for other instruments transcribed for
solo piano (used extensively in the classical world) demonstrate this concept
effectively. The following example (Fig. 1) is from J.S. Bachs Contrapunctus 1
BWV1080 from his unfinished final work Die Kunst der Fuge1. In these initial 19 bars
we see the entry of the four voices involved within the fugue in the way it was
originally written (SATB form), in addition to this we also see how the four voices fit
into the scope of the piano (written underneath the bass voice). The solo piano
transcription contains each part in its entirety therefore requiring the pianist to
divide his/her attention in four different ways.



1
BACH, J. S.?-1750. Die Kunst der Fuge, Contrapunctus 1, BWV 1080. Breitkopf & Hrtel.

7
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Public Domain
Contrapuntal techniques will be explored further in chapter 4. Here the example is
used purely to observe physical and mental independence. Because guitar is
drastically more limiting in terms of physical potential than the piano for facilitating
this manner of part independence, the possibilities for pieces are narrower, although
extreme levels of mastery within this smaller scope are achieved. The three systems
in Fig. 2 pick up from bar 7 of Heitor Villa-Lobos Etude no 5 Andantino for guitar. In
them we can see the division of 3 distinct parts a repeating ostinato figure, a bass
part, and a clear melodic voice on top2:


Fig. 2
CD track 1 (0:10)

When looking at a piece such as this for the first time, the common understanding is
that a guitarist would work slowly through each bar one at a time and eventually get
accustomed to how each part feels as it works over the others, resulting in a
thorough understanding of the parts as a whole. The added difficulty of this
approach in terms of jazz guitar comes with the improvisation factor.


2
VILLA-LOBOS, H. 1952. Etude No 5 Andantino. Villa-Lobos solo guitar. New York: Amsco.

9
Charlie Hunter is a well-known U.S. musician who has confronted this challenge in a
very unique way. Hunter plays a customised guitar comprised of seven strings (a
recent scale down from eight) the top four are guitar strings while the bottom
three are bass strings3, this allows him to act as guitar and bass player
simultaneously while playing melodies, chords and bass lines. He is renowned not
only for his independence capabilities but also for his ability to achieve a very natural
sense of feel when utilising them. In a 2002 interview Hunter describes guitarists Joe
Pass and Tuck Andress as being his biggest influences for what can be done solo on
the guitar4 and when asked about his approach regarding his phenomenal degree of
independence Hunters reply was:

I started listening to a lot of organists, because they do the left-hand bass thing,
foot pedal bass, just to get an idea. Like Big John Patton and Larry Young, Jimmy
Smith, just to kind of get a foundation for what I wanted to do. And a lot of that stuff
I just really, really shedded5. I shedded a lot of bass players, and also shedded a lot
of drum set, too. Its not like my drum set playing is great at all, or that I would even
think about playing in front of people, but its a great kind of a cross reference,
because that taught me how counterpoint works, how rhythms work together, and
how its supposed to feel when you play one rhythm over another rhythm.(2002:5)6

Although Hunters guitar is unique, similar instances of voice/part independence
mastery can be seen on regular six stringed varieties throughout the world of solo
guitar. In fact, Hunters instrument can be simply seen as a more evolved tool for
facilitating independence between bass lines and guitar melodies/comping7, which is
something guitarists have been exploring for generations.


3
Refer to Appendix B for image of Hunters guitar
4
GOODMAN, F. 2002. Puremusic interview with Charlie Hunter. Puremusic.com.
5
When Hunter refers to shedding he means extensive practicing. The saying derives from the concept
of wood-shedding meaning to lock oneself in an outdoor shed or small room to avoid distractions in
order to achieve a high level of practice.
6
GOODMAN, F. 2002. Puremusic interview with Charlie Hunter. Puremusic.com.
7
To comp is to provide a chordal accompaniment for a soloist; the word derives from accompany
(or perhaps compliment). (1988:240)1988a. In: KERNFELD, B. (ed.) The new Grove Dictionary of jazz
A to K. New York: Macmillan Press.

10
The afore mentioned inspiration for Hunter, Tuck Andress, is a prime case of
independence mastery on a regular 6 string guitar. Andress is widely known as half
of the U.S. husband and wife musical duo Tuck an Patti and for being able to
condense the feel of an entire band into his guitar playing. As J. Schroeter stated in
Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine8 when interviewing Andress:

The obvious thing you bring to the party is your emulation of other instruments.
You really capture their nuances, as well. That is, the way a bass player might play a
particular phrase, or what the drummer might do behind a given passage.(1995:9)

To which Andress replies:

Thats been a big specialty for me. Ive seen a lot of people do the solo guitar thing,
but for me, having come out of a lot of bands where feel was the whole thing, it had
to feel right. And it doesnt feel right if there isnt a clear distinction between the
parts. The grooves just not there. In an ensemble, there are all these micro
elements that constitute staccato, attack, vibrato, or whatever it is. You want to
have independence of all these things. So Ive worked a lot on that.(1995:10)

This independence can be observed not only aurally but also through transcriptions
such as the one presented at the conclusion of the article. The following portion of
the transcription represents the point where Andress begins to combine the three
elements of melody, harmony and bass in his rendition of Michael Jacksons popular
song Man in the Mirror. The bass figure can be seen to occur regularly on beats 1
and 2& (4th quaver) with some variations from bar 17. The melody, which is quite
busy, can be seen situated on top. The interesting thing to note is the way in which
the chord harmony shifts from being coupled mainly with the bass figure, in the first
three bars of the example, to both the melody and bass in the later five. In my
opinion this strongly confirms Andress statement about having a clear distinction
between the parts.


SCHROETER, J. 1995. Tuck Andress - Aural report. Fingerstyle Guitar.
8

11


Fig. 3
CD track 2 (0:27)

When it comes to solo jazz guitar, mastery of voice independence can be heard on
recordings such as the fifth track on Ben Monders 2005 album Oceana - a solo guitar
piece exemplifying the current interests of some of the worlds top guitarists in
contrapuntal approaches. With his great proficiency on the instrument, Monder
takes the notion of independence to extreme levels, achieving great feats in dividing
his attention rhythmically between different voices usually only found in the playing
of drummers and pianists. The following is a transcription of the first four bars of the
piece:


Fig. 4

12
It begins simply enough with what can be described as an F# minor pattern (a point
of interest is the use of the double C# notes on adjacent strings) but as soon as the
piece reaches the next bar Monders mastery of independence comes to light (note
that I have converted the initial pattern into a 5/4 time signature, this is simply to
facilitate in reading how the bottom line interacts with the it):


Fig. 5
CD track 3

Essentially, Monder is playing 6 over 5, or put differently 24 beats (represented by
the sextuplets) over the original 20 crotchet beats (represented by the 40 quavers)
and to add to that, the new voice is playing in a different key, which includes C and G
naturals (tuning of the bottom 2 strings has been altered to reach these low notes).
This recording entitled Double sun9 shows a rare level of skill in terms of
independence for guitar and has been a great inspiration for me personally in
regards to what can be achieved with rhythmic placement and feel.

Within my own practice, there are various techniques I have found to be beneficial
for where I am in my development for building further independence. One of these
is a practice technique demonstrated to me by Australian guitarist James Sherlock

9
MONDER, B. 2005. Oceana.

13
and deals with both the harmonic and rhythmic aspects of 2-voice independence. It
involves the superimposition of one mode (i.e. Ionian, Dorian, Melodic minor etc)
over another with each one restricted to either the upper or lower three strings of
the guitar, for example an Ab Aeolian scale played under Eb Ionian starting on Ab:


Fig. 6

These can be started on different degrees of the scales and also move in different
directions. Here are 2 short examples:


Fig. 7

To add a degree of rhythmic independence the scales can be played using
combinations of differing rhythmic figures, for example:


Fig. 8

Eventually, the goal is to improvise (in melodic and rhythmic terms) using both scales
simultaneously.

14
3. CHORDAL MELODY TECHNIQUE COMBINING PARTS

A device that is widely known amongst guitarists and other chordal instruments alike
is that of fitting an improvised line (or parts of a line) into the harmonic and rhythmic
context of a tune by means of having it as the top or accented voice of chords. For
this paper I will refer to the technique as the chordal melody technique (note - I
give it this name for ease of reference within this paper only not to try and establish
a new or reinforce an existing technical paradigm for guitar). This is a natural starting
point for guitarists interested in going solo considering that in ensemble contexts,
as jazz accompanists, playing with a melodic chordal type of accompaniment is
common. To illustrate the concept here is a harmonised example of the first four
bars of Alice in Wonderland10:


Fig. 9

Although this example shows the harmonisation of a composed melody the same
principle can also be used for an improvised one.

There are plenty of sources available regarding this practice commonly under
headings such as harmonising a melody. Guitarist Ted Greene has written a
succession of method books that deal partly with this subject; the following is an
example from Modern chord progressions:


10
HILLIARD, S. F. B. 1951. Alice in wonderland. The real book. Milwakee WI: Hal Leonard.

15


Fig. 10

(Greene illustrates chords in his books primarily with these types of guitar diagrams,
refer to Appendix C for how to interpret them.)

In it Greene demonstrates the harmonising of a line starting on E that runs
diatonically up a C major scale to D, down an octave before returning to the original
note. Although this concept is relatively simple, he uses this example to demonstrate
how chordal melodies tend to move on guitar in a process known as string
transference11 which relates to moving from one set of strings to another. This type
of guitar-specific chordal-melody material is imperative to know for solo jazz
guitarist and can be seen as part of the bread and butter for the style.

In his first book Chord chemistry Greene makes note of the fact that often in many
cases a melody has to be played in the higher register in order to allow for
harmonising voices to physically fit underneath it on the guitar neck12. The tune of a
song is often times raised an octave in light of this and sometimes changing the key
can be highly beneficial, particularly to make use of open strings. Pat Methenys solo
version of Keith Jarretts My song13, recorded on baritone guitar but written out
below for standard guitar, is a good example of this and is transposed from the key


11
GREENE, T. 1985. Modern Chord Progressions, Van Nuys CA, Alfred Music Publishing.
12
GREENE, T. 1981. Chord chemistry, Alfred music publishing.
13
METHENY, P. 2003. One quiet night. Warner Brothers.

16
of C to the key of G in order to make better use of the available lower register for
harmonising the melody in what can be seen as a slightly more broken up manner.
Here are the first 8 bars of the melody following the introduction:


Fig. 11
CD track 4 (0:07)
(Note: CD track in original key therefore notes transpose down a P4 but fingering remains the same)

An example such as this shows how guitarists must be willing to shift melodies in
order to make full use of the chordal-melody technique. Key transposition and the
use of open strings will be looked at in greater depth in chapter 7.

Another point Greene makes in relation to chordal melodies is to do with using a
consistent number of voices and although I would not call the examples he cites
contrapuntal, he does elude to a more contrapuntal approach and even refers to
practicing Bach chorals as exercises for exploring and building up a bank of voicings
which can be used for constructing chordal melodies14.


14
GREENE, T. 1981. Chord chemistry, Alfred music publishing.

17
The chordal melody technique can be heard on a large number of recordings, for
instance Wes Montgomerys version of Ive grown accustomed to her face from his
album Full House (live)15. Although the track includes bass and drums, the chordal
melodic concept can still be heard on solo guitar during the introduction (shown in
Fig. 12), 4-bar bridge section and outro of the tune, consequently he also plays using
this technique throughout the whole song even with the accumulation of the other
band members into the piece.


Fig. 12
CD track 5

In my experience, because of its simplicity and the evident benefits it has for
unaccompanied guitarists, it is always one of the first concepts to come up when
discussing solo guitar with various teachers. During my time studying under
Australian based guitarist James Sherlock, the importance of this technique was
established along with appropriate practice methods. In one private lesson he
pointed out that when he is improvising a harmonised melody he simplifies chord
progressions to facilitate melodic lines, for example reducing a 4-bar I vi ii V
progression like CMaj7, Am7, Dm7, G7 into just 2 bars of Cmaj7 and 2 bars of G7. Joe


MONTGOMERY, W. 1962. Full House (live).
15

18
Pass describes a similar thought process in his method video Joe Pass solo jazz
guitar.16 Sherlock explained that considering there is no accompanying harmonic
instrument the solo guitarist is free to create harmonised melodies under whichever
harmonic context he/she chooses and describes instances where the notes in the
melody can be treated as the only harmonic constant resulting in great freedom for
improvising chords around them. Practice methods prescribed to me personally by
Sherlock included harmonising scales (similar to the previous Greene example but
exploring an infinite amount of variations) and harmonising a single note through
various chord changes, similar to an exercise from his instructional video where he
demonstrates the harmonising of the chords E7(b5#9), A7(b9), D7(#9#5) and
G13(#9) all with a Bb note as the top voice17:


Fig. 13

Another guitar method book that I consider being a valuable resource for guitarists
to draw upon in order to build up knowledge (theoretical, practical and aural) of how
to utilise chord voicings for harmonising melodies is Barry Galbraiths Guitar
comping. Although the book is not concerned directly with solo guitar either, the
chordal principles outlined within apply strongly to the chordal melody technique. In
his introduction Galbraith states:


PASS, J. 1986. Joe Pass - solo jazz guitar. Hot Licks.
16
17
Ibid.

19
Upper voices of a chord should form a simple counter line rather than jumping
aimlessly about. However, at times inversions work well. Using a common upper
tone while changing chords is effective(1986:2)18.

This idea uses the same basic principle as the chordal melody technique but goes
about it in the reverse order, placing more emphasis on the chords rather than the
melodic idea. For this reason I found Galbraiths book to be inadvertently useful in
my own practice with relation to solo jazz guitar.

Personally, as I explored this chordal melody technique I found its greatest
advantage was that it dealt with melody and harmony at the same time, even bass
movement could be addressed depending on the complexity of the melody and
technical demand of the voicings. Conversely I found that an improvised melody
could be compromised when trying to fit chords underneath each note, though in
reality not all notes of the melody have to be harmonised (as in the Montgomery
example) and in many cases where there are many notes and the tempo is reaching
a fast pace it becomes too cumbersome to apply a chord to each. A players sense of
musicality ought to be the judge as to which melody notes should be harmonised in
any given phrase.





GALBRAITH, B. 1986. Jazz guitar study series: guitar comping, New Albany, IM, Jamey Aebersold.
18

20
4. COUNTERPOINT KEEPING THE VOICES ALIVE

Looking at the way jazz guitar has evolved from its early beginnings in a
percussive/chordal role to its modern day way of speaking, one can see a trend from
using primarily a vertical harmonic paradigm towards accepting and amalgamating
contrapuntal ways of thinking. For a long time guitarists accepted the responsibility
of wearing two hats, acting as a chordal accompaniment instrument while
supporting soloists and at other times being the lead solo voice19. Combining the two
more often than not involved giving preference to the lead solo line with vertical
chord structures spread intermittently in the gaps. For example, in Peter Leitchs
solo through Chick Coreas Tones for Joans bones the solo voice is heard to be
complimented by chordal stabs at different intervals, such as in the three bars
between the end of the line beginning at the Ebmaj7 turnaround and the start the
next over the F7 chord in the following transcription20:


Fig. 14
CD track 6 (0:08)

Similarly in James Mullers up tempo rendition of the Kern/Hammerstein standard
All the things you are Muller drives his solo strongly with lengthy single note lines


19
GOODRICK, M. 1987. The advancing guitarist, Third Earth.
20
LEITCH, P. 1991. Trio/Quartet '91.

21
interspersed by moments of chordal playing as can be seen at the 0:48 mark in Fig.
15 when moving from Abmaj7 through to Gmaj7 two bars later21.


Fig. 15
CD track 7 (0:08)
(Note: disregard 0:45 and 0:48 in the transcription as this refers to the time on the original CD)


The other common technique for the combining of harmony and melody is the
chordal melody technique referred to in the previous chapter. This was a popular
technique for the late Wes Montgomery who would often begin his solos with single
note lines before moving onto octaves and/or chordal melodies.

However, a more contrapuntal approach to melodies and harmony on jazz guitar
appears to be a relatively recent way of thinking. Classical guitar players on the other
hand have employed the extensive use of counterpoint for a longer time with
countless pieces and exercises available for exploration on the matter. An example
to demonstrate one such piece is Fernando Sors study in C Opus 6, no. 8:


MULLER, J. 2006. Kaboom.
21

22

Fig. 16
CD track 8

But even with an excess of material such as this devoted to counterpoint for guitar in
the classical world, in jazz its exploration has taken significantly longer to unfold. I
personally tend to think this is because of the initial role guitar took in early jazz
before the invention of amplification, resulting in more emphasis put onto thinking
in terms of easy-to-grab, block-type chord voicings for the sake of an immediate and
loud-as-possible rhythmic presence. Further to this I contend that it has led to a re-
inventing of the wheel in terms of counterpoint and jazz guitar, with a profound

23
importance being placed on the subject only in recent times (35 years or so from
anecdotal evidence). Nevertheless, interest has risen with texts such as The
advancing guitarist helping to pave the way for a contrapuntal approach to jazz
guitar with author M. Goodrick making statements such as:

Counterpoint (or the study of intervals) is one of the most neglected and important
aspects of the guitar.(1987:18)

He supplements this and other similar views with ideas for exercises aiding in
horizontal playing of voices with intent to incite contrapuntal thinking for the jazz
guitarist. These ideas include playing intervals on adjacent and non-adjacent string
sets and even the possibility of playing contrapuntally solely in open position22. All of
his practice suggestions are based around the four types of contrapuntal motion
shown in Fig. 17:


Fig. 17

A strong advocate for Goodricks ideas concerning horizontal movement and
counterpoint on guitar is Australias Stephen Magnusson. Aside from personally
talking to Stephen about the large impact the book has had on him, his playing is a

22
GOODRICK, M. 1987. The advancing guitarist, Third Earth.

24
strong testament to the ideas Goodrick argues for and can be heard on a variety of
his recordings, such as the bass-less trio album Healing songs23 for example.
Magnussons ability to vary his articulations between different voices and/or phrases
is a tremendous tool for distinguishing them and places him alongside other
renowned guitarists such as John Scofield and Bill Frisell who employ similar
techniques.

It was while receiving lessons from Stephen that my personal interest regarding
contrapuntal melodic and harmonic techniques really started to unravel itself and I
have consequently implemented certain aspects of it into my own practice and
playing style. These practices are along the vein of the ones established by Goodrick
in his book, only with solo jazz guitar in mind. One example would be using the form
of a standard and improvising in a single-note linear style concentrating on
alternating short phrases which are voiced on different parts of the fingerboard (i.e.
top 3 strings versus lower 3 strings), giving the feel of two separate parts alternating
one phrase at a time. Then slowly overlapping the phrases so they eventually occur
simultaneously. At first I found this type of playing on guitar foreign and somewhat
difficult considering the physical limitations of the instrument and the independence
involved, particularly with an increased number of voices, but I have come to
personally believe this is where thorough horizontal fingerboard knowledge,
technique and harmonic understanding come into play. It doesnt hurt to blur the
line between oneself as an accompanist and soloist either, as Goodrick states:

Counterpoint can be viewed as the study of intervals that helps to dissolve rigid
ways of thinking about melody as one thing and harmony as another(Goodrick,
1987).

In terms of unaccompanied jazz guitar pedagogy, I found it difficult to unearth any
textual resources that related directly to counterpoint, not to say there is none out
there only that I failed to discover any in my research, therefore I will endeavour to
show its relevance in the discipline with a transcribed audio sample.

BALL MAGNUSSON BERESOVSKY, E. S. S.???? Healing songs.
23

25

This short transcription comes from Israeli born guitarist Gilad Hekselman and in
these initial bars to his freely stated introduction of his version of the standard I fall
in love too easily24 a clear distinction of 2 voices can be seen and heard:


Fig. 18
CD track 9

Although the phrases alternate, Hekselman uses the technique of allowing the last
note of each one to bleed into the next. Added to this are register and timbral
differences, all in all creating a true sense of contrapuntal movement. It is of interest
to note that at the end of bar 4 the two voices link up, with the higher one picking up
from the note where the lower left off but because they have already been
established as separate in the initial bars they maintain their sense of separation.
Similar instances of implying separate voices have been heard clearly for centuries
going back to the baroque period and implied counterpoint.

A method for approaching this type of single-note counterpoint specifically for jazz
guitar is given by Jon Damian in his book The guitarists guide to composing and
improvising. In Fig. 19 one can see his method for condensing two contrapuntal lines
into a singular line25:


24
HEKSELMAN, G. 2006. Split life. New York: Smalls Records.
DAMIAN, J. 2001. The guitarist's guide to composing and improvising, Boston, MA, Berklee.
25

26

Fig. 19

Considering the melodies are an example of improvised lines, strict adherence to the
original rhythm is not important, what is important is maintaining the feel of two
parts working against each other. Damian then goes on to explain how the notes
making up the improvised lines could be derived from the chords they will be played
over. In this un-harmonised style, core notes from the chords make up the strongest
parts of the lines, e.g. from the chord Cm7 the notes C, Eb, G and Bb would be the
strongest to use.

The biggest strength that I see in working to obtain a grasp over this type of
technique for a solo jazz guitarist is that it offers him/her quite a modern voice away
from clichs that have come to be associated with the style over the years. I believe
that thinking in separate voices also benefits greatly to the notion of including bass
lines on guitar when playing solo and that this type of practice leads to better
thought-out bass lines in general (from my personal practice experience).

27
5. CLOSURE - SMOKE AND MIRRORS

Filling in the gaps is something the human brain has evolved to do quite well. The
phenomenon is known as closure26 within the Gestalt principles of perception. An
example of how our brains do this is illustrated in the following optical illusion:




This image is originally from Dr Haseltines online blog at longfusebigbang.com and
his explanation of how it works is as followed:

Your brain fills in the gaps in the rectangle between four corners, creating
completed lines where there are no lines at all. Your brain engages in this bit of
creative fiction to help you make sense of what youre seeing(2010)27.

Although the term closure was originally coined in terms of visual perception, for this
chapter I am going to hijack it for use in an audio/musical context. My reason for this
being that I feel it describes adequately the phenomenon at the heart of this chapter
in both harmonic and rhythmic terms but also steers away from related titles which
may carry other connotations and lead to misunderstandings. Riecke et al.s article
on auditory illusion and how the brain fills in the gaps when sound is fragmented
describes the process well in regards to audio-sensory perception:


26
Closure a paradigm for the study of visual perception established in the 1920s. The principle can
be described as incomplete figures will be perceived as closed in order to obtain their familiar
meaning (2006. Gestalt Psychology. In: DAVEY, G. (ed.) Encyclopaedic dictionary of psychology.
London: Hodder Arnold.)
27
HASELTINE, D. E. 2010. Optical illusions can you help predict the future? [Online]. Hyperion.
Available: http://longfusebigbang.com/blog/optical_illusions_can_help_you_predict_the_future/
[Accessed 03/09/10 2010].

28
It is quite common for us to "hear" sounds that aren't really there: human hearing
is a constructive process.
The brain has the ability to take auditory fragments and generate an overall "image"
of the sound. It is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces missing
but still having a good enough impression of the overall picture(2009:555)28.

Before explaining how this phenomenon can be used as a tool for solo guitar it is
important to be aware that our brains perform this on a daily basis and also to
understand the way it is made effective in a general musical context. To
demonstrate this, take the following example; in Colombian group Los Tupamaros
soca29 hit Enamorao30, the opening solo piano riff is:


Fig. 20
CD track 10

This riff is restated again at 0:57 minutes, but unlike the first time it is presented it
takes place after a verse that has established a strong danceable rhythm. Because of
this, even though the riff is again played unaccompanied, the groove persists in the
listeners mind enabling the rhythm to be felt (and danced) straight through.


28
LARS RIECKE, FABRIZIO ESPOSITO, MILENE BONT, ELIA FORMISANO. 2009. Hearing Illusory Sounds
in Noise: The Timing of Sensory-Perceptual Transformations in Auditory Cortex. Neuron, 64, 550-561.
29
Soca is an abbreviation for soul calypso.
30
TUPAMAROS, L. 2008. 20 anos de exitos. Discos Fuentes.

29

Fig. 21

Fig. 21 shows the different aspects of the rhythm section that contribute to
establishing the rhythmic groove of the piece. In my opinion it is the rhythms of the
bass figure, cowbell and timbales that embed themselves the strongest in the minds
internal ear and allow for a perceived groove to be felt even in the absence of actual
input into the sensory ear.

The previous example illustrated closure in relation to rhythm and how it can be
implied for a period of time but it can also occur in relation to harmony. A very
common example in the jazz world is what is known as trading31 with a drummer.
An example (amongst possibly tens of thousands) of this can be heard on the
recording of Wes Montgomerys Four on six, the first track on guitarist Pat Martinos
album Remember a tribute to Wes Montgomery32. The harmonic progression for
the solo section of the piece can be seen in the following chord chart:

Gm7 % % %
Cm7 F7 Bbm7 Eb7 Am7 D7 Ebm7 Ab7
Gm7 % % Cm7 F7
Bbmaj7 Gm7 Eb7 D7 Gm7 Am7(b5) D7
Fig. 22

31
To trade: In jazz to divide a chorus between or among solo players, so that each takes a phrase in
turn. The length of the phrases traded is usually four bars, but eight-bar and two-bar phrases and
even single bars are also treated in this way; the players are said to trade fours (eights, twos,
ones). (1988b. In: KERNFELD, B. (ed.) The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. London: Macmillan.)
32
MARTINO, P. 2006. Remember - a tribute to Wes Montgomery. Blue Note.

30

At 4:35 minutes on the original recording (immediately after the piano solo) Martino
and drummer Scott Allan Robinson begin 3 choruses33 of 8-bar trading (CD track 11
(0:16)). The entire band plays over each of Martinos 8-bar phrases clearly outlining
the chord changes which, because the form is an even 16 bars, turns out to be the
first 8 bars each time. But when it comes to Robinsons 8-bar solos the rest of the
band tacets34 and although the average person with little understanding of jazz
harmony may struggle to keep the chord progression moving in their heads, people
with a more developed aural sense of harmony (such as musicians or long-time jazz
listeners) do achieve this. This is due to the fact that the chord progression has been
established for the listener through numerous form35 repetitions during previous
solos by the time it reaches the trading. Internally hearing the harmony while the
drummer solos is no small feat but because the passages of 8-bar solo drumming are
divided by Martino and the rest of the band the listener accepts this as a mode of
reinforcement and the form can feel to move on uninterrupted, as opposed to
having blocks of solo drums that halt the songs harmonic progression.

The same can be achieved with an unaccompanied guitar piece. Guitarist Ralph
Towner supports this view and states (in terms of solo jazz guitar) that:

different parts, when they become silent, linger in the listener's and player's
memories. When you overlap two parts, the attention swing to the new part is
occupied momentarily by the old part. When the actual silence takes place in the old
part, it is not as consciously abrupt this way. For example, if the accompaniment has
a specifically motor like personality, it can be implied to continue unabated if you
maintain the same qualities upon returning to it.(1985:37)36


33
A chorus can be defined as In general usage the refrain of a song or hymn, that section which is
repeated, always with the same tune and text, after each verse; for the use of harmonic and metric
structures of song refrains as the basis of jazz pieces (1988b. In: KERNFELD, B. (ed.) The New Grove
Dictionary of Jazz. London: Macmillan.)
34
To Tacet means to remain silent
35
In this jazz context the term form and chorus are interchangeable.
36
TOWNER, R. 1985. Improvisation and Performance Techniques for Classical and Acoustic Guitar,
Wayne N.J., 21st Century Music Productions.

31
An example of this principle of closure in solo guitar can be heard on James
Sherlocks recording of Domestic arts and sciences37. The 5/4 swing tune begins by
establishing a groove, which can be seen within the first 4 bars, but then the bass
and chord patterns making up the groove change in order to compensate for the
melody in the next 4 bars. In this example I have excluded the melody in order to
allow for a better view of what is taking place in the underlying groove.


Fig. 23
CD track 12

Immediately on first glance the parts look noticeably different. The main change
being that the duration of many of the notes has shortened. This makes sense
considering the fact that inserting a melody would create gaps in the underlying
support structure. Secondly some of the rhythms have shifted or disappeared all
together, this can be seen to occur in every bar and is also to be expected when
adding a melody. Nevertheless the song maintains its drive and pace thanks to our
brains ability to fill in the gaps aided by moments of reinforcement such as the
triplet figure found in the bass part of bar 7.

In my opinion, the ability to control this audio illusion is one of the most important
and least discussed aspects of solo jazz guitar. Although it can be easily arranged and
incorporated into the melody of a tune I have personally found it a challenging


37
SHERLOCK, J. 2010. Solo. Pinnacles Music.

32
concept to grapple with while improvising simply because it adds a further
dimension to the way ones mind has to mould the music and develop the
improvisation. However through trial and error I have found a useful method for
practicing this concept, which has turned out to be quite similar to an exercise
prescribed by Ralph Towner. It involves mapping out a chart (of 12 bars for example)
with certain areas roughly dedicated to playing an accompanist-type role and laying
down a groove while having other areas set aside for unrestricted improvisation of
melodic lines. The two areas are made to overlap slightly. Towners exercise is a
slight expansion of this by having the accompanist-type section divided into bass and
chords accompaniment. Towners example is demonstrated below in Fig. 2438:


Fig. 24

This type of mapped out chart can be superimposed over the form of any tune
starting at any point with the time signature being altered as required. It can also be
lengthened, shortened, played in double/half time or be split up to achieve
numerous permutations, and when all possibilities have been exhausted, countless
others can be written resulting in an infinite amount of variations.


38
TOWNER, R. 1985. Improvisation and Performance Techniques for Classical and Acoustic Guitar,
Wayne N.J., 21st Century Music Productions.

33
Towners separation of bass and chord accompaniment is not unexpected
considering the importance that solo jazz guitarists have put on mimicking bass lines
within the style. In fact, in this music, the concept of closure lends itself well to bass
line parts because of their generally pattern-based rhythms which our brains can
latch on to whether they be 4 to the bar walking lines or more syncopated ones
like the one seen in the previous Sherlock example.

34
6. TIME THE NOT SO CONSTANT

a single second ticking by, all the clocks
in this house suddenly wrong, & another hour lost.39

This is taken from the final verse in Tempo Rubato by Aleda Shirley and is a poetic
description of how, for all of us, time can feel to warp itself from being a measurable
constant into a more fluid thing. The musical equivalent of this real time that we
experience in everyday life is what we, funnily enough, refer to as time and is made
up by the variables of meter, rhythm and tempo40 - which can also be made to
appear to be warped. The topic of time in music is incredibly massive and far beyond
the scope of this paper to cover in any great detail but my intention is to recognise
its importance as a significant tool for solo jazz guitar with the use of various
examples.

Despite being such an immensely vital factor in music, I am not surprised that
mastery of the manipulation of time is not discussed in terms of solo jazz guitar
considering its gross underrepresentation in jazz related texts as a whole. Obtaining
a high level of harmonic mastery for improvisation is extremely important but in
general, jazz musicians tend to focus primarily on this to the detriment of their
mastery of time. Achieving a comfortable and adequate feel within music is usually
the extent to which the majority of jazz musicians explore this concept (in my
opinion). The true jazz masters, however, appear to be the exception to this, which
raises an interesting point between the correlation of time mastery and mastery of
jazz as a whole.

The 3 forms of time-manipulation I will be discussing are free-time playing, tempo
shifting (ritardando/accelerando) and the use of rubato. In the jazz world there
seems to be some overlap of these 3 principles with the terms being thrown around


39
SHIRLEY, A. 2006. Tempo rubato. The North American Review, 291, 42.
40
BARRA, D. 1983. The dynamic performance - A performer's guide to musical expression and
iterpretation, Sydney, Prentice Hall (of Australia).

35
somewhat loosely. In the classical world on the other hand, these terms have existed
with quite some contention as to their strict definitions. To avoid getting bogged
down in definitions I will use sources that describe most simply the concepts I wish
to get across. In terms of free time I mean free from any pulse or rhythmic patterns,
it can be for extended periods such as an improvisation cycling through the chord
progression of a tune with no meter, or as a entity residing within a tune itself (i.e. a
cadenza type line coming out of a dominant chord and into a tonic chord). Tempo
shifting I describe as an increase or decrease of tempo, this can include ritardandos
and accelerandos but also combinations of the two in close succession resulting in a
fluid like pulse. Rubato I define by Donald Barras terms from his book The Dynamic
Performance, which states:

This technique, which is based on subtle readjustments in the timing of the rhythmic
patterns directly reinforces the amount of tension that is generated from within the
musical impulse.
Most musical resolutions tend to coincide with the strong beats of the metric
structure. A slight retard before the arrival of these metric pulses tends to increase
the level of musical tension and so produces a stronger resolution when the release
finally does occur. (1983:100)41

The important things I wish to outline are that rubato and tempo-shifting techniques
differ in that one works against a pulse and the other is the pulse shifting, also that
these forces can work simultaneously. While free-playing cannot work
simultaneously to these 2 techniques, it can appear alongside, take for example the
opening of Geoff Hughes Snoring waters from the Allan Browne Quintets album
Cyclosporin42:


41
Ibid.
42
ALLAN-BROWNE-QUINTET 2004. Cyclosporin. Melbourne: Jazz head.

36

Fig. 25
CD track 13

Although this introduction may feel free, when analysed, saxophonist David Rexs
line can be felt to have a pulse albeit that its shifting, irregular and understated due
to his attack. True free-time is felt at the fermatas particularly at the second one
where Rex plays a flurry of ornamental notes (not illustrated here, refer to track 13
on accompanying CD) complimented by the rest of the band. This example is
interesting because the group explores this time manipulation as a whole, similar to
the way an orchestra might, with Rexs phrasing acting as conductor and allows for
melodic strong points to dock periodically with chordal landmarks.

In terms of solo playing, the combination of rubato playing with tempo-shifting can
be heard on pianist Keith Jarretts introduction to My funny valentine from his 1988
trio album Still live43. A pulse is clearly discernable as depicted in the transcription of
the initial 12 bars44:


JARRET, K. 1988. Still live. ECM.
43
44
BRUCHEZ, O. 1999-2010. Keithjarret.org [Online]. Word press. Available:
http://www.keithjarrett.org/transcriptions/ [Accessed 2010].

37
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While practicing to become proficient in the solo jazz guitar style, I noticed quite
early on the bland results that ensued from practicing without giving much thought
to the concept of time. This time-manipulation is an extremely essential technique
for achieving an overall high standard in jazz playing but, as I stated earlier, there is

45
BARRA, D. 1983. The dynamic performance - A performer's guide to musical expression and
iterpretation, Sydney, Prentice Hall (of Australia).

38
next-to-no insightful material on how it can aid solo jazz guitar playing. In my
opinion, there are 2 main reasons for this

1) When learning to play solo the initial hurdles that are faced include being able to
juggle groove and tempo along with harmony and melody (at least from my personal
experience) and so much emphasis is put on trying to combine these different
aspects of playing that we can overlook the importance of other musical devices
such as time-manipulation. Techniques, such as the ones shown in Tuck Andress
Fingerstyle Mastery, that aid in playing multiple parts of songs while maintaining the
tempo and feel can take years to master (10 years in Andress case46) so there is no
surprise to the oversight.

2) It would seem to be common sense for a solo guitarist to have an understanding
that he/she is in total control of the time and should therefore be able to manipulate
it in whichever way he/she sees fit. But what is common sense to an experienced
player, with years of intuitive exploration, is not the same for a guitarist beginning
their journey in solo jazz guitar. To compound this even further I believe that time-
manipulation, as a musical technique, is so personal from player to player that most
players dont even know what they are doing or how they are doing it. This is just a
personal opinion, but even the methodical Andress says in his accompanying booklet
to Fingerstyle Mastery when discussing techniques relating to his own feel:

Thats hard to talk about I still dont fully understand it myself47.

Time manipulation, in terms of solo guitar, can be heard extensively in the first
chorus of Joe Pass recording of Night and day from his solo album Virtuoso48. Fig. 27
shows the first 11 bars49 (note the authors vague yet common use of the word
rubato at the beginning):


46
ANDRESS, T. 2005 (dvd release). Fingerstyle Mastery. Hot Licks.
47
Ibid.
48
PASS, J. 1974. Virtuoso. Berkeley CA: Pablo Records.
49
POPARAD, J. year unknown. Jeremy Poparad [Online]. Available:
http://www.poparad.com/learn.php [Accessed 2010].

39


Fig. 27
CD track 15

Tempo shifting is heard and seen, for example, in the first bar with the wide
expansion of the four pulses contained within, accentuated with the chords Eb-
7(b5), B7(#9b5), E-7(b5) and A7(b9). Contained pockets of free-time playing also
appear, for example in places such as bars 2 and 5 where the abandonment of time
is illustrated by the fact that the notes do not add up rhythmically to the amount
designated by the time signature (also seen in the first bar).

40
This topic has a large scope for discussion, much larger than is applicable to this
paper but outlining it as a technique that heightens solo guitar performance is my
only intention for the moment.

41
7. KEYS AND OPEN STRINGS FAMILIAR TERRITORY

The topic of key signatures for solo jazz guitarists is another in which I believe there
is too little discussion. It can appear to seem unnecessary considering that if a
musician is capable of playing this style of music he/she is most likely comfortable
with transposing songs into different keys. But from my research I believe that some
of the benefits of choosing appropriate keys tend to be overlooked in popular solo
jazz guitar literature.

In the world of jazz standards, key transposition is a device used most extensively by
vocalists. This comes as no surprise considering that in terms of comfortable range
amongst the most popular melodic instruments of the genre (i.e. vocals, trumpet,
saxophone, trombone, piano and guitar) they have the least50, thus requiring
transposition more often to achieve optimal performances. On the Sarah Vaughan
Verve Jazz Masters 1851 recordings, common standards such as My funny valentine,
How high the moon, Lullaby of Birdland, All the things you are and Misty are all
transposed from their original keys, popular with instrumentalists (Cm, G, Ab, Ab and
Eb respectively), to the keys of Gm, Eb, D, Eb and C. Ella Fitzgerald recorded Misty in
B, Frank Sinatras My funny valentine was regularly performed in Bm, and they both
recorded their famous versions of All the things you are in F. The amount of
worldwide examples throughout history could carry on and replace in number the
sentences of this paper.

As opposed to vocalists, other jazz instrumentalists have a propensity for performing
standard repertoire in original keys or popular lead sheet versions as those found in
the Hal Leonard Real Books. However, as mentioned briefly in chapter 3, it is
common for guitarists to transpose melodies up and down octaves to place them in
desired timbral locations on the instrument but the 2 main reasons for transposing

50
SCHNEIDER, J. year unknown. Musical Instrument Range Chart. In: CHART, M. I. R. (ed.) John R.
Pierce, The Science of Musical Sound (New York, 1992), pp. 18-19; Donald E. Hall, Mucical Acoustics:
An Introduction (Pacific Grove, California, 1991), inside back cover; and Edward R. Tufte, Visual
Explanations (Cheshire, Connecticut, 2001), p. 87.
51
VAUGHAN, S. 1954-1963. Sarah Vaughan Verve Jazz Masters 18. In: PULLMAN, P. (ed.) Verve Jazz
Masters.

42
to other keys are to utilise open strings and to shift songs from especially unfamiliar
guitar keys. An example of the latter would be the common transposition of John
Coltranes Mr. P.C. from its original key of C# minor down a semitone into the better
known key of C minor. Similarly in the pop world, it has become very customary for
guitarists and bass players to prefer the key of E minor to the original Eb minor when
playing Stevie Wonders 1972 Motown hit Superstition. This reason for transposing
keys is substantially more common in other musical genres such as this (as opposed
to jazz) with my belief being that jazz guitarists are generally better equipped with
harmonic and fingerboard knowledge to handle awkward keys.

The more important reason for key transposition for guitar players (particularly solo
jazz players) and the one I wish to discuss in greater detail is the one that aims to
make greater use of open strings.

The extensive use of open strings in jazz guitar music (particularly in terms of
physical chord shapes) felt like a very revolutionary concept when presented to me
by a teacher many years ago. This may seem odd considering that, like many
guitarists, open position was the first port of call for me when learning chord shapes
on the instrument. However, my belief is that many jazz guitarists begin with
exploring open position (as most non-jazz guitarists also) before undertaking study
of chords and shapes particular to the jazz tradition which are generally fingered in
ways to abstain from using open strings in order to utilise them as moveable shapes.
Take the following example:


Fig. 28

43
Because the first Am9 chord uses no open strings guitarists are able to move the
shape up and down the neck in order to exploit it for different chords, i.e. moved
back a tone would make it Gm9, moved up a semitone would be Bbm9 etc.
Conversely, the second shape cannot be shifted due to the open strings, although it
can be used to function as different chords if viewed as an inversion, for example
Cmajor7/A. When learning to play in various jazz styles the former varieties of
shapes aid in obtaining a large store of easy-to-grab chords quicker, and because the
potential combinations of intervals making them up is quite extensive, jazz guitarists
can easily make careers in which open-string exploration is never returned to.

It was an article from Guitar Player magazine, brought to my attention by Melbourne
guitarist and my former teacher Robbie Melville, which sparked an interest in the
possibilities for open strings in jazz. In it, leading jazz guitarist Bill Frisell is
interviewed concerning the musical devices he employs for achieving his distinct
sound, and the use of open strings is a big part of that. Author Jude Gold describes
Frisells unique use of open strings for creating harmony:

When playing melodies, Frisell often plucks notes on different strings and lets them
ring against each other. These overlapping tones create stabs of harmony that
enrich a melodic phrase. (2002:96)

Frisell expands on this by giving an example of one way in which he may approach
the playing of an Em11 chord52:


Fig. 29


52
GOLD, J. 2002. The Big Bang. Guitar Player.

44
His extensive use of such techniques can be heard on many of his recordings
including throughout his 2005 rendition of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strongs hit
I heard it through the grapevine53, best known from Marvin Gayes 1968 version. The
entire song is an excellent example of what kind of possibilities can be taken
advantage of when a song is transposed to a key inclusive of open strings Frisells
rendition is in E minor where all open strings can be brought into play whereas
Gayes popular version was recorded in Eb minor which contains no open string
possibilities for guitar).

Another improvising guitarist who exploits tonal possibilities within chords using
open strings is Ralph Towner. In a 2008 paper on Towner from the University of
Melbourne, H. Stuckey stated:

It (the use of open strings) forms an essential part of his chordal approach to
playing, as the open strings are used to extend and add tones to chords which might
not otherwise be available. This not only leads to an extension of chordal
possibilities but also to a range of quite unusual, and in some cases unexpected,
chord voicings.(2008:18)54

This is very much in line with Frisells approach although in a slightly less horizontal
manner, for while Frisell creates a lot of his harmony by superimposing melodic
fragments on adjacent strings and allowing them to bleed into each other as in the
previous example, Towner utilizes vertical shapes intersected by open strings, seen
here in Fig. 30 from Stuckeys paper:


53
FRISELL, B. 2005. East West. In: EDRIDGE-WAKS, R. (ed.). New York: Nonesuch Records.
54
STUCKEY, H. 2008. Discovering Musical Identity:
An exploration of the solo guitar improvisation of Ralph Towner, with particular reference to the
elements, and their contributing factors, that shapes the creation of his complete, unique musical
identity. honours, Melbourne University.

45

Fig. 30

This transcription of Towners 2001 interpretation of Glorias step55 demonstrates
the large range that can be taken advantage of when employing open strings, e.g.
the perfect 12th on the adjacent B and E strings seen in the first chord would usually
be completely impossible.

In such solo guitar contexts, opportunities opened up by using keys containing open
strings are even more beneficial than the purely textural ones offered in ensemble
situations. An advantage of solo players using them is that they offer a chance to
easily achieve a sense of overlapping harmony that can be static and shifting at the
one time. An example of this is a solo piece of my own which makes use of the open
G and D strings as drones throughout a section with 2 other shifting voices, resulting
in them acting as different scale degrees throughout each chord.


Fig. 31


55
TOWNER, R. 2001. Anthem. Munich: ECM.

46
In the Bb6/9 the D and G act as the 3rd and 6th respectively, in the Csus they are the
2nd and 5th, in the Dsus they are the tonic and 4th, in the Em9 they are the minor 7th
and minor 3rd, and in the F6/9 they act as the 6th and 9th.

Drones on open strings can also be used in the lower register to allow for melodies
or shifting harmonies in higher voices and can be particularly useful for modal pieces
due to their long periods of static harmony. This technique has been used
extensively in folk music all around the world including in the jazz precursor, the
American blues.

47
8. CONCLUSION

The study of unaccompanied jazz guitar is a lifelong commitment and there are
many restrictions to what an instrumentalist can physically achieve within this solo
context. However the practice opens up many other possibilities in terms of control -
control of rhythm, time, harmony, form, intention, and nearly every other musical
aspect. To fully explore these possibilities it is important for guitarists to understand
them by observing how the masters define them. With this knowledge, boundaries
can be explored and new frontiers can be reached within the genre.

The concepts and techniques discussed in this paper all have their origins within the
playing of the masters (as shown in the musical examples and text references) and
therefore aid in establishing a clear outline for the scope of what unaccompanied
jazz is today and how to approach its practice. My initial reason for collecting this
material was precisely for that reason and I am optimistic that it will also bring to
light some issues that seem to be lacking discussion within the pedagogical material.
Due to the limited size of this paper and the broad issues raised within, there is a
vast span for further research into the techniques I have described, not to mention
others which I may have neglected. These could include techniques relating to
physical prowess, form control, or even psychological issues faced by solo jazz
guitarists.

In terms of the techniques I have discussed, further possibilities for research could
include a detailed analysis of what the human mind is capable of in terms of closure
in relation to solo guitar and studying the different degrees to which individual
people perceive ghost parts of that particular music. Also of interest could be the
evolution of the traditional jazz guitar style in contrast to what could have been had
it begun with a more contrapuntal mindset. The entire concept of contrapuntal solo
jazz guitar also has extensive room for exploration and I felt that I but touched on its
relevance and emerging prevalence in the genre in what can be seen as a stepping
stone for well needed research.

48
Direct interviews with leading guitarists regarding the issues in each chapter would
be phenomenally insightful and my biggest regret is that this paper could not contain
more information received from leading guitarists in a one-on-one format. This is
better suited to a paper capable of supporting a larger scope such as a masters
dissertation or doctorate paper.

The potential of an expansion of this material into something that can be made
available for the general public is also a very real possibility considering some of the
gaps in what is currently offered concerning solo jazz guitar.

49
9. REFERENCES

1988a. In: KERNFELD, B. (ed.) The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. London: Macmillan.
1988b. In: KERNFELD, B. (ed.) The new Grove Dictionary of jazz A to K. New York:
Macmillan Press.
2006. Gestalt Psychology. In: DAVEY, G. (ed.) Encyclopaedic dictionary of psychology.
London: Hodder Arnold.
2010. Charlie Hunter solidbody 8 string [Online]. Eugene, Oregon: Novax. Available:
http://www.novaxguitars.com/sales/ch8.html [Accessed 2010].
ALLAN-BROWNE-QUINTET 2004. Cyclosporin. Melbourne: Jazz head. (CD).
ANDRESS, T. 2005 (dvd release). Fingerstyle Mastery. Hot Licks. (DVD).
BACH, J. S.Unknown-1750. Die Kunst der Fuge, Contrapunctus 1, BWV 1080.
Breitkopf & Hrtel.
BALL MAGNUSSON BERESOVSKY, E. S. S.2003 Healing songs. (CD).
BARRA, D. 1983. The dynamic performance - A performer's guide to musical
expression and interpretation, Sydney, Prentice Hall (of Australia).
BRUCHEZ, O. 1999-2010. Keithjarret.org [Online]. Word press. Available:
http://www.keithjarrett.org/transcriptions/ [Accessed 2010].
DAMIAN, J. 2001. The guitarist's guide to composing and improvising, Boston, MA,
Berklee.
FRISELL, B. 2005. East West. In: EDRIDGE-WAKS, R. (ed.). New York: Nonesuch
Records. (CD).
GALBRAITH, B. 1986. Jazz guitar study series: guitar comping, New Albany, IM, Jamey
Aebersold.
GOLD, J. 2002. The Big Bang. Guitar Player.
GOODMAN, F. 2002. Puremusic interview with Charlie Hunter. Puremusic.com.
GOODRICK, M. 1987. The advancing guitarist, Third Earth.
GREENE, T. 1981. Chord chemistry, Alfred music publishing.
GREENE, T. 1985. Modern Chord Progressions, Van Nuys CA, Alfred Music Publishing.
HASELTINE, D. E. 2010. Optical illusions can you help predict the future? [Online].
Hyperion. Available:

50
http://longfusebigbang.com/blog/optical_illusions_can_help_you_predict_th
e_future/ [Accessed 03/09/10 2010].
HEKSELMAN, G. 2006. Split life. New York: Smalls Records. (CD).
HILLIARD, S. F. B. 1951. Alice in wonderland. The real book. Milwakee WI: Hal
Leonard.
JARRET, K. 1988. Still live. ECM. (CD).
LARS RIECKE, FABRIZIO ESPOSITO, MILENE BONT, ELIA FORMISANO. 2009. Hearing
Illusory Sounds in Noise: The Timing of Sensory-Perceptual Transformations
in Auditory Cortex. Neuron, 64, 550-561.
LEITCH, P. 1991. Trio/Quartet '91. (CD).
MARTINO, P. 2006. Remember - a tribute to Wes Montgomery. Blue Note. (CD).
METHENY, P. 2003. One quiet night. Warner Brothers. (CD).
MONDER, B. 2005. Oceana. (CD).
MONTGOMERY, W. 1962. Full House (live). (CD).
MULLER, J. 2006. Kaboom. (CD).
PASS, J. 1974. Virtuoso. Berkeley CA: Pablo Records. (CD).
PASS, J. 1986. Joe Pass - solo jazz guitar. Hot Licks. (DVD).
POPARAD, J. year unknown. Jeremy Poparad [Online]. Available:
http://www.poparad.com/learn.php [Accessed 2010].
SCHNEIDER, J. year unknown. Musical Instrument Range Chart. In: CHART, M. I. R.
(ed.) John R. Pierce, The Science of Musical Sound (New York, 1992), pp. 18-
19; Donald E. Hall, Mucical Acoustics: An Introduction (Pacific Grove,
California, 1991), inside back cover; and Edward R. Tufte, Visual Explanations
(Cheshire, Connecticut, 2001), p. 87.
SCHROETER, J. 1995. Tuck Andress - Aural report. Fingerstyle Guitar.
SHERLOCK, J. 2010. Solo. Pinnacles Music. (CD).
SHIRLEY, A. 2006. Tempo rubato. The North American Review, 291, 42.
STUCKEY, H. 2008. Discovering Musical Identity:
An exploration of the solo guitar improvisation of Ralph Towner, with particular
reference to the elements, and their contributing factors, that shapes the
creation of his complete, unique musical identity. honours, Melbourne
University.

51
TOWNER, R. 1985. Improvisation and Performance Techniques for Classical and
Acoustic Guitar, Wayne N.J., 21st Century Music Productions.
TOWNER, R. 2001. Anthem. Munich: ECM.
TUPAMAROS, L. 2008. 20 anos de exitos. Discos Fuentes. (CD).
VAUGHAN, S. 1954-1963. Sarah Vaughan Verve Jazz Masters 18. In: PULLMAN, P.
(ed.) Verve Jazz Masters. (CD).
VILLA-LOBOS, H. 1952. Etude No 5 Andantino. Villa-Lobos solo guitar. New York:
Amsco.

52
10. APPENDICES

APPENDIX A
CD track list
1. Excerpt from Etude no 5 Andantino Heitor Villa-Lobos
2. Excerpt from Man in the mirror Tuck Andress
3. Excerpt from Double sun Ben Monder
4. Excerpt from My song Pat Metheny
5. Excerpt from Ive grown accustomed to her face Wes Montgomery
6. Excerpt from Tones for Joans Bones Peter Leitch
7. Excerpt from All the things you are James Muller
8. Study in C, Opus 6 no. 8 Fernando Sor
9. Excerpt from I fall in love too easily Gilad Hekselman
10. Excerpt from Enamorao Los Tupamaros
11. Excerpt from Four on six Pat Martino
12. Excerpt from Domestic arts and sciences James Sherlock
13. Excerpt from Snoring waters Allan Browne Quintet
14. Excerpt from My funny valentine Keith Jarrett Trio
15. Excerpt from Night and day Joe Pass


APPENDIX B
Hunters original 8-string guitar prior to its downsizing to 7 strings:

(2010)

53
APPENDIX C
In regards to guitar chord diagrams, Stuckey states:

Strings are represented by vertical lines while frets are represented by horizontal
lines. The string lowest in pitch (the sixth string) is found on the leftmost line,
likewise the string highest in pitch (the first string) is found on the rightmost line.
The guitars nut is represented by the topmost line, and frets are represented by
subsequent horizontal lines. A dot drawn at the intersection of two lines is used to
represent a note played on that particular string at that particular fret. Chord
diagrams can also illustrate open strings (strings that are played without any left
hand fingers on) and strings that are not sounded at all. Open strings are
represented with a circle at the top of the string, while strings that are not played
are represented by a cross.(Stuckey, 2008)

54

















1988a. In: KERNFELD, B. (ed.) The new Grove Dictionary of jazz A to K. New York:
Macmillan Press.
1988b. In: KERNFELD, B. (ed.) The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. London:
Macmillan.
2006. Gestalt Psychology. In: DAVEY, G. (ed.) Encyclopaedic dictionary of
psychology. London: Hodder Arnold.
2010. Charlie Hunter solidbody 8 string [Online]. Eugene, Oregon: Novax.
Available: http://www.novaxguitars.com/sales/ch8.html [Accessed
2010].
ALLAN-BROWNE-QUINTET 2004. Cyclosporin. Melbourne: Jazz head.
ANDRESS, T. 2005 (dvd release). Fingerstyle Mastery. Hot Licks.
BACH, J. S.?-1750. Die Kunst der Fuge, Contrapunctus 1, BWV 1080. Breitkopf &
Hrtel.
BALL MAGNUSSON BERESOVSKY, E. S. S.???? Healing songs.
BARRA, D. 1983. The dynamic performance - A performer's guide to musical
expression and iterpretation, Sydney, Prentice Hall (of Australia).
BRUCHEZ, O. 1999-2010. Keithjarret.org [Online]. Word press. Available:
http://www.keithjarrett.org/transcriptions/ [Accessed 2010].
DAMIAN, J. 2001. The guitarist's guide to composing and improvising, Boston, MA,
Berklee.
FRISELL, B. 2005. East West. In: EDRIDGE-WAKS, R. (ed.). New York: Nonesuch
Records.
GALBRAITH, B. 1986. Jazz guitar study series: guitar comping, New Albany, IM,
Jamey Aebersold.
GOLD, J. 2002. The Big Bang. Guitar Player.
GOODMAN, F. 2002. Puremusic interview with Charlie Hunter. Puremusic.com.
GOODRICK, M. 1987. The advancing guitarist, Third Earth.
GREENE, T. 1981. Chord chemistry, Alfred music publishing.

55
GREENE, T. 1985. Modern Chord Progressions, Van Nuys CA, Alfred Music
Publishing.
HASELTINE, D. E. 2010. Optical illusions can you help predict the future? [Online].
Hyperion. Available:
http://longfusebigbang.com/blog/optical_illusions_can_help_you_predict
_the_future/ [Accessed 03/09/10 2010].
HEKSELMAN, G. 2006. Split life. New York: Smalls Records.
HILLIARD, S. F. B. 1951. Alice in wonderland. The real book. Milwakee WI: Hal
Leonard.
JARRET, K. 1988. Still live. ECM.
LARS RIECKE, FABRIZIO ESPOSITO, MILENE BONT, ELIA FORMISANO. 2009.
Hearing Illusory Sounds in Noise: The Timing of Sensory-Perceptual
Transformations in Auditory Cortex. Neuron, 64, 550-561.
LEITCH, P. 1991. Trio/Quartet '91.
MARTINO, P. 2006. Remember - a tribute to Wes Montgomery. Blue Note.
METHENY, P. 2003. One quiet night. Warner Brothers.
MONDER, B. 2005. Oceana.
MONTGOMERY, W. 1962. Full House (live).
MULLER, J. 2006. Kaboom.
PASS, J. 1974. Virtuoso. Berkeley CA: Pablo Records.
PASS, J. 1986. Joe Pass - solo jazz guitar. Hot Licks.
POPARAD, J. year unknown. Jeremy Poparad [Online]. Available:
http://www.poparad.com/learn.php [Accessed 2010].
SCHNEIDER, J. year unknown. Musical Instrument Range Chart. In: CHART, M. I.
R. (ed.) John R. Pierce, The Science of Musical Sound (New York, 1992), pp.
18-19; Donald E. Hall, Mucical Acoustics: An Introduction (Pacific Grove,
California, 1991), inside back cover; and Edward R. Tufte, Visual
Explanations (Cheshire, Connecticut, 2001), p. 87.
SCHROETER, J. 1995. Tuck Andress - Aural report. Fingerstyle Guitar.
SHERLOCK, J. 2010. Solo. Pinnacles Music.
SHIRLEY, A. 2006. Tempo rubato. The North American Review, 291, 42.
STUCKEY, H. 2008. Discovering Musical Identity:
An exploration of the solo guitar improvisation of Ralph Towner, with particular
reference to the elements, and their contributing factors, that shapes the
creation of his complete, unique musical identity. honours, Melbourne
University.
TOWNER, R. 1985. Improvisation and Performance Techniques for Classical and
Acoustic Guitar, Wayne N.J., 21st Century Music Productions.
TOWNER, R. 2001. Anthem. Munich: ECM.
TUPAMAROS, L. 2008. 20 anos de exitos. Discos Fuentes.
VAUGHAN, S. 1954-1963. Sarah Vaughan Verve Jazz Masters 18. In: PULLMAN, P.
(ed.) Verve Jazz Masters.
VILLA-LOBOS, H. 1952. Etude No 5 Andantino. Villa-Lobos solo guitar. New York:
Amsco.

56