Big Picture


Uses and Abuses of Tablature

If you want to follow the fashion of the online guitar pundits, the thing to do at the moment is denounce "tab". It's an unnecessary crutch that stunts your growth as a musician, they say. Eat your greens and learn to read traditional notation instead!

Finding your Voice and Being Contemporary

By chance I happened across three people giving somewhat related advice about learning jazz, but from very different directions.

The TL;DR here is that every musician needs to develop a way to figure things out for themselves in their own way, and that this is a creative process rather than a chore. Formal education can be useful for some specific things but spoonfeeding leads to weak forms of learning that you can't rely on and standardised syllabi produce standardised results. You need to know the tradition but it's raw material for you to form into your own voice.

Elective Affinities: 1971

Here's my account of what was going on in the album releases of 1971, including John McLaughlin, Quincy Jones, Alice Coltrane, Terry Riley, Woody Shaw, The Last Poets, and, yes, The Moving Gelatine Plates.

Elective Affinities: Introduction

We define ourselves as musicians not so much by what we play as how we develop it, and this happens in various ways. One that everyone can agree on is listening to recordings. These come to us from the past, and our relationship with records develops into a kind of personal history: not a history of when I heard a particular record, or when it was made, but a retrospective picture of how it fits into my own (past and future) development.

DIY Effects Pedals

I wanted to let it be known I'm still alive and kicking, and still playing, just not thinking about theory / vocabulary ideas at the moment so my posts here have been scarce. I feel like I have a big backlog of stuff to work on on that front and a small amount of time available to do it, so adding to the pile isn't very productive. But also, my musical activities have been slightly taken over by a new thing: building effects.

Advice for Jazz Beginners

"I'm already a competent player and I want to learn jazz" is a common position for people to find themselves in, at least if online forums are any indication. Here's my compendium of advice I wish someone had given me when I was starting out.

Advice for Guitarists from Two Magicians

Here's a video of two well-known stage magicians talking about advice for younger aspiring performers. If you can translate what they say into musical terms you'll find some useful insights here.

New free ebook: Spectral Analysis of Scales

There's a brand new entry in my series of free eBooks: Spectral Analysis of Scales. This one's a bit more technical than the others, but I think it'll be of interest to advanced musicians looking for a way to expand their vocabulary of scale and arpeggio ideas a little more easily. It's completely free, so download it and spread the word. This is the first edition, so as always please send me any errors you find!

Performance Advice from a Bodybuilder?

Just now I'm slightly obsessed with the amount we can learn from sportspeople about practice and this article struck me as interesting. Replace "competition" with "gig" and you're most of the way there.

Some Ornette Coleman Heads

Ornette Coleman is revered as an important and prolific composer, perhaps the only one from the free jazz tradition who's so widely-acknowledged in this field. So why aren't there big books of the hundreds of tunes he's written over the decades? Who knows, but I did manage to find some transcriptions on the web and thought I'd collect them here as a service to the next person who goes hunting for them.