Working through a Sheryl Bailey lesson

Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,716Member
edited August 2016 in Personal Diaries
I was working through a Sheryl Bailey lesson the other night. A simple lesson in principle - just learning all the arpeggios to Autumn Leaves in one position on the guitar. It wasn't a throwaway lesson, it was proper stuff, but it's really just the precursor to the main event which is using this material to create meaningful lines over the tune. So you kind of want to get these arp's down and move onto the good stuff as quickly as you can... Except in just these few minutes of instruction there are so many months of work! It's no wonder I never finish much instructional material, it's not through lack of application, it's simply because a short precursor lesson, just one page in a book of 200 pages, or five minutes in a 180 minute video, can take months and months, maybe years,  to master. Now I know my arp's. Or I thought I did. I know my JB 5 shapes (still practice the most days) and all the major, minor , and dominant shapes within them. Except I don't really, do I? Sheryl quite correctly has us play the arp's up and down starting on the root, but going up above or down below the root if the 8 notes in any given bar demands it. You need to know all the notes and what scale degrees they are. And there's none of this pausing whilst you think about this stuff. You don't have to be able to work it out. You have to know it. Instantly. Bang. There it is. Okay, so far, not so bad. But then the suggestion is to play these things in thirds, or fifths, or other self-designed patterns to really help drive the shapes, notes, and intervals home. Then you do all of that again starting on the 3rd. Then the fifth. Then the seventh. By this time it's like Chinese algebra, and this is just for one tune, one position. And all the time one should be singing along and really listening, really getting all these intervals, and the sounds of the scales degrees against the underlying chords in one's head. And to reiterate, it should all be there as knowledge. Instant access. None of this working out, even if that working out is lightning quick and can be done in nano-seconds. And finally there's the ability to instantly see the closest note in the arp' you're currently playing to one in the next arp' you're about to be playing. That seemingly simple task actually requires a different set of memory/brain functions. It's not about remembering shapes, notes degrees, or sounds, it's about imagining something that you're about to play and comparing it with what you're currently playing, seeing the differences and similarities as clearly as if they were lighting up on the fretboard in front of you. I won't even mention guide tones - I'm sure these will be spoken about in the next section when creating lines that traverse the changes whilst outlining the chords get mentioned (although all the work done to start the arp' exercises on 3rds and 5ths, ascending and descending, and the naming of the notes and degrees will pay off at this stage). All of this in one short lesson. All of it to be mastered before moving on. It's just an observation about why it takes so long to complete many DVDs, books, or online courses. Hey ho. Must get back to it...


  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member

    Interesting post! I do sympathise Derek - it can seem overwhelming sometimes. Without claiming to be any kind of master of things, I've spent the last... well 4 or 5 years probably, really trying to get on top of scale and arp shapes on the guitar. Before that, I kind of knew lots of things, but it did not really form a coherent whole, and there were certain holes/weaknesses in my playing. At this point, I feel this work is only now starting to show really good results, in terms of how I sound when improvising. I keep working on it all the time - it's a bit like "painting the forth bridge" if you see what I mean - just going around all the various scales, arps and related shapes on the guitar neck.


    I kind of came at the whole thing originally from a scale point of view - and worked out shapes for major + modes, and also jazz (aka melodic) minor and modes. But as time has gone by, I've found the arps that are contained within the scales have become more important to me. Another thing that I find to be key, is to mentally link whatever scale/arp shape you are using, to a related chord shape or several chord shapes. Over time, the scale/arp shapes kind of transform into areas where certain musical sounds can be found - to me it's important to noodle around with them and derive nice-sounding ideas, licks, phrases. On their own, the arps/scales are not really music I think. One of the tough things IMO, is that when actually improvising it is not really so good to be constantly thinking about what shape one is about to use, and where it is on the neck - that is a stage we probably have to go through, but it tends to produce stilted results, that sound a bit artificial and forced. When playing live, I try to go with my ears, and just let it flow. If you can't hear it, you can't play it, I always think... Although the hearing part of the equation also improves with time as well, as one works on the arps/scales, and it's still good to have awareness of what's going on with the chord sequence - like some bit of the brain is at least keeping a watch on what is happening. So hard to describe this stuff, and I'm sure the great jazz players could not really explain what is happening when they improvise either. Maybe they can at least provide pointers as to how they got where they are though, which is still very useful to the rest of us. I'm just rambling here!  And in closing, I'll say that I think one can go too far down the line of having to learn tons of scale and arp shapes, before then, finally, playing jazz. I'd say it's better to learn a few things, and put them to use straight away, and then add to them over time. Trying to digest the whole thing in one go doesn't really work, certainly not for me, but it took me a long while to realise that. I'm no great expert anyhow, just like to chat about this stuff. image



  • LesterLester Posts: 1,705Member, Moderator
    edited August 2016
    Originally Posted by Megi:

    I'm just rambling here!

    Not at all; I have those holes that impede my improvising so what you both say is right up my alley. Ramble on!

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