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Entries in improvisation (5)


What Bryan Baker taught me about transcribing jazz guitar

[The Background]

I attended Berklee College of Music from 2005-2007. During that time, my friends told me about a guitar player who was playing with a very unique approach. About 3 of my friends were taking private lessons with him. This person was Bryan Baker. The story was he attended Los Angeles Music Academy prior to Berklee and studied with Frank Gambale. At Berklee, he was a star guitar player and along with Nir Felder, Ricardo Vogt, Julian Lage and Jake Hertzog were the most influential guitar students I remember from my time there. 

Around this time, he released his first album Aphotic and later on another version of Aphotic (live versions of the same tracks). For an extended period of time, Bryan was constantly on my iPod in rotation and on a playlist on my iTunes. I learned a lot from the lessons with him. Here's one of them.

[The Lesson]

One of the best lessons I learned from Bryan Baker was the difference between normal transcribing and transcribing the essence.

Normal transcribing is transcribing the exact notes, rhythms, phrases, licks, tone, inflections etc and to play it back exactly as close as possible to what the original artist played.

Transcribing the essence is to actually play your own lines but in the style of the artist you're transcribing. This includes playing with the same tone, gear, touch, groove, feel, inflections but not the exact notes. What you're looking for is the general note choice patterns and the rational behind the melodies NOT the exact melodies. 

Being able to transcribe the essence will open up possibilities for you to create your own lines that are inspired by the artist you're transcribing.

This can go hand in hand with normal transcribing, i.e. transcribe the exact phrases but then derive the concepts behind it and play your own lines afterwards. The lines afterwards represent your work of transcribing the essence.

In my lesson with Bryan, he played a John Scofield inspired phrase with the bridge pickup of his Strat and wide intervals like what Sco would. This was his example for transcribing the essence. 

This concept is a huge part of how I learn and how I digest large chunks of musical information. Hope this helps you too.

Az Samad - July 29 2014 (Edited August 11 2014)


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G minor Study #1 (Jazz Guitar Study)

Here's a study based on a phrase I transcribed from Malaysian saxophonist Julian Chan. This is one of the ways I get maximum mileage from a transcribed phrase. I will take the original idea and transposed it to fit the chord starting from different notes.
If you're interested to study more in-depth, click here for the Jazz Guitar Masterclass.



#azjazzlessons #1: How Kurt Rosenwinkel Practices Scales



1. Learn 7 scale shapes starting on each note of a major scale
2. Memorize each pattern as a visual shape
3. Improvise on each shape
4. Combine 2 shapes together to make a bigger shape
5. Combine all 7 shapes 
6. Create lines all over the fretboard

#jazz #guitar #improvisation


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The Beginner’s Guide to Jazz Guitar Improvisation

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding how jazz musicians improvise melodies that sound so fresh and exciting. For a beginner, it can seem very daunting to even be able to make up something simple.

While there are many different books and courses available on the topic, I’ll focus in this article on three ways you can start exploring the world of jazz improvisation.

3 Ways to Kick Start Your Jazz Guitar Improv Chops

Embellish Melodies - Take a melody that you’ve played and start adding a few notes around the main melody notes. The key thing is to memorize the original melody so that you can that as a basis for your embellishments. Start off really simple by adding one or two notes every few bars. Focus on adding notes for the long melody notes.

Playing Arpeggios -  Learn the basic arpeggios for a jazz standard, focus on simple one-octave triads or 7th chords first and play these over a backing track for the song. To practice, you can also play the melody of the song for two bars and then play arpeggios for the next two bars. By alternating back and forth, you can keep track of where you are in the song.

Rhythmic Variations - Play the melody of the song you’re learning and don’t add any new melody notes. Instead, change the rhythm of the melody. You can repeat the same note a few times or displace the notes rhythmically (play some notes earlier and some notes later). This creates variations that will lead you to more epic improvisations later on!

You can learn more about how to improvise in the jazz guitar masterclass:

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7 Things For Jazz Guitarists To Practice

Over 14 years of learning Jazz with many amazing guitarists has led me to believe that the essential building blocks of Jazz are the same & once understood can really speed your learning process. Here are the 7 key areas:

1) Melody (single line improvisation and composition)

This includes learning melodies to songs, ii-v lines, melodic etudes, solo transcriptions, licks and composing melodies. The idea here is to develop your personal sense of melody, to develop your melodic vocabulary. For the advanced player, this would also include being able to develop a melody compositionally so that it tells a story.

2) Harmony (chords, voicing and chord progression)

This is the study of harmony from understanding and being able to play intervals to playing larger chord structures and voice-led chord progressions. The idea here is to be able to be fluid when playing more than one note at a time.

3) Rhythm (grooves, time signatures, rhythmic patterns)

This is to develop a strong sense of time, groove and rhythmic energy. Some rhythms will feel heavy and others will make the time float. This includes study of different time signatures, polyrhythms, syncopation and beyond.

4) Improvisation (how to improvise, improvisation practice)

This is the pure study of how to improvise and create music in real time. It may include what Wayne Krantz calls ‘Compositional Playing’ which is music that assembled using certain idiomatic vocabulary (licks, cliches, patterns) or ‘Improvisational Playing’ where no particular vocabulary is attached, just recombination and assembling in real time of certain material, without idiomatic consideration.

5) Songs (learning repertoire, parts)

This is all about learning songs & parts to songs. This is learning the music directly. 

6) Ear Training

Ear training includes many different aspects including:


  • to your instrument
  • to paper

b) Playing by ear

  • by listening to something someone else played
  • from memory

c) Sightsinging

7) Technique

This is the pure study of technique without considering the music. Techniques may be as fundamental of hammer-ons and pull-offs or more involved topics such as tapping, hybrid picking, odd grouping string crossing & string skipping combinations.


Interested to learn more?

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