Don Watson
UNITED KINGDOM

Having tried other jazz guitar tutors, I came to this program after finding a clip on You Tube of Richie playing some jazz standards. He asks some great questions like 'do you find you're just playing scales over chords?' and ‘Do you start a new line with each chord change?’

That sounded like me. The programs I'd worked taught me some scales and some techniques and pretty much said 'go ahead and improvise'. It was like teaching you the Russian alphabet and expecting you to write ‘War and Peace’.

The first thing I discovered in working with Richie was just how much I didn’t know. My timing was awful and there were a lot of rules to improvisation that I just didn’t know, mainly about how and where you resolve notes. I did realize when I looked at transcriptions of Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and Pat Martino that they frequently used notes outside of those compatible with a given chord. But I didn’t understand what it was they were doing.

Quite early on Richie teaches you that you can pretty much play any note over any chord, you just need to know when to use it and how to resolve it. That’s the fundamental principle of improvisation, and what this course does is teach you where to play notes and how to resolve them. It that sounds simple, it isn’t. It’s a lifetime’s work. But it’s great fun doing it.

The other thing Richie does is to get you applying what you learn by composing quite simple lines at first and then progressively more and more complex ones until you’re starting to develop a voice of your own, and starting to think about developing musical lines like you construct sentences.

My timing started improving and kept improving. My ear for where I was in a tune improved, I started to build up some favorite phrases, and every time I learned a new bit of theory, I could really see how it made my solos more interesting.

It does come with a health warning ‘There are no shortcuts to jazz improvisation,’ Richie tells you. But the scenery along the long walk to mastery is well worth the trip.

Don Watson