Exorcise your technical demons by converting simple motifs into finger-twisting workouts.


Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Beginner
Lesson Overview:
• Increase your dexterity.
• Develop a stronger awareness of rhythm.
• Learn how to apply more advanced rhythmic concepts to simple motifs.


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I’m sure most of you have a set of technical exercises you practice to improve your dexterity or just to warm up. It’s natural to dedicate some of your practice time to simply improving your technique and focus only on the mechanical aspects of playing. In this lesson, we’ll go over a few chops-building exercises and discover how to expand them into more appealing and effective workouts.

I once had a jazz teacher who told me he practices every phrase three different ways: starting on beat 1, starting on the “and” of beat 1, and with a triplet rhythm. Each of these three variations offers some unique picking challenges. First, let’s assume you’re playing these with standard alternate picking (i.e., downstroke on the downbeats and upstroke on the upbeats). When you start on the downbeat, the phrase would start with a downstroke. If you shift the phrase by an eighth-note, the entire picking pattern is reversed. Finally, the triplet option gives the line a completely different character.

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Alex Machacek shows you voicings to expand your chord vocabulary.

I’d like to introduce you to a very useful way to expand your chord vocabulary. The voicings we are about to explore work really well for comping and also for harmonizing melodies in a bunch of different musical contexts. All of the following examples are in E Dorian, so you can use the low open-E string as a drone. It is very helpful to be able to hear how each of these chords fit harmonically within a key. But before we get into the chords, let’s take a look at the E Dorian scale. I tend to think of this scale in one of three ways:
• As a D major scale starting on the second degree (E).
• Following the formula for a Dorian scale based off of E major (1–2–b3–4–5–6–b7).
• Simply by the names of the notes: E–F#–G–A–B–C#–D.

Personally, I tend to gravitate toward the scale-degree formula. It simply makes it easier to translate anything you work on into all 12 keys. We are going to think of an intervallic structure as a combination of intervals within a given scale. This structure can then be sequenced through the entire scale, which will result in seven different voicings. Sound complicated? Let’s break it down:

In Fig. 1, you see the notes of an E Dorian scale on the 1st string. Once you have learned these E Dorian notes on the 1st string, take a few minutes and find the same notes on the other five strings.


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