A New Method For the Right Hand
Like most American Musicians, I started out playing blues, rock and folk. Following my deep love of music I was fortunate enough to attend Berklee College of Music, and then study privately with the late, great Charlie Banacos. My studies exposed me to the rich world of jazz, and included in that was the great sound of jazz piano. I was particularily taken with McCoy Tyner and Bill Evans and how they played in groups.
As I listened closely, I began to hear how piano players used two hands to create a rhythmic/harmonic counterpoint, and started to imagine this taking place on the guitar. I explored this idea for a few years and came to some realizations.
I had been playing with a pick for fifteen years and did not want to give that up. I also wanted the sound of the melodic line to have a harder attack for more definition. This led me to think of putting the fingers and their fleshy tips BELOW the pick instead of above, this "pick-and-finger" style being the traditional way.
I began to experiment with having the pick above the fingers, and developed some basic exercises. The first thing I did was get used to playing lines while keeping my pinky on the Low-E String, my ring finger on the A String, and my middle finger on the D String, with the pick still held between thumb and forefinger. I began by holding this position in the Right Hand with the fingers, and playing simple diatonic scales on the G, B and High-E Strings.
TRY THIS: Keep Right-Hand fingers touching the strings this way:
Hold pick with Thumb and Forefinger
C Major Scale:
G5, G7, B5, B6, B8, High-E5, High-E7, High-E8
(Left Hand fi*****ng: 1,3,1,2,4,1,3,4)
(Notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C)
Ascend and Descend, using Alternate Picking
Make sure you keep your Right Hand as relaxed as possible.
The next phase was to break down the neck in ways that allowed me to play chords underneath lines, the goal of the technique. I decided to use Guide-Tones underneath the lines, and put them on the A and D strings, and when working the very-high register, putting them on the Low-E and A Strings. Since I love the sound of Hexatonics, I also decided to use the quartal voicings associated with this sound, studying McCoy Tyner for specific examples and ideas.
From my piano studies I realized that jazz pianists Anticipate their chords, placing them on the "And-Of-4" (for the chord beginning on the next downbeat) and the "And-Of-2" (for the chord beginning on the third beat of the measure.) I decided to take some basic line techniques and apply Guide Tones in this way.
Use the same scale as above.
For the Guide-Tone set, use Fret-7 of A and Fret-7 of D (an E and an A) which are the third and sixth of the C major chord.
Play these two notes with the Ring and Middle fingers of the Right Hand.
You will find this easier if you can play both notes with the Third-Finger or Second-Finger of the Left-Hand, depending on which one is available at the time.
Begin your "measure" on the "And-Of-4" by playing the two Guide-Tones listed above.
Then, on "1", play the C with a downstroke.
"And-Of-1" play D with an upstroke.
"2" play E with a downstroke.
On the "And-Of-2", play the F with an upstroke, and AT THE SAME TIME play the Guide-Tones with the Right-Hand as indicated.
"3" play the G with a downstroke.
"And-Of-3" play the A with an upstroke.
"4" play the B with a downstroke.
On the "And-Of-4", play the High-C with an upstroke, and AT THE SAME TIME play the Guide-Tones with the Right-Hand as indicated. (Using the Second-Finger of the Left Hand for the Guide-Tones is recommended here.)
TO CONTINUE AND DESCEND:
"1" of Measure-Two play the B with a downstroke.
"And-Of-1" play the A with an upstroke.
"2" play the G with a downstroke.
On the "And-Of-2" play the F with an upstroke, and AT THE SAME TIME play the Guide-Tones with the Right-Hand as indicated.
"3" play the E with a downstroke.
"And-Of-3" play the D with an upstroke.
"4" play the Low-C (on the G String) with a downstroke.
If you play the two Guide-Tones on the "And-Of-4" as the exercise began, you can practice a Two-Measure Loop that will give you the basic feel of this technique in Standard Jazz Swing. So - remember to Swing the 8th notes when you play it!
You will notice that there is a dissonance between the Guide-Tones and the F during the sequence. This is normal, and happens all the time during piano playing. Once you are playing at a swing tempo, this will sound completely natural.
These two basic examples will give you a sense of what the technique can accomplish. To hear more, check out Frank Singer with Cat's A Bear (http://www.catsabear.com), JD and the Sons of Rhythm (http://www.jdhopkins.com) and Ahimsa Beat (http://www.myspace.com/ahimsabeat). The Cat's A Bear tune "Change" uses this technique extensively with Hexatonic voicings during the head. There is an mp3 of the tune at http://www.franksinger.com/mp3s/changePEedit.mp3, and the chart is online at http://www.franksinger.com/change_c2002.htm.
"For jazz aficionados, a rocket ride through arrangements played with unmatched musical technique by some very serious talents."Bay City Nights