In Progress

Dedicated to Pre-Bebop Jazz Guitar

Disclaimer: All of the opinions expressed herein are solely those of Jonathan Stout, 
and NOT the Campus Five or Hilary Alexander


Rhythm Guitar Posture: Yes, it makes a difference.

Playing acoustic rhythm guitar can be challenging acoustically. Getting the most acoustic potential out of your guitar is one way to make playing a lot easier. Playing an acoustic guitar helps, as does avoiding things like floating pickups that touch and weigh down the top. Suffice it to say that allowing your guitar to resonate as freely as possible is key.

Aside from spending money a nicer guitar, or removing things that dampen the top, or getting better amplification, there is one very simple thing you can do to improve the resonance and projection of your instrument: change your posture.

If you look at photos of Allan Reuss and Freddie Green, both of them have a similar playing position, and that should tell you something! Both cross their left leg over right, and sit the guitar on their left leg, with the guitar angled back, so that the back of the guitar doesn't touch anything. The neck is angled up a bit, too. This position accomplishes a couple things. 1) Such posture allows the top and back of the guitar to resonate freely. 2) Tilting the guitar up helps the player to hear better as well as project a bit further. And 3), the neck position is a bit more comfortable for playing the chords as well. I've looked at many pictures of Freddie, and his legs might have been different depending on the situation and also I think the size of the guitar, but the angle was always there. In his later years, the angle became more and more extreme, until the guitar was almost parallel to the ground.

Here's some photographic evidence:

Freddie Green has the guitar angled out so that the back doesn't touch his body. Charlie has his guitar in a more conventional position, but still angled a bit.


More Tunes for Rhythm Guitar

Here's a couple more example tunes with Rhythm Guitar chords.

"Undecided" is a very simple tune: the A sections go I-IV7-II7-V7, and the bridge goes I7-IV-II7-V7. I've presented the changes as simply as possible, which is how you might play them when the tempos get fast.

"Undecided" (PDF)

"I Found a New Baby" is another standard tune that highlights movement between minor and relative major, in this case Dminor to F major and back. Several tunes feature similar structures, such as "Love Me or Leave Me" and "Blues Skies."

I've presented two alternative versions. Both are simply example etudes, and I would generally use bits of both in each chorus, and move between them freely. The first version starts with the Dm6 at the 10th Fret, and the second at the 5th Fret. As you can see the voice leading chages based on where you start.

"I Found a New Baby" version 1 (PDF)

"I Found a New Baby" version 2 (PDF)


The Lost Charlie Christian Website FOUND

When I first started focusing on Swing guitar, one of the most useful sites I found was Greg Hansen's Charlie Christian Site: Legend of the Jazz Guitar. Aside from the discographies, trivia, photos and other biographical information, it also had a small primer on Charlie's playing style as well as many transcriptions. The transcription pages were particularly helpful because they had the solos in notation and tab, and a link to a real audio file of the solo. Given that it was in real audio format, that should give you an idea of when the site was created.

Well, a couple of years ago the site vanished. It just wasn't there anymore. This was particularly frustrating because some of the tunes were not transcibed anywhere else, and where they were transcribed, the approach to fingering was very different. I'd forget a small piece of a solo that I'd learned a while back, and not be able to just double check it. It was a bummer. I then read on the Charlie Christian Yahoo Group that Greg Hansen had taken the site down, and wasn't planning to put it back up anytime soon. Damn.

Well, I stumbled across this a couple days ago:

It's Greg Hansen's Website in the form of a PDF E-book. Awesome: One click, and now I've got it saved forever. Done.

Introduction to Block Chord Soloing

To borrow a term from jazz piano, block chords are how most big band rhythm guitarist took solos during the Swing-era, especially before the Charlie Christian revolution. In an earlier post, I posted links to several excerpted block chord solos.  Perhaps the finest practitioner of the style was (again) Allan Reuss. Take another listen to Allan’s ripping solo on “Bye Bye Blues” with Arnold Ross and Benny Carter. Awesome, right?

When approaching the style, I find the easiest place to start is to find chord shapes that leave the pinky free to play a melody alternating with the fretted notes. I'll start things off with a couple examples to show the idea in action.

Example 1 - "On the Sunny Side of the Street" Introduction

Here is the first two bars of the intro I generally play for "On the Sunny Side of the Street." It uses a couple different voicings that leave a finger free to fret additional notes.

Examples 2 and 3 - "Honeysuckle Rose"

Here is a two-bar excerpt that I use over quick ii-V vamps, like on "Sweet Sue" or "Honeysuckle Rose." Again, the basic idea is using voicings that allow the pinky free.

Example 2

This example is something I would play over the next 4 bars in "Honeysuckle Rose." This time we'll add in another technique common in block chord soloing, chromatic approaches. It is pretty common to slide up or down a fret to a chord.

Example 3

This is clearly not the alpha and omega of block chord soloing, but these are some simple ideas to get you started.


Leapin' Lester: the Bad Plus transcribes Lester Young

When working on my electric single-note playing, I've been really focusing on Charlie Christian for over a year now. I've been learning some of his solos, but even more so I've been trying to internalize his phrasing - to get in his headspace. To do that, it's useful to see where a person comes from.

Charlie Christian was a huge Lester Young fan. It clearly shaped both his phrasing and compositional approach to soloing. What better way to get inside Charlie's head than to learn some of Lester's solos.

Lester's most lauded and analyzed solo is his two choruses on "Lady Be Good" from 1936, recorded with a Basie small group credited as Jones-Smith Inc. The solo became almost a jazz etude - something that musicians learned as a part of their education.

A couple years ago, I took a lesson with Howard Alden at jazz festival we were both playing at, and that solo came up. Howard has transcribed and forgotten more tunes and solos than anybody, but he said he'll always know Lester's choruses on "Lady Be Good."

On gig with my big band a couple years ago, we had to play an extended version of the song "Lady Be Good" for a dance contest. Dan Barrett was playing with us, along with our regular lead trombone, Dan Weinstein. I signaled to have either one of them take a chorus, and they both stood up and played both choruses of Lester's 1936 solo in unison.

I'm going to be honest here and say that I have never been particularly good at transcribing, mostly because I don't have the patience. I found Lester's 1936 solo in Gunther Schuller's "The Swing Era" along with a full analysis of the solo.

I was planing to post the transcription when I stumbled upon a blog called Do the Math. Do the math is the product of Ethan Iverson, pianist of the Bad Plus - darlings of the modern jazz scene for their blend of jazz tradition and indie rock ethos. Clearly, the thoroughly modern music of the Bad Plus is not the reason I bring this up on the swing guitar blog.

Last year, for the Lester Young Centenial, Ethan wrote a suite of posts about Lester. Two of the post are particularly amazing. The first I noticed, is a tribute to the 1936 "Lady" solo. But even more than transcribing the solo, Ethan also transcribes 16 other "Lady" solos for comparison - two from Coleman Hawkins, one from Chu Berry, two choruses from Herschel Evans, a couple from Charlie Parker, and the rest from Lester himself.

The second post I want to highlight, is a Lester listening session / interview with Lee Konitz. Ethan and Lee listen to 18 Lester Young solos - ALL WITH TRANSCRIPTIONS and commentary! Amazing. Personally, I can't wait to learn Lester's chorus on "Jumpin' at the Woodside" from 1938.

Once I work out some of the fingerings, I'll post some transcriptions with tab.


If you absolutely must: making electric guitar work for Swing Rhythm

Electric guitars do not work for Swing Rhythm Guitar.

Let me say that again. Electric guitars DO NOT work for Swing Rhythm Guitar.

Amplified electric guitars have way too much sustain, plus they overamplify bass strings. What you end up with is mud, and not the crispness of an acoustic archtop. That inherent lack of sustain is part and parcel of getting properly short notes. Plus, the overemphasis on bass frequencies makes the possibility of playing too loud almost impossible to avoid.

But sometimes, even for a total rhythm guitar geek like me, you have no choice. Here is the best possible advice I can give for making the best of it.

Making Electric Guitar Work for Swing Rhythm

1. Roll down the volume knob

When playing acoustically, you would generally be hiting the strings fairly hard. Roll the volume knob down so that you can play as hard as you normally would, without being to loud for the band. Basically you want to avoid altering your right hand technique as much as possible, so change up the amount of signal going to the amp.

2. Consider rolling off some of the bass

Depending on the situation, you may not be able to do this but, rolling off some of the bass frequencies of the amp can be helpful. Electric guitars and amps over amplify bass frequencies - it's one of the things that makes electric guitars sound, well, "electric." Since you are trying to ape an acoustic sound as much as possible.

Generally, if I'm stuck playing rhythm on an electric guitar, it's because I'm playing mostly lead guitar all night. In that setting, I wouldn't want to compromise the lead tone, so I just make due.

3. Emphasize the D and G strings, and avoid the low E and A strings

I have in the past emphasized and urged the use of classic three-note Allan Reuss voicings. As I may have mentioned previously, there is something out there called the "one note theory" - which holds that after the Swing-era, Freddie Green leaned heavily on single-note and two-note voicings, on the D and G strings. These evolved from playing standard 3 note voices and leaving out the bass note.

I'm prefer to stick to three-note voicings normally, but switching to two-note voicings is a great workaround for the bass frequency problem.

UPDATE: Here's a simple example of how to change 3-note voicings to 2-note voicings just by leaving out the bass note:


Our French Cousin: "Le Pompe"

"Le Pompe" - Django-style Rhythm

I do not claim to be an expert on the vast expanse that is gypsy rhythm. There are numerous historic and regional styles among gypsies and other gypsy-jazz guitar players, which they're own variations and ideosyncracies. I suggest Michael Horowitz's book Gypsy Rhythm, available at

However, I think I can cover the difference between the basic Pompe and Swing Rhythm Guitar. Again here is the notation of Swing Rhythm Guitar:

Now compare to this notation of Le Pompe:

Think of it sounding like this: "a-short, long, a-short, long."

In playing Le Pompe one of things to keep in mind is that the upstroke note shouldn't be thought of as an offbeat eigth note, but rather as a grace note. You should make a very, very small upstroke, and then in the same motion, turn the pick back down for the downstroke. That downstruck chord should be played short. The next downstroke is played long. Among gyspies in different locales there are some varying approaches, but this is a pretty standard "Le Pompe."

Try expirmenting with "Le Pompe", but remember, four-to-the-bar is essential to the rhythm of Swing music, so "Le Pompe" is more of an accent flavor, and not to main dish, unless of course you are playing in a Django-type hot club band.


Here's a sound sample I quickly recorded of "Minor Swing" in both styles. 1st chorus is 4-beat, 2nd le pompe, and then half a chorus of each. Also, try soloing over each to see the differnce in how they make you play. 

 4beatvslepomp by campusfive 


Private Lessons - Los Angeles-area

I am occasionally asked if I teach private lessons. Well, I do. If you're in the Los Angeles-area and would like to work on swing rhythm guitar, swing-era jazz improvisation, or swing-era harmony, then I can be of help.

If you just want to learn how to play guitar or are just starting out, then I'm sure there's a guy at your local music store who's cheaper and has way more patience.

Just give me a call or email, if you're interested.

Jonathan Stout


Swing Time Feel: Rhythm Guitar Technique

Hopefully you’ve read the last post about Swing-Era Time-Feel, and if not, stop and go read it and listen to the examples first. Ok, now that we have that out of the way, today’s post will be focused on the left-hand and right-hand technique necessary to achieve the right sound for Swing-Era Rhythm Guitar

The sound

As we discussed in the last post, the unique rhythmic feel of the swing-era involves the chunky, pumping, four-beat rhythm.


It’s important that each note be separate and distinct from the next. Short, fat little round notes. But, you don’t want them to be so short as to be choked.

Left Hand Technique

The left hand is the most important part of the equation, since the left hand is responsible for how long fretted notes ring. You’ll want to “pump” your fingers for each beat; pressing down only as much as is necessary for notes to sound, and releasing only as much as is necessary to mute the strings. Your fingers will never completely leave the strings.


Notice how each note is even, and there is no particular accents. There is clear separation between each note, but the notes were not choked, or stunted.

Right Hand Technique

Picking technique is also important. You’ll want to avoid emphasizing the low E string, because it can easy buzz against the fretboard if you hit hard. Rather, you should emphasize the D and G strings. These notes do the real work, anyway. As far as picking position, there are two schools of thought. Some prefer to just strum away over the end of the fretboard, basically where a neck pickup would be, if you had one. See, just look where Freddie Green is pickin':

Others alternate between the neck pickup area on beats 1 and 3, and the bridge pickup area on beats 2 and 4. I generally strum in the neck position, because I like to really keep the beats even, however I will alternate if there is a really heavy shout chorus, and I want to even further accentuate the back beat.

Guitar selection

A quick note on guitar selection. Much of the sound signature sound of swing-era rhythm guitar is tied to the instruments used – the acoustic archtop. Acoustic archtops have just the right amount of sustain, so getting the right time-feel is second nature. Selmer-style “Django” guitars come in at close second, and then flattop acoustics. Electric guitars, even hollow-bodied ones will have way too much sustain when plugged-in and amplified through an electric guitar amplifier. In a pinch, it can be done on a hollow-body electric, but there you will have to change up your technique a bit to compensate. More on that particular problem to follow.

*By the way I'm just playing a I-vi-iiV7 pattern in Bb, and my strings are kinda dead.


Swing Time-Feel

Here's a long overdue overview of the most important parts of swing-era rhythm guitar: Time-Feel

(way, way more important than all those cool chords!)

Before you figure out what you're supposed to sound like when playing Swing music, it's a good idea to understand what Swing music itself sounds like, especially because most musicians on earth play it with just the same feel as most other post-swing jazz.  I've described the difference between Swing and later, straight-ahead jazz many times, but I think I've found some dead-on audio clips to demo the difference.

A. Swing

Swing, meaning the jazz of the Swing-era, is all about a thumping, pumping four-beat. "Chunk-chunk-chunk-chunk." It's the sound of a round, fat bass drum, of gut string bass, or rhythm guitar.


Benny Goodman - St. Louis Blues (excerpt) by campusfive

This is the section where it's basically just Benny wailing over that solid pulse. The rhythm section, Allan Reuss, Gene Krupa, Harry Goodman and Jess Stacy are all focused on the solid four. By the 2nd or 3rd bar, you can actually hear Allan Reuss pretty well. Just listen - straight four. There's not even the "chick" of the hi-hats closing on beats 2 and 4.

(as an totally non-scientific testament to this thump - the Windows Media Visualizer was totally pumping each quarter note, despite all of the other aural activity in the song; awesome)

Kay Starr - Sunday (excerpt) by campusfive

This example is from practically the end of the Swing-era, but the cats on the session were solidly in the "swing" and not "bop" camp - Allan Reuss, Zutty Singleton, Barney Bigard, Red Callendar. This is a little more laid back than Goodman, but still foused on that thump-thump-thump-thump. I prefer my music to have be more driving, like Goodman, but this is definitely Swing.


This is NOT Swing. It just isn't. It's "straight-ahead jazz." That term has been applied a bit inconsistently through time, but it's most used meaning is that of post-Parker, bebop-influenced (if not overtly bebop-y), swung-8th note, mainstream jazz. Basically anything after swing, that isn't fusion, smooth jazz, or completely avant garde would count. So, Bebop, Cool Jazz, Modal Jazz, Hard Bop all fit under the "straight-ahead" umbrella.

In contrast to Swing music, the pulse is way less defined and the bass notes blur into each other. "Doo-doo-doo-doo." The washy ride cymbal obscures some of the definition of each "ding." There is no rhythm guitar chunking away to define the beat. Lastly, the only thing that clearly defines the beat is the "chick" of the hi-hat on beats 2 and 4.

Frankly, modern musicians think hammering the beat clearly was square - but it's what makes Swing sound like Swing.

Oscar Peterson - Moten Swing (excerpt) by campusfive

Here on this trio recording, these guys are the quintessence of post-swing grooving. Bassist Ray Brown was certainly able to at times chunk it out, the sound on this track is the template for all straight-ahead jazz. Notice how each of Ray's notes blurs into the next one; notice how he mixes in 8th notes. Both obscure the punch of each downbeat. Also, listen to Ed Thigpen's ride cymbal - how it rings into the space between each "ding." There's also definitely not any bass drum audible (although he was probably playing it - what they boppers call "feathering"). Each and every one of these things tends to obscure that "chunk". And notice how far the beat lays back. It's a lot harded to lay back with a solid beat.



Ebay find: Allan Reuss Gibson L-5 Ad

There are very few images of Allan Reuss in general, let alone floating around on the web. has a great shot, but it is really expensive to get without the watermark over top of the image.

Then I found this ad on ebay, and it just arrived today:

Awesome shot - check out the engraved truss rod cover "A.R."


Rhythm: Three note chords - Why?

Because of a comment on another post, I realized that I hadn't cover why the classic swing rhythm guitar voicings are three notes.

Consider the rhythm guitarist in a swing band: Allan Reuss in Goodman's Band, Freddie Green in Basie's, etc. It's you and your acoustic archtop versus 10 to 13 horns. You have to cut through and still provide the pulse. The answer is a three note chord.

While it might seem counter-intuitive that playing less notes will be heard better than more notes, but you have to think about being a knife. In a big band, the bass player, bass drum, the trombones and the left hand of the piano are below you, and the trumpets, saxes, cymbals, and the right hand of the piano are above you. In between all of these voices is a small notch - that's where the rhythm guitar goes. By filling that notch, and not trying to play any other notes, you're acting as knife, slicing through the mix.

If you play higher and lower notes, they'll just get lost in the mix of the other instruments. But the notes (especially on the D and G strings) can cut through the band. Think of that space as a hole in enemy lines - you need to get a small special forces squad through unnoticed, not try to cram a battalion through. Playing more notes in a big band just muddies things up. It blunts the rhythmic impact (which is really the primary thing), and it results in a lot of wasted effort.

Acoustic archtop guitars happen to have their natural peak in the mid-range on the D and G strings, between the 5th and 10th frets - basically prime rhythm guitar chord territory. By focusing on that region, you get the best return on your efforts.

When people talk about Freddie Green playing only or two note chords, he would basically be fingering the classic three note voices, but not fully pushing down the bass string, and/or or the G string. He would be focusing on the D and G strings for the maximum punch and cut.

I generally stick to the classic three note voicings for 90% of playing. Sometimes, in a bigger band, I'll drop the bass string. And sometimes, in a trio setting, I might add a fourth note, but I also might not. By focusing on only playing those three notes, it is also easier to check the rhythmic snap needed for the style.


Charlie Christian - All Star Jump

I've generally not been one to do my own transcriptions. For one, I find transcribing very, very difficult. And two, I'd generally rather spend what little patience I have for transcribing on taking down arrangements for one of my bands. But the other night, I found myself really driven to figure out Charlie Christian's solo on "All Star Jump," recorded January 16, 1941.

"All Star Jump" is one of my favorite recordings, both from a musician and a dancer's perspective.  The Metronome All Star Band of 1941 featured no less than Charlie Christian, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Cootie Williams, Harry James, Ziggy Elman, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins and Buddy Rich. It's one of my favorite versions of "One O'Clock Jump", albeit with a slightly different shout riff. It's filled with fantastic solos, and unlike many "all star" sessions where the players seem to have no chemistry, the band really jumps. "All Star Jump" is something I almost always play when I DJ, and I've transcribed the arrangement for the Jonathan Stout Orchestra. (The other tune recorded on that session was "Bugle Call Rag", using the Fletcher Henderson arrangement made famous by Benny Goodman. The All Stars' version is easily the tightest and most ferocious recording of that arrangement. But CC doesn't get a solo.)

That CC solo, though, is something I'd never seen transcribed (although maybe it was on Garry Hansen's now defunct site), but I could generally sing it back from memory. I was able to get the first three bars without trouble, but I'd started it around the 9th fret. I couldn't get the next couple bars to lay right on the fretboard. In a moment of frustration, I went to check Leo Valdez's Site to see if maybe he did have one up. Instead I found myself looking at another one of his transcriptions and the playing notes he provided. He mentioned that he had a different outlook on how to finger CC's playing versus more common transcirptions. While some of his fingering just seem implausible, many do lay better.

With than in mind, I tried playing the "All Star Jump" solo in the 4th-6th position, and using some of Charlie's classic shapes in that position, and the next couple bars clicked. So, since I figured I should write it out to keep for myself, I though I'd share.

Have fun - maybe when I have some time, I'll write some notes and analysis. But for now:

Charlie Christian - "All Star Jump" (pdf)

All Star Jump - Metronome All Stars (excerpt) by campusfive


Approaching Minor Keys, pt.1

I've had many friends who have begun trying to play swing guitar after coming from a rock/pop background, not a modern jazz one. "Minor Swing" is a popular tune to start with, but many players without a jazz background can't figure out how to approach soloing over the chords.
Specifically, it's the minor pentatonic scale that is the backbone on much rock and blues that doesn't fit. The main culprit of this is the 7th scale degree (in Am, the G note) - it just doesn't fit over swing or early jazz minor songs. And there's good reason: the V7 chord.

Going back at least as far as Bach, classical music did not use the standard v chord of a mino key (key Am: A-B-C-D-E-F-G; a V chord based on this scale would be an E minor7: E-G-B-D). In classical music a V chord is always a DOMINANT 7 chord (in Am, an E7 chord: E-G#-B-D). There is pavlovian response to hearing the G# note it that chord, which demands that it be resolved to the A note.
With the G# note being so important, makes sense that the minor pentatonic scale doesn't fit with it's G natural note.

In classical and in early jazz and swing, they don't use the minor pentatonic scale, or the "natural" minor scale - which is just the normal notes of the key (in Am: A B C D E F G). Instead, they both use a minor scale with a raised 7th (in Am, a G# note). There are two minor scales that contain a raised 7th that are used extensively in early jazz and swing, the harmonic minor and the jazz minor.

The harmonic minor scale dates back to at least Bach, and has a particularly "European" sound (at least to my ears). It is a natural minor scale with a raised 7th (in Am: A B C D E F G#).
The jazz minor is comparatively younger, and has a more "American" sound (again to my ears). It is a natural minor scale with both a raised 7th, and a raised 6th (in Am: A B C D E F# G#).

By "American" and "European", I'm really getting at the distinction between the gypsy-influenced hot jazz of Django, and the less classical sounding playing of American swing musicians, like say, Charlie Christian. Charlie was more likely play more raised 6ths and feature them as an important note in his phrasing. Django was at least equally as likely to play either a regular or raised 6th, and perhaps more likely to play the regular 6th. American pre-bebop jazz harmony often voiced a minor i chord as a im6, which contains the raised 6th. But it should be noted that even if there is a raised 6th in the harmony, the soloist can also use the regular 6th, as Django did, even though it technically shouldn't fit.

In all harmony, some notes are "functional" in the sense that they are guide tones important to voice leading and chordal movement. Other notes are not, and there for they can be approached less strictly. The 7th scale degree is clearly a functional note, whereas the 6th scale degree is not. That's why you can often play either 6th with no problem, but that natural 7th just doesn't sound right.

Even modern jazzbos have a hard time approaching pre-bop minor key tunes. When Miles Davis released "Kind of Blue" in 1959, he ushered in a new era of modal jazz, specifically based on the Dorian mode, with "So What", being the chief example.

The Dorian mode is a natural minor scale with a raised 6th (like the jazz minor), but NOT the raised 7th (in Am: A B C D E F# G).. The sound of the Dorian mode is based on a minor7 chord as the tonic, and there for the regular 7th scale degree fits. Many modern jazzbos have forgotten the older-style sound of pre-bop, and just ignorantly play Dorian over everything. I avoid musicians like that like the plague.

As a early jazz/swing style musician, one should learn both the harmonic minor and jazz mimor scales like the back of one's hand. Part 2 will feature some musical examples.

Here are the scales in question with the i and V chords built on those scales.



BOOK: Masters of the Plectrum Guitar - ERRORS!

After spending a bit more time with the book "Masters of the Plectrum Guitar" (Mel Bay), I've come to realize that it's full, and I mean full, of errors. Wrong notes are sprinkled through out. I thought it had just been the transcription to "Sutton Mutton", but they're on other songs too.

One possible explanation is that the music in the book is taken from the original sheet music produced back in the 20's-40's and that the originals had mistakes, which is plausible. However, it doesn't take much time working through one of the pieces to hear the wrong notes as compared to the recordings of the songs.

Granted, the original sheet music was never an exact transcription, but if you take a look at the transcription of "Pickin' My Way", a Lang/Kress duet number, the first 8 bars after the intro are filled with musical typos.

So, I'm working on re-copying "Pickin' My Way" but fixed. I'll post it when I get done with it (although, bear in mind, that might be a while).


Feeds - XML, ATOM, RDF

I'm not exactly sure how to work subscriptions, but here are the links for the various feeds for the Swing Guitar Blog:

Considering I tend to binge update, and follow up with silence, a feed is probably a good way to see when the blog is updated.


Swing Harmony: Turnarounds, Vamps and Line Cliches - Part 1, Major Turnarounds

Turnarounds and line cliches are both common chord sequences in Swing Harmony, and can be found in numerous songs. Each sequence contains an ascending or descending line, often voiced in the bass. From a rhythm guitar standpoint, it’s important to get them under your fingers, because they come up often, and they come up fast when sight reading.

Major I-IV Turnaround

Most commonly found in songs based on the chords to “I Got Rhythm”, the I-IV turnaround can also be found at the end of some blues songs, and sprinkled in several traditional jazz standards. The sequence is a fancy way of moving from a I chord to the IV and back. Both the ascending and descending versions have the same chords except for the transition chord from the IV chord back to the I chord (a #ivº in the ascending / a iv minor in the descending). Both the ascending and descending versions are used interchangeably, and sometimes by musicians in the same band at the same time – even though, technically, the #ivº and iv conflict. But, hey, that’s jazz.


In either case, from a rhythm guitar perspective, the turnaround can be approached as static chords, or using walking chords. Here are examples of both:

Ascending and Descending I-IV Turnarounds (PDF)

The examples are in a couple different keys, so that you can see in the shapes in different positions.


BOOK: Masters of the Plectrum Guitar

The pre-bebop styles of block-chord solos and solo guitar chord melody are almost completely lost arts. There are few living practitioners, and few resources to learn from. However, there is one book out there which is still in print that provides a great deal of insight, as well as a multitude of transcriptions:

Masters of the Plectrum Guitar (Mel Bay)

Transciptions of Eddie Lang, Carl Kress, Dick McDonough, George M. Smith, Carmen Mastren, and Tony Mattola, as well as couple duet pieces. Modern technology also provides you the opportunity to check out the book before you by it at Google Books.

Masters of the Plectrum Guitar (Google Books Preview)

I particularly suggest taking a look at the full transcription of "Sutton Mutton" by Carl Kress on pgs. 42-45. I still haven't gotten around to learning the slow section, but I love the first section, and it's often the first thing I play when testing out an acoustic archtop. Thanks to Mike Faltesek for bringing it to my attention.


More Example Tunes

Here are a few more tunes to work through, all using the 20 Essential Voicings.

F Blues (PDF)
F Rhythm Changes (PDF)
Sweet Sue (PDF)
Avalon (PDF)
On the Sunny Side of the Street (PDF)

Each tune is chock full of voice leading and transitions that come up all the time. The quicker you get these classic moves under your fingers, the quicker you'll be able to sight read a lead sheet or a rhythm guitar part.

Also, keep checking back regularly. I'm going to be redoing all of the charts in my usual music font, the Swingfont by Sigler Music Fonts, which is awesome looking, and, more importantly, it's highly legible. I use the Swingfont for all of the charts for both the Campus Five and the Orchestra, and I highly recommend it! As soon as I can download an updated version of the font, I'll be putting up more rhythm chord charts, but also some regular leadsheets, and even some rhythm guitar charts from the Campus Five and Orchestra so you'll be able to practice your reading!


Great Link: Playing Swing and Sweet Music Of the 1930s and 1940s  

Here's a great link that talks about the rhythm style of the 1930's-1940's. The point-of-view of the article is clearly of a frustrated bandleader that has to deal modern jazzbos all the time. Still, the philosophy is pretty much dead on.

Playing Swing and Sweet Music Of the 1930s and 1940s

Playing Swing and Sweet Music Of the 1930s and 1940s