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In “Jazz Guitar Hardball” we have spoken extensively about the importance of working toward and discovering one’s own unique style, voice and tone. Yet another master we might study in our efforts to reach that ultimate goal, who without a doubt captured a completely innovative style, is Wes Montgomery. Part of his unique sound came from playing with his thumb, but also from his use of octaves in his solos. If you are a picker, don’t be afraid to apply his particular octave style to the use of a pick; either way, it still sounds great!
Most authorities, including Arlen Roth, agree that the correct execution of the technique is to use the first finger and little finger of the left hand exclusively to create the octave shape, on all the string sets; 6 and 4, 5 and 3, 4 and 2, 3 and 1. For most eighth-note lines, pick strokes are usually all down.
The octave exercise—using the 12 bar blues form—illustrates the normal octave positions of this technique, as well as the typical blues-based harmonic vocabulary on which Wes relied. Practice this technique by recording the 12 bar blues progression and playing along in octaves. Plus, there is a bonus Wes-style chord riff at the end!
A clinician and jazz educator, Jim Bastian is a 10 year veteran of teaching guitar in higher education. Jim holds two masters degrees and has published 6 jazz studies texts, including the best-selling How to Play Chordal Bebop Lines, for Guitar (available from Jamey Aebersold). He actively performs on both guitar and bass on the East Coast.
An avid collector and trader in the vintage market, you can visit Jim’s store at premierguitar.com (dealer: IslandFunhouse).