Paul Jackson Jr ‘Science of Rhythm Guitar’ Transcription

A few people have been asking me to transcribe some of Paul Jackson jr’s ‘Science of Rhythm Guitar’, specifically from this clip:

 

 

Here is one time around the chord sequence (1:56 in the video). It gives a nice insight into the style of rhythm guitar Paul is demonstrating in the clip. There are some nice licks to lift from this but the main point of the excerpt is to understand the style and concept behind the part.

I hope you enjoy the clip and transcription – I’ve got the rest hand-written, so let me know in the comments below if you’d like me to computerise the rest of the transcription so you can read it on the blog.

 

 

This type of guitar playing is quite fashionable in some circles but the majority of intermediate players simply force their favourite one or two chord licks into a sequence without really hearing the overall musical effect of their efforts. Don’t be that guy!

This sort of player will learn a couple of licks for a minor chord, a couple for a major 7 chord, practice them until they’re almost smooth and then start trying to use them on a gig. This rushed approach will do your playing a great disservice.

To sound really authentic, it’s important to drill a lick more thoroughly – take it through all twelve keys, learn it in different positions, understand why it works, note the intervals in use, explore variations.  Go deeper with the concept, ingrain it into your hands and your ears, and then come up with your own approach. Remember the learning process: imitate, assimilate, innovate.

Enjoy!

Steve

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Basic Blues Guitar Lesson 1

Today we’re going to begin our series of Basic Blues Guitar Lessons. The aim of this series is to get your blues guitar playing up and running from a beginner’s start.

In this week’s video I show you how to play a basic blues progression, complete with a live demonstration. Just follow along with your guitar and start playin’ the blues!

The Chart

In the video I promised a structural chart to show how the three chords fit into a 12-bar blues. I’ve included the chord names and numbered the bars so you can follow along with the video example.

Remember that each ‘bar’ (or ‘measure’, if you prefer the American terminology) contains four counts. After twelve bars, we go back to the beginning of the sequence (bar 1) and start over. (The video section that explains this starts at 3 mins 22 secs).

One time through the whole structure, from bars 1-12, is commonly called ‘one time around the form‘ or sometimes ‘one chorus‘. So if you’re jamming with a musician and he asks you to play  an intro ‘one time around the form‘ or ‘play one chorus‘ he wants you to play through bars 1-12 as an introduction to the song.

Sometimes, mid-performance, a singer might encourage you to take an improvised solo (we’ll cover how to do that in a later lesson) and will call for you to ‘take a couple of choruses‘ or ‘take a couple forms‘. He means for you to take 24 bars (twice around the 12-bar form) to play a guitar solo.

Conclusion

That’s it for this installment, please do comment below if you have any questions on the lesson (or requests and suggestions for future lessons).

See you next time for the next Basic Blues Guitar Lesson installment!


Metronome Secrets for Guitar 4/4

Welcome to the 4th and final part of the series on Metronome Secrets for Guitar. Over the course of these articles I’ve covered lots of different and interesting ways to use the metronome to improve your time-keeping, groove and technique. I hope it’s been a nice intro for those new to this tool, and a refresher with some creative new ideas for those who are already metroprone.

Moving the Pocket

In this installment we’ll be talking about placement of the pocket within a groove.

Having read the last three installments of this series, one might be forgiven for thinking that ‘good time’ is the ability to play in perfect time with the metronome, striking your notes at exactly the place that the metronome does. Certainly one of the foundations for good time keeping is the ability to play a part without speeding up or slowing down. And while that’s a great place to start, it’s not all there is to it.

To really play with groove, you need to be able to identify where the band is feeling the pulse and sync in with that. It may not be exactly on the click. They may be consistently playing a fraction of a second behind where the ‘click’ would be…they’re not slowing down, they’re in time and maintaining the tempo…it’s just that they’re playing slightly behind it for effect.

Different styles of music have different ‘pockets’. Some require the musicians to play slightly behind the beat for a relaxed, lazy feel; while others call for a pocket that pushes slightly ahead of the click for a sense of drive and urgency. Different drummers have different pockets too, even in a simple backbeat no two drummers place their snare drum in exactly the same place.

If you play with the same group of musicians again and again you’ll find it easy to lock in with each others’ grooves. A seasoned pro can quickly identify a new ‘pocket’ and sit in it – this comes from years of playing with lots of different musicians. In most situations, every member is contributing to the pocket – different members holding back, pushing, setting the groove. The key is consistency – it’s no good playing behind the beat in one bar and ahead of it in the next!

In this video I play some examples of ‘on’, ‘ahead’ and ‘behind’ pockets – try to listen and feel the different energies in each one. I’ve exaggerated the examples to make things nice and clear.

 


For a really fantastic example of pocket playing, check out Steely Dan playing ‘Babylon Sisters’. How would you describe the band’s pocket? Is it behind, on the beat, or ahead? These are masters of groove, can you play along and lock in with their feel as if you were on stage with them?


Metronome Secrets for Guitar 3/4

Welcome to part 3 of this 4-part series on Metronome Secrets for Guitar. Over the course of these articles I’ll be covering lots of different and interesting ways to use the metronome to improve your time-keeping, groove and technique. This will be a nice intro for those new to this tool, and a nice refresher with some creative new ideas for those who are already metroprone.

Drop Out
A great technique to strengthen your feeling of the pulse is to drop Play or clap to the click – when you’re settled in mute it and keep clapping. After a while, fade the click back up again. Are you still in time with the click, did you stray from the pulse? Did you speed up or slow down?

If you’re going to try this, make sure you just silence the click, don’t stop it completely – it’s important that it keeps pulsing away silently so when you turn it up again it’s still in the same time as it was when you started!

It might be tough to simultaneously play and mute/unmute the click track, here are a couple of solutions:

    • do the exercise with a friend, each of you taking turns to operate the click.
    • program a computerised click track with pauses.
    • tap your leg with one hand, operate the click with the other
    • play a part that has some gaps!
    • you can just stop playing your part for a few seconds to mute the click. If you keep feeling the pulse, you should be able to drop right back into the groove.

In this session’s video, I play a rhythm guitar part in the classic rock style. Listen closely and you’ll hear I’ve programmed the click to drop out at several points – it then fades back in again so I can make sure I’m still locked in. I heard of one drummer who used to leave minutes between clicks to test his internal pulse – that’s some hardcore dedication!

 


Metronome Secrets for Guitar 2/4

Welcome to part 2 of this 4-part series on Metronome Secrets for Guitar. Over the course of these articles I’ll be covering lots of different and interesting ways to use the metronome to improve your time-keeping, groove and technique. This will be a nice intro for those new to this tool, and a nice refresher with some creative new ideas for those who are already metroprone.

Subdivisions
In this article, we’ll discuss changing the subdivisions that your click falls on.

In the video below, I’ve taken a simple rhythm guitar part and played it with the click on quarter notes at 120 bpm. Then I slow it down to half notes at 60bpm. Then again to whole notes at 30bpm. Throughout, I still play the same notes at the same speed but each time I half the metronome I’m taking away external reinforcement of the time. I’m forced to rely more heavily on my own sense of the pulse.

You’ll notice I also start feeling the click on different beats in the bar (all explained in the video) – this can be quite tricky, so stick with it!

I’ve hidden some modern RnB and gospel licks in the vid, so keep an ear out if you’re into that kind of thing 😉

Aside from being a great workout for your time, the ability to change where you feel the pulse is useful when dealing with unusually fast or slow songs.

I remember sitting with Giorgio and trying to play Donna Lee at full bebop tempo while tapping my foot on every quarter note – it produced a rather frantic performance! He had me tap my feet on the second and fourth beats and suddenly everything seemed much more spacious. The tempo hasn’t changed, but by feeling the pulse differently I was able to totally change how I interpreted the music! I’ve subsequently used this little ‘trick’ to help me in all sorts of situations, from pacey musical theatre numbers to fast funk tracks.

Experiment with this idea when you feel like a song is riding too fast for you.

Enjoy!

Steve

For more Metronome Secrets for Guitar, check out part 3/4 soon!


Metronome Secrets for Guitar – 1/4

Welcome to part one of this 4-part series on metronome secrets for guitar. Over the course of these articles I’ll be covering lots of different and interesting ways to use the metronome to improve your time-keeping, groove and technique. This will be a nice intro for those new to this tool, and a nice refresher with some creative new ideas for those who are already metroprone.

First off…

…go and buy one! It doesn’t matter if it’s an old wooden one or a fancy new electronic one, they all do the same job. You can download free metronome apps for most smart phones, or download free metronome programs for your computer. There is literally no excuse for not owning a metronome!

I am constantly losing and re-finding my metronomes, so I’ve ended up accumulating  ton of different ones. Here are my favourites:

  • For general use, the Korg MA -30.

No Guitar? No problem!

Clap in time with the metronome. When you lock just right, your hand-claps will drown out the click and the metronome will sound like it’s disappeared. If you deviate from the pulse, you’ll hear the click ‘poke out’ either side of your hand clap.

While you do this (and while you do any metronome exercise) make sure to tap your foot in time with the click. You can tap on every beat, just on the 2 &4, or even just on the 1…but make sure you keep that foot going. It’ll develop into a constant, physical connection with the pulse – your own built in metronome – something that comes in handy in a lot of situations you might not expect (any kind of playing, sight-reading, transcription etc…).

Speed King

The metronome is a fantastic tool for improving your speed and technical facility on the guitar. I like to take a lick, start it really slow and gradually increase the metronome speed until it’s stretching the limits of my technique. Over time, I’ll be able to play it faster and faster…It’s important to start slow to develop relaxed control and good muscle memory.

In this video I take a blues lick and gradually bump up the tempo. In personal practice, I’ll increase the metronome 4-8bpm each time. To save time on the demo, I bump it up in larger increments (10-20bpm) from starting down at 70bpm and stretching up to 200.
Make sure to check out  2:20, where I base a whole solo around the lick and its variations.

Slow Downer

Another great trick is to slow the part down. Sure, that funk part sounds great at 120bpm, but can you play it at 80bpm…or 50bpm? Not only does playing slowly give you more space to focus on your sound, technique and note choice, it’s also a serious workout for your time. Making a quick part feel funky at a slow tempo is really tough and will help you develop a really professional, mature groove.
One of my absolute favourite guys for this is Robbie Mcintosh – this guy is a wonderful player! Check out his solo at 2:48, it’s a masterclass in restraint and taste.

For more Robbie Mcintosh, check out http://www.robbiemcintosh.com/.

For more metronome secrets for guitar, check out PART 2/4 coming soon!

Breath Power!

All the principles of heaven and earth are living inside you. Life itself is truth, and this will never change. Everything in heaven and earth breathes. Breath is the thread that ties creation together. – Morihei Ueshiba

Have you ever been concentrating on something and noticed yourself holding your breath? This can happen before an audition, before a big solo, or at a particularly challenging or exposed section of music. I even find myself holding my breath while playing warm-up exercises before a practice session or when reading a musical score for the first time.

As a musician, there are many reasons why it is helpful to breathe fully and clearly:

  • Holding your breath (negatively) affects your time and groove.
  • Breathing helps keep you mentally limber. When you’re breathing fully your body and brain are well-supplied with oxygen. It’s hard to think when you’re gasping for air!
  • Good breathing helps reduce tension in the body, relaxing the muscles of the arms and torso. Holding your breath creates tension.
  • Deep breathing helps reduce stress and anxiety (stage fright, anyone?). This is especially true of a long, steady exhale.

Breath Experiment

Take a moment to try a simple breathing experiment with me. Inhale for six seconds, drawing the breath into the pit of the stomach. Then inhale for six seconds. Try to draw the breath in and out at an even pace, not over-reaching at the beginning or rushing towards the end. As you breathe, keep the shoulders relaxed and stationary – breathe into the stomach, there’s no need to raise your shoulders up to your ears for a deep breath; let your belly fill and expand as you inhale and let it collapse as you exhale.

Some people like to visualise a trail of warmth or light traveling into the nose and down into the pit of the stomach on the inhale, and then that same trail of warmth or light rising through the spine, up the neck and out the top of the head on the exhale. Others visualise a stream of bubbles. There’s nothing particularly mystical about the visualisation itself, but it can be a nice tool to aid focus.

Next time you warm up, sight read, or play technical exercises, be aware of your breath. See if you can breathe evenly and deeply through the exercise. For added credit, take a mental tour of the muscles of your arms, shoulders, back, chest, stomach, legs, and even feet – relax each one consciously until you’re using only the bare minimum physical tension needed to play the musical passage.

Sing It

The next time you take a solo, either with a backing track or a live band, try to sing what you play. You don’t need to have the voice of George Benson to do this – you can just vocalise along with your solo quietly and away from your microphone. You may find your lines take on a more personal, phrase-based sound.

I distinctly remember sitting in a lesson with Giorgio Serci – I was a student in the beginning stages of learning how to improvise in a jazz style and was struggling. Sure, I could (just about) navigate some basic jazz chord progressions but what I was playing sounded dull and very ‘by the numbers’. After a few minutes of playing Giorgio said, ‘let’s do it again, this time sing what you play‘. The difference was immediate and powerful – at once my playing sounded alive and like ‘me’, my own voice began to sound.

Why would this happen? Firstly, uniting what you sing with what you play can provide a more solid bridge to the music in your head – sure, you’ll still play your Clapton licks, but you’ll be surprised with how many more of your own melodic ideas and phrases will pop out too.

Secondly, the physical requirement to pause for breath will chop your solo into smaller phrases. For most beginner and intermediate players this is a very good thing – it’s too easy to noodle aimlessly and continuously around a scale with no real sense of melodic statement.

Thirdly, I personally find vocalising helps me connect my emotions to what I play. Whether it’s joy, anger, frustration, mischievousness, if I can recruit my breath and voice into the process I find it somehow shortcuts my inhibitions and allows those feelings to more easily channel through the music. I think there’s some truth in it when people say that the breath is the bridge between the conscious and the unconscious – because it can be controlled by either.

Admittedly, this second principle is somewhat negated if you can circular breathe!

Going Forward

Play with the following exercises and try to 1) maintain a conscious, full breathing pattern throughout and then 2) sing what you play. Be aware of the effect either approach has on your sense of time, melody and connection with the music.

– Play a scale at a slow pace to a metronome.

– Improvise over a simple chord sequence (perhaps a blues).

– Play a solo you know well (for example, ‘Alright Now’ or ‘Hotel California’). As you breath evenly, you may notice particular parts of the solo are much harder than usual – this is where you usually hold your breath! Work these areas until you can breath evenly through them.

– Play any song from your repertoire, again noting and working through areas of unexpected difficulty.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on the relationship between breath and music – go ahead and post below!

Good luck!

SJ