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Lesson with Jordan Guerette


Will Kirk
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I took a few years of private lessons and majored in guitar in college for two years afterwards, for which I received an Associates Degree. I switched schools and I'm formally studying saxophone and composition now, but I continue to play guitar all the time.

I have a solid knowledge of music theory (especially from a jazz approach) though I understand that I have much to learn! I've taken all the basic tonal theory classes and two semesters of Jazz Arranging. I'm currently enrolled in an 18th century Counterpoint class.

I suppose that's it...

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Ok well since you already have a good grasp of music theory, I don't feel as though we need to go over the intervals harmonic progressions etc..

I feel that we could start with guitar. Since you asked about odd techinques I have some listening assignments I'd like you to go over so you can get a grasp of what we'll be going for here.

First lesson is "Percussive Guitar" This is the flashy sort of thing that really can get an audience's attention.

Here is the list I'd like you to listen to for some ideas of this technique. The really great thing about these techniques is that it's very easy to develop your own, the key though is to either develop a style that uses them effectively and not so much that it bores the listener.

Here's the songs I'd like you to listen to. Take some notes as well. I would like you to take notes in these areas

Tempo:How does the technique affect the tempo of the piece?

Usage:Is the technique tastefully used? Or is it what the piece revolves around?

Here are the pieces I'd like you to listen to, most of them are on Youtube but my server keeps messing it up and the videos won't load for me. But I'm sure you're more than capable of doing searches for them :)

"Blasting Cap" by Preston Reed

"Aerial Boundaries" by Michael Hedges

"Playing with Pink Noise" by Kaki King

"Kewpie Station" by Kaki King

"Ritual Dance" by Michael Hedges

Those are the ones to get started. Do you have Finale notepad? Or some form of program that will allow you to use and read Finale files?

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Well, I happened to listen to all five of these right in a row.

All the tunes listed were solo guitar. That said, each one sounded like a complete arrangement and demonstrated the player's ability to keep solid independent parts going.

They all seemed to have their guitar tuned to a major triad as well.

The first tune, Preston Reed's "Blasting Cap" I noticed that most of the playing was tapping on the neck, as opposed to using the traditional area near the sound hole. I also noticed that he played over the neck.

Michael Hedges seems to be the master of this style, and "Aerial Boundaries" definitely is an example of it. He keeps a continuous figure for a lot of the tune while working other melodies and percussion out around it. "Ritual Dance" mixed techniques near the sound hole and all over the neck right off the spot. He seems to be the most tasteful player to my ears. His compositions show true independent parts and although it's showy, it seems to be toward a musical end.

Kaki King was the only player I'd listened to much of before listening to these selections. She seems to concentrate more (at least according to these songs) on fast, groovy bass lines and percussion. Everything else seems to be made to fit around the bass line. I'm pretty sure she does at least the majority of her playing over the neck too. Her playing is quite different from Hedges' in that she seems to construct disjointed "parts" whereas the former seems like he tries to keep more fluid melodies going. That's only based on a little bit of listening, though.

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Ok Very good observations!

I would like you to take a second listen though through the pieces and tell me what you hear the percussion aspect does to the piece itself. How does it affect the feel? What does it make you feel? What flavor does it add to the music? be subjective but observant.

Now I have a few more listening assignments I'd like you to go over as well as a few other things..

One Note: if you can't find these pieces then you don't have to listen to them, although the majority of them are on Youtube and Pandora Radio.

"The Rootwitch" by Michael Hedges

"Raggamuffin" by Michael Hedges

"Ladies Night" by Preston Reed

"Tamacun" by Rodrigo y Gabriela (This one is a must!)

"Xenia" by Stephen Bennett

"The Hunt" by Tommy Emmanuel

Those have a little more variety in terms of the actual technique used. I would like you to take note of the variety of sounds that are used as well in the percussive element.

Now here is the first technique I'd like you to learn in terms of percussive guitar. This is a simple use of the "String Slap" technique that many pop guitarists like John Mayer use extensively in their music.

It is quite simple when you get the hang of it. Basically, wherever I have inserted a rest is where I would like a "string slap" to be played.

The technique itself is quite simple. The string(s) that you slap are usually the low E and A strings. I prefer to slap only the low E string because it is the lowest pitched string and gives a fuller sound. When you strike the string, strike with the side of your right hand, the area of flesh between the base of your thumb and the top of your wrist. You can use some of your thumb too if you wish, just be certain that you are muting the string behind it as your thumb can cause an imperfect sound by triggering the harmonics.

Give this a try and let me know what happens. If you can post a video or a soundclip I could even help you further.

Percussion excersie 1.MUS

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Alright, it's been a few days, but I have some observations.

I listened to the first batch again. The percussion seems to give the guitar more of the piano's ability to be an expressive solo instrument. The percussion in these songs seems to evoke a dance in some and just some rhythmic interest in others (like "Aerial Boundaries").

Michael Hedge's "Rootwich" is based on a catchy bass line. The interplay between the bass line, the slapping on the body of the guitar and the chord strumming create a constant 16th note feel, make it feel a bit "funky."

The finger-picking in "Ragamuffin" is fantastic and very melodic. He doesn't bring in the percussion element until later in the song, when he introduces slapping. It has a similar feeling of a rock band arrangement when the drums come in part way through a ballad.

In some of these selections, I've noticed that Hedges often plays 2 and 4 on the guitar (the snare hits) and Preston Reed plays the 1 and 3 (bass hits). I'm sure they both do both all the time, I just wanted to mention it.

The Rodrigo y Gabriela piece is crazy. I've heard they kind of invented their own flamenco-esque style of playing. Gabriela's slaps on the strings and on the body of the guitar give a consistent feel that reminds me of clave somewhat, but I'm not sure exactly what it is.

Tommy Emmanuel was the first on this list to use a pick at all. His flat picking speed and consistency seems to keep the feel going even when he's not using percussion (which there isn't much of in this track). When he adds percussion, it seems to be for emphasis more than anything else.

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Ok, a clip would be wonderful, my youtube doesn't work for me on this computer, if you could post a clip to a website like Box.net or soundclick.com that would be great

I've looked at your observations. I'm very glad that you noticed the difference between Reed's rhythms and Hedges. You are very right in that Reed seems to prefer a 1 and 3 rhythm as opposed to Hedges who seems to prefer a 2 and 4. This is a big difference maker because Reed has a tendency to use Compound Meter and Hedges has a slight tendency towards Simple Meter.

This doesn't affect the overall song much except for rhythmic value and counting. If you notice, Reed's use of compound meter in much of songs sort of contributes a slight "lilt" to it. Hedges' sound could be described as more "organic" due to the slight tendency towards Common Meter.

This is something to take into consideration when writing. If your melodic lines have more of a lilt to them then it would make sense that your rhythmic lines that will accompany them have a lilt as well. However since this area is quite open, you could easily have interplay between a melody which fits better in compound meter and a percussion line that fits better in common meter and have the two play off of each other. The idea is like simple 2 voice counterpoint.

Rodrigo y Gabriela have a very intense style. Like you stated it is similar to flamenco. The instrument (at least in my opinion) that they seem to imitate alot in their percussion is what's called a Castanet.

One thing I would like you to observe is that each one of the percussive sounds of each player imitates a certain percussion instrument. For example, you mentioned that Preston Reed prefers the 1 and 3 hits on the Bass. While as Hedges prefers the 2 and 4 hits on the snare.

Just keep in mind that it's nigh impossible to make a completely "new" sound with the guitar. However it will make it much easier for you to develop your own style (which is what we will aim for with this lesson) if you think in terms of what kind of percussive sounds do YOU like.

My own style consists of a mix between Cajon styled slaps and Djembe styled triplets. We'll get more into that later. For now if you could provide a link to the excersise that will be fantastic :)

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Yes it does work

Very good! You already seem to have a good grasp on this technique. It's kind of fun isn't it? it adds another flavor to the sound and keeps the rhythm going. Your guitar also has good tone. What kind of guitar are you using out of curiosity?

That technique is very usable with other chord progressions as well. I like to use it for Jazz chord progressions because it adds a sense of "oomph" to them.

So here's what I would like you to do, since you already have a good grasp on this technique and a way it can be used. I would like you to write a chord progression, (not a full fledged piece) that uses this technique advantageously. By that I mean I would like you to use the technique tastefully but not overbearingly. I don't want to see it after EVERY single note, but rather in places in the chord progression where you feel it would be appropriate.

You can use whatever chord progression you wish. I do however want you to use at least 3 7th chords used as well as a diminished and at least one minor 9th chord. The progression must be at least 8 chords long, inversions do count to the total number of chords. This shouldn't be too hard for you since you've already had some experience in Jazz theory. If possible would you please write your chords out in Finale and post a sound clip as well? You don't have to do both at a single time, but it would make things MUCH easier on me.

If you have questions please ask, I hope I'm not asking you to do too much, I'm pretty sure you can handle it though

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  • 3 weeks later...

Alright this took forever!

There's a finale file and a sound recording. It's nothing amazing but I think I completed the assignment...

I'm actually not sure what guitar I'm using, it's a martin something-or-other.

Here is the .wav file: http://www.box.net/shared/n75qzx5szm

Hey Jordan, I can get the sound file but I can't find the finale file?

I think the progression sounds awesome! Well done! I don't have a good ear for picking up certain chord types just by listening but once I can get the score we can continue

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  • 2 weeks later...

I thought I attached the finale file... Let me try again.

Here:

Forum Composition A.mus

Hey Jordan sorry I took so long getting back to this, I was away for a few days and forgot to mention it sorry about that

I can't seem to open the Finale file because my version is a little older I think, would you mind simply writing out the chords for me? (just the chord names not the notes involved)

We're going to apply a second rhythm technique to the progression but I'd like to see the progression first

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I thought I attached the finale file... Let me try again.

Here:

Forum Composition A.mus

Hey Jordan sorry I took so long getting back to this, I was away for a few days and forgot to mention it sorry about that

I can't seem to open the Finale file because my version is a little older I think, would you mind simply writing out the chords for me? (just the chord names not the notes involved)

We're going to apply a second rhythm technique to the progression but I'd like to see the progression first

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I thought I attached the finale file... Let me try again.

Here:

Forum Composition A.mus

Hey Jordan sorry I took so long getting back to this, I was away for a few days and forgot to mention it sorry about that

I can't seem to open the Finale file because my version is a little older I think, would you mind simply writing out the chords for me? (just the chord names not the notes involved)

We're going to apply a second rhythm technique to the progression but I'd like to see the progression first

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