~ EMG jazz guitar start method ~

~ w o t t ~

~ a way to start ~

~ jazz guitar chop shop lick ~

~ thinking with all 12 pitches is the norm ~

~ thinking root to root illuminates each pathway ~

In a nutshell. Historically, the word from New Orleans is that before we had today's jazz we had 'jass' and that before jass we had the blues. So in learning the modern jazz language today we can start with blues and evolve. And while there's a super lot to deep dive into here, the essential theory we need to start strong is just twofold; the 'art' / theory relationship of blue notes to chords, and the song composition form of the 12 bar blues.

Rhythm aside for the moment, the notes / chords relationship is what writes our stories into songs, makes our hair stand up and fill dance floors on Saturday nights. And the 12 bar blues form writes the story into a song and once mastered, 12 bars rolls right into the 32 bar form of 'rhythm changes', that for we Americana composers starts around the 1920's or so and blossoms in the mid 1930's and then forward know as 'head tunes.'

That 'rhythm changes' are mostly the same thing as the now ancient set in stone Euro sonata allegro form, which is the compositional form Euro composers used for a zillion of their songs, sonata allegro's 32 bar form becomes Americana's own '32 bar jazz standard' songwriting form.

Quickly mastered with its 32 bar / 'A A B A' form, where each 'A' eight bar section is the same music and the 'B' section improvised new each time, by mastering this triptych of the forms for writing songs, we've then a good foundation for whatever else comes along songwise / composition / form further on up the road.

The method to ... In this e-book's method for pure jazz guitar studies, we start with the 12 bar blues form and its essential One / Four / Five chord progression and simply build out an increasingly complex harmony scheme. For in examining our evolution of the harmony as the decades past by, we find similar chord substitutions that between blues and jazz chord progressions; from 12 bar blues into both the 32 bar song forms of jazz standards; A / A / B / A and A / B. So in starting our studies here of jazz guitar, one facet is to master the 12 bar blues form and gradually pepper in new substitution chords between its fundamental chords; the One / Four and Five chords.

Hear the changes in the line. That jazz improvisation since the 1940's has dramatically evolved based on creating melodic lines using the pitches of each of the chords in the progression, that we can 'hear the chord changes' in the improvised melody line, becomes our basis here; to gradually 'build out' an increasing complex harmonic 'realization' of a 12 bar blues. The hope here is that if we can find the pitches of new chords within the rock solid, super predictable 12 bar blues form, one at a time, they will transfer right over to chord progressions of our other blues / jazz styles and genres, their song forms, vamps and arrangements.

Hear the 'top' of the form. Jazz improvisation loves the 12 br blues. Hearing the 'top' is the first of its many challenges. Click the pic and find the top as the music goes through about 25 choruses of 'blues in Bb.' Example 1.

Cool ... ?

Intellect and chops. For most of us mortal aspiring sentient musical jazz leaning beings, getting some jazz guitar under our fingers can initially be quite a challenge. For while the instrument itself is well suited for jazz, the chops to 'jazz up' any music creates some new things to learn. While new coolness happens daily as we develop our jazz chops, a year or so of getting the basics to gel is not uncommon, the new ways 'jazz it up' need to settle in to what we already have under our fingers. From there, it can be equal parts intuitive reasoning and shedding / chops for further development; as each new chord substitution brings its own theory concepts that advance the art and challenge the intellect and the chops.

Aural recognition. Evolving mastery of jazz guitar is also sparked along by what our 'ear' will accept of the new jazzy colors as we discover them. And depending on genre, a greater acceptance brings greater freedom of creativity. We'll discover a new cool color, then tend to overplay it which gradually wears off its novel newness and starting the search again for something 'new' to fit in that spot in a chord progression.

For example, as we jazz up a 'C' triad by adding pitches to create; 'C' major 7, 9 # 11 and 13, add a 'b7' to a 'C' triad to create a 'C' 7, b9, 9, #9, b5, #11 and 'C' 13, and a 'b7 to a 'C' minor triad create 'C' min7, min 9, sus 4 / 11, plus the quartile major and minor triad based '6/9' colors. Once our ear says yea ... this is a cool chord color in this spot in a progression, we've expanded our chords and the melodic possibilities they bring through their added pitches to triads.

color tones
tertian harmony

And as we clearly can find in the literature, quite a bit of this 'ear evolution' revolves around V7, the traffic cop of our musics; what our ears will accept as an acceptable chord. This 'ear acceptance evolution' takes time, so in first starting out with jazz guitar here, we initially work on the Americana blues stylings, with its many V7 tonic / One chord colors and oft employed 12 bar form.

Learning songs. Knowing each new chord and color creates new melodic / improvisation possibilities enables that ever expanding artistic horizon to search. Learning tunes provides a continuing source of new colors and their combinations in musical art. Many curriculums parallel famous Americana jazz composers, that once we find a song we love by a composer, good chance that there are additional songs to explore in their songbook.

Historical eras. Like many of our topics in music and the arts, if we follow their historical timeline we get a clear view of their original place in history and evolutions as new generations of players come along. For jazz guitar, we can start in the 1930's, for this is when a guitar's sound first became electrically amplified and could be better heard in ensemble settings. From this point on, the guitar's role in bands now included playing melodies; both written and improvised.

Start jazz blues / Emily Remler. In starting out to learn about jazz guitar, we pay tribute to Emily Remler and get our first jazz guitar lesson. Remler has passed from us now, but from her combined legacy of art and testimonial ideas, we easily sense the depth of her sincerity to the art form, as her ideas are right at home, with the Americana heritage of jazz guitar players of the last 100 years or so.

wiki ~ Emily Remler
Emily Remler 1984

Remler's method. Ms. Remler's method combines two ideas. One is to get a metronome clicking. Then play consecutive choruses of 12 bar blues, leaning into the clicks for our rhythm section motor. With just the clicks we get to imagine the rest of the band we'd be playing our blues with :)

According to Remler's beliefs, from this basis we evolve our tasking three ways; play the root notes of the chords for the bass line's story for a couple of choruses, chomp the chords out Freddie Greene style four to the bar for a chorus or two, then begin to create single note lines that weave through this bass line and chords, riding within the 12 bar blues form for a dozen or so choruses, and lastly, work all three part together for a dozen choruses or so. So, walk some bass lines, pepper in some chords and then three times and out. So all totaled, might ya be in need of a new warmup exercise by chance ?

Remler's time magic one step further. Ms. Remler is known to be able to do this without the clicks, but would tap her feet creating a pulse on 2 and 4, and play continuous choruses of bebop blues changes for extended minutes. Way easier said than done, try it even once and you'll feel strengthening near every beat along the way. The pull of swing from the swell on '2 and 4' unmistakable in our .

Author's note. 'With a good reed on a clear day ...' I can do this with middle of the road jazz changes. But only for short spells at a time before the timing starts to wobble and I fall off the ride. Easier is to tap my foot to all four beats. It's a tough exercise, and a 'mind body moving through time' aligner, strengthens the necessary music making components all through us.

That I love the purely even clicks, with no accents, of my metronome, the hollow sort of pop that marks time moving on by. 'No accent' clicks allow any click to be the next one we need. No need to wait for an accented click to come along to 'reset' the measure. For when we perform, if we miss a beat or two, we want to jump back in quick as we can.

As my main focus today is on forward motion in time concepts, I'm phrasing to the future a future downbeat, beat one of a new four bar phrase, so to close out melodic lines on clicks that are still to come. I'm waiting on the clicks. And there's just no way for me to pull it off without the clicks. I do try but it is what it is.

Included are a couple of dozen realizations' of 12 bar blues changes. Ranging from three chords per chorus to bebop changes with a dozen or more chords within 12 bars. In following this progression of blues changes over many choruses, we get to tackle each new chord substitution within this rock solid form, just jazzing up the 12 bar blues for jazz guitar.

That we can 'sub' out any of these colors into any of the other jazz songs or forms we play, gives us that saying of 'two for a nickel', that was a popular when a few of the jazz standards we love to play today were originally written. So we strengthen up the new 'cool' in the blues, and have it for playing blues songs. So empowered, we can transfer it all over to chord changes in standard songs with other music forms, most notably the 32 bar 'song' form, aka, sonata allegro.

Begin with a click in major. Sketched out for both major and minor keys, there's a lot of harmony options in the choruses that follow. And do the 'mix and match' of any chord to anywhere is of course cool. If you hear it, go for it, taking chances in performance is part of jazz music's essential magic. Makes it more fun to play too :)

First chorus. Nothing too fancy here really, just your basic 1, 4, 5 / 12 bar, feed the bulldog blues, at least until the last chord, which is a bit altered. The # 9 and # 5 of the chord are the blue notes of the parent scale we're using for creating the chords. Wow, it looks so stark and empty. Not for long ... :) Do play the bass notes first.

C 7 C 7 C 7 C 7
F 7 F 7 C 7 C 7
G 7 F 7 C 7 G 7#9#5

Second chorus. The substitution of the Four chord for the tonic chord in bar two is the added substitution. This is a very common substitution in various styles of blues and jazz music. New tonic color using the ninth. Do play the bass notes first, get the bass line story.

C 9 F 7 C 9 C 9
F 7 F 7 C 9 C 9
G 7 F 7 C 9 G 7#9

Third chorus. Simply expanding on the color tones of the changes. Tonic 'C'13 chord in bar 11. Do play the bass notes first, get the bass line story.

C 7 F 9 C 7 C 7
F 9 F 9 C 7 C 7
G 9 F 9 C 13 G 7#9

Fourth chorus. First appearance of substituting the Two / Five One harmonic motion into the turnaround. In the following choruses we'll use this chordal cell to help set up a smoother motion to various destinations within the 12 bar blues.

The Two / Five One chord progression and cadential motion can become a very important component on the jazz artist's artistic palette, as it plays such a large role in the composing of jazz 'standard' songs from the 20's right on through to the present. Aspiring jazz artists should explore the literature for this essential harmonic motion. Do play the bass notes first.

C 13 F 9 C 13 C 13
F 9 F 9 C 13 C 13
D min 7 G 9 C 13 G 7#9#5

Fifth chorus. Subbing out with Two / Five for the tonic in bar 4, creates a cadential motion setting up the subdominant Four chord in bar 5. Chromatic motion of dominants downward from One to Six in bars 7 and 8. Six setting up a nice and super common depending, cadential motion to Two. Longer measured Two / Five sets up the turnaround of One, then by leap of a minor 3rd, then a similar chromatic motion to close the chorus and return us to the top for the next chorus by a half step lead in to our tonic pitch, 'Db' to 'C.' Do play the bass notes first.

C 13 F 9 C 13 G min 9 / C 13
F 9 F 9 C 13 / B 13 Bb 13 / A 13
D min 9 G 13 C 9 / Eb 9 D 9 / Db 9
Begin with a click in minor. Sketched out for both major and minor keys, there's a lot of harmony options in the choruses that follow. And do the 'mix and match' of any chord to anywhere is of course cool. If you hear it, go for it, taking chances in performance is part of jazz music's essential magic. Makes it more fun to play too :)

First chorus. Starting out right at the core of it all, your basic 1, 4, 5 / 12 bar minor blues In 'C' minor blues. Wow, look familiar? Cool. No? Just review the 12 bar blues form or learn it right now for it's right here.

C min 7 C min 7 C min 7 C min 7
F min 7 F min 7 C min 7 C min 7
G min 7 F min 7 C min 7 G min 7

Second chorus. Extending the tonic color to include the ninth. Substituting the Four chord, so a fast Four, for One in bar 2. Using the altered dominant to close the chorus and set up the next.

C min 9 F min 7 C min 9 C min 9
F min 7 F min 7 C min 9 C min 9
G min 7 F min 7 C min 7 G 7# 5

Third chorus. Subbing in the diatonic Two minor seventh flat five / chord to begin the third, four bar phrase.

3 x 4 = 12 bars

C min 7 F min 7 C min 7 C min 7
F min 7 F min 7 C min 7 C min 7
D min 7b5 G 7b9 C min 7 G 7#9

Fourth chorus. Creating a Two / Five in bar 38. Using the constant structure / half step lead in for the motion to Four in bar 40. Subbing out for the tonic in bar 44 with a dominant chord built on the Six, setting up the motion to the Two chord by perfect 4th in bar 45. Using the augmented fifth color in the turnaround, flat Six then flat Seven before the dominant seventh flat nine color built on Five setting up the next chorus.

C min 9 F min 9 / Bb 13 C min 9 Gb min 7
F min 9 F min 9 C min 9 A 7+5
D min 7b5 G 7b9 Ab 13b5 Bb 13b5 / G 7b9

Fifth chorus. Note new abbreviated chord symbol to designate minor chord, 'min' becomes 'm.' Using the suspended fourth color and ...

... 'moving stepwise, up ascending then down descending through the pitches of 'C' minor.'

~ C D Eb F Eb D C ~

Although this realization looks pretty thick, although the root of the chord changes, the voicing is the same to protect the novice, i.e., one voicing is moved as a 'constant structure' to achieve this magical effect. Also referred to as plane-ing among pianists. A more modern sound really, and with the 'sus', lending some '80's' 'fusion' compression and fuzz box history to the mix. Minor triads love the 'sus 4'.

Cm 7sus4 / Dm 7sus4 Ebm 7sus4 / Fm 7sus4 Ebm 7sus4 / Dm 7sus4 Cm 7sus4 / C 7#9
Fm 7sus4 / Gm 7sus4 Am 7sus4 / G 7+5 Cm 7sus4 / Dm 7sus4 Ebm 7sus4 / Fm 7sus4
Fm 7sus4 / Gm 7sus4 Am 7sus4 / G 7+5 Cm 7sus4 / Dm 7sus4 Ebm 7sus4 / Fm 7sus4

Evolving the blues into gospel. This last idea here combines and cherrypicks chords from the 12 bar blues substitution chart and locates them into the 16 bar "Hymn To Freedom" song as composed by jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. Mastering these changes both by ear, root to root bass notes and by hearing the chord progression, and getting these voicings under the fingers, creates solid beginning point for beginning jazz guitar.

Author's note. In my way of hearing Americana musics, this song and its harmonic progression, perfectly snapshots a capture of the essence of Americana Gospel. For all through the literature, there's many many songs with these styled blues hue'd gospel changes and this core progression, or snippets of it puzzled together in their own unique ways. And from our history we know that when 'the blues went to church, with its proper testimonial sense of reverence and decorum, with or without a piano, gospel music was so joyously born.' Master these changes in a couple of keys ... example 1.

wiki ~ Oscar Peterson
wiki ~ Hymn To Freedom

Notes. Measure by measure, here's a few of their 'theory highlights' from Mr. Peterson's gem, linked off to their respective discussions within this e-book primer.

Review and forward. With some 12 bar blues under our fingers, finding rhythms / swing with the '2 and 4' clicks of 4/4 time, begin a college level jazz guitar program.

"I find myself listening to the older players. You see one bar of theirs and you can get one hundred more licks out of it ..."

Jazz blues songs ~ heads. When jazz musicians get together to perform, the songs written in the 12 bar blues form quickly get everyone on the same page for what they're going to play. All that's then needed is a tonic pitch, rhythm / style and a tempo. For a melody, there's 'blues' heads', bandstand slang verbiage for a real song. Pro leaning jazz players can never seem to learn enough blues heads :) Here's a listing of jazz songs written in the 12 bar form to get started.

"All Blues"
Miles Davis
"Billie's Bounce"
Charlie Parker
"Blue Monk"
Thelonius Monk
"Blue Train"
John Coltrane
"Blues For Alice"
Charlie Parker
"Blues Walk"
Clifford Brown
"C Jam Blues"
Duke Ellington
"Freight Train"
Tommy Flanagan
"Johnny B. Goode" (rock'n roll)
Chuck Berry
"Jumpin' With Symphony Sid"
Lester Young
"Nostalgia In Times Square"
Charles Mingus
"Now's The Time"
Charlie Parker
"Relaxin' At Camarillo"
Charlie Parker
"Route 66" (pop)
Bobby Troupe
"Soft Winds"
Benny Goodman
"Sonny Moon For Two"
Sonny Rollins
"Straight No Chaser"
Thelonius Monk
Wardell Gray

The 12 bar blues. Into the waybac when the 12 bar blues form of today found its origins started as a four bar phrase, repeated for backing up the word of a story. 'Stays on the One' is a bandstand direction when such a modal voodoo groove is required. We theory cats might know it today as a 'modal blues' ... ? There's a wide spectrum of theory complexity in this list. The song 'C' Jam Blues" its melody is two pitches and a swinging rhythm. "Sonny Moon For Two" is one four bar blues lick, repeated three times to make 12 bars; three chords and the truth. "Nostalgia In Times Square" is a 'one of a kind' chord progression in a 12 bar form. Ramping up the melody / harmony challenge in 12 bars is the masterful "Blues For Alice" and "Freight Train", both are pure 12 bar bebop blues harmonizations. Cool ?

References. References for this page's information comes from school, books and the bandstand and made way easier by the folks along the way.

Find a mentor / e-book / academia Alaska. Always good to have a mentor when learning about things new to us. And with music and its magics, nice to have a friend or two ask questions and collaborate with. Seek and ye shall find. Local high schools, libraries, friends and family, musicians in your home town ... just ask around, someone will know someone who knows someone about music and can help you with your studies in the musical arts.

go to a public library and ask the librarian

Always keep in mind that all along life's journey there will be folks to help us and also folks we can help ... for we are not in this endeavor alone :) The now ancient natural truth is that we each are responsible for our own education. Positive answer this always 'to live by' question; 'who is responsible for your education ... ?

Intensive tutoring. Luckily for musical artists like us, the learning dip of the 'covid years' can vanish quickly with intensive tutoring. For all disciplines; including all the sciences and the 'hands on' trade schools, that with tutoring, learning blossoms to 'catch us up.' In music ? The 'theory' of making musical art is built with just the 12 unique pitches, so easy to master with mentorship. And in 'practice ?' Luckily old school, the foundation that 'all responsibility for self betterment is ours alone.' Which in music, and same for all the arts, means to do what we really love to do ... to make music :)


"These books, and your capacity to understand them, are just the same in all places. Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing."

wiki ~ Abraham Lincoln

Academia references of Alaska. And when you need university level answers to your questions and musings, and especially if you are considering a career in music and looking to continue your formal studies, begin to e-reach out to the Alaska University Music Campus communities and begin a dialogue with some of Alaska's finest resident maestros !

~ comments or questions ... ? ~

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