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March 2023 Lessons

The “Stairway” Progression

Nick Millevoi

From the 12-bar blues to a shuffle pattern to a IIm7–V7–I progression, many musical motifs get recycled and repurposed. It's accepted that these ideas are simply out there in the air for songwriters and composers to use, gratis, as musical building blocks from which to create new work. Right?

Can You Make Pentatonics Better?

Ed Levy Great music tells a story. It builds on a plot and holds the listener’s attention as the story unfolds. We are especially moved by soloists who bare their souls and who keep us riveted with every twist and turn from their narrative. Pentatonics are the backbone of modern guitar vocabulary. Partially because they just sound good, but also because they lay so easily on guitar. There are several ingredients that make a guitarist sound brilliant, but one of the most important is chromaticism. Could there a be a way we could combine these two? Let’s find out.

Where to Start with Funk Guitar

Luke Bowman

The 1960s saw the rise of many legendary guitarists bringing us revolutionary new styles and techniques that we still use and build upon to this day. Arguably, one of the less heralded is Jimmy Nolen whose recordings with James Brown gave birth to the funky 16th-note, scratchy staccato-style playing that has become such an iconic building block of popular music to this day. To cover all the great players who have added their own unique flavor, from Freddie Stone to Nile Rodgers up to Cory Wong, would fill a whole book. But to think of funk guitar playing as purely a gimmick would be a huge mistake as these techniques can be seen across so many styles of music. Ultimately, if you want to be hired as a guitar player, chances are you will need to funk it up at some point. Here are the building blocks to start grooving with the best of them.

Barney Kessel: Badass Jazz Guitar

Jeff Jacobson Admittedly, I was late in discovering one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time. It wasn’t until 2018 through a deep dive that I truly understood how incredible Barney Kessel was. I found him to be a bit different. There was a certain edge to his playing, some badass attitude in the mix. He was serious about playing good music, as opposed to simply playing a bunch of meaningless phrases—“plastic,” as Kessel called them—a series of notes which fit correctly over the chord changes, but have no musicality or soul. When discussing the importance of being able to play what you hear, he made it perfectly clear that, even if you do get to that level—well, I’ll let him tell you.