I've put the older questions here. If YOU have a question, send it in!

I have been studying theory for a year and a half now, and still have a lingering question. Taking the scale degrees in numerical value 1, 3, 5 and so as is the standard way of learning them, are these intervals all based on the Ionian mode? In other words, all scales in major family, whether altered or not, do they follow the Ionian mode as a reference? Do the minor family scales follow the same principle but using the Aeolian? I have been wondering about this for some time, and hope my question is clear. Thanks for your time.
Robin Fernandez-Medina, Spain

Robin, if you're referring to the way jazz musicians talk about scale degrees and intervals, then yes, they base it all on the Major (Ionian) scale. We consider that to be the "basic" diatonic scale and derive all the other scales and modes from that. For example, we would describe the intervals in a Dorian mode as: root, second, flat third, fourth, fifth, sixth, flat seventh. Have a look at the article understanding modes for a detailed look at the Major scale modes.

My question is would you suggest teaching somebody tabulature instead of learning from lets say a Mel Bay book? I have this kid on my block whom I showed some tab to and he seemed to relate to it right away. I'm asking you because this kid is not one for remembering too many things like e,a,d,g,b,e. Thanks,

Vinny, I consider tablature a crutch. It's good for younger kids to get them started quicker, but I would wean them of it ASAP. You can't be a literate musician if you can't read so-called "standard" notation. (I have a whole soap box thing about this, but not here! ;-)

I've studied classical guitar for 12 years and have recently become interested in jazz also. One thing that I have not seen discussed in your column or anywhere else for that matter is proper left/right hand technique for jazz ( you know how picky we classical guitarists are about how to wiggle our fingers!) Seriously though, are there any guidelines? Methods for learning to use a pick; when to pick, when to use fingers; left hand thumb behind neck or over it; etc. Thanks for a great page and I look forward to more lessons.
Mark Moore,Houston, TX

Mark, the jazz guitar is a younger instrument than its classical cousin, and American rather than European in origin. That makes its technique less "pedagogical" (How often do you see THAT word!). There are almost as many ways to play the instrument as there are players. One good source for picking technique would be Howard Roberts' books. That's where I started.

I am just starting out learning guitar. I have read your suggestions for learning jazz guitar. They have been very helpful. My question is even more basic than those addressed. At what point should I start to learn the jazz "chops". I know that a basic understanding should be aquired first, but how much. Also I do not know much about music theory and reading music. Do you have any sugesstions for learning material? Any response would be great.
Charlie Jones

Charlie, you should start learning jazz technique as soon as you feel you're ready for it. There are tons of great books out there for the beginner. As for theory, Mark Levine's jazz theory book is first rate. As for reading, start where you can and read everything you can lay your hands on.

I am a 15 year old guitarist who has gotten bored with rock and switched over to jazz. But I don't know where to find other people to play with. Where do Jazz muscians meet?????
William Jensen

William, check out your high school jazz band. That's the perfect place to start. That's where I started playing jazz.

Is it mandatory to learn music reading to be a better guitar player? Or there is another way to achieve the mastery of the instrument?
Marcos A. Colon

You can master the instrument by just practicing your technique. But you cannot become a literate, well-rounded musician without knowing how to read music. Not knowing how to read cuts you off from so much great learning material and great music. Learn to read.

I would like to know what notes comprise a pentatonic scale. I read of references to a pentatonic scale that would fit with a particular chord but I am unsure of what the scale actually is.
W Cass

In numerical terms, a pentatonic scale consists of 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6. From C those pitches would be: C, D, E, G, A.

What amplifier(s) would you recommend for nylon electro acoustics? A dealer recently told me that transistor amps were best for nylons these days. I was shocked! I built a transitor amp in the '70's and it had clipped response (too hard) on a conventional electric steel string. Dealer claimed the tranny technology has improved vastly and tube amps are not necessary for nylons.
Also, any comments on wireless connections to amps?
Thanks for all your efforts.

Solid state technology has increased greatly in the last 20 years. especially with the possibility of vacuum tubes becoming too rare to be affordable. Another choice would be a MOSFET amp. Check into it. As for wireless units, there is a signal degredation compared to patch cables. If you don't need it, don't get one.

Bob, As a 50 year old who took up guitar three short years ago, I am toying with he idea of learning some jazz. I can't stand rock or country. However, when I look at any of the jazz methods in our local music store the task seems, to say the least, daunting. Can you suggest a way of approaching the subject to make it less of a chore.

Al, it's hard to learn jazz from the printed page alone. Pick up some CDs of well known jazz players. Use the JGO Hotlist as a place to start your research. Try to play what you hear. Oncee you can "hear" the jazz sound, a book will do you more good. Check out my book. It may be just what you need.

I am a unviersity student/beginning jazz guitarist. The two don't always mix well, but I am determined to have a jazz career when I'm older despite time constraints. What are some of the most important things I can do for my music? So far I've put in the time to learn chords, scales, and join a quartet, but my solos are awkward and bland. I appreciate your time.

Jason, I recomend these things: 1) Listen to as much jazz as you can every day. You need to learn the music. 2) Get a good teacher. Check your college's music department. 3) Play any gig you can. 4) Don't give up!

I have been playing for a couple of years now and one thing that I feel I'm missing is knowing where the notes are on the guitar. Is there a method that can help me memorize where are all the notes on the fret board. I'll be grateful if you'll direct me to a good method or a book that shows how.
Bye - Mark!

Mark, one way to memorize the fretboard is through learning arpeggios. Say the notes as you play them, and watch where your LH fingers are. You will begin to see the structures on the fretboard. Guitarists should know the notes on the neck as well as pianists can see them on the keyboard.

I've been playing for about 7 years but not Jazz until recently. I'm currently playing with some local friends and it isn't sounding so great. We all love Jazz and we are all between 19 & 22 years of age. I'm also playing in the Jazz Ensemble at my local college. I'm not looking for a quick way to play like a pro, but I'm afraid I'm moving in the wrong direction, not getting anywhere (maybe even backwards).

I just want to make sure I'm practicing and doing what I should be practicing and doing, and not drilling bad information into my head.

What should I be doing, playing the Standards, playing with others, practicing my scales/chords and which, get a good Jazz guitar teacher, etc. etc. etc....?

I love Jazz and this is my dream. Wether I'm just playing clubs or making albums, this is what I want more than anything in the world! BUT I must be satisfied, how can I get better if I'm not having any fun learning?
Thank you, Dan

Dan, you answered your own question. Learn the standards, play ever gig you can, get a good teacher, and practice. Also, start buying and listening to jazz CDs. Keep at it!

Hi, I am 24 y/o and fairly new to jazz. As soon as I heard some Jazz guitar tunes by Wes, Kessel and others I fell in love with jazz on the spot. Since then I've studied theory quite hard to the point I ran out of new material. Do you know what I can learn (besides putting theory into practice, which is in itself a lifetime task), to expand my theoretical skills past stuff like polychords, quartal harmony and outside playing.
Am I done now?

No one is ever "done". Start analyzing chord changes. That will take the rest of your life. Find out what "Coltrane" changes are. That'll blow your mind!

I am a beginner when it comes to jazz guitar and am looking for some direction. A little background: (lots of stuff deleted) So, my question is: What can I be doing on my own to learn more and become a better guitarist? Are there particular books or texts that I should be reading and learning from? What should I be practicing on a daily basis? Where do I begin?
Sorry for the long message, but it seems I have more questions than answers..... looking forward to your response.
David Henry

David, let me reiterate what I have told the other guys: Listen to the music, learn what you hear (as much as you are able), learn the standards, find a good teacher. it is hard to learn jazz on one's own, since it is such a collaborative music. Good luck!!

I used to own a cool ES-175 but it fed back too much. Are the guitars being built today addressing that problem or was it something that I was doing? Do some jazz boxes feed back more than others? I see players like Pat Metheny playing a similiar guitar fronting a lot of sound but no feedback. Thank you for your time.
Andy Perri

Andy, any guitar that is acoustically responsive is going to be prone to feedback. That's been the bane of jazz guitarists for decades. Guitars with built-in pickups will feedback less that their floating-pickup counterparts because the top of the instrument is deader, but it will still be a problem. There are things you can do if you are willing: 1) Get as far away from you amp (and the monitors) as you can. 2) Stick foam into the guitar's F-holes. 3) Tape over the F-holes, being careful about your guitar's finish. 4) Use a 31-band or a parametric EQ with your guitar to find and dial out the feedback frequency. If all else fails, buy a Strat. ;)

In response to the question from Andy Perri. I solved the problem after many years of frustration by purchasing an acoustic guitar amp. I play a Guild X500 with .012 to .052 flatwounds. My problem was solved with a Peavey Accoustic 112 amplifier, these units have a notch filter which allow the offending frequency to be totally removed. Thanks!

Hi, I have been learning guitar for about two years and still there isn't any tremendous improvement. I got problems getting all the keys into my head. Any suggestions for this? Also, for a piece of song(let's say), how can I modify the chords to add flavours to it? For some songs I notice that more than one keys being used. Usually, I notice that in a band of say few guitarist, each play a different key and they sounds good. Could you pls advise me how can I improve further?
Regards, N. H. Chow

Nan, you might be confused about terminology. Several players might be playing different parts and still be in the same "key". You are right when you say that a single song can change key several times. As far as modifying chords, try adding 7ths, Major 7ths, 9ths and so on. I suggest you find a guitar chord book and start playing the chords therein, and get those sounds in your ear. Don't give up! I've been playing for 26 years and I'm waiting to get it right!

Big Band right hand rhythm technique would be helpful. Also, what are the most common voicing of chords? What are the "no-no's" for big band guitarists, things that you've learned to avoid with your experience? Kris Hartung

Kris, I have played big band for around 20 years. If there's anything I have learned it is that band directors know nothing about guitars. You'll be on your own at least 300% more than the horn players. Here are some rules of thumb: 1) Don't play big 6 note chords. Ever. Limit your voicings to 2 or 3 notes max, especially when playing a Basie-style swing chart. (Check my lesson on shell voicings.) 2) avoid clashing with the piano. Less is more. Set an agreement with the pianist as to who will comp for which chorus, etc. 3) You need to try to lock in with the ride cymbal. That is the pulse of the beat in a jazz band. Hope that helps!

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