A year after procuring the Mickey Baker book

buster poser

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Apologies if my post came off snarky. I'm actually interested in jazz guitar in terms of gaining insight into improvising so that was the impetus behind my questions. It sounds like a good book, but probably to advanced for me. I still need a year or more with guitar/music fundamentals.
No worries, and same. I may’ve misread/been defensive myself, sorry :)

To answer your question, yeah... I think my improvisation is better, though it hasn’t really been my aim, let alone something I've worked on like rhythm. I've traded ii V Is with my teacher and watched him sort of smile and tell me what he liked and so forth, so I guess I'm fair at it? I try something non-jazz from 'twanger central' every few months and I'm at least better than I was, but it's something I need to spend regular time developing. Interested in the swing styles as ever... Junior Barnard, Eldon again. I am definitely still crawling in that respect.

The book really doesn't get to soloing at least in its first half. But it did help my improv in the way its exercises drill varied movement of voicings until they became familiar to my ear. Learning to hear where a given chord/extension sounds great, etc. At a minimum it got me physically used to some new chords and cleverer ways to move around the fretboard and that also helps with soloing, at least for me.
 
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buster poser

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Barnard is credited with one of if no the first ‘rock and roll’ guitar sound….late ‘40s. The rockabilly cats probably learned everything he did….from what we hear here.

Amen. This guy focuses on him in a whole course I’ll get to after the one I’m currently working on. Not a Junior solo per se, but man just listen to it. Absolute direct line to rockabilly. So tasteful.

 

OmegaWoods

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View attachment 974946

Felt like it had been a while. I have another thread that was somewhat active on the book (link) and updated in January but having hit one of the original goals I had in learning at least some jazz fundamentals (notably, playing Eldon lines competently), thought I'd revisit the topic.

I think like a lot of people have said, this book for me was more a springboard into new paths than a method unto itself or whatever. I finished a big chunk all at once, then moved on to other things; a remote jazz workshop, in person lessons with a notable session/jazz player, discovering other players/teachers more into swing/Western swing. I finished the last 10% of it maybe six months ago, but stopped at the second half with standard notation.

Along the way I learned a fair bit about Jazz the genre without really setting out to or having many preconceptions. I wouldn't say I've become a devotee, just less ignorant. I know more about what I always liked (proper swing, early bebop), and still don't care for most showtunes or any scat whatsoever.

Less still do I like "guitar jazz," which is impressive but not anything I aspire to play, and to be honest I don't really enjoy listening to much of it either. I have learned a lot of songs that were previously "background music" off by heart as chord melody arrangements, many others besides, and a lot of it I really like. A lot of it I do not.

Anyway, it's a long way of getting to my point (at last!): I see this question asked here a lot, basically various permutations of "how do I get better at this thing." I'm not trying to be prescriptive, but having hit a long-term goal on the instrument, I felt like holding forth a smidge and maybe it'll help someone.

In my experience over the last year, I've had reaffirmed that if you're learning any "western" style of popular music (esp blues or country), you could do worse than spending some time on the basics of jazz. It'll require some work on technique, which I'd been at for 6-9 previous months, and obviously some work on theory (same); you'll have to do some investigating and listening on your own.

I've read a lot of people who are surely better guitarists than me say learning jazz is unnecessary for a guitarist "just" looking to enjoy, and maybe it is for them. But I feel like no guitarist got worse knowing more, and you can draw a straight line from jazz to 95% of what people learning the guitar want to play. You can certainly memorize a bunch of licks and patterns and shapes and learn theory without learning any jazz at all, but for me it re-contextualized a lot of familiar sounds. This made the "mimicry" of my ear even better while substantially improving my ability to play just about anywhere on the neck, several chords at that spot, etc.

Anyway, just my two cents. Happy as ever to have my opinions echoed, refuted, or improved upon. Cheers.
Thanks for the update, @buster poser . I was wondering how you were getting along with your jazz investigations.

To paraphrase one of my favorite philosophers, it's a long way to the top if you want to (play guitar competently).
 

buster poser

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Thanks for the update, @buster poser . I was wondering how you were getting along with your jazz investigations.

To paraphrase one of my favorite philosophers, it's a long way to the top if you want to (play guitar competently).
You got it B, hope you've been alright.

Mr. Scott was right, it do take a while, but every time I get through "Right or Wrong" or "Bubbles in my Beer" I feel like I've climbed a mountain.
 

chris m.

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I have played guitar for 53 years now. I have taken jazz and classical lessons as well as music theory, including in college for credit. I can read standard notation, including for guitar. I know most of the standard fingerings for typical jazz chords. If someone puts a RealBook chart in front of me I can do a decent job of playing the rhythm chords, reading the notes for and playing the head, and even soloing reasonably well over the changes and sounding somewhat/almost like a real jazzbo. Call me a jazzbo-wannabe, I guess.

And even with that super solid foundation, I find the Mickey Baker book to a very painful mountain to climb. Just getting through the first few pages of chords is a bit of a nightmare to me. Sure, I can play them. Sure, I can figure out each note in the chord and what its function is based on harmonic/chord theory. But all those chords under my fingers to where they are just there in my muscle memory? That's some work right there. So I put the book down and think, "maybe someday, but not today".

Guys like Robben Ford swear by this book, but I do believe it is really quite dense and foreboding. I wonder if there's a different jazz guitar book out there that is probably five times as thick but is also five times easier to digest!??

At this point rather than be methodical about improving, such as through the use of a method book, I've kind of settled for where I'm at as long as I'm picking up little tricks and bits here and there. Even if I learn one or two little things a month it does add up over time.
 

Dik Ellis

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My guitar teacher got me onto Mickey Baker. I immediately got over my mental block about chords. I have several of Mickey's albums.
 

Toast

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No worries, and same. I may’ve misread/been defensive myself, sorry :)

To answer your question, yeah... I think my improvisation is better, though it hasn’t really been my aim, let alone something I've worked on like rhythm. I've traded ii V Is with my teacher and watched him sort of smile and tell me what he liked and so forth, so I guess I'm fair at it? I try something non-jazz from 'twanger central' every few months and I'm at least better than I was, but it's something I need to spend regular time developing. Interested in the swing styles as ever... Junior Barnard, Eldon again. I am definitely still crawling in that respect.

The book really doesn't get to soloing at least in its first half. But it did help my improv in the way its exercises drill varied movement of voicings until they became familiar to my ear. Learning to hear where a given chord/extension sounds great, etc. At a minimum it got me physically used to some new chords and cleverer ways to move around the fretboard and that also helps with soloing, at least for me.
I'm currently stalled out with intervals and chord progressions. I just don't hear chord progressions and changes very well. That lack of ability makes it hard to arpeggiate the chords over progressions :) I really need to just listen and play over a lot more progressions through brute force practice. I'm familiarizing myself with intervals by just learning them in chord arpeggios, but it's been a slow burn. I also need to start singing the intervals. I think I'll start singing the intervals in an arpeggio before I pluck it on the string to develop my ear more. Ultimately, I'd like my ear to get to where this guy's ear is.

 

frank a

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I had a hard time with the Mickey Baker book. While I could play the chords I wasn’t sure how to apply the lessons or what he was getting at. Maybe I should pick it up again.
 

Wally

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This one... YouTube suggested it to me after I watched the video in buster poser's post #23


An album to have…from 1985…”World’s Greatest Guitarist”. Eldon Shamblin. He made the cover of Rolling Stone that year. it is an all instrumental album.
 

buster poser

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I have played guitar for 53 years now. I have taken jazz and classical lessons as well as music theory, including in college for credit. I can read standard notation, including for guitar. I know most of the standard fingerings for typical jazz chords. If someone puts a RealBook chart in front of me I can do a decent job of playing the rhythm chords, reading the notes for and playing the head, and even soloing reasonably well over the changes and sounding somewhat/almost like a real jazzbo. Call me a jazzbo-wannabe, I guess.

And even with that super solid foundation, I find the Mickey Baker book to a very painful mountain to climb. Just getting through the first few pages of chords is a bit of a nightmare to me. Sure, I can play them. Sure, I can figure out each note in the chord and what its function is based on harmonic/chord theory. But all those chords under my fingers to where they are just there in my muscle memory? That's some work right there. So I put the book down and think, "maybe someday, but not today".

Guys like Robben Ford swear by this book, but I do believe it is really quite dense and foreboding. I wonder if there's a different jazz guitar book out there that is probably five times as thick but is also five times easier to digest!??

At this point rather than be methodical about improving, such as through the use of a method book, I've kind of settled for where I'm at as long as I'm picking up little tricks and bits here and there. Even if I learn one or two little things a month it does add up over time.
This is a fair criticism. I can never be too prescriptive and always try to say "what's worked for/made sense to me is..."

Some stuff (like this book) just hits me immediately or opens some door that I didn't know I was looking for. Everyone's experience with it is surely going to be different. The type of music I'm most interested in leans heavily on this foundation, so I was sort of primed for it I guess.

I hear great things about Ted Greene instructionally. I don't know if he has a book, but Jens Larsen is amazing. I get tons out of his videos.
 

DaveG

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IMHO, the Mickey Baker books are super useful for learning chord forms and progressions used in big band / swing and pop from the 30s through 60s. Since, then, not so much: not that much "modern" jazz or pop uses those forms and progressions. If someone is writing "retro", yes. Every once in while somebody rediscovers some of them (esp. the first few pages ;-) and writes some tunes using them. Pete Townshend did that with The Who Sell Out back in the day: there are at least 3 songs on that record that use those first few MG progressions pretty slavishly. He even acknowledged it in an interview long ago.

To really apply those lessons, you have to go and >learn the tunes< of the day. Find a Django fakebook with the just the r-git chords and melodies. (Learning to solo like Django is another matter of course...) Most of those songs were either old at the time, or are what are now "standards". That's what the Mickey stuff is good for. Of go listen to the R.git on early/mid period Chet Atkins - some of the same tunes, some even older. (Chet knew all the hits of the 1890/1920 period. All these are tunes the jazzers improved on into the 50s.

Another related style to check out that uses the MB style stuff is so-called "plectrum guitar" from the 30s-60s. There's a great Mel Bay collection of transcriptions of those pieces. Frank Victor, Harry Volpe, Carl Kress, Dick McDonough, Eddie Lang, Mel Bay himself, they all wrote tunes in that style or arranged others using those chord forms. They are challenging and fun to play (you need to read though...) Someone mentioned Rob McKillop's great site: he has a whole section on this stuff and demos some of the tunes from that Mel Bay book.
 




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