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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gutar Manifesto : Roy Brooks

Gutar Manifesto : Roy Brooks

This past summer I sat down and wrote The Guitarist's Manifesto, a 115 page
book about some of the things I have learned through my thirty years as a practicing
musician and working guitar player. Steve Martin once said "Talking about music
is like dancing about architecture". In a way The G
uitarist's Manifesto was my first
attempt at dancing about architecture. My second attempt is this column. Until
I wrote that book I never thought of myself as a writer or a guitar instructor. But
somehow I managed to write something about playing guitar that hopefully contains
information that a student of the guitar can use. Though The Guitarist's Manifesto
is but one book of many written about the subject of playing guitar. The possibilities
of what can be learned and played on the guitar are endless.

I started to really appreciate how much information there is out there when I
decided at the age of 41 to learn how to play jazz. My reason for learning about
jazz was not specifically because I thought that I wanted to one day become a jazz
guitar player. But I saw that the things that I needed to learn so I would not get bored
with playing my instrument were some of the things that were pretty much required
in order to play jazz. I found that I really needed to brush up on my music theory
and things like chord construction and harmonized scales. And I had to learn to
stop relying so much on tablature. In my quest to learn more about jazz and jazz
guitar I started doing searches on eBay for some of the books that I had read about
in my nearly thirty years as an avid reader of Guitar Player magazine- books by Arnie
Berle, Ted Greene, Joe Diorio, Les Wise, Don Mock, Ron Eschete, and Vincent Bredice.
And once I finally acquired a big stack of books by those cats I saw that most of those
books were written using standard notation. And it was up to me to figure out what
fingerings to use. I could have resigned myself to thinking that this stuff was just too
hard for me. But that kind of attitude was not going to make me a better musician
or guitar player. So I put in the practice time. As I got more familiar with reading
standard notation I started buying and reading out of jazz improvisation books that
were intended for all instruments- things like The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine
and Arnie Berle's Comlete Handbook For Jazz Improvisation. And I got myself a
copy of The Real Book and Patterns For Jazz by Jerry Coker, Jimmy Casale, Gary
Campbell, and Jerry Greene. I highly recommend that if you are very serious about
getting really good at guitar you should take the time to learn how to read music in
standard notation if you don't already know how. Being able to look at a piece of
music and then play it opens up all kinds of new possibilities of what you can learn
on your instrument to use in your improvisations.

If you are serious about getting really good at guitar I recommend that you
listen to as much music as you can get ahold of, even if it isn't what you normally
listen to. And actually listen to it. Get away from that computer and just sit and
listen. Pay attention to what the guitar player is doing. In fact I strongly suggest
that you go out and get yourself a stack of instrumental guitar records by folks
who know how to do it. If you want to get schooled find yourself some records by
Ted Greene, Phil DeGruy, and Lenny Breau. Those cats will give you an idea of
what can be done on guitar if you really put the time in and devote your life to your

Of course what you decide to learn on your instrument is up to you. You don't
necessarily have to know a whole lot of stuff to get to a point where you can make
money playing guitar in cover bands. You can get by with your basic major and
minor chords and pentatonic scales. In fact many guitar players have built careers
on playing lead guitar based entirely on five note pentatonic scales. Nothing wrong
with that. In fact if that is what you want to hear in your lead playing you may not
want to know much more than that. Though you may reach a point where you find
yourself getting bored with your playing and the music you are playing. At that point
you may want to further your studies. You may find that you don't always have to play
tunes the same way each time. You might want to throw in some leads based on
diatonic scales. Or you might want to use some passing tones. You might want
to try some chord extensions like 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths. In fact you might
want to put some b5, b9, or #11 alterations in there. Or you might want to
reharmonize some of those chord progressions that you have been using over and
over again to bring some new life to what you have been doing. Maybe you might
like to try some chord melody arrangements of your favorite tunes.

All that information is out there if you take the time to look for it. Buy the books
and the records. Read the magazines, especially the good ones like Guitar Player
and Just Jazz Guitar. Listen to as much music as possible. Attend concerts by
other guitar players. And ask questions. Most importantly have fun. Now get to
work, soldier.

Roy Brooks is a freelance guitar player currently working in and around Charleston,
South Carolina. Roy is the author of The Guitarist's Manifesto.
Guitar Manifesto with Roy Brooks